Dr Mehnaz Kamali, consultant periodontist and implantologist, has become one of DHA’s strongest and sportiest women. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Falling off a horse numerous times and getting injured over and over led to Dr Mehnaz Kamali’s family to be extremely concerned for her welfare as she pursued sports growing up. But she remained undeterred.

The Emirati consultant periodontist and implantologist at Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has become one of DHA’s strongest and sportiest women, having completed and won a number of sports competitions.

As the second Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) comes to an end this weekend, Gulf News looked at the inspiring story of Dr Mehnaz who believes the journey to fitness cannot be conformed to a calendar of events but must go on for life regardless of the obstacles one may face.

Dr Mehnaz’ introduction to sports started with swimming when she was 12. She did more sports growing up, even more so when she studied abroad. She pursued cycling, squash, and horse riding. Her path wasn’t smooth, however.

“My parents were very protective of me. It was more of a parental concern rather than cultural. They didn’t want me to injure myself. It’s the idea that you will injure yourself when you do sports,” Dr Mehnaz told Gulf News.

“I fell off horses numerous times, I sustained injuries which made my family worry for my welfare,” she said.

Then one day, owing to the injuries, she was told to stop.

“They said you might not be able to go back to horse riding,” Dr Mehnaz said. “If you tell me that I won’t be able to do something anymore, I will not accept it right away. Someone has to give me a very very convincing reason to make me believe that this is the end of something for me. I wouldn’t take no for an answer unless I’m convinced otherwise.

“Eventually, I was back riding a horse after recovering. I felt that every injury I suffered made me stronger.”

But it wasn’t just the physical battles, as she had to win over even the cultural ones as well.

Now pursuing cycling as her ultimate sport, Dr Mehnaz said she also had to overcome stereotypical social constructs about women engaged in sports.

Even with a ruptured ligament that required surgery in September, Dr Mehnaz is now focused on strengthening and conditioning so that she can be back on the cycling track next year.

“For everybody, whether young or old, if you have a passion, you have to try as much as you can to fulfil it. The government has opened the doors and given a lot of opportunities encouraging all kids and residents, whether Emiratis or non-Emiratis, to pursue sports and an active lifestyle. If the government is doing it, so should the whole of society. It will not only benefit them physically and mentally, it will also sculpt their personality and make them much more independent.”

Fitness — a way of life

Why are you passionate about fitness?

Because fitness for me is not just about having a perfect figure nor about having a perfect image, but it’s more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle for a long time. Fitness is a way of life.

How do you incorporate exercise into your day?

I plan my whole week. I schedule my sports during my free time and I stick to it. It’s about planning and discipline that will make you maintain your workout throughout the week.

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

You have to love doing something to be able to keep doing it. You have to first decide for yourself that you want to do sports for a better lifestyle. Set a realistic goal. Choose an environment where there are people and groups who motivate you to do better.

FAST FACTS:

WHAT: Dubai Fitness Challenge Closing Weekend Carnival

WHEN: November 23, 2pm to 10pm; November 24, 1pm to 8pm

WHERE: Burj Park, Downtown Dubai

Admission: Free

Intensity: All levels

Best for: Anyone and everyone