Bilal Munir, a fitness coach from Karachi, has an impressive roster of clients that he’s amassed in all of two years of his training career. Working with a slew of A-list celebrities, including Bilal Ashraf and the inspiring Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, means that people have taken notice of the young trainer. After all, someone who’s worked with Mehwish Hayat, who he’s also trained, is much more exciting than someone who trained your neighbor last month. Instep sits down with Bilal to find out what it means to be labelled a celebrity trainer and whether it’s helped his brand, Spartan Fitness.
Bilal shares that even though he’s proud of all his clients, he prefers not being called just a "celebrity trainer". It may earn him more clients and get him publicity when they share pictures of themselves in their respective gyms but he prefers that his work isn’t reduced to whether or not his clients happen to land on magazine covers.
"I enjoy training athletes rather than celebrities because the title has gotten a negative connotation of late," he says. He has therefore tried to diversify his brand to include an athleisure line, a gym and an active Instagram account with fitness tips.
Speaking about the celebrity clients he does have, Bilal shared that he had been friends with Bilal Ashraf from back in the day and the actor has always been athletically inclined.
"We were workout partners and then he was supposed to do a character where he had to be a part of the army (Yalghaar) and another where he had to be lean (Janaan) so we would train for strength and had a very specific diet." Bilal feels that when trying to get fit, it’s best to surround yourself with people who have similar fitness goals because pigeonholing yourself in that aspect to achieve fitness goals is beneficial.
When asked about how he started training SOC he shares, "I got a message from Sharmeen’s Instagram account and I didn’t think it was actually her. I had helped one of her sisters with postpartum exercise and then realized she probably recommended me. I met her at her house and then started training her at her home gym."
Bilal feels that while working with A-listers comes with a few special requirements (like working out at a place of their comfort, in Sharmeen’s case her home, and working out at their time; Sharmeen’s was 6 am), celebs aren’t really all that different from regular clients once they’re in the gym. "I hadn’t trained anyone at their house and my family wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea so I had to think about that but since I am an athlete I now thank her for disciplining me to wake up at 6 am every day," he said.
Before becoming a fitness coach, Bilal had started playing professional cricket since he was a teenager, which was his in into the fitness world. "I started with under 19, fast forwarded to first class cricket and then played for the National Bank of Pakistan. That led me to the domestic cricket circle but since cricket season happens in winter and cricketers are open to playing around the world when it ends, I took a break and was training myself and helping a friend with his gym. That was where I started getting paid to gym myself." He shared that he started taking care of his health and took some fitness courses in Dubai, Singapore, Thailand along with group instructor courses and nutritional degrees.
"I’ve done a precision nutrition degree which qualifies me in giving people meal plans," he informs, adding, "Trainers can guide people and give advice but they can’t give meal plans." He shares that he didn’t do it with the hopes of training someone but it all happened organically.
Bilal now has his own gym which he calls Spartan Fitness; which also happens to be the name of his athleisure line that includes t-shirts, joggers and leggings.
"The line was borne from the lifestyle I support - healthy and holistic. My workout is called Survival Mode, it’s not called generic gym names because I think that’s what we’re trying to do every day and everyone’s trying to be the best version of themselves. Spartan Fitness is a lifestyle change," he concludes.