Thousands of people have taken the 30x30 challenge and a healthy buzz has been reverberating across all corners of the city, as residents buy into the fitness lifestyle. Private and public institutes from Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Police to Gulf News and Emirates all rose to the challenge of making Dubai one of the most active cities on the planet.
Things were no different for Anjali Chandiramani, Trainer and Founder at A-Tone gymnasium. “We got calls not only asking about the classes at A-Tone but about what A-Tone was doing outdoors. A huge number of people were very excited and took the Fitness Challenge very seriously,” she says. “We took our Cross-Cuit classes to the events. It’s a form of exercise where you use your own bodyweight. We picked Burj Park, Safa Park, participated in the carnivals and did outdoor classes. We sent out emails and it was free for people to participate.”
If you’ve achieved your goal of 30 minutes of exercise for 30 consecutive days, what should considerations should you take, psychologically, physically and practically, if you don’t fancy falling back into unhealthy ways?
The right mentality
Chandiramani recommends finding a training partner to prevent yourself from slipping back into bad habits. Not only is the social aspect of this likely to make exercising more enjoyable but it may also motivate you to push yourself harder and attain higher levels of fitness. While setting targets is an important factor in measuring your fitness progression, Chandiramani believes they should reflect your own goals and ambitions.
“Targets are very personal, but it could be something such as running an extra kilometre a week, adding a 2.5kg weight to your squats or you could work out four days a week instead of three.”
This principle applies to the fitness trainer herself, who had her own targets during the event. “From personal experience, I do many different workouts and I tried to run for 30 minutes every day for the Dubai Fitness Challenge. I realised that pushing myself for those extra 10 minutes really improved my fitness,” she says.
However, the most important factor is to find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy rather than approaching fitness as another chore to cross off your to-do list. “For an individual who is just trying to continue a 30x30 regime for the rest of their life, it’s essentially just about movement,” says Chandiramani. “Moving is one of the core things that human beings have to do.”
She applies this philosophy to her own fitness regime, explaining that foregoing a squash match in favour of a less intensive yoga class still constitutes exercise and that you should follow your instincts when it comes to staying fit and healthy.
The importance of weights
It’s common knowledge that cardiovascular exercise such as running is extremely important for overall fitness, but depending on your goals, weights are also a very important factor. Chandiramani often encounters clients, especially women, who are reluctant to lift weights for fear that they will start developing masculine characteristics to their physique. Weightlifting actually burns more calories than cardiovascular exercise, if practised correctly, and your body will keep burning calories for 24 hours after a session.
“I personally put pressure on lots of women to at least do Pilates or a weight training class at least three times a week to really burn calories and see their bodies change. Otherwise, you just shrink from a big potato into a small potato so you may have shrunk in size when you’re doing cardiovascular exercise but you really don’t get that shape that you’re looking for.” This doesn’t necessarily have to include dumb-bells or weights; you can also use your body weight through exercises such as press-ups to achieve the desired results.
We’re awash with information and resources such as YouTube allow us to participate in virtual classes with advice from professionals. Nevertheless, Chandiramani is adamant that individuals should seek the guidance of a qualified personal trainer instead of attempting more testing workouts alone. “You’re just blindly following what some expert is talking about in general terms. If you’re looking for a change and an improvement, you have to seek professional help.
Every person needs a personal trainer — every single person. It’s very important to be guided when you are exercising, just as when we’re going to school and we need a teacher to tell us what to do, no matter what level we are at, unless they are a professional themselves. Even if you are doing a group class, you will still have a professional trainer telling you how you are doing.”
If your preference is a simple form of exercise such as jogging or swimming, Chandiramani concedes that a personal trainer may not be necessary. “It is okay to go to the gym and run on a treadmill and it is okay to go and lift certain weights but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not going to see the results you want,” she says.
Push yourself but not too hard
We all like a challenge but you’re not going to evolve from being able to run 10k to winning a marathon overnight unless you have exceptional natural abilities. “I think it’s very important to feel healthy the next day after exercising,” says Chandiramani. “What I usually do is tell people that if you’re sure, take the day off to recover but then on the next day, get right back into exercising. It’s very important that you’re getting enough rest and water.”
Age ain’t nothing but a number
As we age we lose muscle mass by as much as 3 and 5 per cent after the age of 30. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t continue to exercise, though. It’s just a case of establishing the right sort of exercises. Chandiramani explains that as long as your exercise is mindful, which applies to activities such as yoga, instead of mindless exercise, such as weightlifting, age shouldn’t be a restricting factor. “With Pilates, which we teach at A-Tone, we say that people from 11 to 75 can participate. The type of work out you do should change as you’re more prone to injuries as you get older.”
Aside from age, another consideration for reducing your risk of injury is ensuring you have the correct clothing and equipment. As the A-Tone founder explains, “I’m not brand-conscious but it’s very important to have nice, breathable clothing if you’re working out. Make sure your clothes are also comfortable. Shoes are a key part to your workout so you should get a good pair of trainers, which are replaced every six months.”