Dubai mother fully charged for fitness

Mariam Hareb, an Emirati serial entrepreneur, juggles home and three enterprises, including a fitness studio.
Mariam Hareb brought the German brand Speed-Fit to Dubai in May last year. Lee Hoagland / The National
Mariam Hareb brought the German brand Speed-Fit to Dubai in May last year. Lee Hoagland / The National

Mariam Hareb first got charged up about electrical muscle stimulation therapy during a ticklish encounter with the high-tech exercise in a studio in Germany,

The slow build-up of resistance in her muscles was enough for the 35-year-old Emirati fitness enthusiast to know she was on to a winner with the system of pads placed on her body that pass on electric impulses to muscle groups.

A decade later, she helped bring the fitness regime to Dubai from Germany under a franchise agreement in one of her many business ventures.

She even signed up her family and friends for the new fitness system.

Growing up in Dubai, Ms Hareb had been a regular horse rider, was in the national team and did showjumping, one of the most popular of the equestrian sports.

“I used to walk or bike to the university and used to pass this small studio,” Ms Hareb says of her days in the German university town of Aachen where she studied mechanical engineering until 2003.

After a trial session, she wanted to do it again.

“It first felt ticklish, and I felt cramping up of my muscles,” she says. “Eventually it strengthens the core muscles and the back.”

In May last year she brought the German brand Speed-Fit to Dubai as a franchise under Next Generation Training Clubs, which she had founded the previous year.

Ms Hareb’s Speed-Fit studios in Business Bay and Jumeirah are among a growing number of fitness centres in Dubai. A sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices are taking a toll on the girths of many, fuelling demand.

To regulate the industry, the Dubai Sports Council last year required all physical trainers to undergo an accreditation test, and formed a public register, Reps UAE, which recognises the qualifications of fitness professionals. It encompasses group fitness, personal training, Pilates and yoga.

Ms Hareb’s training studio is open to all, but she points out that this form of exercise is not meant for people with pacemakers, pregnant women and those with epilepsy.

People who come to her studio age from about 16 to 70.

“When I went for it for the first time, I was 22 years old,” says the Speed-Fit UAE chief executive.

A 15-minute session costs Dh224.

The new community mall where her first studio was based might have a quiet look on weekday mornings, but a steady stream of customers soon led to a bigger investment. A new studio in Business Bay opened this month, and combines physical training with nutritional training.

The Jumeirah studio has 200 members, but at any one time it can accommodate about 60 people. The new studio has a capacity of 1,000. Together, the two studios have taken in an investment of Dh2 million. While the existing studio employs 10 people, including herself, the new one needs 15 people.

“For me, it’s more about defining my body, especially as I enjoy my food,” she says.

And the serial entrepreneur likes to have her own time.

Speed-Fit is among the three companies she runs, including the three-year-old Glucona Biomed General Trading, which supplies medical devices to Arabian Gulf and Middle East and North Africa markets, and eight-year-old Emirates Business Consulting, which supports entrepreneurs looking to enter the UAE market.

She is also a full-time government employee.

For the busy mother of a four-year-old son, it all comes down to time management.

Her day starts at 5am with 30 minutes of swimming or jogging. Her son, who has his own busy schedule with nursery, Arabic classes and swimming and football lessons, usually leaves home with her after breakfast and comes home at the same time as his mother at about 6pm.

“I bathe him, have conversations with him, have dinner together, and I put him to bed,” she says.

Later there is time for follow-up phone calls and catching up with work.

The schedule shows no letting up, as Ms Hareb expects to continue with her government job and enter Abu Dhabi and Sharjah with Speed-Fit in two to three years.

“There are no plans to exit any of the companies,” she says. “Everything needs time and I want to grow them.”

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Published: December 29, 2014 04:00 AM


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