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Coming out stronger, fitter, faster

Readers share their exercise routines and what motivates them to work out every day

  • Sarah ShammaImage Credit:
  • Stephanie AlvisoImage Credit:
  • Vimal VijayanImage Credit:
Gulf News


It’s time to trade — give up your snug pajamas for track pants, put away your comfortable blanket for a sweatshirt, and pause the gripping drama of Jon Snow coming back to life in The Game of Thrones, for an hour of perspiration and pain at the gym.

Would you make the switch? Well, apparently yes!

Chasing the feel-good “high” of a challenging workout makes it all worth it, according to Dubai resident Vimal Vijayan.

The Indian model and actor started exercising once he realised he was overweight, at 95kg. It’s been seven years since.

He said: “There’s a sense of immense satisfaction, which comes from a good workout… it’s difficult to explain. Every time I feel frustrated or stressed out, I go to the gym and release those negative emotions. I try to go every other day. No matter how late it is, I get some physical activity done – even if it’s a quick run with some music on.”

According to the Dubai Household Health Survey conducted by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in 2010, only 19 per cent of people in the city get enough exercise to keep themselves healthy.

The Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 by US-based University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that over 66 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women living in the UAE are obese and overweight.

But for Stephanie Alviso Banawa, a Sharjah-based corporate communications manager, sticking to an exercise routine is not just about shedding the extra pounds.

The Filipina national said: “I gave birth last year, and was waiting for the day my doctor would give me the green light to exercise. The minute I could, I was back to my fitness regime.”

Banawa’s preferred workout style is boxing. She does it at least twice a week, and goes to the gym on weekends with her friends.

She said: “Boxing is a full body workout, but that’s not the only reason I do it. It has made me more alert, has improved my reflexes and is an excellent way to relieve stress. Sometimes, work-life balance can be so difficult to manage. But ever since I started boxing, my colleagues ask me – how are you so calm all the time?”

For Dubai-based events manager Nada Al Zarouni it is about avoiding the “couch potato syndrome”. She schedules her workout sessions close to when she is done with work, instead of having to leave from home – that way there is no opportunity for laziness or lethargy to set in.

She said: “I have been working out for a steady four years now. I have noticed the massive difference ever since – from an emotional, mental, physical perspective. It has drastically changed my mood, my lifestyle, my sleep patterns, and most importantly, how I feel about my body.”

Her fitness regime involves cardio workouts, weight lifting or a combination of both, along with boxing, swimming and tennis.

At the end of the day, Nada said, it’s about how your workout makes you feel.

“As ironic as it might sound, sometimes it could be a bad day that gets me going. For the most part it’s just how it makes me feel overall — like I have achieved something for myself for a change, rather than for others.”

Sarah Shamma, a Czech national and freelance fashion stylist in Dubai, says exercise is the perfect way to switch off from all the stress around you.

She exercises at least five times a week, and in good weather, goes for walks. “It’s the perfect way to release stress. I can shut down my mind during a workout - it’s just me and my music. I want to look better and feel better, and as I age, I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to prepare for the future by being healthy.”