x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

In pursuit of not just fitness, but strength

My friends are passionate about fitness - not to lose weight but to feel their best, to provide their body with the essentials it craves.

I saw a picture the other day that immediately caught my attention. It was of a seriously toned and healthy looking woman doing a plank exercise and making it look effortless. The picture seemed to have originated from the Skyline CrossFit website, a "strength and conditioning" facility following principles of CrossFit training.

The photograph represented power, strength, health and confidence all at the same time and the subject was a force to be reckoned with, pictured next to the slogan "Strong is the New Skinny". It even did the rounds on Facebook, with some (mostly men) expressing their disapproval. However, not all hated or felt threatened by it. Some fell in love with the picture in less than a second.

Most of my friends are passionate about fitness and healthy eating - not to lose weight but to feel their best and to provide their body with the essentials that it craves. Everyone knows that when you eat good, you look good.

Growing up in the UK for me meant the added advantage of keeping active by walking to most destinations, which is definitely one of the best ways to get around cities like London, weather permitting, of course. Here in Dubai, having minimal pedestrian walkways does not create the same opportunity, therefore making a car a necessity for many.

Having said that, I was never one to push my limits in strength. I hardly hit the gym and admittedly never drank nearly the amount of water that I was meant to. But just after my 32nd birthday last December, something changed. Apparently, I can thank Saturn's cycle for that. In astrology, it is believed that the outer planets correspond with turning points in our growth cycle. The outer planets, therefore, represent our physical (represented by Saturn), spiritual, emotional and mental shifts that occur between the ages of 28 and 32, roughly, and that is when we start to look at things a little differently.

As the new year came, I decided to adjust certain areas of my life: facing my long fear of flying being one, and getting fit being the other. I enrolled in tennis classes and almost two months ago, hired a personal trainer, a female also from London, whom I now see twice a week and who came highly recommended through a close friend.

From the first session, she had a game plan. Because I didn't need to lose weight, her focus was on my toning and flexibility, as well as keeping track of my food and water intake. I started keeping a food diary to maintain a record of main meals and whatever healthy snacks in between. Today, the change is noticeable inside and out and it feels great. The cross-trainer and I are slowly becoming good friends and the weights are no longer "those things over there". Instead, words such as burpees, lunges, dead lifts and planks are now just part of my everyday vocabulary. That is why when I saw the CrossFit picture of the woman, I had to stop and smile. It reminded me of the poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou.

Check out the photo at www.skylinecrossfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/strong-is-new-skinny.jpg

melshoush@thenational.ae

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