x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Day in the Life: YouTube’s Arabic fitness fanatic

Zena Habi, the founder and managing partner of Fitness O2 reveals her typical day as a personal trainer. And clients better stay on top of their training or they risk being fired.

Zena Habi, founder and managing partner of Fitness O2. Sarah Dea / The National
Zena Habi, founder and managing partner of Fitness O2. Sarah Dea / The National

Zena Habi is the founder and managing partner of Fitness O2 and a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) master practitioner. She has been a certified personal trainer for more than 14 years, and she specialises in providing fitness education to the public through social media. Ms Habi, 35, has also appeared as a fitness expert on television and created the first Arabic fitness YouTube Channel, which features 50 videos attracting almost two million views. The Jordanian fitness guru will be hosting a panel session on women’s health from 10am to 11am on March 6 at this month’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.


The first thing I do when I wake is feed my three cats. I’m a big animal lover, and I used to have five more rescue cats, too, that have now been rehomed. I love taking care of animals. If I see a stray kitten on the street I have to help. I could never just leave it.


I have oatmeal with sun-dried seeds, pumpkin and fruit for breakfast.


I go to the gym to train some clients. I design fitness routines based on how clients want to look and feel. My NLP training has helped me as a personal trainer, because it’s all about people wanting to take charge and achieve their goals. I can’t train for them, but I can enlighten them to the right way to do it. It’s all about digging to find the truth, because some people might not be aware of the issues they have, so you have to ask the right questions. After [training in] NLP, I felt very comfortable firing a client – it felt awesome, the best feeling ever. We’re not scared anymore of losing clients. We prefer quality over quantity. The most important thing is for you to want to help yourself 100 per cent and more. If you say “I will try”, that means you don’t have what it takes. But I’m not going to fire a client who is just going through a tough time. It depends on their attitude. I’ve also trained people who have lost 40kg over a year, and that was very rewarding. Some people are really committed. They go through tough patches but they just continue. I’ve trained some clients for three or four years who have done really well.


I go home and have something healthy like grilled chicken, vegetables and rice for lunch.


I start doing office work for Fitness O2. We’re launching a smartphone app in Arabic and English featuring more than 50 exercises, and I’ll be shooting for that soon. So I’m busy answering corporate emails and organising the Weightloss Challenge, a month-long health and fitness programme. The next one starts today. Whenever someone calls up and says they want their wife to sign up [for personal training], I am not very keen, because the wife should be the one taking the initiative. You have to be in the right state of mind – not doing it for your husband or your mother or society, but for you. While doing my admin work, I’ll be cooking dinner for later for me and my husband, who is a lawyer. I’m a good influence on him to eat healthily. I’ll cook twice a week if I can get away with it, and the food will last for two days.


I study books for my nutritional diploma. To add to our fitness expertise, Fitness O2 now focuses on two new elements – nutrition and yoga. You can’t just focus on one aspect of health – that is, exercise. You need to consider your mind, body and spirit. For snacks, I’ll have yogurt with fruit, nuts, and sometimes chocolate, too, which is hands-down my favourite food. And not dark chocolate – that’s not real chocolate.


I go to the gym and either do circuit training or train people on the Weightloss Challenge. For people who sign up, that involves three workout sessions a week. I teach one cardio and one strength training session, and my [business] partner teaches one yoga session. She also gives nutritional advice and cooking sessions. If I’m training, I’ll take a protein shake with me.


I come home and have something very light to eat with not many carbs, like a tuna salad or vegetables. I then watch TV with my husband on the sofa to relax. I used to go salsa dancing, but I don’t have the time for it these days.


Normally I’ll fall asleep on the sofa or while I’m trying to study in bed, after reading two sentences. I always go to sleep early.