Waiter takes a million steps to better health

Burj Al Arab staff member would hit the treadmill three times a day, in addition to working his restaurant shift.

Filipino Ricarte Ricardo, 36, logged almost two million steps in our month-long #startwalking challenge. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // A restaurant waiter who was encouraged to sign up to The National's inaugural #startwalking challenge by his sister, clocked up more steps than any other entrant.

Self-confessed fitness enthusiast Ricarte Ricardo Jr took part in the month-long competition to push himself against other like-minded individuals.

“I was shocked when I was told that I had won the competition because I only entered after my sister told me about it and never expected to get so far,” said the 36-year-old from the Philippines.

“I’m really happy that I won because I put in a lot of effort over the last few weeks.”

Mr Ricardo works the night shift at the Sahn Eddar restaurant in the Burj Al Arab, from 5pm to 3am. But that did not stop him from organising a fitness routine around work hours.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said. “There is a lot of walking involved in my job... and on average I would take about 30,000 steps during work alone.”

At the end of the shift he would head straight home to his apartment in Al Quoz, where he would hit the treadmill in the gym.

Then it would be food and bed until 11am the next morning, when he would hit the gym again for a couple of hours before a break and then the gym a third time before he returned to work.

The result of all this was 1.893 million steps logged in a month.

“I must admit this challenge was very tough, because you can see how many steps other people were taking and then it was a case of hitting the treadmill to make up the difference,” he said.

Usually he would give himself a day off from working out each week but that was not possible during the competition.

“To be able to keep up with the competition I had no choice but to really hit the treadmill, even on my off days,” he said.

“I would easily do at least 90,000 steps on these days.

“I’m a competitive person anyway and, although it was hard, the challenge was a real inspiration for me to do my best.”

That hard work and determination to keep fit has rubbed off on some of his work colleagues.

“Some of them asked my for advice and a few even ended up training with me,” Mr Ricardo said.

“It’s really important that people do regular exercise and I would encourage more people to do it.

“You don’t have to spend hours in the gym, even walking to the shops instead of driving would be beneficial.”

The #startwalking challenge encouraged people with a fitness tracker (Fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit or Withings) to register for the competition.

The aim was to take at least 10,000 steps a day and compete against others who had also signed up.

Each day people could check their progress in an online ranking system and compare themselves with the rest of their competitors.

It is also part of The National's #healthyliving campaign. The competition, run by Get Fit Arabia, offered a prize of Dh10,000 in shopping vouchers to the person who took the most steps.