Why hiking the mountain trails of the Emirates can be a path to a healthier life

Why hiking the mountain trails of the Emirates can be a path to a healthier life
Thanks to hiking the UAE's mountain trails, David Boulos is now in the best shape of his life. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 May 2021

Why hiking the mountain trails of the Emirates can be a path to a healthier life

Why hiking the mountain trails of the Emirates can be a path to a healthier life
  • As more and more people embrace the outdoors, the benefits of hiking can be life-changing

The news hit me hard.

I always thought of myself as a relatively sporty, healthy person, even if I was not always consistent with my workouts. 

Over the years I’ve been into cardio exercises, CrossFit, weightlifting and mixed martial arts, even taking part in the 2018 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

And yet here I was being told by my doctor that, at the age of 47, that if I didn’t alter my lifestyle, I might have to take pills for the rest of my life and be in danger of serious life-threatening health ailments. 

Well, that is what it took for me to finally address, and eventually overcome, three decades of yo-yoing inconsistency in my exercise regime and dietary habits.

It was time to eat healthy, get active and lose the pounds. Easier said than done, but what I do for a living compelled me to try. Not just try, but succeed.

As a professional Transformation Expert and an executive/life coach, my mission is to help individuals, executives and organizations realize their full potential and become exceptional in their specific fields.

Through professional facilitation in coaching, neuroscience, NLP, psychology and hypnotherapy, I equip my clients with the tools they need, and the mindset they require, to adapt their behaviors into progressive habits that help them achieve their personal and professional goals. 

What applies to mental achievements, can be applied to physical health. And what applies to my clients, applies to me.

That’s why I have, over the last year, gone on a fitness regime that has left me in the best shape of my life.

Using the same tools and techniques I use to help my clients, I used hypnotherapy and coaching to gain the self-awareness I needed to understand why I would yoyo between eating well and stuffing my face, and also training sporadically and being consistent. I embraced the saying “good is the enemy of great”. I hired a personal trainer and nutritionist who created a meal plan and a weight lifting schedule for me.

Above all I embraced hiking, as more and more people in the UAE seem to be doing.

With the trails of Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah so accessible, I had no excuse. Since last year, hiking has turned out to be life-changing. 

With gyms for long time shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and many people wary of close interactions with others, hiking became a natural source of great cardiovascular exercise, vitamin D from sun exposure, fresh air, and even meditation, as I usually hiked alone with no music or other distractions. 

I had been interested in hiking even before my health scare - and scaled Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka - but had reservations about embarking on trails alone as I was unsure about safety and orientation. 

Luckily, I gained expertise through a friend who hiked extensively and whom I trusted. He introduced me to a hiking app, where you could follow other people’s trails, even with no mobile reception, and taught me the ins and outs of taking on these set paths.

Having stocked up on the necessary gear, I initially joined friends on their hikes, and then progressed to going solo when I became confident of my skill level. 

I started off by hiking in Wadi Shawka on an 8 km path and elevation gain of 300m. The first time I did this, I had to stop so often, rest, eat and drink water. It was exhausting. 

Through my renewed mindset and consistency, and hiking twice a week, I slowly built up a capacity to hike from Wadi Ghalilah to Jebel Jais and return back to my car (a 13 km path with an elevation gain of about 1400m, or almost two times the height of the Burj Khalifa) in under six hours. 

But by far the most ambitious hike I have attempted to date is the one to the highest point of Jebel Jais, which lies in Oman and which you can cross to by foot. This hike was 25 km long with an elevation gain of over 2000m, and took 11 hours to complete.

All the time I have continued going to the gym and weightlifting four times a week. The results have surprised even me.

After nine months of hiking, training and eating well, I significantly lowered my cholesterol and inflammation to normal levels. I dropped about 22 kg of body fat, reduced my waist size from 105 to 81 cm and reached 10 percent body fat, down from 25 percent.

Would I have taken all this action had I not received that initial scare by my doctor? Would I have been able to succeed in my ambitious plans to eat in a balanced way, weight train consistently and scale the highest peak in the UAE once or twice a week? 

I am not sure, but let me highlight a few things I learned that allowed me to succeed this time:

  1. One hardcore training will not allow you to make up for a bad lifestyle, but it might injure you.
  2. One bad meal will not make you obese, but it might set you on a path to eating unhealthily.
  3. Having a plan is ideal so that you don’t encounter decision-fatigue and make bad choices when you are tired.
  4. Having a trainer is great for accountability, unless you can be accountable to yourself. 
  5. Slow, steady progress might not seem desirable when you start, but small consistent actions lead to huge results over time.

 Whether your sport of choice is hiking, running, biking or football, the focus should be on consistency and taking the necessary steps to eat well and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. Everyone deserves to be in great health and to look and feel great.