How I went from being overweight and inactive to Olympic triathlon hopeful

My journey might sound incredible, but I began it with a single step in the right direction.

The Egyptian athlete Omar Nour, who found his calling in triathlon, which he balances as passion and business in one. Silvia Razgova / The National
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Sometimes when you look back on life-changing moments, you find yourself asking: “How did I ever have the courage to start?” For me, when I look back at my life as a 29-year-old, I see an unhealthy, overweight, inactive businessman with a lot of bad habits. After ripping through not one but two pairs of trousers, I was politely warned that something needed to change. That was my start.

Making the leap from that place to now – a professional athlete with my eyes set on becoming the first Egyptian triathlete to compete at the Olympics – may seem insurmountable. But I promise you, it was pretty simple and began with a single step in the right direction. It was the small changes that led me to seeing immediate, real results, which fanned the flames of courage and confidence to push on and set higher goals.

Now that I’m training as a full-time triathlete, gunning for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, my regime is pretty intense – sometimes up to eight hours a day – kicking off with a 5am visit to the pool. But being healthy and active doesn’t always mean you have to go from one extreme to the other and make huge life changes like I did. It starts as a daily practice of making better choices and moving your body. For example, choose oatmeal over a sugary breakfast cereal; or get out and walk for 30 minutes once or twice a day instead of going for a coffee or watching TV. These are simple decisions that don’t require a huge input of time, money or effort, but have hugely positive effects. Go out and get active. Start. Today. Now! There really is no better time.

I joined forces with the national health insurance company Daman’s ActiveLife initiative two years ago because I love what ActiveLife is doing in the community. Each year I’ve worked with it, it continues to grow in community events that get people active, from walking, running and triathlon events to swimming events.

The wildest and craziest thrill is at The Color Run, presented by ActiveLife in Abu Dhabi, which is coming back to Yas Marina Circuit on March 27 – and who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? The Color Run is an untimed five-kilometre fun run where you get covered in coloured powder at every kilometre. It is not about breaking your personal best – it’s all about a colour-crazy day with friends and family, and realising that being active can be fun. You can run, walk, crawl, even cartwheel if you wish … and I plan to do them all. Rumour has it, The Color Run’s dance party – Finish Festival – will feature glitter and fluorescent colour this year, which is sure to get you on your feet and having the time of your life. I can’t wait to see you out there.

Bottom line: You have one life to live – you better make it the best it can be.

Omar Nour is a UAE-based professional triathlete training for the 2016 Olympics.