If you’re anything like us, you’ve used the “it’s not that I don’t want to work out, it’s just that I don’t have the time” excuse to skip the gym… on multiple occasions. Juggling a 9-5 with all the other boring adult things like cooking and cleaning can be hard enough, before you even bring socialising and exercising into the equation.
Well, maybe not for this incredible Myprotein ambassador. (Spoiler alert: prepare to be amazed).
Gaurav Taneja is a 33-year-old from Delhi. He originally studied to be a civil engineer at one of India’s most prestigious universities, but decided to pursue a career in aviation instead, so trained to be a pilot in the States.
Along the way, he fell in love with fitness and weight training — so much so, that upon the recommendation of others, he decided to enter a bodybuilding competition. He came first place on his first attempt.
Gaurav continued to compete, rising through the ranks from state-level to national-level competitions, and became well known in the bodybuilding community as the “the guy who flies an aircraft”.
He then decided he wanted to reach more people so he set up a fitness vlog on YouTube to share his training and nutrition advice with others. Today, this vlog now has over 1.6 million subscribers. Oh, and on top of that he’s a husband and father.
So, just to summarise, Gaurav juggles a full-time career as a pilot with sticking to a dedicated training and nutrition regime, alongside maintaining a super-successful vlog and spending time with his family. Whew.
We were lucky enough to get a slot in his hectic schedule to find out how he got to where he is now — and, more importantly, how on earth he manages to fit everything in.
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Gaurav’s story — and there’s a lot to choose from — is that he didn’t even start out intending to make it big in the bodybuilding world. You could even say that he got into competing on a complete whim.
As a young man, all his effort and focus was aimed at getting into IIT Kharagpur (Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur), which he says to this day is still the achievement he’s proudest of.
“To get into IIT is more difficult than to get into Harvard, because there are that many people who apply. When I took the exam, there were around 4 million people applying for that same exam — 4 million people for 3000 spaces. It’s the most competitive exam in India.”
With odds like that, it’s clear that Gaurav is more than just a hard worker — it takes a serious amount of self-belief, commitment and dedication to even consider applying for a course that competitive. But he did, and he was successful.
It was at IIT that he discovered his love for fitness properly, too. He’d been into cricket as a child and was fairly sporty at school, but it wasn’t until college that he really got into weight training.
“I learnt a lot about different lifting techniques, a little bit about nutrition, but mostly just how to lift heavy weights. I had a group of friends who were into it as well, so once the clock hit 6, everyone was in the gym. That was it, every day.”
That continued until he got his degree and made the decision to go into aviation. He went over to America, learnt how to fly, and then got a job back in India as a pilot. It almost sounds simple, right? And of course, he managed to keep working out regularly at the same time.
“There was a time when I was working as a pilot where guys would come up to me in the gym and ask me if I competed professionally. I would always say no, I just do this for fun. They’d say, ‘but you’re lifting crazy weights, you should compete’.”
For a while Gaurav told himself that as a pilot he just wouldn’t have the time to act on these comments from admiring strangers. But then after so many people asking him the same thing, he got curious. What if he did try competing?
He decided to go to a local bodybuilding contest where he knew a friend of his was competing, and as soon as he saw him on the stage he told himself he was going to be up there himself next year.
“I said to myself it doesn’t matter if you win, just give it a go. Because when those guys walked in with the tan, the music on, and the people all cheering for them — it was electric. That’s when I properly decided I wanted to compete.”
So, in 2012 Gaurav found himself a coach who could guide him through the intense training and nutrition regime he’d need to prepare himself for competitive bodybuilding. This was an online coach though, as he was still working full-time as a pilot (as you do).
Fast forward a year and he was ready to step on that stage himself. It was his first ever competition and he won gold. His second time, he won gold again. Third time, you guessed it — gold.
“I won three golds that season and I was surrounded by people who were doing this full-time — gym trainers, professionals, people who had been doing this for several years… and I just did it on the side of my job. I thought I wouldn’t stand a chance… but I won gold.”
Unsurprisingly, this caused a bit of a stir. People wanted to know where he was from, if he was from out of town, because he was such a new face. He became famous within the bodybuilding circles in India as the ‘guy who flies an aircraft’, especially when he began to move up the ranks in terms of competing. From 2013 to 2017 he prepped for show after show, competing at state level and then national level.
He’s taken a break from competing in the last couple of years, but he’s vowed to return at least once more; “one last show before I hang up my boots”.
Finding a platform
During his time competing, Gaurav inevitably learnt a lot about training and nutrition. He learnt about how the body functions and what it needs to function, while he put himself through the “torture” of going down to such low body fat.
He still had people approaching him in gyms, often to ask him for advice, which he was happy to give. It made him realise that he could only share his knowledge this way with a handful of people at a time.
“I wanted to reach more people, because you know there are lots of people out there who just give out ‘bro science’ advice on the internet. Bro science spreads like wild fire. So yeah, I became the first guy in India — well the first competitive bodybuilding guy in India — to set up a YouTube channel to help people out a bit.”
He started off small. His vlogs were mainly about debunking all the myths surrounding supplements, i.e. what to buy that actually worked and where to buy them at an affordable price. He explained what water weight was and how to lose it. You could say that his USP was making fitness and weight training accessible to the average Joe.
“People started noticing me. They thought I was talking sense and so my channel really blew up very fast. I didn’t know what was going on at first, I wasn’t expecting it at all. After that I decided to start a second channel which was more of a vlog, and that did really well too. That one is all parts of my life — mostly me and my wife travelling. It’s more fun.”
Gaurav’s channel, “Flying Beast”, currently has over 1.6million subscribers.
Finding a balance
So just how does one man fit so much into 24 hours a day? Squeezing a workout in before or after a regular 9-5 desk job can be challenging enough — how do you fit training in around an unpredictable flight schedule with overnight stays and changing time zones?
Gaurav actually thinks that this kind of schedule has helped him to use his time more effectively.
“Most people who compete professionally, they have like 4 or 5 hours a day to spend in the gym. But I believe some of my best workouts have been when I’ve had just 30 minutes to spare, because you are under pressure.”
Definitely no time to be scrolling through social media in-between sets then.
Often Gaurav would have to specially request for hotels to open their gyms for him at ridiculous times (we’re talking 2/3am in the morning) just so that he could get in a workout around flying.
“I’ve been told a lot of times, ‘no sir, the gym is closed, we don’t have a trainer in there and we can’t open the gym without a trainer’. Then I’m like, but I am the trainer! Then they just give me the keys.”
He admits that the training was always the easy part for him, even after long-haul flights or during overnight stays — it was the nutrition that was more of a struggle. Forget enjoying the local cuisine or indulging in fast food just for the convenience, he had macros to stick to.
“Going away for 3 or 4 days at a time and staying in a hotel… I used to have to freeze my own meals and take them with me. There’ve been times where I’ve had no way to reheat them too, so I’ve just had to eat this block of ice.”
Now that’s dedication.
You have to wonder whether Gaurav ever considered throwing in the towel to pursue the bodybuilding full-time, rather than juggling it around such a demanding career. The answer is yes; he did consider it. In fact, he took a break from aviation for around a month to test it out, and he discovered that it just didn’t work for him.
“My job set me up with a good routine — if I had to get up at 3am for a flight then I’d have that to work around. When I didn’t have a job, I was getting up at 10/11 in the morning and not working out until the afternoon. The routine just worked better. Also, I was reminded that I went into aviation because I really love it. It’s a dynamic job.”
Gaurav’s take home message
With such an impressive CV, we had to get some words of wisdom from Gaurav. Here are his two pieces of advice:
“Firstly, discipline. You have to have discipline in life.
Secondly, you have to take that step. You know there are times when people want to start a new venture… say they don’t like working for someone and they want to become their own boss. They plan a lot, plan a lot, have the right ideas for the move — but they don’t take an action. Just do anything. Start by thinking of a name for your company or send some emails, it can be as small as that.
People are always waiting for that perfect moment, but you don’t need to wait for that.
Same with starting a YouTube channel, people say they’re waiting until they have a better camera or something. I started with just a phone! Or they say they’re shy in front of the camera and they want to work on that first. I say just go for it, upload that first video now. You’ll get better. You’ll learn things while you do them. Otherwise you’re just losing time.”
We don’t know about you, but we’re happy to take time-management advice from a man like Gaurav.