Famish Musthafa found that running a grocery store left him with little time to stay in shape.
In his first six months working as a shopkeeper at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, he put on five kilograms.
Serving customers from morning until night did not seem a recipe to stay fit and healthy.
“My weight went up from 65kg to 70,” said the 28-year-old from Kerala, India.
“I barely have a day off once a month, and I work from 9am to 9pm, so I don’t really have time and energy to train after work.”
But he soon found the answer to his problems – at his workplace.
“I would like to go to a gym and train properly, but I don’t have the time or means to do that," he said.
But an opportunity to “combine work with exercise” soon presented itself.
“I noticed members of the gym upstairs going down to run loops around the blue chairs in front of my shop. They do many loops between their exercises," Mr Musthafa said.
“So I thought I could do the same, it is a 100 metres distance and right in front of my shop, I do as many rounds as I can when the shop is not busy.”
After seeing the results of the past four weeks, he said he was motivated to run more.
Getting back on track
In his jeans, work-shirt and old running shoes, Mr Musthafa started making an appearance on the terminal’s improvised running track about a month ago.
His hard work was noticed by Noura Al Dhaheri, managing director of the terminal.
“Then Ms Noura noticed what I was doing and she started motivating me, every time she saw me running she clapped and gave me a thumbs-up.”
Ms Al Dhaheri said she was happy to see people use the space at the terminal to keep fit.
“I have been keen on making the terminal a fitness hub for the community, and not just a place for passengers to pass through.”
A few years ago, Ms Al Dhaheri invited a fitness community group to hold their boot camp sessions at the terminal, free of charge.
The group trained there for months before Covid-19 hit and people were asked to stay at home.
That same group was offered the chance to rent the space on the terminal’s upper floor for their own gym, which opened last September.
This gym would later inspire Mr Musthafa to take up running.
For the past four weeks, Mr Musthafa has made it a habit to run every afternoon between eight and 10 laps around the blue chairs, twice.
“It was perfect for me because if any customer comes I can just run back into the shop,” he said.
When The National met Mr Musthafa this week, he got on the scales for the first time since he started running, and weighed in at 66.9kg.
"I am saving for new running shoes, and I just want to be fitter and stronger."
He said he noticed the difference exercise has made in his life not just on the scale, but also at work.
“I feel happier and I interact better with the customers.”
Strides towards a healthy future
Determined to help him move a step further, Ms Al Dhaheri spoke to the owners of the gym at the terminal to offer the aspiring new athlete complimentary training.
“The gym gave me a one-month free pass and new running shoes, so I don’t have to save for that any more,” he said after the gesture.
Mr Musthafa now arrives at work an hour early to hit the gym for functional training and proper running drills.
“I also asked my older brother, who works in Mussaffah, to buy me a bike so I can cycle to work,” he said.
“I used to cycle in Kerala as a means of transportation so I am used to it.
“I want to combine work with workout whenever possible.”