How Red Bull's Shaikha Al Qassemi added a little exercise to get in top shape

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CrossFit for life: How small changes can make a big difference

As part of her passionate endeavour to embrace a fitter, healthier and balanced lifestyle, Red Bull athlete Shaikha Al Qassemi shares her advice to take you a step closer to living better.

In CrossFit, we always emphasise getting your body moving – carrying, lifting, throwing, pulling, pushing, stepping and squatting. These are movements that we used to utilise daily, but have decreased in our everyday lives as we now spend more and more time sitting down. We eat sat down, we commute to work and sit at our desks for hours then drive home sat in our cars.

I recently read about how sitting for too long can lead to heart problems. Studies have shown that instead of sitting on chairs,  being sat on the floor improves posture and mobility in the hips, knees and ankles. Research also shows people who spend more than eight hours a day sat down are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or a stroke.

Red Bull athlete: Shaikha Al Qassemi

Red Bull athlete: Shaikha Al Qassemi

It’s important to ensure you walk, stretch and move if you’re spending most of your day sat working at your desk. Get in the habit of setting an alarm and walking for two minutes every half an hour to keep your blood circulating and if you have space to stretch then I recommend you do that as well.

Training in the gym for an hour will not reduce the health risks if you go back to sitting on the sofa when you’re done. Walking will help keep your blood circulating, and keep your digestive system healthy as well as your heart. During the week, walk to get your lunch instead of ordering it and if you take food to work with you move to a different area, or eat standing up to get your blood flowing.

At weekends, add exercise to your day instead of spending time watching Netflix. Gather a group of friends, buy a ball or Frisbee and meet at the beach for some activities and get some Vitamin D in the process. With summer just around the corner, take the opportunity to walk in the early morning or in the evening. Take stairs instead of escalators and park a little bit further from work than usual.

It may be overwhelming to fit all this in to begin with but a little does go a long way. Take more steps than usual and track it to see your improvements throughout the week. You’ll feel the benefits in no time.

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CrossFit might be gruelling but can be the start of a new you says Red Bull athlete

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Life-changing: Red Bull's Shaikha Al Qassemi

As part of her passionate endeavour to embrace a fitter, healthier and balanced lifestyle, Red Bull athlete Shaikha Al Qassemi shares her advice to take you a step closer to living better.

In 2014, I got my first job in CrossFit as a part-time coach for ladies classes in Altitude, Sharjah. In the first month of coaching, some classes would have just one attendee and most of the time classes were cancelled.

However, within a few months, the classes started to grow into a thriving community of students, working ladies and mothers. In my experience, commercial gyms and personal trainers didn’t give me sufficient guidance when it comes to nutrition, recovery or the importance of sleep.

I’ve always said that people lose sight of what CrossFit truly is because of its competitive nature. Fitness is about improving your physical, mental and emotional health. For me, the benefits of training mentally outweigh physical results. The ladies in the gym would always emphasize improvements to their mental and emotional health as well as their energy levels and quality of sleep.

Mental strength: Fitness is more than physical results

Mental strength: Fitness is more than physical results

Many of us have a busy work and social life with little time to mindfully change our eating and resting habits. Many don’t take into consideration how important food and sleep is for the mind and body. Your quality of sleep improves with exercise, as it lowers stress-levels throughout the day, especially if you start your mornings with exercise. The brain also functions better when your stress-levels are low.

The psychological benefits of training also include gaining confidence, reducing anxiety and improving your well-being and mood. Exercise and physical activity help improve mental health, cognitive skills and helps you to focus.

I sat down with some of the girls that I could at my gym and wanted them to reflect on how CrossFit has made such an improvement in their day-to-day lives. I have always said that people lose sight of what CrossFit truly is because of its competitive nature. Fitness is about improving your physical, mental and emotional health.

Sukaina, a 40-year-old thyroid patient and a mother of three started her CrossFit journey in August and now trains five times a week. “CrossFit means everything to me, it has changed my life completely,” she says passionately. “I am calmer, more aware of the food I eat, more confident and CrossFit has changed my mindset. I have also lost 10kgs having cut out sugar.”

Anne, a 34-year-old housewife and mother, who trains six times a week, started her CrossFit journey in June. “CrossFit has enabled me to change my lifestyle completely, it’s all about the supportive community. It continuously breaks personal limits that I set myself.” She says, “I have started to eat better and eat more. I’ve seen a big improvement in my sleep, movement and stress levels. I feel lighter, healthier and more relaxed than ever”.

23-year-old Afra has a full-time job but has never skips a week of training. Since 2016 she’s been coming to Platform four times a week. “To me, CrossFit means community, support, challenge and competitiveness. It helps you to quickly learn, challenge yourself and try new things. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, I am more confident, social, outgoing and physically stronger”, she says. “It has changed my mood, improved my sleep pattern and I spend my day looking forward to the class”.

CrossFit is one of the best ways to kick start your fitness journey due to the positive and supportive community. The gym thrives on support and encouragement. I found a purpose in one of the lowest moments in my life, when I felt lost, confused, depressed and unhappy with where my life was going.

When I began training consistently, I noticed both my focus and learning improved drastically in comparison to when I was studying in university. So begin your journey and let’s get physical to improve our quality of life together.

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Three UAE fitness events to look forward to in April and May

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Are you competing in any fitness events in April and May?

Here’s our top three to get involved in!

WADI ADVENTURE RACE 

Saturday, April 21

The popular Wadi Adventure Race returns this month where athletes will be pushed to the limits in a gruelling obstacle course.

Since its debut in 2012, the race has gone from strength to strength, and organisers are expecting another strong turnout this month for what will be the seventh edition overall.

Competitors will have to overcome a 5k, 10k and 15k obstacle course where they will crawl, run, carry, swim, swing and climb their way to the finish line.

TIME: From 8am
MORE INFO: Wadi Adventure Race

AL WATHBA DUATHLON 
Saturday, April 28

The last race of the series will be held at the Al Wathba Cycle Park, bringing athletes of different disciplines onto the same playing field.

Whether you’re a cyclist, duathlete or triathlete, the race is suited to your abilities with a run/bike/run format.

Competitors can take part in either teams of two or solo and you can be in as many of the events as you want.

TIME: From 7.10am
MORE INFO: Al Wathba Duathlon

URBAN-ULTRA KALBA HILLS CYCLE CHALLENGE
Friday, May 4

Challenge yourself on the beautiful lagoons of Kalba, Sharjah and through the surrounding Kalba Hills with a spectacular coastal descent – 70km elite or 37km along smooth tarmac roads.

It is a tough challenge and requires training, with riders asked to reach the finish no later than 9am for 70k and 7.30am for 37km.

Riders who are competing in the 70k must finish first loop no later than 7.15am.

TIME: From 6am
MORE INFO: Urban-Ultra Kalba Hills Cycle Challenge

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