Can you imagine growing up with just one dream; a dream that you cling on to so badly that without it your life would seem to lose its purpose, and then being ripped apart from it all of a sudden for no fault of yours? That is the teenage life of Anand Arnold in a sentence. A person who wanted to be a professional bodybuilder and weightlifter was outweighed by his own destiny in the form of a tumour and permanent paralysis. How he fought his way back through this situation is the reason why he is touted among the best Bodybuilders of Punjab.
Hailing from Ludhiana, Punjab, the “Arnold” in his name gave away his passion. Inspired by his brother, Peter Arnold, he joined the gym at a tender age of 13 and ever since dreamt of becoming a professional bodybuilder. To his favour, his body responded quite well to the training, and by the time he was 15, he was mentoring many students at the gym. He started enrolling in bodybuilding competitions to compete with people twice his age, and his physique became a matter of conversation in the bodybuilding circle. Just when he thought that things couldn’t be more right at this stage of his career, a pain throttled his lower back in full speed, that led everything to a standstill.
A scary fist-size tumour was detected in Anand Arnold’s lower back that left him only a week’s worth of life according to doctors. Thankfully, the tumour could be removed through a complicated surgery, but it resulted in a paralysis attack from his neck down. It took 3 years of medication and Physiotherapy to regain the sensation of his upper body, but his lower body continued to remain paralysed. Losing his limbs meant losing his dream. Anand sank into depression and isolated himself. His life revolved just around bodybuilding, and without being able to pursue it, he felt lost in life. To add to his misery, fun was being poked at his cruel fate. Had it not been the relentless persuasion of his old students to take it easy and at least join him in their workouts, he never would have seen the door of the gym again.
While it took all his strength to muster the courage to step back into the gym, it was even more difficult to be there and not be able to work out like he once used to. Even then, he hesitantly pulled himself on the shoulder-press machine, his favourite exercise from his old workout days, and tried a few shoulder reps. It instantly uplifted his dull spirit. Just in that moment, he realized that even though life has been tough, there is a lot of bodybuilding left in him. His friends at the gym were all cheers for his newfound hope, and just watching them workout gave Arnold a satisfaction. He gradually started a full-fledged workout to his best capacity, and his muscles again started responding well to his training. He deliberately decided to stay away from steroids and relied on his natural diet for muscle strength.
It was difficult to not being able to utilize half of his body, but he was determined to pursue his bodybuilding dream- with or without the legs. He simply decided to focus on his upper body and tied himself to a bench with a heavy belt to avoid slipping during his workout. His passion yielded sweet fruits, and within a year of re-entering the gym after battling his inner inhibitions, he was back in the game. At 20, he again started participating in competitions and has gone to represent India on world forums. He became India’s first physically challenged, wheelchair-bound bodybuilder. That in itself is his biggest achievement. No wonder his list of accomplishments is so long.
He has won Mr India bodybuilding title twice, and Mr Punjab, 12 times. Along with his professional achievements, he is the brand ambassador of two international brands, Muscle mania and Life nutrition. His biography, “Weightless: A true story of courage and determination” by the American author, Allen Woodman, has inspired people across the world. In fact, he has also been approached by two Bollywood directors to document his journey in a movie. If the movie goes on floors and is executed well, it would be an inspiration to the entire generation on how to fight for your dreams even when all the odds are against you.
Physically, Anand Arnold has been confined to a wheelchair. However, mentally, he has broken all the wheelchairs that bogged him down and stood tall on his hard work and determination.