DUBAI // Shaikha Nasser is among a handful of young Emiratis who are making a name for themselves in health and fitness.
The 30-year-old qualified as a fitness instructor last year and juggles teaching keep-fit classes in the morning and evening with her full-time job working in IT in a government department.
It is a hectic and sometimes tiring daily schedule, but she would not have it any other way.
“I started to go to the gym because my aunt sent me a dress but it wouldn’t fit me,” said Ms Nasser. “My sister was saying she wanted it because it would never fit me.
“I said I’d change my body to fit into the dress and I went to the gym every single day. I never felt the need to take rest because to me it was so fun.
“After six months, I opened my wardrobe and it was like the dress was talking to me. I tried it on and it fitted perfectly.”
Ms Nasser said she loved the Body Pump weight training and Body Combat martial arts-style cardio classes she attended so much that her instructor eventually encouraged her to become a trainer.
“Being on stage inspiring people is an amazing feeling,” she said. “I never thought it would feel this way.”
Her change in lifestyle also prompted a change in personality. Once shy and reserved, she now has more confidence, so much so that her close friends and family can hardly believe she regularly steps on stage and puts a packed class of men and women through their paces.
“Fitness has changed me 100 per cent and I feel the inside now matches what’s on the outside,” she said.
“If my manager asked me to do some public speaking in the past I would have been so nervous before and I would mess it up. But now I can do it with confidence, so it’s amazing how this has really transformed me.”
Despite her success, she has faced some resistance.
“One Emirati man said it was embarrassing to have a woman going to the gym, but other than that it’s been all supportive. I said, ‘what’s more embarrassing, going to the gym or sitting at home being overweight and unhealthy?’”
Her message to anyone planning to get fit in the new year is to make any work-out routine and changes to their lifestyle fun.
“Many women feel forced to go to the gym so I tell them to do something that’s fun and find what’s fun for them, because then you get the maximum results.”
She hoped more Emiratis, male and female, would follow in her footsteps and lead a healthier life and even become a fitness instructor like herself.
“The thing that’s lacking among local girls is consistency. It has to be a lifestyle, not just a trend. The more locals who see it, the more it will encourage other locals to do this,” she said. “They are shy to become instructors and just need someone to encourage them.”
@ For more PROFILES in this series, visit thenational.ae/topics