Dubai – High-energy cycling instructor, personal trainer or hand-to-hand combat and physical training, these wonder women are certainly at the forefront of a change
Futtaim Beljaflah is a cycling instructor
With the fifth edition of the Dubai Fitness Challenge underway, the changes the city has experienced in terms of fitness have been immense. More and more people are health conscious and various types of sports shops are opening. Most importantly, however, has been the growing number of Emiratis at the forefront of change in the fitness industry. Today we present to you four Emirati women who created waves in their own way.
Futtaim Beljaflah is a personal trainer and cycling instructor at CRANK Abu Dhabi. A mother of a baby girl, Futtaim quit her full-time job to focus on her fitness career and motherhood and she couldn’t be happier with her decision. “It’s been over a year since I started teaching Ride classes and it has been the most rewarding experience,” she says. “Motivating and touching people’s lives is what keeps me going. “
Fitness did not happen by accident to Futtaim. She has been active since she was young and has always loved to experience new things. “Being physically active is like an addiction for me,” she laughs. “If I don’t exercise, I notice it affects my mood and stress level.”
However, her life changed when she attended her first cycling class. “I fell in love with the energy, the music, the movement and the feeling you get when you step out of the classroom,” she says. “It’s different from any kind of exercise, there is something so powerful about moving to the beat of the music. It’s like my therapy.
She knew then that was what she wanted to do full time. After obtaining her certifications, she became an instructor at CRANK in Abu Dhabi. “The advantage of being a cycling instructor is being part of other people’s journeys,” she says. “No matter what their goal, how they feel that day and why they are in this class, they give me 45 minutes of their time, and that alone motivates me to give them the best experience, so they can leave my room. class feeling better than they did when entering.
When she got pregnant last year, the fitness enthusiast didn’t let herself be slowed down at all. “I didn’t change my diet much during the pregnancy,” she says. “I always taught my classes at CRANK and did two strength training sessions a week. I always paid attention to my heart rate and only pushed at 80% of my maximum heart rate. I added prenatal Pilates to my exercise routine to keep my core strength. If your body is used to exercising before pregnancy, it is safe to continue the same diet as long as you make sure you are comfortable and listening to your body. It is really important to listen to your body because it will tell you when it can continue and when you need to stop.
Futtaim is grateful that she had no complications and continued to teach until the ninth month of her pregnancy. However, she has a tip for other pregnant women who want to exercise. “One of the things that really helped me in the third trimester was a stomach band,” she said. “I highly recommend women to use it during their workouts, especially as their stomachs get bigger and heavier. The lap band helps support your tummy and can help reduce back pain.
Futtaim is also grateful for the endless support she receives from her family and the Emirati community for her fitness journey. She feels that the attitude towards fitness has changed in the country over the past two years. “Years ago the only option we had was going to the gym,” she says. “Today you will find so many different boutique fitness studios with unique concepts. People are also keen to try new forms of physical activity, they also seek that sense of community and the sense of belonging that they get when going to studio-shops.
She hopes that in the future more Emiratis will take on the roles of fitness instructors and personal trainers. “Right now there are a handful of Emirati women in the fitness industry, but I would like to see more in the future.”
Noora Toobji, Jiu Jitsu fighter
Noora Toobji is a jiu jitsu fighter, CrossFit enthusiast and certified personal trainer. In addition, she has a day job in the HR department at Emirates. “I always liked fitness when I was a kid,” she says. “Since my days in kindergarten, I have always been in one or the other activity. I dabbled in athletics, gymnastics and volleyball. I also played football with my neighborhood brothers. So I have always been a very active person. However, I found my real passion a few years ago in jiu jitsu and CrossFit.
Since then, Noora has participated in several jiu jitsu competitions and won medals. She said her family was unsure of her interest in jiu jitsu. “My family loves that I’m active,” she says. “They supported my sporting lifestyle. However, jiu jitsu was something new to them. They were worried that I would hurt myself. But that all changed when I entered my first tournament and won a silver medal. Now my sisters and parents will tell anyone who hears how I am a jiu jitsu fighter.
Noora believes the attitude towards fitness in the UAE has changed beautifully and she believes that much of the credit goes to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. “The country’s leaders have always encouraged men and women to be active and play sports,” she said. “Sheikh Hamdan’s 30X30 initiative has played a huge role in motivating the community to get fitter and better. I think the most amazing time for fitness in the country is now. Every year I love that for a month the whole city turns into such a fitness-focused place. And every year, I think, the momentum of that month continues for a long time. This is why I have the impression that the inhabitants of the city are more and more concerned about their health. “
As she spends her time learning more about jiu jitsu and CrossFit, Noora hopes to see some things related to fitness change in the country. “I want more fitness education in schools,” she says. “Not just a physical education class. I want kids to learn about anatomy and nutrition and how fitness affects the whole body. I also want self-defense classes to be taught in schools to all children. I think this is a very important thing for them to learn.
Sumaya Al Marzooqi and Bashayer Al Obeidi, owners of yoga studios
Sumaya Al Marzooqi and Bashayer Al Obeidi are the owners of Sharjah’s premier yoga and pilates studio, Barakah. “Barakah is a space that we both always wanted,” Sumaya said. “A space where women could practice unique forms of fitness and receive high quality training from specialist instructors from our city. This is where the idea for the first female-only studio in Sharjah came from.
“We chose the name Barakah to represent growth; a main pillar in every individual’s fitness journey, ”said Bashayer. “We opened our studio in August 2020 with the goal of sharing the benefits of yoga with others. “
However, their date with fitness started much earlier. “I’ve always had a passion for sports,” Sumaya said. “I started out in track and field, then I played for the national shooting team for 6 years before moving on to yoga.
Bashayer’s story was similar. “I have experienced a variety of forms of fitness,” she said. “From cardio and weight training to boxing and spinning, I’ve tried a little bit of everything. But I can say that my outlook on fitness has changed and my real passion for it started when I discovered yoga. It was a way for me to free myself, to rejuvenate myself and to become stronger, not only physically but also mentally. I felt the incredible effects it had on me after each session, from releasing stress and feeling strong in my body, to a drastic change in my flexibility and mobility, and finding myself in a better place. mental state.
Both women were indebted for the support they received from their friends, family and community. “A lot of them are now practicing in our studio, which we are very grateful for,” they said. Sumaya has already graduated as a yoga teacher while Bashayer wants to start teaching. Both want to spread their yoga knowledge and want other women to benefit from it as they have. Above all, they are impressed with the change in attitude towards fitness in the country.
“It’s very different from what it was 10 years ago,” Sumaya said. “Women are encouraged to play different sports.
“There is now a greater awareness of the importance of fitness beyond traditional weight loss ideas,” said Bashayer. “It also makes me really happy to see spaces dedicated to unique forms of fitness such as yoga and Pilates now available to the community across the country. “
In the future, the partners want to see more women get into fitness. “In a busy modern world, I wish women would take more time on their own to practice all forms of fitness and focus not only on the body but also on the mind,” Sumaya said.
“I also hope that we can see an increased shift in the mindset and approach to fitness, seeing it more as an incredible tool in our continued journey to better health and wellness instead. than a short-term goal, ”concluded Bashayer.