We at The National take wellness seriously. But our idea of healthy living has nothing to do with hitting the gym a certain number of times a week, knowing our BMI numbers or being a certain size. It's all about finding something we enjoy, having fun while keeping at it and eating smart. Stumped on what options you have? Read on as our staff share their favourite activities and health tips. You never know, it might get you moving in a whole new direction.
Michael Jabri-Pickett, from Canada, is the news editor
Preferred activity: Hockey, but most people in this country would call it ice hockey. I play primarily in Dubai, but my Emirates Hockey League team – the Dubai Mighty Camels – also has games in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. I started playing in the UAE shortly after I arrived in 2003; but I started playing in Canada when I was 5 years old. I love the competition and the camaraderie – hanging out with the boys, the tournaments, the travel.
Preferred workout gear: Vaughn goalie equipment. After decades of playing, you come to expect a certain quality and I have found that with Vaughn. I do, however, wear a Hackva goalie mask.
Health tip: I do off-ice training at least three or four times a week – trips to the gym are essential, especially as I get older. At 47, I need every edge I can get.
Favourite healthy dish: Grilled salmon and green beans with nuts.
Ashley Lane, from the United States, is the assistant features editor for The National's magazine division
Preferred activity: I do plyometrics mixed with circuit training and cardio two to four times a week. I used to run quite a bit, but since moving to the UAE I've found it more difficult due to the climate and construction works. I started working out when I was 19 – I was sick of being the "fat friend" so decided to make a change. I love the way I feel after a workout – it gives me a natural high.
Favourite workout gear: I tend to buy Nike products, although I was an avid Asics wearer for the longest time. I love a good pair of funky-coloured printed tights with a vest and always a decent pair of trainers.
Health tip: Read the labels – know what is in your food and where it comes from.
Favourite healthy dish: Quinoa with goat's cheese and fresh beetroot.
Michael Barnard, from the United Kingdom, is the chief sub-editor on the business desk
Preferred activity: I go running up to five times a week, but I also enjoy cycling and generally working out. Sometimes I cycle along the Corniche but for me, a bike journey has to have a purpose beyond just exercising. I use my bike for grocery shopping and commuting to work.
Favourite workout brand: I'm a fan of Adidas running shoes. I have tried other brands, but always come back to Adidas.
Health tips: Sleep the right amount, exercise regularly, eat and drink right (personally I don't eat meat, but I do eat seafood) and the rest falls into place.
Favourite healthy dish: Fish with salad and a grain like quinoa, or Mexican fare heavy on the guacamole.
Christopher Pike, from Canada / Trinidad and Tobago, is a photographer at The National
Preferred activity: Rock climbing. I train at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, at a friend's house in Al Reef, Rock Republic in Dubai Investment Park and at home. Outdoors, I go climbing in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Musandam, Buraimi and Oman in the Hajar Mountains. I started climbing in Canada in 2009 and I train two to three times a week. Most weekends I'm out in a wadi or on a mountainside somewhere. I also enjoy technical scuba diving and go to Fujairah for training, then Florida, Mexico, Thailand and France for cave diving. I started in Belize in 2001 and try to be in the water a minimum of four times a month. I started caving in 2001 by learning rope access in Dubai. My caving team usually gets out once a month and I enjoy going to Oman, France and Belgium. What I love about all of it is going to places that humans aren't supposed to go, seeing something out of the ordinary and pushing my personal limits far beyond what I ever thought possible.
Health tip: Find something you love to do and do it. Being healthy is much more than going to the gym.
Ann Marie McQueen, from Canada, is the editor of The National’s Arts&Life
Preferred activity: My go-to combo is spinning/RPM and yoga. This combination works well for me: I need the high-intensity cardio workout to keep weight off (it really is much harder after 40) and to get the blood pumping.
I like the grounding and stretching aspects of yoga; it helps me to be more limber, toned, centred, calm, connected and creative. I like to do three spinning classes per week and three yoga classes. My favourite place to spin is The Cycling Room at Zayed Sports City. For yoga, I love Jennifer Stewart’s classes on Wednesday nights at Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa.
In August I decided to try a Bikram yoga challenge to see how often I could do it and to lose a little weight. I did 25 classes over 33 days and dropped the easiest 5 kilograms of my life. Bikram isn’t my favourite type of yoga – it’s always the same 26 poses and the teachers are strict – and it isn’t for everyone, but it is good for weight loss. Those classes are being held in Abu Dhabi at Al Raha Beach Hotel until Tasha Hawkins and Peter Meiring open their new studio Hot House Health and Fitness Club in Al Zeina.
Health tip: If I don't exercise, I can get quite anxious and moody. So even when my body is tired or my schedule is packed, I know that working out has to take priority, otherwise I won't cope very well or be very nice. So I always say to my lazy self: "Do it for your mind."
Favourite healthy dish: I am a huge fan of soup and I make it all the time. It's a great way to pack vegetables into your diet. You have to slow down to eat it so it promotes mindfulness and it's very comforting – to make and to eat. I love experimenting: black bean, pumpkin/curry/coconut milk, broccoli and white bean, tomato. It might seem weird to eat so much soup in a hot climate, but it's always freezing at work.
Justin Sanak, from the US, is a production journalist on The National’s business desk
Favourite workout: I'm a long-distance triathlete. I've raced several half-iron-distance triathlons and am gearing up for the Dubai and Bahrain 70.3 races (half-iron distance) in November and December. I also am planning on doing my first Ironman in May next year – the goal is to do one before I turn 25. I train with one of the local tri clubs in Abu Dhabi (ONEndurance), and it's a great feeling to help each other get better during our workouts. And during a long-distance race there's a spirit of camaraderie among the competitors, as the clock is our common enemy. But at the same time, the only one responsible for my success – or failure – is me. This keeps me honest, as I can't blame my teammates if I have a bad performance. And it means that when I crush my personal record, I don't have to share the bragging rights with anyone else.
Triathlons are a tech-heavy sport – especially for the bike part, which is my favourite discipline. I’d say the one thing I can’t do without, though, is my Garmin multisport GPS watch (Garmin 310XT, though there are later models available). It keeps track of my data for all three disciplines and displays different things during each leg of the race. The heart-rate data it tells me is invaluable, as it gives me an objective way to tell when to push harder and when to back off. That’s important in an event that can last six or more hours. When I finish a workout or a race, I can upload everything to Garmin’s Connect website and compare it to my past performances. Everything gets synced to apps like Strava or Runkeeper just because my friends have pressured me into it, but I don’t often check those. If I have a brag-worthy workout or interesting story, though, I’ll share the link on Facebook, where everyone can see a map of where I went and how hard I worked.
Health tips: Plenty of other people talk about how to gain or lose weight. But once you get close to how you want your body to look, you should concentrate on something more important: what you can do with it. The numbers on your scale or inside your jeans don't matter nearly as much as the ones on the weights you lift or the clock you try to beat. Give yourself a goal that doesn't relate to your appearance and you'll find that you'll have more fun doing it. I don't consider myself a fitness freak – just a guy who never grew out of riding his bike.
Melanie Swan, from the UK, is a news writer for The National
Preferred activity: I mix up my regime with weight training four times a week and yoga three to four times a week, then in between I add fun activities like salsa dancing. I have been doing regular weight training for nearly two years and I love it, as there is nothing more empowering than being strong. I have been practising yoga for around seven years and for me it is like a moving meditation. It's so good for the body, mind and soul. My teachers are both at Zen Yoga in Dubai but I also have a personal home practice I do alone. Yoga and training for me are stress relievers, in different ways, but especially during the tough times in life, as being in the gym or on my yoga mat is the one place where I can leave my troubles at the door. When I lost my mum three-and-a-half years ago, boxing and yoga were the two things that really kept me sane and strengthened me from the inside.
Health tip: Health is more important than how you look. Patience and consistency are the only ways to get the results you want and the only way to ensure you remain consistent is by having fun. Choose activities you enjoy – ideally, in a fun, social environment, either in a group or with a workout buddy. I really hate to see people doing fad "quick-fix" diets as this isn't sustainable. Change must be a lifestyle change, a healthy way of eating for life, not a diet for a few weeks, which often end up with people feeling miserable and deprived, then putting the weight back on when they come off the diet. So much of our health is about nutrition and people really underestimate the power of food.
Best place for a healthy meal: In Dubai, there are more and more healthy options but Kcal is my cafe of choice, as well as being great for home delivery.