Getting into shape can be an uphill battle for most of us. But as the returning Yas Fitness Festival is out to prove, by finding a workout you love and surrounding yourself with positive people, you can kickstart a healthier life.
If you’re wondering how big the UAE’s obesity problem is, consider this thought: an article published by the Gazette Review in June this year ranked the country number six among the top fattest countries in the world.
What’s more, figures have shown that at least 70 percent of men and 67 percent of women aged 15 years and above are overweight in the UAE.
Tracing the root of the problem is not at all difficult.
A survey by the World Health Organization revealed that 41 percent of residents were not getting enough weekly exercise due to various reasons.
This fact combined with our over-consumption of junk food and dependence on gadgets has made the population susceptible to weight gain along with its accompanying health diseases.
Call to action
Doing its part to instil positive changes, the annual Yas Fitness Festival is back to help people of all ages take on a healthier lifestyle through exercise and diet.
Taking place on 16th and 17th November, the event see a series of pop-up activities and activations revolving around everything to do with health, fitness and wellbeing.
Whether you’re a regular gym-goer or are trying to find your fitness feet, people of all levels are welcome.
When you’re new to fitness, or work out regularly but have hit a plateau, it’s important to know what types of exercise suit you and what you enjoy most, to encourage you to stick with it.
That’s exactly what Yas Fitness Festival is all about: Spreading awareness that there is a workout programme and routine suited for everyone to engage in and enjoy.
Curious to try the trendiest workout programmes around? Then sign up to the fitness classes, including yoga, Zumba, Jump Fit, Viva Fit, Body Pump, Body Attack and Shabam.
Get those muscles pumping at the 800 Sports Outdoor Gym. Here, you can get your hands on modern training equipment and pick the brains of qualified instructors for some workout tips.
Meanwhile, fight fans can step inside the ring provided by Primal Gym to participate in boxing and MMA sessions happening throughout the weekend.
It may sound deceptive, but the bootcamp inflatable obstacle course provides a serious challenge with its series of hurdles, hoops and slides for brave competitors to conquer.
In between classes, you can refuel at one of the food trucks serving nutritious snacks, or venture to the healthy living pavilion to purchase food and sports apparel.
Give your kitchen skills a fresh twist by joining the Slim & Lite Healthy Cooking Challenge to learn how to whip up flavourful, nutritious and simple meals.
Expert nutritionists are also on hand to offer helpful pointers. Youngsters won’t be left out either, with arts and crafts and face painting activities at the Splash n Party Kids Zone.
There’s also a 12-metre high climbing wall for the mini daredevils.
Strength in numbers
Jumpstarting a healthy lifestyle can be daunting, which is why it’s vital to have professionals and experts available for you to seek advice from.
Gracing this year’s Yas Fitness Festival are instructor and body composition coach Jeremy Gwyer; renowned yoga instructor, author and nutrition expert Julie Montagu; holistic fitness and health coach Jelena Petelinkar; and Kuwaiti CrossFit athlete and instructor Haya Alsharhan.
For Julie, adopting a fit lifestyle takes time and patience, so it’s important to take baby steps, and understand that even the slightest change can produce positive results.
“I certainly wasn’t health conscious when I was growing up in the US. Back then, processed foods were novelties! And to be honest, I loved my Diet Coke, Doritos and Lucky Charms cereal,” she laughs.
“We just didn’t know the harmful of effects of these processed foods. It wasn’t until studies started showing that processed foods are not good for you, that I then re-evaluated my health, what I was eating and how I was moving.”
Julie fell in love with yoga and for years has been championing the practice along with promoting the importance of eating healthily to achieve total wellness through her books and website.
“Probably the biggest misconception is that you have to be flexible to do yoga. You become flexible by doing yoga,” she points out.
“Secondly, people seem to think that all yoga is slow and possibly a bit boring. There are dynamic classes, power classes, sweaty classes, so be sure to try different styles of yoga to find the one that suits you best. Trust me, you’ll find it.”
She also notes how working out in groups can bring in an element of fun, healthy competition and a sense of belonging.
“I personally prefer to go to a yoga class where other people are. I’ve found some of my best friends in the yoga community,” she explains.
“In this day and age, technology and our devices have a tendency to keep us away from the human touch, the human community. It’s important that we don’t let our devices take over from the community around us. A face-to-face community is more important and more rewarding than a face-to-screen community.”
Julie continues: “Ten years ago, there were only a handful of wellness festivals, now we can find them in every major city and this expansion shows no sign of slowing down.
“I think we all, deep down inside, want to live a healthy, happy life and these types of events can really help to kick start that in the community.”
As the first female CrossFit instructor from Kuwait and one of the few competitive female CrossFit athletes in the region, Haya Alsharhan is a true inspiration.
We chat with the amiable competitor and mother-of-two ahead of her appearance as one of the ambassadors at this year’s Yas Fitness Festival…
The Middle East isn’t exactly the most health-conscious region in the world. How are you helping to change that?
One of my favourite things about my work is introducing someone to fitness. You’ve never worked out? Never been in a gym before? I’ll take care of you.
Watching my clients’ life transform is the most rewarding part of my work. I try my best to spread a positive and encouraging vibe in my social media presence. Showing women, especially mums, that you can make time for fitness.
Why is it important for people to start leading a healthy and fit lifestyle?
Not only will you get physically healthier, fitter and stronger, but also the mental and emotional benefits of physical activity are great.
I’ve become a better person by constantly putting myself in uncomfortable challenges such as a competition or a hard workout, and then coming out successful.
If you make time for fitness and take care of that aspect of your life, it will affect every other part of your life. You’ll be happier, more focused, more energised to take on the challenges of daily life and work.
What’s your advice to people who want to start leading a healthy lifestyle?
Make sure you choose something you enjoy: Fitness should be fun. More importantly, stay consistent. Even if you have a busy week and can only train twice that week, do it.
It’s better than stopping a whole week, which turns into two then a month, then you’re back to where you started and it can be hard to get back into the routine again. The first step is always the hardest. But do it and you won’t regret it!
Need to know:
What: Yas Fitness Festival
When: 16th and 17th November, 11am-8pm
Where: Gateway Park South, Yas Island
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez