'Unstoppable': How Vizag's Hijab-clad gym-trainer battled cancer, discrimination to set up all-women 'Fit with Fab'

Farzana took up her first training at the beach road every morning with a few women from her family and friends.

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  30 Oct 2022 4:00 AM GMT
Unstoppable: How Vizags Hijab-clad gym-trainer battled cancer, discrimination to set up all-women Fit with Fab

Visakhapatnam: Looking at her in Hijab, many denied her job and advised her to go back to other countries. But she calls herself a fighter, who has overcome every obstacle in her life and now stands as an internationally certified fitness coach for women and trains underprivileged ones for free.

Meet 41-year-old Farzana Begum of Visakhapatnam who became the talk of the town after the recent show 'Unstoppable', hosted by Actor Balakrishna on Aha. In season 2, Farzana was given a special invite for the first episode where former chief minister and TDP chief Nara Chandra Babu Naidu was the chief guest.

Winning many hearts with her inspirational life, Farzana Begum shares her journey with News Meter.

An alumna of St Joseph's College, Farzana's fitness coach avatar happened by chance. She lost her mother to illness in 2014. It had a great impact on her psyche. She decided to raise awareness among women about their health. "My mother had an illness which she ignored and died at the age of 52. Four months after her demise, I decided to bring up an exclusive gym for women, train them and make them healthy. When I started, I found that many families are not willing to send their female members to the gym", said Farzana, who was active in sports during college.

"I joined the gym in July 2014. I got enrolled in a fitness club in Bangalore. During my interaction, I found women were visiting the gym but were not passionate about it ", she said.

A mother of two girls

She pursued a certification course for excellence. Farzana's husband was shocked when she said she would pursue certification courses despite being an established coach. It was at the time when she had to take care of her 2.5 year-old-daughter "My husband understood what I was doing. He gave me all moral support. He took care of my children when I was preparing for certification. From 2018, I started professionally training people", said Farzana.

She is now an internationally certified functional coach, personal trainer, certified nutritionist, Pre, and Post-natal coach, and Pilates instructor.

First Tumor

In 2017, Farzana suffered a tumor in the spine and had to undergo surgery. "I was asked to leave the profession because I lost mobility in both of my legs. But post-surgery, I moved ahead and did my certification courses", she said. Farzana worked free for 6-7 months just to know how it works.

Hijab row

"Post-surgery, I moved to Visakhapatnam and started looking for jobs. Some people denied me a job because I was wearing a Hijab. Some people asked to shift to Saudi Arabia to train women in the gym. Now, I thank the person who said those words. I took that as a challenge and decided to train women in my 'city of destiny'- Vizag," said Farzana.

Her first training

Farzana took up her first training at the beach road every morning with a few women from her family and friends. Two months later, she had many women coming down to get trained under her. "Later, I got a chance to work in Studio M as a female fitness coach in Visakhapatnam. With one client who liked the style of my training, the number reached 8", she added.

Blood cancer

In 2019, when Farzan was preparing for a certification course, she experienced pain in her ribs. Doctors found that the tumor had affected the 4th and 5th ribs, and it was not normal. "I underwent a major surgery removing a 60 grams tumor in the rib, and later reports found that I was suffering from 'blood cancer'. The battle started with chemotherapy", said Farzana.

Despite being under stress with chemotherapy, Farzana did not stop her training. She started training clients on the terrace of her residence. "With rudimentary equipment, I train my clients. They were my strong pillars who would sit with me and spend time in the house and hospital. I'm a fighter but not a survivor. I always want to work to make healthier women", she added.

Fit with Fab

"Post-chemotherapy, I recovered completely and started working to open my gym. In March 2020, I opened my own gym 'Fit with Fab- a female gym exclusively run by women," she said.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit her, and she shifted to online classes. "Well, things might turn worse for me, but I never took a break during the pandemic. I trained 9-10 hours a day for many women through online sessions", said Farzana.

She restarted her gym after Covid restrictions were lifted. "After appearing in the TV show, there were many women who stepped inside my gym to get trained. I got a call from a cancer victim from Srikakulam, who wants to get trained. There are many families with cancer victims who are approaching me for mental support", said Farzana.

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