Giants In Disguise: Adnan Gandhi

Leaving a career in Financial Technology Services, and finding a unique market gap in Karachi, Adnan is on a mission to make Karachi a city worth training for endurance events as the Co-Owner of CORE gym. For him it's about committing to a specific training plan, pushing himself harder each day so he can live life to the fullest. Whether or not you're planning on training for a major endurance event, it's worth learning from Adnan on how to balance work, family and training.


Adnan Gandhi, the Co-Owner of CORE gym in Karachi - Share a bit about your journey leading up to owning CORE?

Sheema Sultan founded CORE in 2010 as a women’s only 2-room group studio in KDA. This fuelled her ambition to open a flagship location which would cater to both the gym and studio markets, but at the same level she saw in her travels to the US and Europe. We became distant relatives when I got married in July 2011 in Karachi, after which she would stay with me and wife while taking training in the NY area. This sparked my own interest, and in 2013 I left a career in Financial Technology Services on Wall Street to pursue launching CORE in Karachi with Sheema. My wife and I moved here in 2013, I took up  a co-ownership model with Sheema for CORE, and we opened our current 15,000 square foot flagship gym in Feb 2015.

I grew up in England, south of London, and then went to college in the US. I was always an avid runner and football player, but took on running marathons when I graduated in 2000.  But my career up until opening CORE was in the financial technology services in Chicago and New York’s banking sector. I gave up New York for Karachi, and switched to an industry I’ve always been passionate about, but am late to working in professionally.

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Have you faced any challenges introducing CORE in Karachi, how have you overcome some of these obstacles and have they moulded the visions and aims for CORE?

Because of the limited number of full service gyms in the Karachi market we are constantly justifying our application, acceptance, and pricing policies. We’re a mixed gym, but do offer women’s only classes. Introducing the one-stop-shop (café, lockers, showers, gym, cardio, and studios) in one space meant the pricing had to be sensitive to what people want to do and what prices have traditionally been charged by other gyms. As an outsider I found this a little frustrating and educational at the same time, especially as we were simply executing market practices I’ve seen in my time living in New York and Chicago.  Yet they didn’t have the same effect in the Karachi market.

How do you feel about your current lifestyle - Do you feel like a giant living in disguise, considering you balance a family, business and investment in your health every day?

I used to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, in a tough environment (Wall Street IT). As rewarding as that career and lifestyle was, I wasn’t balanced and at peace with how I wanted to be as a person. I used to regularly train for run marathons, half marathons, and 10km races just to stay focused on something other than my stressful work and life, so I have a very personal connection to endurance training and racing. Moving to Pakistan has been very tough for me, but the life I currently lead has been worth the change and sacrifice. I spend quality time with my 3 year old son (who will be 4 by the time I finish the Hunza Tri), I have the flexibility to pick and drop him from school every day, sit and eat breakfast, lunch, and most dinners with him, my wife, and do all the things I know I would only do on weekends had I stayed in the US. It requires a lot of coordination, time management, and tight deadlines, but it’s worth it when I add up how much family and training time I get on a weekly basis.

I use the flexibility of being a business owner and having a young family to maximize my week day training so that the heavy weekend endurance training is maximized. In the last 2 months before a marathon or triathlon I am doing 2 to 3 hours of non-stop training on both Saturday and Sunday. This could be a bike and run combo or run and combo. But each session is to prepare for race like conditions, so the aim is to push the body as hard as possible all week to maximize the weekend work.

    1. I wake up at 5am 5 days a week to start running or biking by 6am.

    2. I drop my son to nursery by 9am and swim 3 days a week at 9am.

    3. I strength train 4 days a week in the gym after lunch.

    4. I also teach 2 indoor cycling classes a week.

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What advice would you give to someone at the beginning of their fitness journey?

Our running group has helped train 3 guys for their 1st ever marathons, and 4 people for their 1st ever Ironman 70.3. 

This year we are training 2 new guys for the Hunza triathlon, and the advice I have given all of them is to always pick a race, register, and then commit to a 16 week plan. The how, when, and what is a lot easier when there is a hard date to hit, otherwise life and the intensity of the training provides too many reasons to regress. Also, run and bike with other people. Doesn’t matter if they are faster than you, just make the effort and train with them as much as possible if you want to improve.

Mind vs. Body - Do you allow either to work independently or do they work in unison? Are both equally as important to you or does one supersede the other?

My faith, and my need to keep myself organised so I can work and live in a very difficult environment keep me mentally sharp and constantly looking to make those tiny adjustments you have to in order to succeed. But for me there is a direct correlation between my weekly endurance training and being at mental peace to handle living in a new environment. The daily routine coupled with the weekly improvements in running, biking, swimming, and strength training give me the small victories I need to be mentally switched on and focused.

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Where to find Adnan Gandhi:

Instagram: @Adnan.Core / @CoreKarachi

Facebook: @AdnanGandhi / @CoreKarachi


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