The latest spectacular to hit Dubai is La Perle by Franco Dragone at the Habtoor Grand. The show utilises 65 highly trained artists from 23 different countries in a vast array of extraordinary physical feats, many while flying through the air.
The man tasked with keeping these high performance athletes at the top of their game, and spinning through the air ten shows a week, is Pierric Morel, La Perle’s Head of Performer’s Wellness and Development.
The Dubai based osteopath’s responsibility is to look after each individual’s care plan including their dietary requirements and along with his team, provide the necessary wellness coaching to reduce or eliminate high-risk behaviours.
Morel graduated from six years of Ostepathy D.O, specialising in Posturology and Sports, Structural Technics, Modern Acupuncture and Acupressure and then started his own Osteopathy clinic in Lyon.
He began working in the circus industry in 2005 with a famous French company called Les Arts Sauts, which led him to legendary impresario Dragone and in 2008 he began working on The House of Dancing Water in Macau.
Morel moved to Dubai in 2015 where Dragone reached out to him again and brought him on board for La Perle.
Like all elite athletes La Perle’s performers have a rigorous schedule to keep them fit for their dangerous stunts.
“The artists have been conditioning their bodies and mind for the shows for almost a year now,” said Morel. “The process began late last year, when we began Training and Formation, which is where the artists learnt the skills necessary.
“They trained from 9am – 6pm every day, six days a week, ensuring they were in peak condition.
“Now that we have begun the show schedule, we have to ensure the artists are getting enough rest, especially during their two days off, but we have to keep them training every muscle and motivated so they remain in shape.
“It can be a shock to the body to go from rigorous training to only moving once curtain is called and we can’t let this happen – we have to make sure they remain just as fit and healthy.”
Morel’s own philosophy for health and fitness is to “keep the fun” but “sometimes to keep the fun can be hard, which is why you have to be passionate.
“In competitions, you have to go into survival mode, where you train hard, but you know there’s an end.
“In this industry, fun and happiness is vital because once you lose that joy, your mind slips and you won’t train properly, resulting in injuries.
“If you’re not eating properly or getting enough sleep, your body is going to start to become weak and therefore you lose your spirit. It’s my job, when I see that positivity and happiness slipping, I focus on the person as I know the problems will begin.
“You can do all the physio you want, but if that person isn’t there mentally, it’s all for nothing – you lose them.”
In terms of his own wellness regime Morel tries fit in cardio and exercise at least twice a week, around his working hours: “I drink lots of water and attempt and get outside and connect with nature, something that is so important for your health and wellbeing.”
His tips on staying fit are “eat well, train well and sleep well. This is the base that everyone must follow.
“It’s all about mind and body, from the moment you have a good balance you will be successful.
“I don’t believe in ‘no pain, no gain’, you have to listen to your body and respect it – if you put your body through years of pain then it will break, that pain is your body speaking to you.
“If you want a long career, you have to work with your body, be realistic and manage your body is a positive way, negative emotions will lead to your body to react in the same way.”
What: La Perle
Where: Al Habtoor Grand
Verdict: High performance artists in extraordinary physical feats.
According to the definition provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), an occupational injury is any which are contracted primarily as a result of an exposure to risk factors that arise from work activity.
In years gone past those work-related injuries may have been caused by working with machines, operating vehicles, or falling from heights. But with the rise of office-based employment a more insidious form of occupational injuries have begun to emerge: Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMI).
RMIs may be one of the less obvious workplace hazards but it is one of the most harmful in the long run.
Repetitive motions such as typing and using the computer 24/7 can strain muscles and tendons causing back pain, vision problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome – especially in the UAE where long working hours are common.
But employee training and the use of proper ergonomic equipment can help keep these incidents low.
One particular brand of RMIs currently of concern in the workplace are upper limb disorders (ULD) – a particular group of musculoskeletal ailments affecting the shoulder, neck, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers.
This includes problems with soft tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the blood circulation or nerve supply to the upper limb. If untreated, and continually aggravated, these aches can develop into upper limb disorders.
It is now accepted that these upper limb disorders can occur without having carried out repetitive activities. In fact, while some upper limb disorders have an exact diagnosis, the cause and treatment of some upper limb pains can be more difficult to identify.
This is why posture in the work place is so vital as is the correct placement of chair, table and even screen. Wrong postures can often lead to you becoming susceptible to such disorders.
For example, the wrist works best when the hand and arm are particularly in a straight line. If it is twisted, rotated or bent this will increase the strain on the tendons and nerves which pass through the wrist to the hand.
Another factor is the force or tension which is created in nerves and tendons. Directly applying a force, particularly in activities that rotate the arm or wrist (e.g. folding boxes or twisting wires) can also trigger ULDs. Additionally, it also depends on how long a force is applied or how often the action is carried out.
“With sedentary lifestyles and maximum hours being spent at the workplace, there has been an increase in work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limbs or ULDs” explains Dr Bhuvaneshwar Machani, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Burjeel Hospital.
“Physical work factors, psychosocial and environmental factors and individual characteristics affect work-related upper limb disorders.
“These disorders are not confined to particular jobs or sectors. Upper limb disorders include aches and pains in any part of the body from the shoulder to the fingers and can include problems with soft tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the blood circulation or nerve supply.
“Pain however is a common symptom of ULDs but the experience of pain in the upper limb is also common amongst the general population. Therefore, feeling pain in the upper limb is not in itself an indication of the presence of an ULD, and such symptoms may be difficult to attribute to work with any certainty.”
Common types of work related upper limb disorders include enosynovitis in the wrist, hand or shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on the median nerve in the wrist), cubital tunnel syndrome (ulna nerve compression in the elbow) epicondylitis (tennis or golfers elbow), cervicalgia (neck pain) and some non-specific fore arm pain and restless hand.
“I sincerely believe that employers/management should actively be involved in minimising the risks of ULDs through a positive management approach,” continues Dr Machani.
“They must have an understanding of ULDs and should be committed towards its prevention.
Organisations should educate their employees on the common ULDs, their possible risks and how to combat them.
“Strong focus should be put on introducing workplace training around ULDs, assessing the posture of employees as they work and encouraging early reporting of symptoms.
“Employees who have symptoms that suggest a ULD should seek medical advice and report any symptoms to their employer as soon as possible as an early intervention and treatment is the best way to avoid long-term problems.”
The name Ziggy Darwish has played a major role in shaping the Dubai fitness scene.
After serving six years as a Gunnery sailor in the Royal Australian Navy, Darwish started his fitness journey as a personal trainer in 2004 working out of the best gyms in Melbourne, back in his native Australia.
He was kept busy with a blue riband clientele, training the who’s who of Melbourne’s elite including police commissioners and judges.
But in 2006 he was approached by a fitness company wanting to introduce boot camps to Dubai. They needed someone with a military background – enter Ziggy.
Darwish was missing his time at sea, travelling the world, so he hopped on a plane to the UAE.
His first experience, like most visitors, was: “Wow!” But it wasn’t the bright lights, fancy restaurants, or clubs that caught his attention, it was the lack of fitness professionals and gyms. Back then Dubai basically had no fitness industry.
There was no Fitness First, no Crossfit, no M45 – just a few trainers doing their own thing.
“I wanted the UAE to get the best kick-start in fitness” recalls Darwish. “No gimmicks like you see now with magic pills and creams. The goal was to get people to train right, eat right and do it with the end goal of having a happy community being health conscious.
“My overall philosophy on health and fitness is keep it simple: find an activity you enjoy and eat right…90 per cent food, 10 per cent exercise.”
After just three weeks in Dubai, Ziggy and his partners got a call from the now defunct 7DAYS asking about his boot camps.
A week later he took the whole staff of 7DAYS for a bootcamp and after a massive write-up, the phones didn’t stop ringing for a year. Thousands of Dubai expats and locals joined up for Darwish’s four-week courses.
Dubai got its first taste of ‘Ziggy-style’ fitness and they loved it.
Darwish then moved on to a new company called Fitness 02, which has played a large part in shaping the fitness industry in the UAE.
From the first boot camps at Ski Dubai, the first international diabetes walkathon day, training multi-national corporations, kids fitness boot camps, football camps; Darwish and his team of ten trainers had the UAE covered in all areas of health and fitness.
But several years later, after running the fitness company, having a TV show, doing radio interviews and events, Darwish was burnt out.
“Running a company, dealing with trainers, staff, marketing, balancing the books, thinking three steps ahead of the competition took a massive toll on me,” he explains.
“I almost forgot how to love the craft and found myself focusing only on the ruthless side of business. And that was the beginning of the end of my fitness career – for a while at least.”
Ziggy took a few years off where he wrote a book on fitness, wrote and produced a feature film and continued to train a few clients while he watched the local fitness industry explode.
“Back when I started there was nothing, now you can do anything. You want to do MMA you have ten gyms to choose from, boot camps – hundreds, gyms – hundreds. Dubai has everything.”
Missing his boot camp days Ziggy decided to go back to where it all began – as a one-on-one personal trainer.
But Darwish found the clientele had changed considerably since he first started, with people looking for a much more holistic approach to fitness rather than a quick fix.
He also found a strong trend in Arabic women seeking fitness.
“Everyone has a different goal,” explains Darwish. “I have clients who are looking for weight loss, a client getting ready for a marathon, another to learn Muay Thai. I even train a little Irish lad who wants to be the next Conor McGregor!”
He says Dubai also has its own challenges to someone wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
“Training in Dubai is a lot harder for a trainer as clients have too many options to go off the rails,” he says, “with travel, work, brunches etc. So I work out a program for the body, food and lifestyle.”
“I love to help people who want to get results, if you want to train I’m here for you. You want to achieve a goal like climbing Mt. Everest let’s do it…I’m ready to train people who want to change their lives or people who need a challenge to mix things up and keep life interesting.”
He also has found time to start up the Muay Thai Muppets with good friend and professional Muay Thai boxer Jason Woodham.