Kumel Heer is a bodybuilder. But because of he is a Sikh, he cannot compete.
We wanted to know what challenges he faces and to get behind the man with the impressive beard, muscles and attitude. We also wanted to know how he has met Ronnie Coleman, Phil Heath, Sheru and many more.
This is what he had to say…
First, tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in the UK and live in Walsall. I’m 39 years old and have been interested in bodybuilding since a young age. I grew up in an era when men really were hardcore; no hair straighteners and moisturising creams. I was inspired by Rocky, Bruce Lee and Six Million Dollar Man.
My whole world changed when my father sat me down to watch Pumping Iron. There was this guy, a total freak, whose name was as big as his physique. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the man that stood out from the crowd. I wanted to read up on everything to do with him. Thirty years on, if I see him on the cover of a magazine I still have to pick it up and read it.
What attracts you to bodybuilding?
The attraction is simple: it’s you against yourself. There are days when you really can’t be bothered and you turn up to a gym and you end up having an awesome workout that you were not expecting There is no script, it’s a lifestyle, it transcends being a hobby.
It’s about choices we make from diet to execution, form to sets, and the best bit is there is no finish line: the journey is endless. You are forever trying to improve, you are forever working to the best of your ability with the genetics you have. There is no magic pill, or super secret potion. The attraction is as raw as it was back when you first lifted that dumbbell. The attraction is that image in the mirror.
For that one hour in the gym you become part of the elite super dream team, you are no different to the Pro’s you read about you are performing the same exercises as them. The hard work and discipline carries you through rep after rep.
How does being a Sikh change the way you approach nutrition and supplements?
Being a practicing Sikh and a bodybuilder is tricky, as there is no blueprint to follow when it comes to nutrition. I have been a vegetarian from birth, though I do eat dairy products. From a nutrition point of view I have always found it difficult to attain the right protein. Back in the day you could only order protein powders from mail order magazines, which I could never afford.
Now though, the world has changed so much as everything is available to you via the net. Like every kid from my generation, Arnold’s Encyclopaedia was the book you read with it’s routines and diet plans. But all it had in it was meal plans based around eggs, steak, chicken and fish. I opened my fridge all I saw was milk, cheese, veg and salad.
But I wasn’t going to quit. I read up on a Bill Pearl and that was it, I found my man. He was huge and he was eating what I was eating. Lentils, cheese, nuts and milk became my staple diet and I was off.
Today is so much easier, quality protein supplements are available everywhere, so it’s easy to get the best nutrition regardless of you being a veggie or not.
How does being a Sikh change the way you approach competing?
Being a Sikh is something you can’t hide; your turban and unshorn beard makes you stand out.
My faith carries me through everything, the Sikh teaching is such that you should be humble and be strong in mind and body. One of the 5 requirements is keeping hair, this was my dilemma as I so wanted to compete. I came to the crossroads in my life where I had to make a choice. The choice I made was not to cut or remove hair. Not to compete.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to being a Sikh bodybuilder?
You would think there are disadvantages and advantages of being a Sikh. I am aware that when you first see me you notice my uncut beard and my turban. In normal day to day life this makes people react in different ways. However there are no advantages or disadvantages to being a Sikh bodybuilder.
I am proud to be a Sikh and proud to be a bodybuilder and proud to be part of this unique brotherhood of iron around the world, it’s one of few worlds where skin colour, race, religion, tradition and creed makes no difference. In this community your work ethic is what makes you count.
What is your proudest moment?
My proudest moment is being a key player in family and then it’s being part of Scott Hercs Gym and his Hercules Classic and also Sheru Classic. Both great shows and both individuals who have looked beyond what others see as limitations.