Dubai: The winds of change have long swept across the UAE and the region, and Amal Baatia simply doesn’t want to see the opportunities pass her by.
Breaking into a fold hitherto untouched by many of the fairer sex, Amal has now come to be recognised as “the first CrossFit women’s coach from Saudi Arabia” — a position that the 40-year-old mother of two has gone on to make her own in her drive to get women healthy.
“The time is now,” Amal told Gulf News in a chat on the sidelines of the Seventh Dubai Women’s Run held at Marasi Business Bay last week.
“Health is a long-term investment, and I am happy I invested in this so early in life so that one day I could lead from the front and empower the women of my generation and the next,” she smiled.
Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Amal’s climb into a predominantly male bastion happened nearly a decade and a half ago.
Keeping her commitments as an investment manager in banking and finance took a major part of her time.
That is when she decided to do something to keep herself fit.
“We didn’t have any health and fitness facilities for women in Saudi Arabia, so I went and set up a small private studio at home,” she recalled.
Along with her busy work schedule, Amal had to attend to her two growing sons.
“But I decided what I wanted. I invited a few of my lady friends to come and get training at my fitness centre. I dedicated three hours daily for this between 5pm to 8pm. Though the timings were horrible due to the full-time job, I managed to do this for two years,” she adds.
And then one fine day, she chucked her job and decided to turn into a full-time fitness coach. She restricted the number of members at her club to 25 women.
“My message to these women was simple — exercise and stay fit so that you can keep away from illness as that’s the true meaning of being strong,” she said.
“Once they are convinced about this idea, then I let them go and take in new members. It is so amazing to see how women have felt empowered doing just the basics in life,” Amal nodded.
Fortunately for her, Amal’s private family life too aligned well with the moment as her sons — now 12 and seven — started getting independent.
“Suddenly with no full-time job to go to, I found all the time in the world to travel and participate in various running, fitness and lifestyle events. It empowered me and I discovered a new sort of freedom,” she recalled.
Ahead of the pack, Amal started bringing in the results as well. She participated in a 12km run in South Africa and came in second, and took the third place in the annual Kuwait run earlier this year.
“Anyone can have a healthy lifestyle, but it comes at a cost. There is a necessary investment to be made, and the sure thing is that the returns will not come in a day or in a short duration. It needs to be a routine of good habits in one’s life along with the principles of discipline, goal-setting and commitment,” she said.
“Everything needs some sort of investment, and who would know better about this than I after working in banking and finance?” she asked herself.
“Our leaders have been investing in women with the aim that we are all capable of making a difference in society. We are now allowed to drive cars and very soon we will be able to attend sports events in stadiums. All these are investments on a sound and vibrant future, and it is a matter of time when all the efforts will bear fruit, and I certainly don’t want to miss out on any of these,” she smiled.
Amal is particularly pleased at the measures taken by the UAE in empowering women in particular as compared to her own nation.
“It is like a brand-new movement out here. They allow women to be part of everything and this is the amazing part here. Women can do yoga, drive cars and be part of the fitness industry. These are simple things of life and we are humans too,” she noted.
“Sport and the association of women with it in Saudi Arabia may be just at the beginning stages. But the fact remains that people are being exposed to a new cause. This will bring about a positive change where we can all look towards a secure future for ourselves and for generations to come.”