One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is getting fit and healthy, and this year, 25 staff from The National made that commitment.
We split them into three groups, based on existing fitness and activity levels, handed them over to the trainers at Haddins Fitness at Zayed Sports City and eagerly awaited the results. We had a drop-out rate of about 25 per cent, which is good considering about 36 per cent of people abandon their resolutions after one month, according to a 2014 report published in the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology.
The results varied, depending on the type of programme, each person’s level of commitment and their own personal goals. Some people wanted to lose weight, others wanted to increase their level of fitness or counteract the negative effects of a sedentary job. But the most important aspect was that everyone was getting healthier, seeing results and having fun (although some may have disagreed with the last point).
The programmes included Haddins’ Primal Transformation, which involved following a paleo diet and completing a detox, a preparation programme and four-week Primal regime before moving on to the daily Workout of the Day (WOD).
Another group attended the WOD sessions five times a week, but were given the freedom to construct their own eating plans, with guidance from dietitian Fatima Sadek, from the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.
The final group, with just three members, trained as part of the Haddins team for the sprint category of the TriYas triathlon at the end of February. They were given dietary advice by nutritionist Stephanie Karl, from JTS Medical Centre in Dubai. Theirs was perhaps the most gruelling of the three programmes and involved daily, if not twice-daily workouts.
Our participants had some great successes. Michael Haddin, managing director of Haddins Fitness, says that corporate fitness programmes, such as the one undertaken by The National, can be extremely effective. “The important thing with making any type of fitness programme successful is that people are having fun and that the programme is easily accessible,” he says. “Being able to train with colleagues and friends is a sure-fire way to ensure you are enjoying your training and continue to come back for more.
“Sharing your colleagues’ pain or success is a very powerful thing and it’s amazing how much fun it can be watching your boss suffer through their hundredth burpee for the day.”
At the start of the eight-week challenge, participants were asked to rate their energy levels on a scale of 1 to 5 – one being sluggish, five being energetic. With the exception of one person – triathlon trainee Ashley Lane, who was already a fitness fanatic – no one rated their energy level above 3. In fact, the average score was 1.88. By the end of the challenge, however, everyone scored 3 or above, with the average being 4.23.
Haddin explains that not only is this an advantage for each individual, but it also benefits the company.
“Besides the improved health and fitness of employees, there are so many other factors that make these programmes tremendous value for companies. The teamwork it builds among participating staff is amazing. Their productivity increases due to the increased energy levels, which is one of the most notable points from the participants in The National Fitness Challenge,” he says.
There was so much chatter about the challenge around the newsroom – mostly about sore muscles and the pain of detox – that non-participating colleagues were starting to feel left out. So much so, in fact, that a number have now joined Haddins and are training alongside 16 of the original Fitness Challenge participants.
Weight loss wasn’t the only goal of the programme, but for some it was a huge motivator. Deputy sports editor Graham Caygill lost a whopping 12 kilograms, while deputy art director April Robinson lost 10kg. The average weight loss across the group was 3.6kg – that’s the equivalent of a medium-sized watermelon.
Losing centimetres and gaining muscle mass was also a key aspect. Robinson lost 8cm from her hips – that’s 1cm per week – while news designer Regan McTarsney was hot on her heels, losing 6cm. The average for the group was close to 3cm each.
There were also great gains (or losses depending on which way you look at it) in waist circumference. The average loss was 4.3cm, which is roughly the difference between women’s dress sizes, although McTarsney lost 11cm and food writer Stacie Overton Johnson lost 8.5cm.
The Fitness Challenge may now be over, but the biggest achievement has been getting our newsroom staff more active and having them commit to a healthier lifestyle. And for that, they deserve a pat on the back. It’s all too easy after a hard day’s work to go home, order takeaway and watch TV, but our challenge has shown that all it takes to turn a fitness corner is a little bit of commitment, a lot of fun and a steer in the right direction.