UAE - It was an unusual sight for shoppers at the Dubai Festival City mall as the fountains sprung up during the day time to announce the official opening of the much-awaited Dubai Fitness Challenge 2018 on Friday at 3pm.

The opening weekend carnival at the mall got off to a roaring start, promising an incredible two days of fun activities, team and individual sports, stage acts and a host of events to keep all of Dubai fully energised and entertained.

The 30-day city-wide fitness movement, which is an initiative started by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, aims at enabling a positive social change for all and beckons people across all ages, fitness skills and physical abilities to get fired up on their #Dubai30X30 journey. It is targeting to involve around one million participants over the four weeks to commit to embracing a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Dubai resident Esther, a Kenyan national, was present with her two daughters at the opening carnival of the fitness challenge. Esther, who was seeing signing #Dubai30X30 make-a-pledge wall, said: "I am here to commit myself to the 30-minute challenge as I am a bit lazy and not very disciplined. And every time I feel lazy to get up and exercise, I will be reminded of my pledge I wrote on this wall."

Talking about what led her to join the fitness challenge, Esther said: "Just the thought that I am not doing this alone but hundreds of people are also doing it with me adds a competitive spirit to it and motivates me."

"I am here with my daughters Amina,11, and Rehema 10, to put a stamp on our participation. They love to eat good food after work out and here there are lots of fun activities, healthy food for kids and we are looking forward to bond over fitness today and tomorrow," she added.

Hundreds of people enjoyed a vast array of fitness sessions indoors as well as outdoors including dance workouts, Boxercise, JumpRope Fit, Bodyweight Bootcamp, HIIT and Zumba, provided by the city's top fitness studios. The pumping music belted out by live DJs along with some spectacular fireworks added to the fun factor.

Buddies Shehzad and Lucky, both in their 20s, came all the way from Sharjah to be part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge. Dressed in typical gym wear, the duo said it was purely motivation and fun factor that pulled them to the challenge.

Flaunting his biceps, Shehzad said: "I am a fitness buff already but I love the idea behind this challenge which will involve more and more people into fitness and it is just so motivating to see so many people get into the fitness mode. And I am happy that a lot of people from Sharjah and Ajman are also here today to take up the fitness challenge.

Fitness influencer Manal Rostom, the first hijabi model featured in Nike advertisements who is one of the ambassadors of the DXB Fitness Challenge, said: "I am honoured to be one of the ambassadors here representing the Arab women. I am here to inspire all women, especially the Arab women, who think that we are not allowed to workout or do fitness activities outdoors. I am here to support such initiatives that are actually making things positive for women and encouraging them to come with their families," Rostom added.

Another crowd puller was the free YogaFest Dome hosted by YogaFest Dubai that took place on the Dubai Festival City helipad surrounded on all sides by water. Yogis can participate in 14 free master classes until today.

'I was waiting for a year for this event'

Name: Faran Imtiaz Ahmad; Age: 25; Nationality: Pakistani (Dubai resident)

Dubai resident Faran Imtiaz Ahmad had been waiting for weeks for this day - October 27. The 25-year-old Pakistani national, who has autism, had the time of his life at last year's Dubai Fitness Challenge and didn't want it to end. But after it did, Faran has been counting days for this year's programme as it is something that made him happy and high spirited.

Faran came in early at the opening day of the challenge with his parents and sister to enjoy the free fitness activities at the Dubai Festival City. His father Imtiaz Ahmad said: "This challenge is a blessing in disguise for us as it is deeply fulfilling when I see my son smile and take part in group activities with all. It is the presence of so many people exercising together and laughing and having fun that pulls Faran to this programme."

Faran was an active participant in last year's fitness challenge and didn't miss a single weekend of the activities planned at different venues across Dubai.

"Although he is autistic, he has a good memory. He checked the dates of this year's fitness challenge online and has been reminding us daily that we are approaching the opening date," his mother told Khaleej Times.

Faran, who was seen participating in different fitness activities at the opening day such as treadmill challenge and Zumba dance, said: "I love the fitness challenge and I have been waiting for it for a year now. My father is my partner in the fitness activities today and my sister also does some activities with me here. I love people and enjoy seeing them come together and exercise. It has got me hooked to exercising."

Imtiaz Ahmad said that he has seen an immense improvement in his son's behaviour and that the challenge will help his son fall into a routine of exercising. "Last year, I saw how he would enjoy the group activities as he felt no different than the others and in fact felt so happy and motivated to do more."

An artist at Mawaheb art studio, Faran said he loves football, basketball and cycling. He said he enjoyed the spinning sessions as well as the rowing session the most on the first day at the challenge.

"Faran has taken a copy of the fitness challenge schedule for the next 30 days and he will make sure he will attend as many group activities as he can and individually he has pledged to cycle everyday for at least 30 minutes," Ahmad added.


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