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42 Day Challenge: More than just a fad for Karachi's fitness junkies

Updated April 11, 2015
Torsam Tajik and Nusrat Hidayatullah, the brains behind the fitness program.
Torsam Tajik and Nusrat Hidayatullah, the brains behind the fitness program.

KARACHI: Joining med school was a defining moment in the life of fitness enthusiast Torsam Tajik. It was during his courses that he learned why the exercise regimes he had been pursuing would help him lose weight, but never gain muscle mass at the same time.

Using his new-found knowledge of metabolism and the relation between body fat and muscle, he developed a high intensity workout program, shared it with a few friends initially and then, in collaboration with Nusrat Hidayatullah, developed what is now known as the 42 Day Challenge.

Challenge accepted

In recent years, this nation of foodies has seen a shift: People want to be fit and they're dedicated enough to change their lifestyle and their diet for it.

When the 42 Day Challenge started about two years back, it sounded like yet another one of those fitness fads that come and go, but anyone who has completed the session from start to finish has a different story to tell.

Bilal Alvi, an ardent foodie, who was part of the very first batch of the high intensity program, lost 21 kilos in just seven weeks.

“The experience liberated me from the shackles of my lethargic, unhealthy lifestyle. I felt healthier and happier while doing it, and long after I got done with it. And I have maintained my physique and eating habits,” he shared.

Torsam and Nusrat have designed the program in a way that the challenge is open to everyone – from obese to skinny, from old to young, from people wanting to lose weight to people who just want to become toned.

Torsam and Nusrat have taken fitness to a different level. — Photo courtesy: The Forty Two Day Challenge Facebook page
Torsam and Nusrat have taken fitness to a different level. — Photo courtesy: The Forty Two Day Challenge Facebook page

The fitness plan

The program is not like your gym where you are standing in a corner and doing your work-out by yourself. It’s become an entire community which motivates each other to become healthy and fit.

The sessions themselves are held in the open stadium at the Moin Khan Academy, contributing to the community spirit – there is one section for the men led by Torsam and one section for the females led by Nusrat.

Program attendee Zara explains: "Even though it's a big class, I felt I was getting enough attention. It's what you make of it though. If you stand at the back and don't ask questions, you wont get as much out of it."

Each session is 40 minutes long starting at 7:30 and ending by around 8:15 pm. People start trickling around 7pm with their yoga mats rolled up and exercise gear. They start talking amongst themselves catching up on their fitness stories, and then lay out their yoga mats to start warming up.

In a few minutes the session starts with Torsam and Nusrat both using microphones to reach every person in the crowd (about 300 people after the initial drop-out) first outlining the exercise, demonstrating it on a raised dais in the middle of the ground and then starting the reps.

During that time, they move around the participants helping them out and correcting mistakes. Participants with back or knee problems are demonstrated simpler forms of the basic exercise so that they are able to participate.

With such a huge crowd, the duo has to use megaphones. — Photo courtesy: Syra Saud
With such a huge crowd, the duo has to use megaphones. — Photo courtesy: Syra Saud

"The first week everyone is in severe pain because they make you do so many squats. You can see an improvement in your strength, people who couldn't even do a single push-up before the challenge were able to do push ups with weights after," says Zara.

She adds: "There's no intimidating gym equipment or anything. You just work with your body and with free weights."

The participants do a mix of cardio and weight training. — Photo courtesy: Syra Saud
The participants do a mix of cardio and weight training. — Photo courtesy: Syra Saud

Their Facebook page is an interactive forum; from sharing recipes, asking advice, sharing humorous memes, motivational videos and transformation pictures, the community remains constantly in the loop with Torsam and Nusrat. Both are also active on WhatsApp and give advice to old participants as well.

You are what you eat

The diet plan which is an essential component of this challenge is not a one-fits-all approach but customised based on body type.

According to Torsam, the problem with most diet plans are the hard to find ingredients and alien foreign dishes that locals are not unaccustomed to. Hence, they focus on dishes that are regularly made at home like kebab, qeema, roti and even pulao/biryani but adjust the amount of fat, protein and carbs in the dish.

"They tell you that the 42 day challenge is 70 per cent diet and 30 per cent workout. I was naughty with my diet so I didn't always follow it. Still lost three kilos and a few inches," reveals Zara, who participated in the most recent 42 Day Challenge.

Participants gather at Moin Khan Academy every evening to work out. — Photo courtesy: Syra Saud
Participants gather at Moin Khan Academy every evening to work out. — Photo courtesy: Syra Saud

Though the meal plan is strenuous, it allows for one cheat meal a week where participants can indulge themselves and start the next week afresh.

In their latest round, they have collaborated with local eatery Pantry for meals and JustDeliverEase.com for the delivery of vegetables and juices for the participants who have issues in preparing the meals themselves.

"It costs around Rs 15,000 for the whole course; that doesn't include food if you want to go with meal plans that restaurants are offering," says Zara. Most gyms cost more than that and have steep registration fees along with monthly charges for just a month.

Pantry's offering a wide menu in collaboration with the 42 Day Challenge.
Pantry's offering a wide menu in collaboration with the 42 Day Challenge.

The results

Talking to another participant from the challenge, Faizan Najeeb Ghaffar, who lost about 20 pounds and 3.5 inches, it's clear that most participants leave the program satisfied.

From L-R: Faizan's transformation is nothing short of amazing.
From L-R: Faizan's transformation is nothing short of amazing.

"I came to this challenge to test myself and my lazy nature of not working out. I have to say this was one of the best experiences of my life where I not only achieved the desired results but also learned the healthy way of losing weight and body fat and getting lean along with feeling good as never before. It's highly addictive!”

His only problem was that he had a sweet tooth and no matter how hard he tried, Torsam just wouldn’t incorporate sugar into the diet plan. However, looking at the before and after pictures and listening to people talking about their exhilarating experiences, it’s enough to push anyone into trying out the 42 Day Challenge at least once.

For an added motivation, the person with the greatest transformation gets an all-expenses paid mini-vacation to Koh Samui, Thailand for two people. This year, Sameet Alam Khan won the prize.

After the challenge is over, they give you a CD which has your work out on it and a diet plan. The next session starts from April 13, 2015, and this time around they are going to another side of town with classes planned at Pavilion End Club in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.


Kiran Afzal is a researcher by profession, who enjoys food blogging and reading on the side.