Local physicians transform their bodies despite coronavirus lockdown

May 29, 2020

When Malick Islam and Jehan Riar started their body transformations with us in January, little did they know that a rare worldwide pandemic would close gyms, cause food shortages and pose unprecedented obstacles to the success of their program. However, instead of giving up and using the situation as a reason to quit, they turned it into fuel to stay motivated, relieve stress and finish their fitness journey with excellent results.

“It all started because I couldn’t get my maternity weight off. I had tried low-carb diets and lots of cardio but it wasn’t working, and it was affecting my mental health,” said Jehan. Like most people, previous commitments and family functions had always made finding the right system more difficult. However, after discussing training options with me they were finally ready to make some serious lifestyle changes and signed up to do our 12-week body transformation.

Malick and Jehan have a unique outlook on fitness as well as the coronavirus, because in addition to being husband and wife, they are both doctors. Jehan practices internal medicine and Malick is a heart rhythm specialist, so most people would assume that they wouldn’t need help getting in shape since they spent many years learning about the human body. But that’s not necessarily the case.

“As doctors, you get taught a lot about blood pressure and medicines, but you don’t really learn much about exercises, nutrition and how to work out,” said Malick. So once they signed up for my transformation, my goal was to not only teach them these things, but also get them in great shape in the process.

In addition to having stressful jobs, Malick and Jehan are also parents, and even though they would be doing the transformation at the same time, it didn’t mean they would be able to work out together.

“We almost never were able to go to the gym at the same time; instead, being in this program forced us to carve out time to go to the gym for each other,” said Jehan. “For example, I go to the gym on Mondays and he would watch the kids, and he would go on Tuesdays and vice versa.” Then in mid-March, just when they were getting a good routine, life threw them another curve when all public gyms closed in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Malick and Jehan didn’t miss a beat – we simply shifted gears by making custom home body-weight workouts for them that they could do without weightlifting equipment, and we sent videos of each new exercise so they would know how to do them with proper form. In addition, they checked in online weekly, and I made necessary dietary and cardiovascular changes to their routines.

By the time the program was over, both Malick and Jehan had achieved great results. Although we were not able to do their final bod pod test due to the lockdown, the physical results were more than obvious. Jehan had lost a total of 28 pounds and looked completely different from when she started. Malick had lost a total of 17 pounds, and the difference in his strength and cardiovascular shape was amazing. He went from only being able to do 4 minutes of intense cardio per session at the beginning to finishing with five sessions at 60 minutes each on the last week of his transformation.

When asked about what people can do to stay safe during the pandemic, both Malick and Jehan stressed the need to stay healthy through working out as the first line of defense.

“Staying in shape helps to prevent bad complications you can get from contracting another disease,” said Malick.

“If you are obese and you get COVID-19 and you get intubated, that’s high-risk, but maintaining a healthy body fat range is probably the best gift you could give yourself at any age,” said Jehan. 

I couldn’t agree more, and I told them both, “Great job, guys; you are an inspiration to everyone, showing us that there is never an excuse not to work out.”

Anyone can still make dramatic improvements in their physical and mental health despite not being able to go to a public gym during a nationwide lockdown.


  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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