Fitness trainer Sameer Malik on the motive behind holding the monthly running sessions in Lahore
3-year-old Sameer Malik believes man was created for strenuous physical activity: “We were hunters and gatherers, some 5,000 years ago,” he tells TNS, in an exclusive chat. “With just a stone in hand, we’d run after the animal. This was even before we created arrows and bows. No wonder we were among the strongest of creatures.”
A qualified fitness trainer and the owner of a chain of gyms in Lahore, Malik is the driving force behind the Run Lahore — Time Trial Series, group running sessions that are now famously held in the city once a month. The group gathers early in the morning, at a pre-decided venue which keeps changing. Their recent most activity was held at Baghe Jinnah.
“The idea is that we may train/work out at home or gym, but we should make time once a month to run together and make it an event. When you do it together it motivates you to give your 100 percent.”
He says the goal is “to take the heart rate higher and thus clean our arteries of all the bad cholesterol deposits that are caused by the highly oily foods Lahoris consume.”
Malik doesn’t consider brisk walk an exercise, but “something we all must do as a routine anyway. […] Our aim is to get people into running, but there are a few who can only complete the track by walking it.”
Why once a month only? Malik says that since he’s involved in a lot of other fitness related activities, which include corporate sessions, he can’t plan it on a weekly basis, for instance. Also, “we don’t mean to become a full-time running group, but only to promote running as a great physical activity. We are here to sell fitness.”
He adds that it has “nothing to do with making money. We hold these [running] sessions entirely with our money. It’s a passion project.”
A graduate of York University, Canada, Malik says he took a couple of nutrition and cross-fit certification courses from New York University. At age 25, he had started as a professional fitness trainer in his hometown Lahore. Later, he opened IronBox, an upscale gym in the heart of the city.
People of varying age groups participate in the running sessions which usually last for seven to eight kilometres, chiefly between 13-year-olds and 50-plus.
Is there anyone he’d advise against running? “Anyone above 50,” Malik replies. “Also, those with an injury or health history.”
He says that the improvement graph of each participant is faithfully kept track of. “In our last session, 17 minutes was the fastest time, and 47 minutes the slowest, which is essentially brisk walk.”
He doesn’t consider brisk walk an exercise. It is “something we all must do as a routine anyway. […] Our aim is to get people into running, but there are a few who can only complete the track by walking it.”
When they have female runners, the scenic Baghe Jinnah is their preferred venue. Because “everyone feels safe there,” he says, highlighting the importance of inclusivity.
Other than Malik’s clients (from his gyms), the participation in the running sessions comes from a host of locals clubs and groups that include the Falcon Club, Lahore Runners Club, Critical Mass-Lahore and Hikers.pk. Malik is hoping to “build a bigger running community.”
Hammad is a digital journalist, currently working with Propergaanda