Abeer Al Khaja: Being healthy is a lifestyle
Emirati personal trainer and CrossFit coach Abeer Al Khaja, 32, remembers the exact moment that she began her fitness journey. She was 26 and volunteering during Ramadan, handing out meals to workers who were about to break their fast, when she felt faint and had to go indoors to lay down. Surprised and upset at how weak she felt, she made a conscious decision to never feel that way again.
“It was then that I realised that I had to get healthier,” explains Abeer. “I had to work out how to be able to continue to do what I love most: volunteering. What started with a goal to become healthier, turned into a lifestyle. I fell in love with fitness and started to try all kinds of sports from bodybuilding to boxing, fencing to CrossFit, and finally running. Exercising keeps me healthy and active, it’s also taught me discipline.”
Fast forward nearly six years and Abeer has left her corporate job and is a qualified personal trainer working as head of the fitness wing at Zabeel Ladies Club. Her bubbly personality and drive to get other women into fitness has secured her 43.2K followers on Instagram, many of them fans of her ladies-only running club, AnaGow, which she co-founded in 2015.
“My friends and I wanted to run outdoors but never had a chance without the hijab,” says Abeer. “Running together made us feel good and that’s why we started our own all-ladies running club. AnaGow means ‘I am strong’ in the Emirati dialect. We hope to encourage women to run without feeling judged or embarrassed.”
The @Anagowrunning club has grown from four founding members to over 70 runners. “We have members who now partake in marathons, fitness competitions, obstacle races and triathlons,” she says. “However, let’s not forget that there are also those who simply seek a private place to run comfortably. The point of the AnaGow Running Club is that it is for non-runners: women who are not fit or women who feel self-conscious about going into a gym.
Belonging to a community
“It’s been a great way to meet new friends and socialise with other girls who love fitness. What I love most about it is the sense of belonging to a larger community.”
And as someone who is spreading the fitness word so joyously, Abeer is excited to take on the Dubai Fitness Challenge.
“As an Emirati, I am truly grateful to have been selected as an ambassador for the Dubai Fitness Challenge,” she says. “I am proud to represent all UAE women who will also be taking part in the challenge. I think it’s a great campaign and it’s working. I completed it last year and it felt so great. I made sure I trained at least 30 minutes every day. As a coach, I ran weekly CrossFit, running, and calisthenics classes, free of charge for ladies in Dubai. I have seen participation from my family and friends through the challenge duration. Everyone loves the challenge and wants to keep going even after it’s over.”
Abeer answers our quick-fire questions:
Cardio or weights? Weights for sure
Big breakfast or big dinner? Big dinner
Long run or quick sprints? Long run for the win
Favourite food? Donuts, coffee, and chicken nuggets
Favourite exercise or sport? CrossFit, calisthenics and running
Favourite part of Dubai? Kite Beach
Tell us one thing we might not know about you? I always carry dental floss in my purse
What are you most grateful for? My country and its leaders
One thing you couldn’t live without: my Apple watch
One line to motivate people: Take it one day at a time: just work hard, eat well, sleep well and keep going
Why should people be part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge? Take the challenge and I promise you it will be the start of you feeling great about yourself! Investing 30 minutes in your health is just the beginning of an amazing and fun journey into fitness!
Follow Abeer on Instagram @abeermk