Yuri Nemoto picked martial arts as a sprt and for self-defense when she left her country, Japan, at the age of 22. ‘I thought that would help my parents to calm down since I'm the only daughter,' says the now 31-year-old UAE resident who works as a nutritionist for athletes. Passionate about staying fit, Yuri makes it a point to train every morning- running and skipping rope for 30 minutes as a warm up and boxing for an hour.
Excerpts from an interview: Why did you choose boxing?
When I was small, I used to avoid watching combat sport because I don't like violence, but looking back, I had no clue about the spirit of the sport at that time.
When I started Thai kickboxing later, I found it is about training my mental strength to better control negative thoughts because nobody enjoys being hit. The first time I learned that mental fortitude matters as much as technique and physical condition was when I fought in the ring. Recently I chose to take a new challenge, which led me to start boxing.
What are the best things about boxing vis-a-vis fitness goals?
Boxing requires strength, endurance, and speed. This is where my interests as a Registered Associate Nutritionist in UK come in – proper nutrition can do so much for athletic performance. But another core element is the mindset to not show that I am tired, when in reality I am [gasping]. It is tough but I enjoy learning this. It is like telling your mind “shhh it's fine, we've got this”, as if the fear is a little creature living inside me.
When did you start working out regularly?
In 2016, when I started Muay Thai in London. It was the moment in my life when I wanted to make sure I am surrounded by people who inspire and make me feel empowered. Especially I really appreciated and cherished the females I met through the sport, how dedicated they are even if they are working hard at a full time job where many are high on the career ladder.
How long have you been practicing boxing?
In 2020, it all started with Mehdi Oubahammou, who helped me to prepare for the UAE Muay Thai Championship. Once experiencing the fight camp, training twice a day for six days a week before the fight, I started to feel my resilience grew further outside the sport context as well.
Which is better – working out alone or in a group or with a friend?
I like all, each session will have its own
performance objectives. But certainly training in a group is the best option to learn the culture of the sport and experience the community atmosphere. In a place like Dubai, you get to hear from people you train with what it's like training in their home country too– a big bonus.
How many hours do you work out on average a week?
Ten hours per week typically. Once the fight is booked, it becomes more. In my opinion, what matters more is habit creation i.e. how long you can train according to your personal circumstances. On the days you have time, low to medium intensity can be applied to aerobic or technical learning. On those days you don't have time, increasing intensity will compensate for lower time allocation.
What is your diet on an average day?
Depends on my training schedule, but it'll be a combination of fruit and vegetables, protein-rich foods, seeds and grains, and of course water. Food is power. I have some comfort foods from Japan too. Soybean items make me feel at home, it's also very important for me to include them in meals. I feel they give me more than just nutrients, strength and warmth like when my mother cooked.
3 tips for those who want to start on a fitness plan.
something you can continue: You may already know your passion, but also be open minded to suggestions by your peers or coach. They may point out something you are good at that you never thought about before. You may find your game once your passion and potential are combined.
2. Compare with yesterday's you: No need to compare with others in your training class, each body is different. Just aim to perform better than yesterday.
3. Pace yourself: Even though you might have an ideal goal you want to reach, no need to rush and please do enjoy the journey because it can take a while. Consistency is the best capability in fitness that helps you grow further.
What 3 tips can you offer people to stick to an exercise plan?
1. Be surrounded by people who make you feel empowered: If you are someone who likes training with others, select a group and facility you like because they make you feel yourself and motivated to improve. No one should make you feel inferior or less of you.
2. Build your team: Committing to sport may bring you questions regarding the
performance and your health. Having access to someone you feel you can rely on will help you be equipped properly. - coach, PT, S&C trainer, physiotherapist, sport masseuse, medical doctor, sports nutritionist or dietitian if you have a medical diagnosis.
3. “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” This is a quote by Haruki Murakami. There will be days where every one of us feels that going back to training is painful. You might have several reasons not to do it. For physical pain, seek help from experts who can reassure you and take good care of you. Injuries happen when we are in low energy and lose sharpness. For mental pain, remember that it is ok to talk about it to people around you.
What are the major changes you have noticed in your mental and physical well-being since taking up boxing?
I highly value mental changes more than physical ones. It actually takes longer (months/years) and occurs inside, so it could be invisible for others. But it impacts our daily life immensely. It changes our lifestyle, quality of life, selfdiscipline, morals and so on. Physical changes occur at first (weeks) following your consistent training. The truth is if it's easy to obtain, it's easy to lose.
Do you switch exercise plans/sports during the summer?
Actually this summer I had a personal challenge on my own! I've been exposed to explosive high intensity sports in my life, but not endurance, so I decided to run a full marathon. As a nutrition geek, I was focused to be mindful of my physiological stress during the activity, so doing it on my own was enough. I switched both my training plans and nutrition plans for endurance. I went running when the city was asleep so that I could avoid high humidity and temperature during the summer in Dubai. When I completed, it was a beautiful moment to realize once again that sport brings out the best in us. Acknowledging how far you've come compared with where you used to be brings us the biggest confidence.