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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Yas Family Fitness Festival: how to make fitness fun for the entire family

Omar Al Duri, an ambassador for this weekend’s Yas Family Fitness Festival, speaks to us about the importance of educating the younger generation

Omar Al Duri will give a talk at the Family Fitness Festival on Saturday. Courtesy Omar Al Duri
Omar Al Duri will give a talk at the Family Fitness Festival on Saturday. Courtesy Omar Al Duri

Omar Al Duri is a true-blue fitness buff. The ­London-born personal trainer and co-founder of Platform 3 gym in Dubai has worked with the Ghana U-20 African Nations and World Cup squads, and currently serves as head of coaching at the UAE Football Association for the women’s senior and under 14s football teams.

Al Duri is also one of the ambassadors for this weekend’s Yas Family Fitness Festival, an event encompassing a full schedule of complimentary health, nutrition and physical activities for people of all ages.

Classes include yoga, Zumba, HIIT, Body Attack and Body Pump by Les Mills, while the My Gym UAE Kids Zone features a fully equipped children’s gym, plus Zumba and gymnastics for kids. Nutritionists from 800 Sport Outdoor gym will be on-hand to provide lifestyle and dietary tips. Al Duri talks to us about the importance of such events, and his take on the evolution of the UAE’s fitness scene.

Tell us more about the Yas Family Fitness Festival that is taking place this weekend.

The festival promotes healthy living, nutrition and leading an active lifestyle, not just for us adults, but also the responsibility we have towards our children. It also aims to break the stereotype that people in the Middle East lead a sedentary lifestyle. Of course, we can ­always improve, but there is a far greater awareness here now. Events such as these are important because they help people get together in a positive light and try different activities in an incredible city.

What would you suggest families not miss during the festival?

My talk on Saturday at 10am, ha ha. Seriously, though, I would urge families to ask questions and get involved. Fitness has no ego, and our responsibility as ambassadors is to help, so don’t be scared to ask for information that eventually you can tell your children when they are older. There are also plenty of activities throughout the weekend to enjoy together as a family, and hopefully begin a new fitness routine.

What is the one trait you’ve observed that all fitness buffs have in common?

In my opinion, it’s that drive or motivation that is a common denominator among fitness buffs, be they enthusiasts or professional athletes.

What’s your take on the ­fitness revolution in the UAE, over the past few years?

It’s been incredible. I have been visiting the UAE since the 1990s and eventually moved here in 2008. There has been a lot of investment in the fitness revolution and some ­incredible professionals leading the way. I’m so proud to have witnessed it from an early stage, and even prouder to be recognised. The amount of knowledge our kids are exposed to is fascinating, whether about exercise or nutrition.

And what drives you forward professionally?

My passion for what I do, especially in relation to my love for football. This has enabled me to look past those dreary days, when motivation levels can be quite low, which we all experience, and ­continue to work with athletes and fitness enthusiasts to reach optimal performance. Helping someone achieve results they sometimes could never imagine, is a beautiful thing. I started coaching at 18, which helped me adapt to working with people from different backgrounds. Whether it’s achieving a personal goal or working with international teams, it’s been educational.

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How would you describe women’s football in the UAE?

Developing and growing immensely. With personalities like coach Houriya [Taheri] at the UAE FA, they are continuously looking for growth and innovation. Having been on the outside and more recently a part of the set-up, I’m impressed with the direction it’s going in. We are under no illusions, there is work to be done, but we are striving to compete with the rest of the world. Our goal for the juniors is for them to represent the UAE in the best possible light. This will only work with a long-term plan moving forward, with stability, patience, consistency and a periodisation plan.

You’re also involved with the nutrition side of things. What’s your current take on what we eat and the way we eat it?

Always read or ask about the ingredients, rather than taking the product at face value – 100 per cent fat-free sounds good, but what’s in it to start with? Next, understand the different types of hidden sugar, like high fructose corn syrup, which can potentially destroy your body. Don’t be scared to revitalise the body once in a while, by eliminating red meat, dairy or gluten. Don’t be scared to treat yourself once in a while, but in moderation.

What’s your idea of the perfect cheat meal, then?

I have a friend, Paul, who makes the best home-cooked burgers from scratch, it’s my perfect cheat meal. And the one vice I can’t rid myself of is chicken wings.

The Family Fitness Festival takes place on Friday and on Saturday, from 9am to 5pm, at Gateway Park South on Yas Island. For more information, visit www.fitfest.ae

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