Manama: Amal Baatia knows that she is not the typical Saudi woman portrayed at home or abroad. And she is proud of her unique status.
In fact, a dream scenario for the woman making waves as the first Saudi callisthenics and CrossFit female coach is to see more Saudi women engaged in sports and fitness activities and enter fields that have traditionally been confined to men.
“One of the most wonderful things that gives me immense joy is seeing my friends pay greater attention to their health and diet,” Amal said.
One way for her to reach out to women, convince them of the significance of sports in their lives and encourage them to move forward and not to falter is to post on social media short videos of CrossFit workouts. The activity is both a physical exercise philosophy and a competitive fitness sport, and women should overcome their apprehensions and take it up.
On Amal’s Instagram account where she describes herself as “Under Armour Ambassador”, several women have responded positively to her initiative, posting words of gratitude and glowing comments.
“Many girls and women have contacted me and expressed their interest in CrossFit workouts,” Amal said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz.
She has come a long way since she first felt deep admiration for gymnastics. She was only 10 when she fell in love with the sport and joined the school gymnastics team.
Today, Amal, the mother of two boys, Yusuf, 12, and Malek, seven, still feels the vibrant passion that years ago drove her to engage fully in sports that were not only unfamiliar in the Gulf, but also called for demanding workouts and required challenging exercises.
She had to overcome social stigma that made it difficult, if not impossible, for women to play sports. Driven by her strong ambition and her earnest desire to make a difference, she moved forward with her plans and persevered.
“It is simply a story of courage and readiness to take on challenges,” she said. “I went to Dubai and to the US for fitness training and workshops. I used to travel for one or two months to gain insights and practice, and for the rest of the time, I relied heavily on online training.”
Long working hours
Amal said that she faced difficulties perfecting her skills due to the long working hours she had to put in as a full-time investment manager. She eventually decided to quit her position and devote more time to practising and training.
As a demanding sport, CrossFit includes high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport and callisthenics.
“As I was making progress and achieving feats in various competitions, I became more ardent about the sport and keener on my grand dream of promoting it in Saudi Arabia,” Amal said.
The Saudi athlete took part in a five-kilometre hurdles race in Kuwait where she came third. She also participated in the 12-kilometre race that took place at King Abdullah City and achieved the second place.
Lack of qualified women trainers
Amal attributed the limited number of sports clubs for women in the kingdom to the limited number of adequately qualified women trainers.
“We were elated when we heard about the recent decisions to open sports clubs for women and physical education colleges in universities. The practice of sports should become a way of life for all Saudis. It is an amazing and free way to improve one’s feelings and self-esteem.”
Determined to continue ahead with her dream, she uses her Instagram account to tell her former and new trainees to get ready.
For Amal, there should be no time wasted.
“Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started,” she once posted.