While bodybuilding has enjoyed a renaissance in Afghanistan since the 2001 United States-led invasion and the overthrow of the Taliban government, it’s not really a country known for producing outstanding athletes. Instead, it’s more closely linked in the minds of most bodybuilding and fitness fans to being a battleground during long periods of war in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. MuscleTech® athlete AJ Shukoori is an exception. He’s risen quickly up the bodybuilding ranks and is currently one of the top Classic Physique bodybuilders in the world! But like most good things, the path to success hasn’t been easy.
AJ Shukoori spent the first seven years of his life in Afghanistan before his parents moved the family to Canada in 1987. Knowing absolutely no English, AJ was a prime target for bullies at school in his new home. Being the smaller kid from a country that few of the other kids had even heard of didn’t help, and the fact that he didn’t know what anyone was saying made his first days at school a nightmare. Learning English as fast as possible soon consumed him. While he learned quickly, he also learned that bullies are rarely rational. Escaping his tormenter wasn’t as easy as learning a whole new language. Soon, like many teenagers, he was body-shamed – bullied for being too scrawny. Bullies continued to take extra time out of their bullying schedule to make his life miserable, and he was all but invisible to girls. Looking at him today, you’d have a hard time guessing he was pushed around, but there he was, a mere 140 lbs. at the height of 5’10”. When he did finally wrestle up the courage to join a gym and start lifting weights, the bodybuilders there threw up even more roadblocks. “The big guys there told me I could never be a bodybuilder,” says AJ.
But AJ was hooked. He wanted to a bodybuilder and, nothing could dissuade him. He tuned out the naysayers and trained as hard as he could for two years before deciding it was time to step on stage.
It was a disaster.
“I did miserably. I dieted on my mom’s home-cooked food three times a day,” says AJ. “I wanted to do this as bad as I wanted to learn English as a kid. I didn’t give up!”
Lesser men would have packed it in. In many sports, having a bad game or an off night is a private failure. Stepping on stage when you have no business being on stage? That’s a public humiliation that most athletes are simply not tough enough to recover from.
But years of overcoming adversity hardened AJ, and his failure only strengthened his resolve. Over the next 10 years, he refined his physique and honed his craft. Learning about proper nutrition, he discovered that nutrient timing is a key to recovery and growth – and his physique took a leap forward. He learned about goal-setting and found his body best responded when he trained frequently – splitting up the week into three heavy days and four lighter days. Soon AJ was one of the top bodybuilders in all of Canada, and by 2012, AJ was the WBFF Quebec champion. His big breakthrough came in 2014. He won the IFBB Arnold Amateur, earning his IFBB pro card. Since then he’s been a regular on the Classic Physique pro circuit, taking second at the 2015 IFBB Vancouver Pro, and third at the Europa Atlantic City. He has also fulfilled one of his life-long dreams by competing at the Mr. Olympia in Las Vegas against the best in the world in both 2015 and 2016!
Today, the skinny kid from Afghanistan is the owner of a personal training studio and business, FitNOW Personal Training Studios. He’s one of Canada’s most respected coaches, a MuscleTech athlete and is featured in magazines all over the world.
Everyone faces challenges on the path to achieving their dreams. When someone is bullied simply because they’re different, they can get discouraged and want to give up. But that’s exactly when you shouldn’t. AJ didn’t let the limits imposed by others control his outlook or change his dreams. Instead of believing the naysayers and letting those negative voices control his life, he used his experiences as motivation to work harder. AJ’s story proves it’s not life’s obstacles, but how you respond to them that defines a person.
|Meal 1: 5 whole eggs + 1 cup oatmeal|
|Meal 2: 8 oz. chicken breast + 1 cup white rice + 1 avocado|
|Meal 3: 8 oz. salmon + 1 cup white rice + olive oil|
|Meal 4: 8 oz. flank steak + 8 oz. potato + vegetables|
|Meal 5: 8 oz. chicken breast + 8 oz. potato + olive oil|
|Meal 6: 3 whole eggs + 1 cup white rice + coconut oil|
|The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.|