Coaching the healthy and the wealthy, Amir Siddiqui is Dubai's most expensive personal trainer.
Dubai's most expensive personal trainer
Personal trainers don't come cheap, but for Dubai's most expensive - with a rate of Dh750 per session or Dh9,000 a month for thrice a week training - his clients say he is worth every dirham.
Amir Siddiqui, the owner of the six-month-old Symmetry Gym in Dubai's Gold and Diamond Park, claims his training programme boasts a unique, three-pronged approach focusing on mind, emotion and body. This includes giving nutrition advice to his clients.
Some of the most expensive gyms in Dubai charge less than half of Siddiqui's rates (Platform 3, Dh340 a session and Ignite Fitness and Wellness, Dh250) but Siddiqi says what he offers justifies his high cost.
"I really feel I don't charge enough," says Siddiqui, who moved to Dubai two years ago.
Anyway, he argues, his clients don't view money like an average earner. "There's a perceptual drift when you're in the top tier of income earners," he says.
Amina Nasim Jan, 40, swears by the last year she has spent training with Siddiqui.
"Before, when I was stressed, I'd lose my appetite. I was having a coffee for breakfast, a sandwich at my desk then a late dinner. I wasn't a healthy eater. I wasn't anorexic or bulimic but was only eating around 900 calories a day. Amir has increased that to around 1,400 a day yet I stayed the same size. I didn't realise how unhealthy I was [until I met him]," she says.
Six months after training with Siddiqui, the architect and single mother of one's body fat dropped by seven per cent. She says her breathing, sleeping and posture have also improved.
Siddiqui studied for a biology degree in New York a decade ago but dropped out when he discovered his flair for personal training. He then incorporated his background in the sciences into his workouts. For instance, he would encourage his clients to "breathe like a baby", that is, utilise what their lungs and stomachs were capable of.
Jan says she has taken this concept from Siddiqui beyond the gym. "When one is stressed, you tend to breathe through your chest, but even when I'm sitting, stressed out in traffic, I just breathe properly and feel so much calmer," she says. "That psychological part of my life has been really affected."
Aisha Subhani, who has been seeing Siddiqui for the past 15 months, agrees. "There are days when he can tell things are affecting me, so instead of pushing me, which is what everyone else has done, he tells me to go home," she says.
"Those days are very rare but instead of having that horrible session, he says we'll catch up the next day. It's more about getting the results out, so if he feels he won't get it, he won't put you through it."
Subhani, a 39-year-old mother of two, says Siddiqui is "worth every dirham". She has seen her body fat go from a dangerous 31 per cent to 22 per cent and says she has become so addicted to his training, she sees him for six or more sessions a week.
Siddiqui says seeing the emotional changes in his clients is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, whether it is overcoming food or image issues or problems in their personal lives.
Guillaume Mariole, the founder of Ignite Fitness and Wellness, says personal training is popular in the UAE for several reasons.
"People have more disposable income, therefore are able to reward themselves in ways they would not be able to back in their country of origin," he says, adding that some individuals find it hard to motivate themselves, don't like group training or have a goal in mind such as a forthcoming wedding.
He says staying fit is also "associated to status": "Some of our clients don't earn a lot of money but for them, looking good is really important."