x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Military experience gives Abu Dhabi instructor Eva Clarke extra edge

Eva Clarke offers a real boot camp-style workout with a class she has developed herself, called HUA.

Eva Clarke has been a fitness instructor for the Australian army and air force. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Eva Clarke has been a fitness instructor for the Australian army and air force. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

The UAE offers an increasing variety of so-called "military" boot camps, all of which try to equate the intensity of their sessions with that of the training that moulds doughy civilians into elite warriors.

But while they may promise a barracks-style experience, most instructors have no practical experience with what it is actually like to serve as a soldier.

However, Eva Clarke, who teaches numerous classes at Fit Studio gym in Abu Dhabi and recently took home Dh50,000 for winning the Dubai Fitness Competition, is definitely the real deal.

The 33-year-old Australian is on a year's unpaid leave from her job as physical training instructor with her home nation's air force. Before that, she had a similar role in the army.

Consequently, she claims the classes she teaches almost match the toughness of those she has inflicted on actual military recruits.

In fact, it is relatively common to see some attendees limp out mid-session, beaten by exhaustion.

But Clarke, who juggles her day job with being a mum of three, insists that pushing people to their breaking point is a necessity.

"What I learnt from the army and the air force was that you need to have a hard attitude and a no-quit mindset," she says.

"The difference between the trained soldier and the rest of the population is that a soldier can't just quit and say, 'I've had enough. I'm going to stop.' Especially in wartime situations, you have to be mentally out of your comfort zone and be mentally strong."

While she understands that most civilians won't possess such fortitude: "I still feel if you want to get fitness results, you need to shock your body and take it outside its comfort zone."

As well as teaching classes in spinning, TRX suspension training, Body Pump and combat fitness, she also invented her own workout, dubbed HUA.

This programme, which takes its name from the acronym that US soldiers chant when receiving orders: Heard-Understood-Acknowledged - is a full body, ultra-intensive class based on the cross-fit style of exercise.

But Clarke says she shares a similar ethos for every session she takes.

"My philosophy is 'train mean and eat clean'," she states. "As far as eating clean, this means a balanced diet of natural foods, lean protein, vegetables and fruit.

"And when you're training, it means getting in there, giving it your best shot. Because of this, I do deliberately make it rough for people.

"But then again, you can relax during the rest of the day. People come to the class to be pushed hard and be taken out of their comfort zone. If they came in and I was half-hearted, they wouldn't come back."

But what about the broken participants who throw in the towel mid-session?

"You'd be surprised, but these are the ones who usually come back wanting more," she explains. "They kind of see it as an admission of defeat and seem determined to prove that they can complete my classes.

"And, you know, after a while they find they can cope better. Not everyone has it in them to be a prime athlete, but you can get better, stronger and fitter, and you'll find your life gets better as a result."