In Kashmir from last few years, women are breaking societal stereotypes and touching new feet. Be it making career in aviation, art, media, running restaurants or turning to be an author at a very young age, Kashmir has witnessed many such success stories of its women folk.
Interestingly 24-year old Mehreen Amin is another addition to the list of Kashmir’s womensuccess list. Mehreen successfully broke the taboos to create their own niche to become Kashmir’s first female fitness trainer and gym owner.
She hails from downtown area of Bohri Kadal. Mehreen’s story is a tale of overcoming personal and social challenges and following her heart to own an exclusive gym. Since 2016, she is running ‘Fitness Hub Healthcare Center’ gym near Islamia College, Hawal.
Mahreen had earlier interest in photography, however her instance with the fitness world took place when she was not doing well with her health and had started gaining weight. “I had just passed my class 12 and went to Delhi where my brother was working; on his continuous insistence I joined a gym to lose weight. That is when I first ever in my life stepped inside a gym centre. My female instructor there was a great professional, she developed my appetite in the fitness field and I lost 30 kg in few months. It was a great change in my life,” Mehreen said.
She says that it was that period when her fitness trainer on seeing her growing interest in the field suggested her to go for a professional course of a gym trainer. She did one-year diploma in fitness management and became a professional gym instructor.
However, when she returned home, Mehreen has no intention to start her own gym given the conservative nature of the society in valley. She recalls that it was only after, she joined a gym in Srinagar and faced a ‘disappointing experience’ there and she got pushed to start her own.
Mehreen says that she found that most of the female instructors in Srinagar lack basic professional training and the women who are interested in fitness have no knowledge about it. “I also felt that women here hesitate from joining a fitness centre because gyms here are mostly meant for men folk and at few places females are given a too little time for workout at gyms. That made me think that a female only gym would be a great thing where women can join whenever they want throughout the day,” says Mehreen.
She said that the convincing her family about something, which no one else had done earlier was a big challenge. “We come from a conservative society, my parents were very reluctant. Though my family is doing business but having no knowledge of such a venture, they were totally against it at first,” she says.
However she managed to succeed in motivating her parents to start a gym. “Seeing that I’m not ready to give up, my family started to support me in different ways although they had reservation about a girl single-handedly starting a business venture which is dominated by males,” she says.
Finally after long search, she found a place in near Islamia College, which is barely few hundred meters away from historic Jamia Masjid. From finding the place to setting up the equipment, Mehreen did everything on her own without any support.
Now despite building a good setup, the bigger struggle for Mehreen was to find women who were interested in visiting the gym at the beginning. She remained consistent and didn’t lose her heart which finally yielded results. Mehreen presently have more than 100 women visiting her gym everyday.
“I found it difficult to attract any costumer at first. I remember for more than a month it was me and my gym equipment,” she says. I train more than hundred females at gym nowadays. My costumers range from doctors, businesswomen to homemakers. I also train a group of young school going children these days”, she said.
Mehreen believes that the unhealthy life style is the basic reason that people are overweight and having other health issues. She believes that a daily gym routine should be a part of every female’s life and fitness should not be associated with men only. Mehreen says that lack of female exclusive gyms is keeping many women away from gym.
The gym is not only about weight loss, Mehreen says she concentrates on overall fitness.
“Females mostly associate gym with weight loss but here I concentrate on overall fitness, from cardio, Zumba to weightlifting, I indulge costumers in everything that suits their fitness training,” she said.
Mehreen says that her biggest happiness is the smile and confidence in her customers after they go through a transformation.
Mehreen has made a home like atmosphere at Gym, which she says is the unique feature of her Gym, she says that maintaining strong bond with her customers proved very fruitful to her. She maintains a whatsApp Group and Instagram Page where she keeps in touch with her students.
As far as the privacy is concerned she says she has made it a rule to deposit all mobile phones at the office so no one’s privacy will be intruded while they are at the gym in gym attire. “A place, owned and run by a female and the instructors are also female is comfortable for female customers as she can express herself very well in the gym. Such place gives a sense of security and comfort”, she said.
Interestingly she has not advertised her gym but the change that most of the females had gone through at her gym had attracted many more costumers to Mehreen’s Fitness Hub. She said that after seeing the transformation many girls from even the outskirts are coming to her gym.
“Now I am looking for other places to open another branches of my Fitness Hub so that it will be convenient for girls to reach”. Mehreen says that the resolve to not give up and the support from her parents kept her going.
She said, “In Kashmir people don’t take you seriously when you need their support most, but once you do good, people start respecting you. I have come across many difficulties and i faced every social pressure on my own, because when you decide to do something, there should be no going back”.