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Simeon Panda Interview: A Real-Life Action Man
When asked why he thinks his brand is so popular, Simeon Panda responds with, “I can’t actually tell you why. I always say, ‘The only strategy is just being myself.’” Just be yourself? Seriously? That’s it? Is he for real? What a humble, modest, down-to-earth answer from a world-renowned fitness model, successful entrepreneur, and professional bodybuilder. This guy’s only plan is to not have a plan—and 2.2 million Instagram followers, 4.5 million Facebook fans, and countless people who’ve been to SimeonPanda.com or purchased SP Athletics gear would agree that it’s a strategy that works. He’s been everywhere, done everything, and met everyone, but still gives the impression that there’s so much more for him to do and conquer. He’s not satisfied, he’s not settled. He’s ready to take on whatever the fitness industry (and life!) is going to throw at him, and he’s ready to do it with a perfect six-pack and smile. We caught up with him to find out exactly how he became so wildly successful in three years, and how he makes being ridiculously shredded look so easy.
JF; Let’s start with some simple history; where are you from originally, and what got you into bodybuilding?
SP: I was born and raised in London, England. When you’re 15 or 16, every kid picks up a weight and starts training. For me, I was like any other kid; I just picked up a weight and started training. I fell in love with it. The feeling of training back then, even until now, is the same. I feel great when I lift. As a kid, I was really skinny and wanted to pick on a bit of size. I wasn’t as concerned with size at the beginning, because I was just in love with lifting. I just wanted to get that feeling daily. I only trained to feel great. It was only later on that other people let me know that I was growing. Years started to go by, and before I knew it, I was looking like a bodybuilder.
JF: Why did you choose to compete with MuscleMania versus the IFBB?
SP: I was in the gym, looking a certain way, and people were coming up to me asking whether I competed. It was just a daily thing, but I knew nothing about competing. All I knew was that I enjoyed training. However, at one point I went to a bodybuilding competition, and at first I didn’t know what it was all about, I didn’t know why people would want to go see a show. I was very naive to it all. There was nothing interesting about it. But when I saw the energy of the show, and the way that the people from the same gym as the person competing would support them, I thought it might be something I wanted to do. I don’t really get influenced by others, so even though I had so many people pushing me to do it, it was only when I saw how enjoyable it could be that I finally thought, “I’ve got a physique that could be on par with those people up there. Let’s give it a go.”
In regard to why I chose MuscleMania, it’s because I’m a natural bodybuilder. I’ve been natural for my entire life. I wanted to be in a fair competition; it wasn’t just about winning. So I wanted to be amongst people who were also natural, or perceived as natural. I hope that they are!
JF: Will you ever get onstage again?
SP: I won’t rule it out, but I don’t plan to at this point. I’ve competed, I’ve done it, it was fun. But it was never my ambition. I never planned on being a bodybuilder; I just happened to love lifting weights. I just go to a lot of shows, so I’m very involved, and whenever I judge a show I get excited and want to be up there. Also, seeing people at their best makes me want to improve too. But it’s just not in the cards right now.
JF: Regarding your staying natural, you never really have an off-season in terms of your physique. When did you decide that bulking up and cutting down wasn’t for you?
SP: I started training at home for the first six years, so I had no influence. I didn’t know about bulking. By the time I got to the gym and realized there was all sorts of information out there, I was stubborn and stuck in my ways because I knew that what I’d be doing at home worked. I stayed lean from the start, so all I’ve done is really put muscle on a skinny frame. I’ve never bulked or cut down. I don’t believe in that. For me, it’s a lifestyle. It needs to be something I can do for life, and I don’t see cutting and bulking as something you can do for your whole life. I don’t see the point. And for me also, training has to be enjoyable, and that doesn’t seem enjoyable.
JF: How do you manage to train, eat right, and stay fit with all that traveling?
SP: I don’t meal prep when I travel. I eat clean 99 percent of the time, and I’m not traveling every day, so travel won’t really affect it. I just always try to pick the healthiest option. I don’t prep meals when I travel, though. I’ve had so many meal prep companies coming to me, but I don’t like the thought of someone prepping meals specific for me. I just don’t trust it really. I would rather eat in a restaurant.
JF: You have a unreal following on social media [2.2 million on Instagram, 59.8 thousand on Twitter, and 4.46 million on Facebook]. Those numbers aren’t comparable to anyone else; how important is social media to your brand? How do you manage to stay on top of it?
SP: Social media is what made my brand. Without it, I wouldn’t have gotten my message out. I got my following from just simply putting out blogs. That’s how I got started. I was working a 9-to-5 job in finance, but had three years of experience as a personal trainer. My knowledge wasn’t being shared, and I needed a platform. I designed a website and a Facebook page, and designed some e-books. The blogs is where it all started. I can’t tell you why, but my following started to blow up, and it’s just been like that ever since. I’ve created businesses from that, but I can’t actually tell you why my following is that big. I always say, “The only strategy is just being myself. If people like you, they like you. If they don’t, they don’t. But don’t try to follow a plan, or think you have to come across a certain way. Just be yourself. Stay true to yourself, and there will be people that warm to you because of that. Just be relatable.”
JF: How did SP Aesthetics/Just Lift begin? What made you want to do more than just be a fitness model?
SP: The clothing line was very simple—I know what I want to wear. I wanted to wear certain items, and the only way I could get those items was to just design them myself. Why not have my own brand? Before SP Aesthetics, Just Lift was my first brand. That came about from a hashtag! The ethos behind “Just Lift” was that I was seeing a lot of gossip and conjecture about training, and I wanted people to Just Lift! It’s that easy. Just train. People would ask so many questions about what supplement to take ... Just Lift. And it’s because that’s what I do. I was hashtagging pictures with “Just Lift,” and realized people were loving it. So I trademarked it, and started creating wristbands, which people loved. Now I’ve combined Just Lift and SP Aesthetics, and it’s really big.
Photo cred: instagram.com/simeonpanda
JF: You clearly inspire millions of people every single day with your physique, your ideals, your goals, and your lifestyle. Who’s been the most motivational, inspiring, or impactful person in your life?
SP: I’ve never had a specific individual in regard to building a physique that I want to look like. I do have role models like Arnold and Frank Zane; they’ve always been in mind, but I’ve never had just one person. I appreciate their physiques and what they’ve done. In regards to business, there’re people like Mike Rashid whom I look up to. He’s so business oriented and wants to always do better, do better, do more, do bigger, and that rubs off on me. Whenever I talk to him, I leave more infused to pursue more business. Years ago, before I knew him, I saw a picture of Ulysses leaning on a motorcycle, and I remember thinking, “That’s the target.” And the reason I remember it is because I’d never thought that about anyone before. I never really compare myself to anyone, but I remember seeing that picture, and thinking about how great he looks and how he’s my target. And then years later we happen to meet up and become friends.
JF: Your lifestyle is enviable, to say the least. You travel everywhere, you meet everyone, and you get paid to do it. What is the coolest place you’ve been, and what’s the most exciting opportunity you’ve had to date?
SP: I can say the most interesting place was India for me, and the reason why is because when I travel to different cities, they’re kind of similar. I’m from London, which is a busy city. So when I go to New York or Australia, it’s just like going from one busy city to another busy city. Culturally, they’re not much different. But when I was in India, I knew I was somewhere different. The smells, the roads—there were cows in the road, and they had the right of way! I’m always going to remember my trip to India because of how culturally different it was. It wasn’t necessarily the coolest place, but it was definitely the most interesting, and one that’s stayed in my mind over the years. Ulysses and I did a seminar there in front of 1,000 people which was so big for us. They had billboards of us up there, a press conference with 25 newspapers, and it was just so massive. I really can’t think of what’s been the biggest opportunity so far, though. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet!
JF: Where does a guy like you go from here? You have a clothing line, an online training system, and a pro title, and you’ve been featured on countless covers. What are your goals both in fitness and business now?
SP: Fitness-wise, I’m just going to continue to enjoy training and continue to motivate others to train. It’s funny because I don’t just try to motivate people to train. I try to motivate them to be better, and put effort into things they want to be successful at. I do that through the medium of fitness, but it allows me to talk to people about other things. In my videos, I like to infuse people and get them passionate about building their physiques, but also putting your effort into something, believing in it, and knowing you can be successful in it. That’s always going to be something I’ll try to do in my life, regardless of what I do in business or my career goals.
In regard to business, I’m planning to move to LA because I want to pursue acting. It’s something that I used to do when I was younger, and when I watch films, I think, “I want to be up there! I could fit in that role!” It’s something I’m going to go after, and luckily, the businesses I’m involved in now allow me to be anywhere in the world and still run them.
Weight (contest and off-season): 225 lb.
Years training: 15
Place of birth: London, England
Current residence: London, England
Social Media/Online Presence
2013 Musclemania Universe Championships, heavyweight tall class, fourth
2013 Musclemania World Championships, heavyweight tall class, third
* What supplements do you take? BCAAs, creatine monohydrate, L-arginine, cod liver oil, and HMB. I’ve used HMB for many years. Not all supplements work for everyone. Over the years, I’ve tried and tested different supplements, and HMB and creatine have been there since the beginning. I get more energy and strength always.
*Nutrition: "Food-wise, I don’t have a bodybuilder’s diet; I have a healthy eating diet. I have a whole range of foods, but they’re good, healthy, clean foods and they keep me trim, but also allow me to steadily grow over a long period of time. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to prepare for the photo shoot. I’m just always ready on the day, and that because of my lifestyle. There’s no real strategy to it."
Workout schedule for the week/which body parts on which days: I use a single body part split.
Although I train seven days a week, six of those are really intense, single body parts, and I’m killing it. That Saturday, I’m just in the gym because I want to be. I’m hitting things that maybe need some work. But Saturday is a relaxed day; I’ll just train abs or something.
I only recently introduced cardio into my routine. I’ll do a bit of steady-state cardio every other day fasted in the morning. I’m getting older, and I just want to be fit. I want to make sure my heart is okay, and all-around, I’m healthy.