Home­grown hero

Emi­rati pro­fes­sional CrossFit ath­lete Shaikha Al Qassemi chats to about her mis­sion to im­prove the health of the UAE’s women…

Good (UAE) - - THE GOOD LIFE - Shaikhaalqassemi.com

How did you first be­come in­volved in CrossFit?

I started CrossFit in early 2013, when I ba­si­cally did my first com­pe­ti­tion and got hooked. CrossFit is all about per­form­ing func­tional move­ments that are var­ied at high in­ten­sity. It is a core strength and con­di­tion­ing pro­gramme that can be scaled for all lev­els.

Had you been ac­tive be­fore you took up the sport? What was dif­fer­ent about CrossFit that ap­pealed so much?

Yes, I was phys­i­cally ac­tive, how­ever I wasn’t con­sis­tent with it. I was do­ing what I needed to do to be fit. But CrossFit is con­stantly dif­fer­ent ev­ery time I walk into the gym, and that was the most ap­peal­ing to me.

How has your suc­cess in com­pe­ti­tion been re­ceived lo­cally?

The re­sponse has been very sup­port­ive and mo­ti­vat­ing! I’m al­ways pushed to be a bet­ter ath­lete and role model by the com­mu­nity.

You now cam­paign on health and well­be­ing is­sues. How does it feel to be a role model?

It feels great! I un­der­stand that peo­ple in this re­gion need the right un­der­stand­ing and knowl­edge of health and well­be­ing as well as fit­ness, es­pe­cially the women. Since the start of my jour­ney, I have ex­panded my knowl­edge to be able to give back.

Have you no­ticed a change in the num­ber and back­ground of ladies tak­ing your classes re­cently?

I have no­ticed a sig­nif­i­cant re­sponse. When CrossFit first made its de­but in the UAE, girls were not as com­fort­able and en­cour­aged as they are now to join classes, lift weights and go harder in work­outs. Now, they’re much more well in­formed of how be­ing fit and healthy is es­sen­tial to ev­ery­day life.

The UAE has very high in­ci­dences of obe­sity and di­a­betes. What do you think needs to be done to change that and do you feel you can play a role?

Change needs to start at schools. Kids and teenagers spend most of their hours on week­days at their schools or uni­ver­si­ties, so it’s im­por­tant to get them mov­ing at least one hour a day, three times a week, and also pro­vide the right food choices for them to com­mit to a health­ier and fit­ter life­style. My re­spon­si­bil­ity is reach­ing the younger de­mo­graphic and ed­u­cat­ing them on how to change their life­styles, be­cause they are more ac­cus­tomed to change than the older gen­er­a­tions. As the younger gen­er­a­tions grow up, they’ll have the con­fi­dence to make a change with the older gen­er­a­tions.

How big a role does diet play in your suc­cess and what message do you try to give your fol­low­ers about nu­tri­tion?

My nu­tri­tion is as im­por­tant as train­ing, if not more im­por­tant. My body needs to have the en­ergy to sus­tain the hours of train­ing that I put in through­out the week, as well as the nu­tri­ents and vi­ta­mins to help my body re­cover from train­ing. Eat­ing well is im­per­a­tive.

What is your ul­ti­mate aim, both on a com­peta­tive level and in your role as a cam­paigner?

At a com­pe­ti­tion level, my aim is to get bet­ter ev­ery year that I com­pete and con­tin­u­ously in­spire peo­ple through my ef­forts. My aim this year is also to ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity on health, fit­ness and well­be­ing.

Shaikha, pic­tured at a Roberto Cavalli Gym event dur­ing DSF

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