Feted body builder B. Harikumar talks about the discipline and passion that goes into sculpting one’s body

As a child, B. Harikumar never missed the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Lee. He even cycled to remote areas to watch Bruce Lee in action.

In the theatre, Harikumar watched awe-struck as his hero effortlessly pulled off the most difficult stunts. The frail Harikumar admired Bruce Lee’s body and wondered if he would ever look like that. Today, the titles of Mr. Coimbatore, Mr. Tamil Nadu and Mr. South India proudly sit on his shelf.

Harikumar enrolled for karate classes when he was 13, but had to drop out as his bus driver-father could not afford the fees. He decided to become a body builder. In 2001, he started training under Y. Daniel Singh of Belliyeal Fitness Centre and worked on his frail body till he achieved a muscular build. That very year, he bagged the third prize in the Mr. Junior Coimbatore contest. He paid his way through his courses. Harikumar used to work in mobile shops and readymade clothes outlets when in school and college. “I had to make both ends meet. And, work out, because this was my life.”

A narrow lane near bustling Kavundampalayam leads to Harikumar’s house. Goats wander around aimlessly and colourful plastic pots sit under dry taps. This is where Harikumar lives. Sporting a checked shirt and black lungi, different from his trainer avatar of gym tracks and sweat shirts, he welcomes you into a house crammed with the innumerable trophies that he won.

“I try not to miss any contest. I usually come back with a trophy,” he smiles, pointing to his latest prize, a statue of a body builder that he received for the Mr. Coimbatore contest. A dusty carton, filled with more awards, occupies place of pride in one corner of his house.

A trainer at Talwalkars, Lakshmi Mills, Harikumar sees many young boys aspire for a body like his. “All of them need instant biceps and a six-pack. I try to make them understand that it is a long-term process that demands discipline in food and exercise. But they are impatient and need quick results, which is just not possible. Actor Suriya did not get the six-pack overnight for Ghajini. It was the result of a long struggle.”

Harikumar gives due credit to his diet. “I break my fast in the morning with five eggs without yolk, two chapathis, 250 gm of chicken and veggies. At 11 a.m., I drink some juice.” For lunch, it is normal meals, with brown rice and 350 gm chicken. Dinner includes chapathis and three or four eggs. For every five eggs you can have one with yolk, he explains. “The egg, without its yolk, tastes terrible. The chicken is bland without any masala or spices,” he admits. But, body builders stay off salt as it results in water retention, preventing muscle growth. Harikumar follows a rigorous fitness routine. “I work on my thighs. People think body building is just about creating muscles and biceps. The lower half needs equal attention. In fact, my strengths are my thighs and abdomen.”

It is this very diet that drains Harikumar financially. “Unfortunately, diet constitutes 80 per cent of our preparation. It is difficult to find sponsors for my sport here. Body builders who are selected by the Railways, Army and Navy get sponsors who invest in their diet and fitness. People, like me, are at a disadvantage when we compete with them,” he says.

Harikumar still smarts thinking of his last contest — a national-level event held at Belgaum. “I was no match for the North Indians. They are genetically broad and strong. Many had sponsors taking care of them. I did not bag even a single award in that contest.” That day, when he returned home, Harikumar told his mother that he would no longer take part in any contest. “I was shattered. What is the use of winning so many trophies if I could not bag a National-level award or enter the service sector?” he asks.

Thankfully, his mentors — P.T. Suresh, owner of Fitness Gurukkal, R.S. Puram, and Radhakrishnan of Kannis Fitness Centre — kept his spirits up. So did his college teachers.

Even today, his mother urges him to seek some other job. “People tell me it is not a well-paying field and wonder if I will ever find a good girl to marry. But, I don’t let that affect me,” he says.

“I have invested whatever I have earned in body building. It is a struggle, but this is where my heart and soul lie. I am meant for this,” he says, patting his rippling biceps.

Award call

First prize, State Level Muscle Building championship, 60-kg category, 2013

First prize, Mr. Coimbatore 2013, conducted by Coimbatore Body Builders Welfare Society

First prize, 2013 Inter District Body Building championship, 60-kg category, organised by Tamil Nadu Body Builders Association

Best Poser award, 2013, at the Body Building championship organised by Coimbatore District Body Builders association.

Bagged Mr. Tamil Nadu 2013 title at the contest held by Indian Body Building Federation in Chennai

Won Mr. South India title held by Indian Body Building Federation in Chennai, in 2009