BRAINS AND BRAWN
Great athletes take risks and lay it on the line – that’s how Faiz Ariffin, national bodybuilder, choose to live his life.
“I remembered my parents said, ‘Don’t pursue bodybuilding. It costs a lot and there’s no money in it. You should do nine-to-five jobs like what everyone else is doing,” reminisce Faiz.
But deep down, my passion has always been in bodybuilding.
“But deep down, my passion has always been in bodybuilding,” says the 26-year-old.
Faiz’s career in bodybuilding started in 2011, when he became the first Malaysian to be featured on Bodybuilding.com – an elite online fitness platform. In the same year, he joined his first professional bodybuilding competition, Mr. Kuala Lumpur and was named first-runner up.
2013 was when he made his mark; Faiz won Mr. Malaysia and bagged the gold medal in the Malaysian Games or SUKMA.
Even as a kid, Faiz had one goal in mind – that is to become a professional athlete. He was very active in sports, taking part in taekwondo, swimming, basketball and football. Things got a little bit more serious as he went into track and field.
“I always have the vision to become a Malaysian athlete. But unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t Usain Bolt despite having the genetics of the lips – I was known for that,” Faiz jokes.
“I was still fast but during that period- around 2006 - I found bodybuilding. I started going to the gym to lift. Back then, it was merely to enhance my sports performance. I got better and I won many competitions until the district levels.”
When you start to see results, you become addicted to it and you just want to get better and better.
“When you start to see results, you become addicted to it and you just want to get better and better,” says Faiz.
His biggest achievement so far is being ranked ranked 7th in the World Championships in 2017. He was the youngest athlete representing Malaysia at that time.
His passion for bodybuilding is so intense that at one point, Faiz’s body fat percentage went as low as 5.4 percent. This is so that Faiz can stay shredded for competitions, but at the risk of hurting his health in the long run.
“I also have downtime, I am human. The obstacles and the challenges are still going to be there. Whatever it is, you have to tell yourself ‘Hey, do you want it or not?’ ‘Are you going to make it happen?” says Faiz.
Bodybuilding is a competitive sport, despite it being perceived as an industry for ‘vain pots and meatheads’, says Faiz, who is now a fitness expert.
He is also part of a new generation of athletes that is driving the growth of the bodybuilding industry through social media, regularly updating his 83-thousand fans on Instagram with training videos, body selfies and nutrition tips for muscle building.
“For the past few years or so, I’ve been very involved in building up my social media platform because I believe social media is a powerful tool to help us get connected to the people.”
“Last year, I flew to the UK, US and Australia to meet my fans,” says Faiz. “And it really opened up my eyes to see the people I have impacted. It really drives me to do more.”
“I am also quite involved in going to schools and universities to give talks to educate and motivate them.”
Faiz’s success and recognition is not just limited to social media. In 2017, AirAsia signed him on as Brand Ambassador as part of the airline’s #daretodream initiative, to help young athletes pursue their dreams.
“I am very grateful to have AirAsia support me and to have Tony Fernandes believing in my vision,” says Faiz.
Stay Humble, Hustle Hard.
Not wanting to be just another social media influencer, the fitness coach started his very own activewear FZGEAR – a brand that he hopes will come to represent a larger movement to encourage people to be their best.
“FZGEAR stands for people who want to achieve greater heights in their career and personal life. We have the quote ‘Stay Humble, Hustle Hard.’ That’s what I always believe in, that’s what I instilled in myself."
A daily routine for Faiz starts at five in the morning. He then goes through a list of his agenda and goals for the day, before hitting the gym at about 7am.
On average, Faiz does two to three workout sessions a day in between coaching, when he is not competing. The athlete, who is representing Malaysia at the upcoming World Championship 2018 in Chiang Mai next week, admits that he sometimes find it difficult to strike a balanced lifestyle, especially when it comes to catching up on sleep.
“I have so much energy but I don’t have much time and I need to do all these things so I can give more to the people out there,” says Faiz.
“It starts small. If you can impact the people around you– especially your family, you can do anything – provided it is for the better cause,” says Faiz.
He shared about having a tough time in getting his own family and friends to change their mindset to forgo unhealthy food such as deep-fried, high carb meals to “air-fried chicken breasts and steamed broccoli” – a staple meal for Faiz.
“I slowly shift my mindset – changed my family’s, changed my friends’ and now I am impacting the youth.”
What really drives Faiz is the opportunity to impact lives positively.
Bodybuilding, he says, is not just about showing off a ripped body, the discipline and perseverance goes a long way into helping to develop strength, physically and mentally.
“People are becoming more conscious about health and fitness,” says Faiz, “That is why I am very involved in coaching.”
“To be honest, this journey has really humbled me. All the things that I’ve gone through helped build up my character,” says Faiz. “All these had helped me know what is needed to be done to make sure I can strive forward to become World Champion – that is my goal.”