After Hours: Fatima Zara Mallick

Published: September 10, 2017
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Published art historian, fashion stylist and professional dancer, Fatima Zara Mallick of FZM Boutique Fitness, shares with us her fitness philosophy, what inspired her to become a fitness instructor and her typical day. From eating clean, to how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, she reveals all

How would you describe your fitness philosophy?

As a trainer I have 35 certifications to date. I became a personal trainer in 2011 and had my first client while working part-time at a gym in Italy. At FZM Boutique Fitness, I bring my entire life’s work to the table. It’s not just fitness; it is a way of being, a lifestyle and a movement for self-empowerment. I see my job as art and myself as a sculptor who carves out of flesh. My approach combines dance, Olympic weight lifting, pilates and functional fitness to develop highly curated workouts for clients. Our approach at FZM is personal but also uncomfortable and painful. We want to create strong, beautifully worked out bodies. That’s exactly why we don’t promote fads, quick fixes or extreme programmes. We see ourselves as artists, the workout as a live performance and the gym as a sanctuary for the body. It’s a classical approach that goes far beyond dieting and counting reps. Ideally, we want to change the way clients think and feel about fitness. FZM is a lifestyle, not just a workout studio. 

What inspired you to become a fitness instructor?

Growing up, I suffered from insecurities about the way I looked. I was a perfectionist and straight A student. Yet, I felt that my physical appearance was simply not good enough. As a teenager I was severely anorexic (to the point that I had to see a shrink about my body dysmorphic disorder).  At 14, I decided to become bulimic. I went on to abuse diet pills, did a 40-day juice fast (back when no one knew what colonic cleansing and juicing was) and flirted with diuretics and laxatives. Not surprisingly, my weight kept yo-yoing and I was constantly in a state of extreme anxiety regarding my body.It wasn’t until my freshman year in college (when I started working out with a trainer) that I realised the importance of lifting weights and working out in a proper, scientific manner. I was 16 at the time. At 17, I got my first certification in fitness because I was desperate to help myself: I wanted to know exactly what works. Fast-forward 10 years and I am in the best shape of my life. Of course, I would like to be fitter and stronger but the journey has taught me so much. I became a trainer to help myself and in the process I found my true calling in life.

How did the idea of FZM Boutique fitness come about?

I moved back to Pakistan two years ago and since moving back, I have been involved in a series of ventures. Following my education in Italy, I was offered a job at Gucci under Frida Gianini but I had to decline and move back to Pakistan. Upon moving back, I immediately started fashion consulting with some of the best fashion houses in Pakistan. However, I quickly grew disillusioned with the local fashion scene. There is a lot of unprofessionalism and too much plagiarism. While doing my fashion consultancies, I started holding fitness classes and that’s when I found my true calling in life. In the beginning I was just holding free classes at my house for friends and family but the response I got was phenomenal. While in Italy, I had done my basic personal training certification as a hobby because I wanted to be fit myself. I had also taught dance at the Florence Dance Academy and worked as a part-time instructor at a gym (Florence Fitness). At that time, it was all about making an extra buck to support my way through fashion school. But destiny had something else in store. I suppose my background in dance and fitness made me an instant hit with the crowd. I soon had a class of over 50 people and that’s when FZM Boutique Fitness was born.

What’s your typical day like?

We start personal training sessions at 7 or 8 am. At 10:30am I have a boot camp at Structure after which there are more training sessions till 2 or 3pm. I usually recuperate from 3 to 4pm and then head back to Structure for my second boot camp from 4:30 to 5:30pm. From Structure, my team and I head to Sind Club for our final boot camp. By 9pm I am back at my personal training studio for more clients. We wind between 10 and 11pm and after that I simply pass out. I’m lucky to have a great team with me: Komal and Suhera are my best friends and senior trainers. The girls make work feel like fun! It’s a crazy routine but it’s addictive. 

How is your fitness mantra different from others in the industry?

At FZM Boutique fitness, we encourage women to become strong: mentally, emotionally and physically. We train them to become Amazons: if you constantly push your limits at the gym you eventually get addicted to the process and that’s when the magic happens. I have actresses and socialites coming in and begging us to make them thinner because they feel unhappy every time they look in a mirror. Three months down the line, these girls are talking about their weight lifting PRs (personal records) and how they now want more definition and muscle tone. Being ‘skinny’ somehow becomes secondary. To me, that’s what fitness is all about: feeling good in your skin, being able to constantly surpass your limits at the gym and therefore feeling stronger in mind and body.

Do you have any tips and tricks for living a healthy lifestyle?

I don’t believe in tips and tricks. Short cuts are a deceptive illusion. There is no elevator to health, you need to take the stairs. Trust me; the journey is as empowering and crucial as the destination.

What is according to you the most effective workout move?

The burpee: it’s a full-body exercise designed to get you fit, FAST.

As a celebrity trainer, who have you enjoyed training the most and why?

I can’t reveal the names of all the celebrities currently working out at FZM. However, one person who has been vocal about her weight loss transformation is Natasha of Natasha’s Salon. I think it’s safe to say that the entire FZM team admire her commitment to fitness and her military discipline both inside and outside the gym. Natasha understood that she needed to change her lifestyle completely and embrace new habits to become fit. That’s what I love about her: she enjoys the journey to fitness as much as the destination and is not impatient or unrealistic about results. We get clients everyday who want me to tell them Natasha’s secret. It’s hard work! It took a year: we killed her at the gym and she ate 100% clean outside the gym. There is no magic formula and I am not a fairy god mother who shrinks people overnight!

How big a role does diet play in becoming fit?

Diet is 50% of the deal. It is true that your body begins to metabolise fat differently as soon as exercise comes in to the picture. If you change nothing in your diet, but add exercise, you will still create a weight loss inducing caloric deficit. That being said, you will progress very slowly. Diet is an ugly word. Nutrition is key. I had a young client who only ate popcorn (she loved it) and wanted to exercise twice a day. She was on a diet but she was giving her body zero nutrition. I eventually gave her a long lecture, spoke to her parents and referred her to a food therapist. Fitness is so much more than just dieting and exercise. It is a way of life. Exercise and nutrition are like body and soul: they must co-exist for mental, emotional and physical health.

One track you enjoy working out to?

The Fighter. 

One celebrity whose body you’d like to transform?

All! I’m sick of seeing non-worked out bodies that have only ever been exposed to yoga or mild cardio! Celebrities with bodies that have been starved to fit the commercial image of beauty send out the wrong idea. I want to work with stars that are willing to reveal the hustle behind that six-pack.

Your guilty pleasure?

Cheetos and chocolate. 

Your biggest pet peeve?

I hate working with clients who are consistently late to personal training sessions. There are times when I have had to fire the client because of their impatience and their lack of respect for the profession. I can’t make you thin in 10 days and I can’t give you an extra hour if you arrived 45 minutes late for your session! Since fitness is such a new industry, many people still don’t take trainers seriously. Our time is not valued and it’s a thankless profession. You can’t hold your trainer responsible if you binge outside the gym, don’t follow our nutritional guidelines and still expect to see a change. A client is with us one hour of the day, what they do in the remaining 23 hours is crucial. I’ve had a woman lose 9kg in 4 months and say it isn’t enough (despite me explaining anatomy and physiology to her).  Another one wanted free sessions until she reached her target weight: she lost 50 pounds in the first cycle of my 3-month transformation plan. In the next cycle, she lost 30 additional pounds but was thoroughly dissatisfied and demanded we train her for free till 20 more pounds were lost! 

Future plans?

To bring authentic fitness to Pakistan and encourage health awareness at a grassroots level. I might be servicing the elite but I would like to find a way to genuinely educate and improve the lifestyle of the masses. If more people understand the art of fitness, they will begin to appreciate the sanctity of this profession. Furthermore, they will be able to spot the faulty, self-educated trainer from someone who is truly qualified for the job. 

Your favourite quote or motto you live by?

Anything is possible if only you believe.

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