Healthy relationships: meet four fitness power couples in the UAE
We speak to partners in the UAE whose fitness-centred lifestyles prove that couples who work out together, stay together
Mira Feghali-Dryden can’t imagine being with a doctor or a lawyer – or anyone other than her husband Mat.
The Abu Dhabi couple work relentless hours six days a week running their businesses – he as a professional fight trainer and owner of Abu Dhabi’s Cobra Fitness in Al Bandar, and she running her own healthy food line. “We make a great team,” Mira says. “I love that he’s a fitness fanatic, that he does what he does.”
Mat feels the same way about having anyone other than his healthy-minded entrepreneur for a wife: “There would be no common ground, nothing relatable,” he says.
People with similar interests have always gravitated to one another, but the explosion in all things fitness- and wellness-related is creating a new breed in the UAE: the fitness power couple. These pairs not only live together, but work and even train together. Their dedication to fitness – and to pushing each other to do better, and more – is something all couples could take inspiration from.
Mira, from Lebanon, was working in the business that her grandfather started in Abu Dhabi 41 years ago, Arlequin Catering, when she started attending Dryden’s gruelling workouts. A vegetarian and vegan enthusiast, she was soon experimenting with creating healthy meals and plant-based snacks, trying them out on Mat. In 2016, she launched a healthy food sideline, Arlequin by Mira, which is doing a brisk business at Cobra’s cafe, nourishing and fuelling Mat’s staff and clients.
“It was his idea,” she says. “He said: ‘Why don’t you do that line, grow it and sell it at the gym as well?’ I was sceptical because I was super-busy and I didn’t want to take out a loan, but it works amazingly.”
Mira describes the pair as being “very much in tune”. That means when Mat has long fight days in Dubai, she tags along, and if she wants to go up to a yoga conference, he does too.
Mat chimes in: “Holidays are almost like a recharge for new ideas for our business. We go to Thailand, and Mira wants to try out a new raw vegan cafe ... it gives her inspiration for new things. And I’ll look at a new gym that opened up in Bangkok.”
Mike and Vivienne Addo
It’s hard to believe that Mike and Vivienne Addo – the Dubai-certified personal trainers and nutrition advisers known as MrandMrsMuscle – almost broke up last February.
The year they spent building their business in Dubai after moving from the United Kingdom had been filled with stress, loneliness and frustration. Viv was on the brink of leaving when Mike got news that his brother had almost been killed in a motorcycle accident. Viv promised not to leave, Mike found out his brother would recover and the very next day, they hit a local park to do one of their favourite things together: exercise. They were reviewing video footage of their workout, looking for areas to improve, when they noticed a brief moment of pure synchronisation.
Almost eight months and hundreds of mesmerising videos later, their Instagram following has jumped from 853 people to 62,500. They recently launched their Total Tone Ten six-week training programme on YouTube, are focusing on private clients and working on an app.
Mike believes people love their synchronised workouts because they demonstrate a powerful “vibrational match” that renders differences irrelevant. “To hit this vibrational match, you must connect, flow, believe and want the same thing at that given moment in time,” he says. “The whole experience is extremely powerful, but also very fragile. One negative thought, disagreement, energy shift or lack of genuinity and that vibration is off.”
Mitch Hyde and Thuymi Do
Meanwhile, Australian former semi-professional footballer and teacher Mitch Hyde and Canadian Thuymi Do are learning the true meaning of togetherness through their work on AdventureFaktory. The online forum the pair started in 2015 mixes travel, sport and outdoor activities. From July to September, they drove from London to China, then spent a week each in Australia, Hong Kong and Vietnam. They are back in Dubai for a few days before heading to Antarctica with EduOutings, a new company that will run Antarctica expeditions for the GCC.
While Thuymi focuses on organising their destinations, Mitch finds the fitness – even if it’s just kayaking or a hike. “Travelling makes it difficult,” Thuymi says. “There is barely any routine and we have to adapt or improvise.”
Even working and spending so much time together, the challenges they face aren’t so different from other couples or business partners, says Mitch. “Like most relationships and businesses, you go through good times and bad,” he says. “The main thing is that you still have your own identities, passions and outlets.”
It is also essential to separate business time and personal time, Mitch says, “and make sure they do not conflict”.
Adam and Olivia McCubbin
Adam and Olivia McCubbin met at a gym in Australia, and when they moved to Dubai two and a half years ago, Olivia gave up her clients to work in marketing. “I was basically just really unhappy for the first year or so,” she says, “Just not having clients and interacting with people.”
In January she quit her job and the two joined fitness forces. “We were talking about what’s missing in Dubai,” she says. They both hit on the large number of people they saw at the gym day after day, “doing the exercises and not getting the results”.
Figuring nutrition was a missing link – and believing that people are more responsible for their fitness when they are held accountable – they launched the Best Body Co’s 6-in-4 challenge. Anyone who loses six kilograms on the four-week programme, which includes five weekly group exercise classes and a meal plan, gets the Dh999 course free.
Their first batch of 30 participants finishes next Friday, while the second starts the next day, with two more the following week.
Aside from working together and enjoying each other’s company, Olivia believes a mutual devotion to physical fitness is a boost for any relationship. “Part of fitness is about feeling good, not just looking good,” she says. “If you’re working to improve yourself, it helps you appreciate the other person more.”
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Updated: October 25, 2018 03:13 PM