Nearly six years ago Abeer Al Khaja, trainer and CrossFit coach, had an experience that turned her life around. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Once underweight and repeatedly hospitalised, Abeer Al Khaja today is a shining example of living a healthy life through a disciplined fitness regimen.

Fitness is key, Emirati personal trainer and CrossFit coach Abeer said.

“Exercise and fitness helped me realise how important they both are to be able to be productive throughout the day. They also helped me keep my weight in check, gain more muscle mass, and be able to do my tasks correctly,” Abeer, 32, Fitness Development Manager at Zaabeel Ladies Club, told Gulf News. “Fitness changed my life.”

But this was not always the case for Abeer, who is one of Dubai Fitness Challenge’s (DFC) six ambassadors this year.

Nearly six years ago, Abeer went through an experience that turned her life around.

While volunteering to hand out iftar meals before Ramadan one hot August afternoon, Abeer felt lightheaded.

Abeer used to be allergic to dust, pollen and grass, apart from many food allergies.

“I felt faint. I felt very weak. It made me feel very bad that I wasn’t able to help in the volunteering process,” she recounted.

“Back then I would skip meals. I didn’t know anything about nutrition or eating well and how important it is for one’s health. I was underweight. I was very weak; my muscle mass was very low.”

Even just going outdoors could cause her issues, she said. She was allergic to dust, pollen and grass when outdoors, apart from her many food allergies.

“I was hospitalised almost every month. My immunity was weak.”

Committed to change, Abeer got a personal trainer, a nutritionist and surrounded herself with like-minded people.

She eventually fell in love with it, she said.

“At first it started as training to get stronger so I’m able to volunteer and do what I love. After that, it turned into loving fitness. It turned into a lifestyle because then I figured out it made me feel happier. It made me feel fitter, more productive like I can do so much more in my day,” she said.

“Right now, allergies are under control. Now it’s way better, alhamdulillah,” she said.

This is why the monthlong fitness challenge works, Abeer said. Doing just 30 minutes of activity daily can fire up anyone to make it part of his lifestyle, just like what she experienced.

“After the challenge last year, I saw so much change in a lot of the girls I train. I started to train them only during the challenge and they continued to train after that. So it became a habit, a lifestyle. I have seen it myself. I have seen people get better because of the challenge.”

While getting fit to lose weight is good, Abeer said there’s more to reap from fitness than just being able to fit into your jeans. It’s a lifelong commitment, she said.

“Body image is very important. The better you look, the better you feel. Or the better you feel, the more you want to look good. However, it’s more than just that. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not just a habit that we pick up for a certain amount of time to reach a goal, lose weight and that’s it.”

“For me, it’s a lifelong goal to continue to train. I will keep going to the gym until the day I crawl into the gym, I have no problem.”

Abeer Al Khaja shares her tips on fitness:

Q: Why are you passionate about fitness?

Fitness is more than just going to the gym. For me, it’s a lifestyle. I saw and I felt how it helped me become a better person. That’s why I’m passionate about it.

Q: How do you incorporate exercise into your day?

I wake up at around 6.30am then prepare to go to work until mid-afternoon. I train for one hour after work then grab some dinner. I make sure to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep and not skip meals.

Q: How do you make time for fitness in your packed schedule?

I wake up earlier usually if I have a very busy day. Or in between work, I do it. I try to stay consistent.

Q: How do you keep yourself motivated?

I surround myself with people who are very motivated.

Q: What’s your message to those who don’t have the discipline to stay fit?

It takes only one hour a day to train and that means it’s three hours only out of your entire week. I don’t think that’s a lot of time. Go and give yourself that. But still have fun.

Where to go

Five Fitness Villages:

1) Al Khawaneej Walk Fitness Village

When: October 28 to November 22
Location: Quranic Park
Best for: Cycling for the entire family, yoga and Pilates sessions for ladies

2) Palm Jumeirah Fitness Village

When: October 28 to November 22
Location: Palm Jumeirah
Best for: People who love adrenalin-pumping activities for all ages. It also has Electric Rainforest and Colour Brick road

3) Kite Beach Fitness Village

When: When: October 28 to November 22
Location: Kite Beach
Best for: Water sports and beach-themed fitness activities

4) DIFC Fitness Village

When: When: October 28 to November 22
Location: Dubai International Financial Centre
Best for: Futuristic fitness; perfect for midday workouts even in the office with 300 fitness classes to choose from

5) DMCC Park Fitness Village

When: When: October 28 to November 22
Location: Jumeirah Lakes Towers
Best for: Adrenalin-pumping fun; basketball, Ninja Warrior