MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018
Instagram's super fit superstars
Arushi Sharma
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Men's Health profiles six social media stars who may not have eloquence or traditional turn of prose. Yet, their photos and inspirational quotes motivate thousands of followers to hang on to their every thought.

Zain Imran
The man who met his wife on Instagram!

Zain Imran's story is of a "skinny runt," as he was called by bullies, who found his self-confidence and won a following of devoted fans through Instagram. Now a full-time fitness model and a coach, Imran took inspiration not only from his father, who's a bodybuilder, but also from quotes from professional ones, which he likes to save on his phone. But pursuing fitness was a matter of achieving his professional goals. "Then I did not have Instagram, but only Facebook. And I was getting featured in magazines before social media," says the man who has 33K followers (when we went to press) on Instagram. Zain got sponsors, magazine deals, clothing line offers, acting opportunities from Instagram, and he admits that it is a great marketing tool. But he doesn't feel that social media is a motivator for a healthy lifestyle. "I work hard because I want to," says Imran.

The father to a baby boy does not shy away from posting pictures of his wife (who is as fit) and son, and soon hopes to crack a big Bollywood deal. What few know, however, is that Instagram has given Zain far more than a huge fan following; it's actually where he met his wife!

Yasir Khan
Broken english, strong intent

Yasir Khan comes from the most humble background of them all. Schooled at a madarassa, he didn't know a word of English till he turned 14. Today, he commands a following of 17.6K and says, "When a caption to my picture has spelling and grammatical mistakes, then I've written it myself. Else, it's a cut and paste." Khan took to fitness to address body issues, but being fit brought him confidence and directly on the MH cover, after which there was no looking back.

"I had body image issues like most teenagers, and I was subjected to a lot of mental and physical bullying," he recalls. "And I was a very difficult person with a lot of irrational emotions. I found that working out made me calm and focused, but also happy and driven."

Now a personal trainer in Dubai, Khan uses social media as a "platform of learning," as a tool to "showcase his efforts" and mostly "inspire" others. For those who called him "stupid" when he first started- spending hours posting pictures on Instagram is a waste of time, they said. But for Khan, it was a matter of losing everything he believed in.

"Time, money and energy-I spent everything I had, working two part-time jobs, training four hours a day and still finding time to inspire others through social media.

Prathamesh Maulingkar
He's got the body, will get the girls

When results of your workouts show, peers and loved ones shower you with kind attention. But when results really show, you can probably be 13.7K followers rich on Instagram. Footballer Prathamesh Maulingkar would know as he earned the latter after he uploaded his shirtless picture on Instagram.

"Since I'm a footballer, I have to always look after my body and that has kept me into fitness. As I worked harder, everyone started praising me and that is how I have kept it going till today. But when two years ago, I posted a shirtless picture, people started asking me about my workout and diet plan, which really motivated me. And from then on, I started sharing my fitness journey (on social media),'' he says. The icing on the cake, though, is that comments (from mean to plain annoying)make Prathamesh work harder!

"It is simple, you know in the next picture, you gotta look better to get more likes." On a note of advice, he says, that to get more of the latter, you gotta avoid posting similar pictures and add diversity to your profile. That way, the next time you will feel proud when somebody announces, 'Hi! I'm your Instagram follower, and I'm a big fan of yours!' Or who knows a ripped body might get you laid too, Maulingkar signs off.

Aakash Sinha
The boy with the babes

Aakash Sinha likes to walk the talk. "If you live a healthy lifestyle, people will automatically be drawn to that." The South Africabred teenager who made it to the cover of Men's Health India, now uses his popularity to run a personal training website... And he ain't even 25 yet! For Sinha, being popular on social media "isn't about having the perfect set of abs," but about using it as a "channel to spread values about a healthy lifestyle."

And he realised the value of fitness back in college when drugs were a big thing. "It seemed cool at the time and everybody was doing it. I had a number of friends who fell victim to drug addiction but the only thing which kept me away from the scene was fitness," says the man who also has his own YouTube channel coming up.

Believe it or not, Sinha's first post was on Facebook when he was 15! Though he started getting recognised at a very young age, today he doesn't bother much with the comments as long as somebody is "getting motivated." The chubby kid who had body image issues says that his reasons for having a fit body may have changed, but not the realisation that people who achieve their goals are willing to do what most don't-i.e. make an effort.

Junaid Kaliwala
The man with a hard core and a soft heart

You know when a friend from college posts his pictures of success (read, a fit body, a fancy car and a really fit body!) on FB? Well, that's the kind of guy Kaliwala is-one who is the result of all your social anxiety. "No incident per se pushed me into fitness, but it was just the desire to be charming enough," says Kaliwala.

"I initially started by posting my pictures, body shots and my training videos. Responses to my initial posts were decent, and once people started to know me, my popularity slowly increased," says Kaliwala, who's now a certified fitness expert.

For him, social media not only serves as a medium to showcase his efforts but also inspires others. Being the first athlete to represent India at the Arnold Classic competition in the US, he also commands a following of more than 5,000 followers on Instagram.

"There are many followers who directly message me to ask for advice. A lot of times, I have even received proposals," he adds. Before he signs off, he tells us that most people forget the importance of lighting in pictures.

"Using the right light to hightlight a particular part is a must. Overhead lighting in the gym works best." And lastly, he says don't understimate the fire in your belly, which can take you to places no social media platform ever will.

Abhinav Mathur
The guy who stays fit to look good in the clothes he wears

In an age of information overload, Ahbinav Mathur figured out ways to capture the attention of people who were genuinely looking for the "right" information. A few funny videos (pretending to be his typical Indian mother, helped!) and easy-to-follow fashion tips, made him establish a presence online. His 31K followers are a proof of the same.

Mathur recalls the exact day he decided to add fitness to his list of passions. "I remember wearing a seat belt which dug into my stomach and made for a rather repulsive sight to my then girlfriend," he says. "It was when she pointed at it and poked fun that I really decided to do something about it."

Today, a model for Koovs, Mathur says that the trick to getting followers is actually simple: Be different. "I started seeing a rise in my followers when I started making funny videos which people could relate to. And don't be afraid of using hash tags; they are key to getting your posts noticed," he adds.

How to #GetMoreFollowers
With more than 300 million users and sky-high user engagement levels, a study by the Digital Business Intelligence Foundation showed that Instagram provides users with 25 per cent more engagement over other social platforms. So here's a couple of ways they recommend to increase your following.

Post consistantly
(Atleast once a day) Or as much as you can! The study found that the "more successful" accounts posted with higher frequency and higher resolution photos - up to two to three photos on average, every day.

Study and load up on #quality hashtags
The right hashtags can help you reach a larger, and more targeted audience. You're allowed 30 hashtags for each post, so go #crazy.

The best filters? High contrast, high exposure and warm temps
The study found that filtered photos are 21 per cent more likely to be viewed and 45 per cent more likely to be commented on, than those that are unfiltered.

Also, pictures with higher exposure were tied to more views, and the level of warmth had the biggest correlations with the number of comments.

Use video
The study found that only about 10 per cent of all posts on Instagram are videos right now, but they're getting 18 per cent of all comments. There's still plenty of room for you to focus on video! Dubsmash videos, vines, take your pick. You've got 15 seconds.

Add some emojis
Quickly becoming the universal method of expression, according to the study some users found that emojis almost tripled their Instagram growth. Also, nearly 50 per cent of all captions and comments now have an emoji or two.

Share your images on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare to get some extra exposure. You can also try embedding Instagram photos in your blog posts or adding an Instagram feed to your Facebook page for some additional discovery.

Follow and like similar accounts
Use the "search" option to find like-minded friends. The science? Use the "follow like like like" method. In this process, search for a specific, relevant hashtag and choose a few of the top pictures you find. Follow those accounts, then go to each of their photo feeds and like three of their recent photos.

Share the love
Spend some time each day just enjoying social media. You might respond to comments, like photos, follow some new friends, and comment on awesome posts. Show it some love and it'll love you back.

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