Paths to put you back on your feet

The newly renovated walking tracks that runs close to the hustle and bustle of Salam Street has become a popular outdoor gym for the health conscious.

Abdalla Al Baloushi had a car accident three years ago, which left both of his legs paralyzed. Today, he is among the active runners at the newest recreational track in Salam Street. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National.
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It is difficult to believe that the fit, healthy 35-year-old running along Abu Dhabi’s newest recreational track had been told in 2011 that he would never walk again.

When a car accident left both of his legs paralysed for several months and doctors gave him their grim prognosis, Abdalla Al Baloushi embarked on his own rehabilitation, focused on one intangible factor: “willpower”.

“After the accident I renovated my room, filling it with exercise tools,” says Abdalla, an Emirati father of four. “I would exercise at the hospital in the morning and resume it at home.”

His progression to a walking stick was quite an achievement, but not one with which he would ever have been satisfied.

Originally from Khor Fakkan, Abdalla would walk through the waves and sand on visits home, to strengthen his muscles.

“My doctors were amazed at my sudden improvement. After six months, I bade farewell to the stick,” he says.

For 17 years Abdalla has always made time for exercise, making sure he gets outdoors for at least an hour and a half, three days a week.

The new track, running more than 3 kilometres along Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street, from Al Saada Street to Dhafeer Street, suits his and other users’ needs perfectly.

And there are plenty from many nationalities using it – families, groups of men, couples, and women with children.

The track’s two paths run along formerly unused land, which has now also been landscaped with native plants.

In the evening the setting sun reflects off the sea and skyscrapers, and there is a clear view across to the Eastern Mangroves, as long as you ignore the eight-lane motorway in between.

Some use the paths, one green and one with square paving stones, to jog while others prefer a more leisurely stroll or exercise in the shade of a tree.

Abdalla, a former coach at Abu Dhabi Police College, knows the advantages and disadvantages of both paths, and chooses to run on the green.

Of the paving stones, he explains: “Walking on this track is not healthy for you as they are not smooth. You will get tired easily.”

Before resuming his run, Abdalla offers a tip for exercising through the summer: start your workout from 6pm to 7pm, as “this is the best time to get Vitamin D”, while avoiding the excessive heat.

Also using the track on this evening is Jeff Ord, 65, who lives near Abu Dhabi Golf Club off the island.

Offering an “Asalamu Alikum”, Jeff explains he usually runs on Saadiyat Island or the Corniche.

Coming from the UK, he is used to fluctuating weather patterns but loves the heat.

“I came here seven years ago. The facility is getting better and better year on year,” says Jeff.

He prefers the paved path for running. “The green track is closer to the road. This path is safer.”

Exercising means different things to different people. For Jeff it means solitude. After a hectic day at work, being alone releases all of his stress.

The beautiful scenery, the light breeze from the sea and the natural setting rejuvenate his mind and body, he says.

As the sun turns red, sisters Maha and Nouf Al Qubaisi, both students at Zayed University, arrive at the paths, busily discussing their daily issues.

The sisters, who live close by, say they like to walk for one hour on the path to free their minds from distractions. “We exercise for fun and fitness. As for the weather, we just ignore it,” says Nouf.

If they have a problem with the new path, it is that it is so close to the busy traffic on Sheikh Zayed Street. But they praise the beauty of the area.

Also on the track is Indian couple Saba Afroz and Shamshad Abahadur, who live nearby. After work, they spend about 40 minutes just walking.

“We were planning to move to another area but didn’t feel comfortable,” Shamshad says. “Many people think that these two tracks are only for people residing in the Mangroves, but it’s for the public.”

The walk also gives him precious time to catch up with his wife.

With Ramadan just around the corner, and despite the possibility that many people will take a break from exercising for a month, the couple have set their schedule. “We also walk in Ramadan but after the night prayer,” Shamshad says.

As with Jeff, weather is not an issue for the couple. They just enjoy the health benefits from exercising, and the chance to socialise with other people.