Mancunian Manj Singh (AKA Lionflex) graced me for a conversation about his bodybuilding journey and how his determination allowed him to create a community and platform. After working a long day in his IT based role, Manj and I sat in the comforts of our homes for a chat just before his scheduled evening workout.
A young Manj was once 20 stone and comments from people around him is what fuelled his initial weight loss. He admitted that “it wasn’t the healthiest approach” and turned to a severe reduction on calories before he attended University in Manchester.
“I started to go to the gym, it was more of a sociable thing”
Following his regular gym visits, he began to educate himself in nutrition and saw his workouts as a form of self-improvement. This was the beginning of his fitness journey and building his body. As his body grew and got stronger so did Manj’s education and knowledge in fitness.
“As I got more I wanted more, I wanted to see how far I could push myself”
As Manj’s body continued to grow and develop he noticed he was beginning to get some local attention, from other gym goers and his peers. As he began manipulating his calories and enhancing his regimen, he of course had to bring his lifestyle into his family home. Growing up in a South Asian household, Manj’s lifestyle was seemingly alien to the rest of his family. From weighing his food to intense meal preparation, it took time and explanation to his own family to understand what he was doing.
With his family working within the wedding industry, Manj often attended these events with his Father, prepared with his boxed meal. The initial reaction was one of misunderstanding, but as people began to recognise Manj from his content, it further cemented his lifestyle changes.
Lionflex became Manj’s brand as a means to unite him and other Sikh bodybuilders. With Youtube and Instagram being used to show progression and competitions, Lionflex is a means of breaking barriers and connecting people with the same mindset.
Manj’s full time job as a business analyst means that he has not only had to schedule his fitness around his job, but his mental balance too. In competition season, he was running on a calorie count of as low as 1500 calories and a body fat percentage in single digits. He has learnt over time that self-care whilst competing is key.
“The longer I’ve been on this journey the more… I’ve balanced it”
Manj is very aware that Bodybuilding for now is his passion and love, and would love to engage with people and help improve their lives. I asked Manj if the opportunity to pursue bodybuilding full time arose would he take it. The answer was without a doubt is yes.
“It’s my dream to open a gym”
The sport of bodybuilding is often thought to have a reputation for being solely about vanity. He disagreed with this. It was a way of showing resilience and building a community. With his own motivation wavering at times, it was his Mother, surviving cancer, that made him realise that he can do anything. Manj opened my eyes into realising everyone’s story is so different, even in extreme sports. His Mother was the first incentive for Manj to enter his first bodybuilding competition.
With Sikh bodybuilders being in the minority, Manj often felt different yet proud to wear his pagh (head covering) which is a way to identify as a Sikh. He expressed the importance of representation in the sport.
Wanting to encourage, motivate and inspire people to make steps into their own fitness journeys, Manj’s empathetic energy and determination has created a community to be proud of.
“If little old fat me can do why can’t you?”