The Afghanistan native and 24 Hour Fitness master trainer shares his go-to workout, and his tips for living a stress-free life.
Walk into the 24 Hour Fitness in Folsom, Calif., any day of the week (except Sunday), and chances are you’ll find 77-year-old personal trainer Ebrahim Daunish working one-on-one with a client—young, old, or perhaps even one of the three stroke victims he’s currently training. In the almost decade he’s been working at the club, Daunish has never called in sick or been late to meet a client—and he holds the record for the most pull-ups. (He can do 80.) Daunish is always pushing himself to better. “I want to do 100 pull-ups when I’m 100 years old,” he says.
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Daunish came to the United States in the mid-1960s to pursue a Master’s degree in mathematics at North Carolina State University—his first of three. He returned to Afghanistan to teach at university, but came back to the States just a few years later to pursue a second Master’s degree in applied statistics. After spending time in Canada on his third Master’s degree (industrial engineering), Daunish came back to the States in the late ‘80s, but couldn’t find a job—which he needed for a visa. So Daunish opened an Afghan restaurant, which he owned until the early 2000s.
When he and his wife decided to sell the restaurant, Daunish wasn’t sure how to fill his time, so he started working out. “I got bored doing nothing. I was so busy running the restaurant, and then was doing nothing. So I was coming here exercising every day, and one day somebody said ‘Why don’t you become a trainer here, because you’re spending a lot of time here anyway?’” he says.
Despite retiring from the restaurant business, and his age, Daunish isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon. “I’m an old guy now,” Daunish laughs. “But I don’t feel old. I work out six days a week and I watch what I eat, and I preach what I eat to my clients as well … I’m blessed here. I have very good clients; they are very good people.”
We asked Daunish to share his go-to workout, where he finds inspiration and the secrets to living a stress-free life.
24Life: Where do you find inspiration?
Ebrahim Daunish (ED): I find inspiration everywhere. 24 Hour is one of the best places, because I almost live here. My clients, just like me, come on time and they enjoy it. I enjoy working with them, and that’s a big inspiration. You know, when you see your clients working as hard as you tell them to—that’s a big inspiration.
24Life: What are you passionate about, besides what you do?
ED: I play music. I’ve got all kinds of musical instruments at home: I play mandolin, accordion, mango drums and another instrument from Afghanistan. These things keep you alive, you know? Keep you happy.
And I’m very dedicated to exercise and music. I’ve been [playing music] since I was 20 years old. I did lots of competitions. Which makes it, what, 77 minus 20? That many years.
Sometimes I don’t get a chance to play every day, because sometimes I get home late, and being with my family is very important.
24Life: What is your go-to workout?
ED: I work out about one hour every day except Sundays. I try to find the time. Anybody can find the time to do it. This is my religion. I’m sure you know the older you get, the more excuses you try to find not to do it, and I don’t want to get to that point.
I train with weights, I warm up with machines. My favorite [workout] is pull-ups. I challenged people five years ago, anybody in any category, any age, to beat me in pull-ups. My record is 80 in a row … Nobody has beaten me.
24Life: What book are you currently reading?
ED: A book by David Baldacci, it’s called “The Last Mile.” It’s a suspense novel.
24Life: Do you have any music you listen to when you work out to motivate you?
ED: No. I just work out and concentrate. I want to put my brain into what I’m doing, rather than listening to music and working out.
24Life: What’s your power food?
ED: The only thing I take is a whey protein shake during my workout.
I believe in clean food that you cook at home. I don’t go to restaurants, because restaurants try to make food a little salty and sweet and delicious with lots of grease so you’ll come back and eat there. So I seldom got to restaurants, maybe once a month.
I eats lots of salad that I make at home, with cucumber, green lettuce, red cabbage, cilantro, avocado. No dressing; I squeeze a little lemon. I eat meat. I’m not worried about cholesterol.
24Life: What’s your secret to getting a great night’s sleep?
ED: When I read a book when I go to bed, I open my eyes and it’s 6 o’clock in the morning. I don’t have any problems going to sleep. The only problem I have is finding my book when I get up!
24Life: What’s your number-one stressor, and top stress-buster?
ED: To be honest with you, I have a very good life. I’ve been married 46 years, and we understand each other, and that helps a lot with no stress. I don’t even know what stress is.
I think everyone can do that, you know? Never say anything bad to people, never hold any grudge, try to treat people nicely and they will treat you nicely. You’ll never have stress. And don’t worry too much about money. Spend as much as you can make, but don’t go over the limit.
Since I sold the restaurant, I’m stress-free, and I’m happy and my wife is very happy. But I don’t regret it, I loved it.
24Life: What’s your secret to getting stuff done?
ED: I put myself into it. I don’t think about anything else except what I want to do.
Photo credit: Shawn Scobee/Courtesy of 24Hour Fitness Folsom Super Sport