Meet India’s Arnold – the nation’s first wheelchair bodybuilder

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

“Risin’ up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance
Now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

So many times, it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge
Of our rival”

These words from the iconic song ‘Eye of The Tiger’ by American rock band Survivor brings back vivid memories of a muscular Sylvester Stallone working hard to gear up for a fight in the famous ‘Rocky’ series.

In no time, the song became an anthem for all those who fought and survived life’s toughest battles. Be it those who’ve struggled to make it big in life or those who’ve risen like a phoenix from the ashes, each and every survivor story is truly inspirational.

Such is the story of Ludhiana’s 28-year-old Anand Arnold, who battled cancer and paralysis at the age of 15 to become India’s first wheelchair bodybuilder.

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

Folomojo spoke to ‘India’s very own Arnold’ and here’s his truly inspiring story.

Legendary Hollywood actor and inspirational bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger once famously said, “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

How true!

Anand Arnold began bodybuilding at the age of 13, and bagged his first title that very year. However, tragedy struck the young fitness enthusiast at the age of 15. He was diagnosed with cancer in his lower spinal chord and surgery left him paralysed.

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

Anand, who was then bedridden for three long years, decided to fight back and soon overcame the tragic incident in a spectacular manner.  Wheelchair bound, he began intensive training once again and did not let his disability hold him back.

Born and raised in the city of Ludhiana, Anand battled his own demons through his physical ability, strength of mind and belief in God. And today, he is one of the greatest bodybuilding personalities in the world. And mind you, all his accomplishments have been without the help of any kind of enhancement drugs or steroids.

On the time he learnt about his illness

At the age of 13, I won my first title  – Mr. Golden Ludhiana. I was doing well until I suddenly started experiencing extreme pain in my lower back. One night it was unbearable and I was rushed to the hospital where the doctors discovered that I was suffering from last stage of lower spinal chord cancer. I was immediately operated, but unfortunately that left me paralysed.

Image courtesy: YouTube grab
Image courtesy: YouTube grab

On what inspired him to fight back

I was bed-ridden for three years. My family and loved ones were very worried, but I did not give up.  I remained positive and knew that all was not over yet. One day, the students who used to train under me, brought me to the gym where I did a few shoulder exercises. That short while was enough for me to get inspired and return to training.

At that time, my coach Mr. Ravi Parashar helped me restart an intensive fitness regime. He allowed me to work out at his health club for free and also supported me mentally. Thanks to him and all those who stood by me, it was no looking back from there on.

On his career growing from strength to strength

I started winning titles the moment I got back to my training. I’ve been crowned Mr. India thrice, Mr Punjab 12 times, and also have 27 other titles to my name.

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

Apart from being India’s first wheelchair bodybuilder, I am also the face of Muscle Mania and the brand ambassador of

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

Author Allen Woodman has written about my story in his book titled ‘Weightless: A True Story of Courage and Inspiration’.

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

I have also taken part in the reality show India’s Got Talent, where the judges christened me ‘India’s Superman’ after I showcased stunts on a wheelchair. That was a moment of great pride for me because I was being recognised by famous personalities.

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

On the challenges he faces

Training on a wheelchair is not easy at all. For the average person it takes several weeks, at times even several months, to get ready for a competition. But it takes me at least a year. But I am a warrior and I will fight till the end. I do all this without taking any extra supplements or steroids. I think that in itself is a huge achievement.

Another challenge I face is raising funds for my training. As of today, I’ve not received any kind of sponsorship. Though there are health ministers and other influential people living in my locality, no one has come forward to help me and my family.

My father, who is has retired from the Air Force, has been the one who’s always ensured that I get whatever I need, be it for my diet, my training or my competitions. I am really grateful to him and to my family for supporting me through and through.

On his diet plan and exercise regimen

I’ve always eaten natural and healthy foods to build my body. One doesn’t need any artificial enhancement if one works hard and maintains a strict diet. I follow my diet strictly and also focus on upper body exercises like pushups, chest press, dumbbell press, backdips and peckdeck.

Anand’s meal plan:

Breakfast – 10 eggs and a banana milk shake
Lunch – 250 grams chicken breast with boiled rice
Dinner – 10 eggs with a banana milk shake again; this is also his post workout meal

On his personal life and marriage plans

Initially my family were worried about how my life would shape up, but I’ve changed all that now. They are extremely happy now and are also very supportive.

As far as marriage goes, I think I won’t get married to an Indian girl. It’s not like I’ve never been in love, but then even if the girl accepts my condition, her family has many objections. I want to change the mentality of Indian society. I want to tell people that even if we have some disability, it doesn’t mean that we are tough to live with.

On what he plans to do next

Although I’ve achieved so much, I feel it’s just the beginning. I still have lots to achieve in life. I want to be an example for inspiration and motivation. I want to help people who’ve given up hope in life to get inspired and fight back to stand on their feet.

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

I will soon be seen in a movie on my own life, directed by Hasan Khan. If I manage to get some funds, I plan to open a training centre where I will provide training free of cost for the disabled.

His message to the world

To succeed, turn your weakness into your strength!

Image courtesy: Anand Arnold
Image courtesy: Anand Arnold

In a world where even fully-abled people struggle to realise their true potential, Anand Arnold is inspiration and motivation personified.

“And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the
Eye of the tiger

Face to face, out in the heat
Hangin’ tough, stayin’ hungry
They stack the odds
Still we take to the street
For the kill with the skill to survive”

To connect with Anand Arnold click here