On January 1, 2020, Dubai resident Mia Andersson set herself a resolution that walks (or should we say runs?) the line between fitness and discipline – two undeniably interrelated concepts. The Swede decided she would run for 10 kilometres on every single day of what would turn out to be a particularly challenging year.
On Thursday, December 31, Andersson, who is a coach at BR Performance Studios, took herself down to Kite Beach at 7am and completed her 366th run for this leap year. She tells The National what it meant to her, physically and mentally.
Why did you take up this challenge?
Sport and performance push you to explore yourself even more, so I wanted to challenge myself with something different when 2020 started. Plus, I really enjoy running and all the endless benefits it comes with.
What are some of these benefits of running?
For me, running allows me to experience nature, feel resilient and disconnect. I can reflect or clear my mind, and put problems into perspective. Running is my therapist, my punching bag; it can also be social and has a community connection. On another level, I can enjoy my food even more, and I just love when you achieve “flow”, and forget about everything else but running. It always feels good afterwards.
How can people motivate themselves to exercise so they can experience this inevitable post-workout thrill?
It takes a strong mind to stick to something new, so it’s important to set goals, to find an activity you like, to make it work with other commitments, and to persevere for three months. Once you practise and start enjoying yourself, it will become part of your lifestyle, something that you cannot do without. I also think it is important to find an exercise or a sport that you enjoy so you look forward to it, and so it’s not a chore. For me, it’s running in the morning, when I’m more focused, full of endorphins, productive, and my body feels balanced. For someone else, it might be biking.
Do you think fitness discipline brings more mindfulness to other aspects of one’s life?
Yes absolutely, it adds structure and routine, and is a goal-oriented approach that’s very much transferable into other areas of life and business. Sure, [running 10km in one day is doable for a relatively fit person], but it’s about resilience and perseverance. And doing that distance every day does add up to qualify for a run streak; most people would run a mile a day, but 10km makes it a challenge for both the body and the mind.
What was the most challenging run you had this year?
To be honest, some runs were hard, others were a pure pleasure. I ran in the cold, heat, humidity and rain. Then there were the runs during lockdown, from wall to wall in my one-bedroom apartment. That was not as enjoyable but, at the same time, it was part of doing a run streak in 2020 and it built mental toughness.
What are some of your favorite running routes in Dubai?
The beach track, Palm boardwalk, along the Dubai Canal, Za’abeel and Dubai Creek, and I also love to get outside the city and do trails like Fossil Rock and the dunes as well as wadis.
What are some other outdoor activities you’ve enjoyed in the UAE?
I am also a triathlete, so I do a lot of open-water swimming, and cycling in Al Qudra, District One, Hatta, Jebel Jais, Jebel Hafeet and Ras Al Khaimah. I’ve tried the longest zipline, fat-biking in the dunes, paddle boarding, hiking, tennis and so much more. Sports are part of my lifestyle, and Dubai has wonderful facilities where we can enjoy outdoor activities for the best part of the year.
Have you set yourself any new challenges for 2021?
Nothing official just yet. I will keep on running, but drop the volume a little to allow my body to recover and do some more trail running and triathlons in preparation for the 70.3 Ironman World Championship in Taupo 2022, which I qualified for last year before it was postponed.
Exercise aside, what are some other lifestyle choices you stick by?
Balance, for body and soul - so work out hard and recover well. I have never dieted, but I try to be healthy for six days a week and indulge on one day. It’s the Swedish way, "Saturdays are sweet days", but in the UAE, my indulgent day is Friday in line with our weekends.