(April 25, 2022) Bullied as a kid for being skinny, Saveen V transformed himself into a bodybuilder to combat his childhood bullies. The gritty fitness expert, who used his experiences to build an awe-worthy physique and career, recently bagged the gold at the IFBB (International Federation of Body Building and Fitness) Pro League Thailand in the open class under 60 category. Emerging victorious amongst several participants from across the world including those from Australia, Kuwait and Iran, the 41-year-old is ecstatic about his win. His mantra is also about eating healthy and right, which he imparts to many, even an ailing father who recovered thanks to Saveen’s advice.
“I was an amateur representing two categories – masters and weight. In the 60 kg and under category, I won the first place for India. There were approximately 200 participants in total with around 12 in my category,” Saveen tells Global Indian. Currently training under George Farah, a top bodybuilding coach in the United States, Saveen is eyeing other laurels for India as he trains, and spreads the word of wellness to others.
A slow transformation
Originally from Kerala, Saveen was born and brought up in Odisha. Bodybuilding became a passion after he finished his 10th grade. “I was the skinniest guy in my family and friends circle, and was constantly mocked for my weight. Growing up, I’d watch my father, an ardent fitness buff, exercise with zeal. That piqued an interest in me – one that drove me towards studying bodybuilding. I began to believe that if a person has a good physique, he will be respected. I dropped out of academics as I wasn’t good, but people were surprised by my choice to build a body,” says the fitness enthusiast.
Saveen was also an athlete since sixth grade, representing his school nationally in football, table tennis, and Kho-Kho. His family relocated to Odisha when he was only 20 days old and pursued his education at the Belpahar English Medium School. “My father worked for the Tata Group where they had an option of giving a job to a son or close relative once he retires. So I did the ITI fitter course to be able to work there. I worked at Tata Refractories as a furnace operator and millwright technician,” he says.
A passion became goal
At 20, he began working as a trainer. “I would train CEOs, directors and my manager at the Tata, all the while working. One of my bosses recognised my passion for bodybuilding and suggested I pursue it as a full-time career. But my dad was concerned because despite winning contests, I never won any cash. He was also worried that bodybuilding would harm my health because of the anabolic steroids, medicines or supplements that people misuse. He was terrified that I’d die soon,” he reveals of his struggle.
But Saveen’s fitness knowledge is what helped his father eventually. “There was a time when he had a paralytic attack and doctors told him he would never be able to walk again. So, I went ahead and treated him, and he was back on his feet in 15 days. That’s when he realised that I’ve learned something useful and he began to accept it,” he adds.
However, juggling two jobs was tough for Saveen, who felt like he wasn’t doing justice to either. That’s when he decided to become a full-time trainer. “People think that bodybuilders are always ready to fight, and are all bouncers! It’s sad that people have such preconceived notions because many bodybuilders are extremely knowledgeable and have saved many lives. I have personally treated cancer patients, people with infertility and diabetes through herbal medicines,” he reveals.
Much more than muscle building
Bodybuilding is a unique sport, feels the fitness buff, adding, “When a client approaches me and wants to do bodybuilding, it simply means that he or she wants to build muscles. Most people think of bodybuilders as steroid users. Steroid use is legal in a few competitions, but others don’t encourage it and even conduct tests to rule it out. In 2018, I was diagnosed with chicken pox, which made me lose my muscles. I wanted to start bodybuilding all over again, but my wife told me that it wasn’t the right time because I was touching 40 and couldn’t do it without anabolic steroids, and my competitors told me that I’d never be able to do it naturally. I then trained for nearly 12 weeks before competing in Singapore, where I represented India and won a silver and a bronze in the natural bodybuilding event.”
Currently settled in Bangalore, Saveen owns the Fitt Studio, a personal training studio that was started nearly 10 years ago. His diet includes six to seven meals a day (6 am to 9 pm). “From Monday to Friday, I do 45 minutes of intense training a day. My friends joke that my tastebuds have died because of my diet! I have my cheat days when I take a week-and-a-half off after competitions,” reveals the dedicated bodybuilder.
A strict diet affects his family and social life. “When I step out for dinner with family, I take my own food. There have been some disagreements with my wife Reena about bodybuilding, and many sacrifices made along the way by all. My son Reyaansh is now five-and-a-half years old. He witnessed his first event when he was two in Singapore. I want to be a role model for him while he’s growing up. My mother lives in Kerala, and I have an older brother who works with me,” he shares.
Saveen hopes to win more laurels for India now. “I’m planning to compete again in the WNBF, in Bali on July 23 and 24, and since I’ve already won silver and bronze in 2019 in Singapore at the same event, I’d now like to win gold for India,” he concludes.
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