Johor's muscle man

Mr IOI Johor, Mohd Rashid showing off his medals
Mohd Rashid Mohd Abu, better known as AJ, the newly crowned Mr IOI Johor, is a Professional Trainer at Excite Fitness Centre, Danga City Mall

I'M the eldest of six siblings and we grew up in Bandar Sri Perani, Kota Tinggi. My parents were school athletes so my siblings and I had their support and encouragement to be active in sports.

Throughout my school days, I was an athlete and a sprinter for Johor under the Johor Sports Council.  I enjoyed competitive sports and participated in Johor Schools Sports Council and Malaysian Schools Sports Council meets

While I was working in an office, I coached school athletes part time because I enjoyed sharing my skills and knowledge. Even though I was not actively involved in competitive sports, I did not neglect my fitness because I kept a training regime at the Larkin Youth and Sports Complex gym.

My interest in bodybuilding was sparked when I met Samsul Bahari Mustapha, who became my coach and mentor. He encouraged me to take it up as a sport and helped me discover muscle hypertrophy, an intensive form of body modification to develop the size of muscle cells through training, discipline and diet. 

With his support and guidance, I started to think seriously about competitive bodybuilding and the commitment involved in developing my mind and body for this sport.

While I understood that my body would be presented to bodybuilding judges who will award points in categories like muscle mass, definition, proportion, symmetry and stage presence, for a long time I could not get over the awkwardness of showing off my body to an audience, wearing very little clothes!

Mohd Rashid impressed the judges
with his sculptured physique
Being brought up in a conservative household where modesty held up dearly, my first hurdle was to overcome the embarrassment of appearing in public wearing only a thong.

As my parents and family understood more about the sport, their support and approval helped me to deal with it and I gained greater confidence.

Eight months into my training, Samsul encouraged me to enter my first competition in Batu Pahat. I thought it was still too early in my bodybuilding career but he assured me that the experience earned as a participant would be valuable.  I didn't win anything but Samsul was absolutely right.

A few months later, I entered another competition in Ulu Tiram. As I was training physically -- working hard on machined dumb-bells, spring pulleys and tension bands -- I was also training myself mentally.  As an athlete, I already have a fighter's mind-set so I asked myself, "Why can't I compete to win?"

Mohd Rashid was crowned Mr IOI Johor 2010
My previous experience was put to good use because I took home the second runner-up title and in a few weeks' time, I was entered for the Mr IOI Johor 2010.

This prestigious competition held at IOI Mall Bandar Putra Kulai on Sunday, June 27, 2010 was jointly organised by the Johor Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Association, IOI Group and the Johor Sports Council, with five categories: Junior (below 21), Master (above 45), Bantam (for weight below 65kg), Welter and Heavyweight.

In preparation, I had to reduce my calorie intake and increase aerobic exercise while monitoring body fat percentage in a cutting and bulking process.

In an attempt to lose body fat while minimising loss of muscle mass, I reduced drinking water and slashed my sodium intake and went on a zero-carb diet. While I had strict discipline in my diet, it was also vital to have adequate rest, especially sleep and recuperation in between workouts.

Just before going on stage, tanning oils were applied to darken my skin and enhance the appearance of the veins. I told myself that I would do my best to make my family and friends proud and I would be satisfied if I was placed in the top six.

I was among more than 30 contestants in the Bantam category and I was left with two other contestants in the top three positions. When the judge said that No. 22 was champion, I was in such a daze that I had to check that it was my number!

Mohd Rashid impressed the judges and
audience with his sculptured physique
The champions for all the categories vied for the "Champion of the Champions & Overall Best Bodybuilder" title and it was very humbling for me to clinch the Mr IOI Johor 2010 title.

In my aspiration to develop and maintain an aesthetically pleasing and balanced body, I never dreamed that this prestigious title could be mine on my very first attempt!

Even with this success, I know that there's still a long way to go before I can follow in the footsteps of famous Johor bodybuilders like Abdul Malek Noor and Sazali Abdul Samad.

While waiting for the next competition, I'm enjoying my job training clients in a fitness centre and motivating them to be disciplined and committed.

After discovering bodybuilding as a healthy discipline, I'm applying my experience and knowledge to train clients according to their needs. I always encourage them to work hard at sculpturing their bodies and pursue a healthier lifestyle.

This interview was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets in July 2010
Mohd Rashid, the professional trainer, is currently attached to the Danga Bay branch of Clark Hatch Fitness Centre, Johor Baru.

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