Abdullah Farqaleet, 25
City Fitness home club: Logan Square
Member since: 2018
The regimen: WE/FIT five times a week, plus strength-training on the gym floor
In 2014, Abdullah Farqaleet left his native Pakistan to move to Omaha, Nebraska. He was a junior in college, studying finance; his English was only okay; and he knew nobody outside his father and stepmother, who’d lived in Omaha for a handful of years before he joined them. “Initially it was tough, because there are a lot of cultural differences,” he says. “It was almost like being born again: You’re just kind of trying to figure it all out.”
Five years and two cities later, Abdullah has more than just figured it out: He’s killing it. The 25-year-old is an accomplished investment analyst with Vanguard who lives a full, busy life in Center City with his girlfriend (and their cat and dog). In August, after years of studying, he passed the exam for a high-level professional certification — a major accomplishment for the finance world — and also passed his test to be naturalized as an American citizen. In short? Abdullah knows how to rise to a challenge.
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In fact, he says, the chance to continually push himself in new ways is one of the big reasons he works out. “It’s not about lifting the heaviest weight,” he says. “It’s not about sweating the most. It’s not about burning the most calories. It’s truly just about being honest with myself and incrementally improving along the process.”
Here, Abdullah talks about pushing through fear, yoga, and finding his “animal self” in the gym.
On his motivation:
For me, it’s a discipline thing. I like the structure, and knowing that I’ll have that block at the end of the day just to put an hour’s worth of work in, an hour where I can decide what success looks like.
No matter how good or how bad my day is, it’s one hour in which I can be a superstar. Or maybe I’ll go to the class and not be able to do many of the things that I did two days ago, and it’s humbling. Sometimes you see that your body’s not going to pick up what it picked up two days ago, and you have to accept that and adapt and move on. So I like that, too.
There’s no real science behind it, no real art: It’s just that you go there, you put in your time, and no matter what happens, that’s success. You’re ahead of the curve either way.
On why he likes WE/FIT:
WE/FIT is essentially a functional, high-intensity training program. There are multiple stations that you work through with a partner, and it’s all timed. The goal is to make sure you’re focused on nailing your movements, really doing your best. I think the classroom energy really helps get you over the hump. You’re not just doing your own thing; you have several other people trying to do the same stuff.
It isn’t a mass-building workout program. It’s just everyday fitness, but it’s really important because it focuses on the day-to-day functions of your body. You don’t see results overnight, but I feel stronger and healthier overall.
On the part of his workout he loves the most:
I love anything that lets you push it, that lets you be your true “animal self.” I like movements that force you to use your entire body, so you’re sweating, you inevitably grunt, you exhale weirdly. I love that feeling—just being pushed to that extent.
On the part of his workout he hates but (sometimes) does anyway:
I don’t like isolation movements. I don’t like “We’re going to work on this one muscle group for 20 minutes.” I also hate running. I don’t mind sprints—honestly because it’s the whole animal thing again: sprinting is what humans probably did, in the beginning. But I don’t like running for extended durations.
On the one word that best describes his workout style:
Raw. That’s my workout style. [Laughs.]
On his biggest-ever physical challenge:
I recently went to Hawaii, where we kayaked. I’d never kayaked before. I didn’t really read the website description of what sort of “kayaking tour” it was. I thought we’d paddle a bit, maybe stop somewhere to tour. As I was packing, I thought, Oh, maybe I’ll throw in a couple little alcohol bottles. It’ll be fun!
It was not that. It was about 19 miles of ocean kayaking. It took us 10 hours. I was seasick. In terms of fitness, it was the hardest thing I’ve done. Not only was it painful, but it was emotionally very hard to do. But, I mean, I’m glad I did it. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, too.
I’d say it taught me to not be overconfident. I think I went into it thinking, Hey, I work out five days a week. I would consider myself pretty fit. How hard could this be? And then Mother Nature knocked me in the teeth. No matter what, there’s always something that’s going to challenge you. It’s easy to underestimate how hard it can be to overcome the emotional aspect of things. It wasn’t just kayaking; it was constantly telling my mind I was going to be okay. That I could do it.
Maybe another lesson I learned was to always read the damn description properly.
“It’s just a matter of being open. It’s about accepting that you’re not going to be great at everything you do and that’s okay.”
Yoga’s really tough. I do it every now and then. I think I can lift a decent amount at the gym, but you throw one crow at me and it’s just like, “Okay, and you’re asking me to breathe a certain way as I’m doing it, too?” That’s a lot. But it’s a good way to stretch out and decompress. And it’s different, and challenges me in a different way.
On doubt, and overcoming it:
I think in life it’s easy to be afraid. I was afraid when I moved to the U.S. because everything was different. Omaha, Nebraska: The demographic was people who were taller than me, whiter than me, spoke differently, ate different food, had different cultural norms.
I don’t think I’m an extraordinary person or above average in any way. If I can overcome that difference and that feeling, I think it’s doable for most people. It’s just a matter of being open. It’s about accepting that you’re not going to be great at everything you do and that’s okay.
I think this applies to the gym, too. The best thing about WE/FIT is that you don’t have to be the best, you just have to come and do what they’re asking you to do. That’s the only decision you have to make, really: Just showing up. It’s okay if you don’t succeed. It’s fine, you’ll have tomorrow to do it again.
On what’s next:
I think financial independence and the chance to actually excel financially in your life is a liberty that a lot of people don’t have. Back where I’m from, the stock market isn’t as accessible to the average investor as it is here. I have friends there who will never be able to invest in the sort of things that I can and, without going too deep, I think that’s where the difference in wealth starts to happen, right? There’s no growth if there’s no opportunity. So my hope would be to help bridge that gap somehow.
It’s a very small effort for now, but I’ve started to talk to some of my friends back home about starting an investment club. Maybe let’s just talk about investments. And maybe from there, we can work toward something else.
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