x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pushing to the limit and beyond in Dubai until fit to drop

The clock is ticking for fitness fanatics hoping to qualify for gruelling challenge next month.

Hallivard Borscheim is put through his paces as he tries to qualify for the Dubai Fitness Championship, which takes place next month and offers a first prize of Dh200,000. Satish Kumar / The National
Hallivard Borscheim is put through his paces as he tries to qualify for the Dubai Fitness Championship, which takes place next month and offers a first prize of Dh200,000. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // We all have our limits – but some people's limits are more impressive than others.

For Hallivard Borscheim, a third round of shoulder presses using 20-kilogram dumbbells was when he reached breaking point.

"I was struggling at the end," admitted the exhausted 33-year-old Norwegian.

The air-traffic controller was attempting to qualify for the Dubai Fitness Championship, and clocked  the day's fastest time of 12 minutes 27 seconds

He must now wait until September 8 to find out whether his time was good enough to earn him a place among the 32 men and women who will take part in the finals of the competition at Dubai Mall's ice rink between September 12 and 14 – and a shot at the Dh200,000 first prize.

Whoever wins the cash will have earnt it. The six exercises in the qualifying rounds are designed to test strength and cardiovascular capacity to the limits.

Competing in a time-trial, the athletes must race through multiple sets of squats, runs, box-jumps and weightlifting exercises.

Mr Borscheim admits the effort was so great that he came close to vomiting at the end.

"You give it your all," he said, still trying to catch his breath 10 minutes after completing his time trial. "I tried it last year but didn't qualify."

This year, he mixed up his training to suit the competition, cutting out two cardio training sessions and replacing them with weight training and circuit training.

"I injured my back last week and took a rest, and maybe it worked to my advantage," he said.

The qualifiers are being held at the Fitness First gyms in Mirdif, the Oasis Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road, and Knowledge Village. Competitors can attempt to qualify as many times as they want if they are willing to put themselves through the agony more than once.

Ryan Thomas, the general manager of Fitness First in Knowledge Village, said the competition was not only for tall, ripped musclemen. In fact, he said, short and thin competitors were more likely to have the edge.

"You don't want to be particularly tall because you want a lower centre of gravity to get things up off the ground better, and you're not carrying as much weight," he said.

The weight of the competitor is also a major factor.

"You might be a power athlete and great for Olympic lifts, but this is a complete fitness competition," he explained. "We have a girl who is entering and she only weighs 52kg – the weight she is lifting is heavier than her.

"These are the challenging factors but people will get it done no matter what."

Most competitors are taking a back seat for the moment, Mr Thomas said, watching to see how the others  perform first.

"We will have about 400 come through to the three centres within the next week," he said. "But as we build to the climax of the competition you'll probably get people coming through every 15 minutes.

"What people will do is test the waters for the rest of the week."

eharnan@thenational.ae