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How Zahirah Marty Makes Time For Exercise

Learn what keeps this part-time boss, full-time mom running

Busy schedules, daily errands, pick-ups and drop-offs, day-time jobs and full-time parents – there are plenty of reasons to postpone exercise on the daily. Add to that mix a two-year-old son, a business and a jet-setting lifestyle, and Zahirah Marty still manages to make her health a top priority.


As the Managing Director of Dubai-based branding agency Think Liquorice, Marty wears all kinds of hats. Satisfying her clients, expanding her business and tending to the needs of her employees are but some of them. When it’s not work, her attention turns to her family and a spirit of wanderlust, which takes Marty, son Noah and husband Andrew from Marrakech to Brooklyn on a regular basis. This Dubai Fitness Challenge, gain inspiration from this star entrepreneur with her tips on maintaining an active lifestyle, and where she finds all the energy to fuel it all. 


Think back to the beginning: what first motivated you to make fitness a priority?   

I grew up with fitness being a big part of our family and life. I was always sports-inclined throughout my school career, and that has remained with me into adulthood. Working out helps me set a good mood and tone for my day, so it’s important to make that happen. These days I am also driven by wanting to be a good example for my son on leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle. 


How do you make time between all your responsibilities to work out?

Time is something most people rarely have to spare, so things that matter need to be actively accommodated – I’ll get up a bit earlier, push a meeting a bit later, say no to a lie-in sometimes if that means getting a workout in. As a small business owner, I feel guilty when not spending spare time working on the company and its growth. I’ve come to understand that I need to do both – a healthy, happy me is a better businesswoman, too.


Do you feel your active lifestyle influences your family, especially Noah? 

As parents, we’re the billboards and commercials for our children, so we need to make sure we’re always sending the right message. Being healthy and active does so much more than just keeping you fit – it offers lessons in discipline, self-management, teamwork and respect for our bodies. By leading an active lifestyle, I hope to influence him and others to do the same.


When it comes to daily exercise, what works best for you?

First thing in the morning. I like the happy hormones to flow all day! If I don’t get it done in the morning, then I’m juggling things like dinner and bath time, so the juggling becomes a bit trickier.


I’ve learnt to make the most of the time I have, so fewer two-hour leisurely gym sessions and more 45 minutes to 1 hour of the most time-efficient activities. I like high-impact workouts – HIIT classes, kickboxing, or interesting circuits. Yoga for me is more of a relaxing time, and Pilates I’ve found to be very effective post-baby. 


How do you balance nutrition and fitness for yourself and your family?

As a family, we’re very conscious of supporting our fitness efforts with a balanced diet. I cook about five nights a week and simply opt for healthier alternatives. If I’m travelling, I try to pick the healthiest option available, but I also love exploring local dishes wherever I am. 


Fitness is much the same. We are very active when travelling so normally cardio and weight training is replaced with carrying my son around new places, hiking, and exploring a city on foot. I like variety, so I’m more than happy to be hiking up Table Mountain one day or climbing down 350 stairs in Positano the next.


What is your advice for other mothers – especially working mothers – in balancing busy lives and fitness? 

Try to make the time, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. Set your alarm a little earlier or stay up a little later but do it, because it’s so worth it for you and your family. I am 100% sure about there being a direct link between a healthy lifestyle and a happier life. I have an extra bounce in my step after starting my day with a workout and more energy to be the best I can be for my family. 


Do you engage Noah in your exercises?

Yes, we have great fun together! Depending on the age and weight of the child, you can add him or her to your own body weight by carrying or piggy-backing them, letting them have playtime while you work out or getting them a mat next to you and simply stretching with them.


Have you been getting your Daily 30 in this Dubai Fitness Challenge? 

We’re in and out of the city, so my Daily 30 has very much been boxing in Dubai one day then hiking in Cape Town the next. The fitness villages have been amazing this year, so between travels, I check them out – Kite Beach is my favourite! The villages are an end-to-end experience that so aptly reflects the goals and messaging of the greater campaign while upholding all the values we know and love about the city of Dubai. 


What do you hope people take away from the Dubai Fitness Challenge?

Dubai Fitness Challenge is by far my favourite campaign because of what it stands for – healthy, happy people. If nothing else, I hope people appreciate the initiative to encourage being active and the role it plays in our lives.