x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Trainer of thought

A profile of Hamdan Khouri, a 19-year-old Emirati who is a man of many talents.

Hamdan Khouri, who is studying in Switzerland, has worked for Haddins Fitness. Christopher Pike / The National
Hamdan Khouri, who is studying in Switzerland, has worked for Haddins Fitness. Christopher Pike / The National

Hamdan Khouri is a man of many talents, with more to come. Not only is he already a practising personal trainer, but he’s also studying an international management degree in Lugano, Switzerland.

“I love it. It’s a very small city, very quiet,” says the 19 year old. “There are a lot of rules you have to follow; we have to be quiet after 10pm, which makes it easy to study. It’s completely different. I haven’t been in a car for a week. Such a great ­experience.”

After graduating, Khouri wants to return and work with Haddins Fitness in Abu Dhabi, where he trains clients during his holidays. Last summer, he hosted a children’s summer camp for the first time, having first worked with the gym two years ago.

“I work at the university gym for about six to 10 hours a week; I’m the only licensed personal trainer on campus. It’s all pro bono work; I do it for free. I’ve been into sports since I was a kid; it always came really easy to me; football, boxing, volleyball.

“I got really into personal training when I tore my ACL [anterior cruciate ligament]. I had to do a lot of different exercises and knee therapy and I got really inspired to do my own research. I saw the different types of training I was doing and realised what is advertised is very single-minded. I wanted to show that you can become fit in a million ways. My own personal trainer helped me a lot, and then I did my CYQ [Central YMCA Qualifications] in Dubai.”

He says that he was already well prepared, but the final level was tough; he had to study two 400-page books, write two papers, take an exam and train a client in front of examiners.

“I got my licence as soon as I turned 18, a month before I even passed my driving test. I was the youngest they had ever qualified.”

How does the weather affect your training?

It’s hard to do training or sports outside in Abu Dhabi, but we spend a lot of time outside here. It gets really cold in the morning; it’s 6ºC at the moment. But I don’t mind running outside, as long as my ears and fingertips are covered. And I drink a lot more water and stay better hydrated here than when I’m in the UAE; the tap water is as good as bottled water.

Do you play any sports video games?

My friends and I like to play Frisbee for fun, rather than video games. Or we’ll take a little train and go to this small city nearby; they have this big tree with an adventurous rope course. And we do a zip line down a mountain.

How’s the television over there?

I don’t watch much television, but I do keep up with the news – and I watch football sometimes. I used to watch it a lot: German, French, Italian football, all the leagues. I really like Manchester City, so I’ll watch them and [the] Champions League, but I mostly limit what I watch.

Have you learnt to cook?

Yes, I usually cook most nights – I eat carbs and protein before working out. It’s hard to buy vegetables here, so later in the evening I make lean proteins, like grilled chicken. I don’t have time to make breakfast though, so I grab a bagel, eggs and waffles at the university.

How do you plan to celebrate UAE National Day in Switzerland?

Usually I would spend some time with my family, and then go with my friends to see how everyone celebrates. I love seeing how proud everyone is, and I like to show my friends who haven’t seen it. But this year, I’ll probably put on a UAE polo shirt, a UAE football shirt or an Abu Dhabi Formula One shirt and keep it calm.

What do you get up to in Lugano?

When the weather’s nice, we go down to the lake; it’s beautiful.

Have you had a chance to see any other cities?

Our university lets us travel somewhere every semester. I went to some little towns in Italy last semester – I went to Venice, Lucca and Florence. And I went to Scotland for the first time this semester. You get a break from schoolwork, but write papers on it afterwards, so it’s educational, too.

What do you miss the most about Abu Dhabi or the UAE?

I miss the simplicity in Abu Dhabi, and having my family around. There’s a lot of independence, which has been great, but I get a lot of motivation and inspiration from them.


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