Thursday, September 20, 2012

Website Re-launch & more...

Dear All,

I know I have been quiet lately - in the past month, and for a reason.

There is a lot of things that are going on that I would like to share with you all, and I will do so in the right moment! As I have tweeted a while back, I am re-launching my website and you can click HERE to go to the new page. Thanks to IT geniuses, I am still able to have this link still running, while working on another website under the same URL ;). have become a big part of me and who I am. Even though I had ideas of changing the name, after much thought and given I get a lot of traffic to the website - up 5,000 views/month and a total of 31,000+ views since I started the blog - I do not want to disappoint my audience, both local and international. 999fitness is my brand and you could say Amna Al Haddad (moi) is the face of it.

As a result I have decided to come up with a logo that represents me and what I stand for, while keeping my brand, as I started it with the idea of being "your emergency line to fitness."

I really hope you can all be patient with me until the re-launch of the new website. In the meantime, stay tuned & stay healthy.

I am around to answer any health-related questions.

Feel free to leave your comments!

With Health <3

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reflection: Training, diet..and more this Ramadan.

I am sitting here, staring at this blank page wondering what I should write. A lot has happened in the past four weeks, and as we are in our last day of Ramadan today, there is a lot to reflect on.

I am a planner. I plan things. Want things to happen in a certain order as long as it's something I can control myself. Especially when it comes to my training, diet...etc.

The first two weeks and a half of Ramadan everything was great. On point. On plan. Great results training and diet wise. Set 5 personal records, if not more. But, this last week and a half, has been anything but planned.

Due to circumstances, which I wish not to discuss at this point in time, everything changed. I stopped training regularly, my diet went outside the window (well, partially! Ehm.) An incident threw me off my trail and the path I was planning to take during and after Ramadan.

There are a lot of decisions that I realized I have to make, some of which I haven't made yet completely - hence the vagueness. Soon, I promise! - These decisions will change the course of my short-term, long-term, and future goals.

Since everything has worked in a way I didn't anticipate, I decided the best thing to do is prescribe myself a de-load week (which means less intensity in training or completely off, but with light everyday activity.) I am no where near needing a de-load week physically. But mentally, I am in a place where taking a week off away from the gym, is much needed. As a result, I have stepped away from the gym completely the past few days, and will return training by middle of next week with a clearer thought on the next step.

Aside from this big bump on the road, everything I have planned training and diet wise has given me the results I aimed for. Strength gains, a bit of fat loss, and good energy during training sessions after a day of complete fast.

Focusing on high protein, high fat, low carb Fatoor and Sahoor, has worked to my favor, there was no sense of feeling tired, bloated, sleepy. I trained after finishing prayers, around 10pm as it was the optimal time to exercise as I've had the energy and hydration to do so.

A previous post has a great detail on my diet and training HERE and I wrote a general guide on the matter for local sports newspaper HERE.

All I have to say to end this post is there are a lot of uncertainties right now at the moment, but soon everything will be clear and make sense. Also, stay tuned as I have exciting news that I will announce in a few weeks!

Over, and Out.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Photoshoot at SHP


I am writing this blog post for a big shout and to share some great pictures clicked by Marina Dzhumaeva, for a fitness shoot with me at Scandinavian Health and Performance top-not facility in Dubai. 

Here are some of the photos. To view the full Album, click HERE

SHP team

Thanks to Marina for taking  these photos, and who is also on a great mission to raise funds for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing. She takes pictures in exchange to donation to the Cancer Center. Please feel free to contact her at and if you wish to donate, she welcomes donations of ANY size. Click HERE.  

For more information on Marina, visit her blog and website.

For more information on SHP Dubai, visit their website and facebook page.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Opinion: Hijab and Sports

As the London Olympics 2012 kicked off a couple of days ago, many were anticipating the opening ceremony, the different sporting events and watching their favorite athletes in action.

But there is one incident that has sparked a lot of discussion, the 16-year-old Saudi female Judo fighter, Wojdan Shaherkani, who has been asked to remove her hijab to meet "the principles and spirit of Judo."

That comment was shocking, and what was further shocking is the recent tweets by some who said that the Saudi females who were competing in the Olympics are "whores," adding fuel to the fire. 

Ruqaya Al Ghasara
I am not one to discuss politics or religion, but in this instance, I would like to focus on the heart of the problem and solutions. 

Only in the past few years, there have been Muslim female athletes who come out publicly to compete and participate while wearing the Hijab. In 2004, sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara was the first Muslim woman to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab. Also, last year, Kulsoom Abdullah (who has become a very good friend of mine), won a battle to wear a hijab while competing in a weightlifting meet. Also recently, FIFA has lifted a five-year-old ban on hijab for soccer players.

Kulsoom Abdullah

There is a perception that wearing of the hijab while doing sports to be deemed as "dangerous and unsafe" as proposed by the media and decision makers. Yet, not once I read a report about a Muslim female athlete being injured from practicing any sport while wearing the Hijab. So where does this idea come from that it is dangerous? I would say ignorance.

The topic of wearing the Islamic headscarf is important, but I would say the media is making it a bigger deal than it should be or is. If a problem has been identified, then half of the problem is solved. But in this instance, it seems to growing to become a bigger issue. As a Muslim athlete who wears the hijab in training and competition while in mixed environment, I think it is important for me to highlight the issue and my experience.

The only reason why I have come out publicly about participating in sports is because I was inspired by Kulsoom's story. Her story gave me hope that it is possible to hold on to your religion, beliefs, and still practice a sport you love. 

Not once while I was training, thus far, where my safety was at risk because of the hijab. If anything, I would say the sport - whatever it may be - is more likely to put your safety at risk than a headscarf.

One thing that needs to be addressed is the lack of availability and accessibility of sports hijab. Given the phenomena is only recent, it is not a surprise that there aren't many designs or access to such a product. Although, surprisingly, it is more readily available in the US and Canada, and not so much in the The Arab world, Middle East, or GCC. I wonder why? Well, the tweets that the Saudi Muslim female athletes are "whores" is one explanation. A real Muslim, wouldn't even say that about a sister in Islam.

In this part of the world, there are some people who still believe that women place belongs only at home, unfortunately, and view sports as a "man-only" activity, neglecting the benefits of being active and sport - forget male or female - but on human beings.

But that's slowly changing. There are men, sometimes more than women, who are supportive of female athletes in the region, show support, and even work toward educating and empowering women.

One thing that people are failing to see in this situation regarding the battle between hijab and sport is a solution. For instance, in the case of Saudi Judo fighter, did you know that there is a hijab specifically designed for Muslim Judo fighters? It's called ResportOn. The head cover is more of a tight hoodie , so any form of movements won't allow the head cover to fall. 

Wearing a headscarf while practicing sports does not take or add to an athlete performance. So saying that the Saudi female judo fighter should take her hijab off to meet the principles of the sport is, excuse me, nothing but utter bullshit.

In my opinion, there needs to be more Muslim covered female athletes to support the movement toward equal rights in participation in sports without any obstacles such as the wearing of the headscarf. There needs to be more accessible sports hijab worldwide to encourage more covered athletes to take part in sport, either for leisure or as a career. There is a need for more to be done by decision makers to allow Muslim female athletes a chance and a choice to compete in their hijab. There needs to be more successful stories like the sprinter, the weightlifter, and the soccer players situation. We need to show the world, that we can still hold on to our religion, modest clothing, whilst proving ourselves and our growing talent in sport. 

I have said this before, and I will say it again:

Sports is like our emotions. Sports doesn't see race, nationality, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, or color. It's you and how good you are as an athlete. 

That's all that matters.

*Get in touch on twitter and/or Facebook

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Ramadan 2012: Training and Nutrition

Today I came across THIS article on people being hospitalized from stomach pains after their first meal (iftar) after a fast during Ramadan.

Reading such news saddens me as people more often than not neglect the essence of what Ramadan is. Yes, you've fasted for more than half a day, it doesn't mean when it's feeding time you attack the food in front of you.

To those who don't know, Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Calendar where Muslims all over the world fast from dawn to dusk. In this holy month, we observe a complete fast from drinking (water, juice..etc.), food, sexual activities (those married), bad acts and talk during the daily fast. We work toward being better Muslims, learn discipline, pray more and last but not least, feel for the poor.

The reason why I am writing this post is because I want to share with you my experience this Ramadan, how I am training, eating, compared to previous years, and hopefully you can pick a thing or two tips which you can follow for the remaining weeks of Ramadan.

Before I move forward, HERE is an article I wrote last year on training in Ramadan, titled "Exercising during Ramadan: Weightlifting and Cardio". And if you wait a few days, I have written article to a local sports paper that will have updated information on training and nutrition in Ramadan. Hopefully it will be published soon.

This is my third year training in Ramadan, so to a degree I had different Ramadan experiences and have learned a lot from each. I can confidently say that this Ramadan, by far, even though we are only one week in, has been the best so far from many aspects.

  • Energy levels
  • Digestion
  • Training sessions
  • Weight management

Some may say it is too early to tell. Hm. Maybe so. But I have been tuned with my body and the way it reacts with a lot of things in the past years, and I can assure you the routine that I have been following so far has been quite effective, for me. Also unlike last year, this year, I am an athlete and nutrition matters a tad bit more than it did before.

As a starter, earlier this year I have found out that I am intolerant to gluten and dairy. It has been a tough time to come in terms with the fact I *should* be off foods that contain both. Have I been? Periodically, yes. All the time? Not really.

In 2011 and 2010, majority of how I have been eating was based on the above mentioned food items, so things from pasta, cheese, bread, milk, yoghurt...and the list goes on. They made up I would say 70% of my diet. Comparing the way I felt having eaten those foods last year, with how I am eating this year, I can see a huge difference.

  • No dizzy spells
  • No irregular heart beats (I faced a lot of that) 
  • No indigestion issues 
  • No abdominal pain
  • No lack of energy during daytime and nighttime. 

So, what have I been eating, you must wonder! Well, for one, I haven't changed my diet to a large degree from how I used to eat during normal days. On average, I would be having either 2 or 3 meals in Ramadan, depending on the time I get the chance to train due to availability and accessibility.

Most of what I eat is high in protein, high in good fats, and good carb sources or those that I am not intolerant to such as, fruits, veggies, rice, potatoes, corn and some legumes. 

  • Protein sources: Meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs (if you're not intolerant to them)
  • Good fat sources: Avocados, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, all kind of nuts
  • Carb sources:  Veggies, fruits, rice - brown being better -, sweet potato or potato, oatmeal.
This is NOT SAYING I don't have a few bites of the things I like at Iftar or Sahoor (pre-dawn meal, before the fast begins again). 90% of what I currently eat is what I mentioned above, with 10% being from things like gaimat and harees, traditional Emirati food, as well as few other sweets. However, I preserve majority of the sweet, sugary stuff for post-workout when they can be utilized better as spiking your insulin levels post workout has shown to increase protein absorption, excuse to eat ice-cream, but you didn't hear that here. Nope.

As for my training, I always believed and still strongly believe that training post Iftar is optimal and training pre-Iftar, while you're fasting can be detrimental. Maybe I am biased because I believe strength and muscle mass are far more superior to doing steady cardio. HERE is a great article by a well-known and respected strength and conditioning coach, Charles Poliquin on the negatives on Areobic training. You still want to walk on a treadmill? I hope not.

At the moment I train a few hours after iftar, to allow the food to digest and have time to hydrate. Lack of hydration can cause a lot of health problems. Hence all I think about after breaking my fast, is hydrate the heck out of your body!

Although it's been just a week of Ramadan, I have already got two new personal records, one of them being the first day of Ramadan with a 91.5kgsx6 deadlift and one yesterday with a 48.5kgsx3 front squat. Some say you lose strength in Ramadan, I beg to differ.

So what is it that is working for me? Below is one example of how I have eaten and trained in the past week of this Ramadan. 

Sahoor: Salmon, rocket salad with avocado, corn, and olives with 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (YES, I have that many!) and balsamic vinegar. 
This meal helps keep my hunger at bay during daytime as eating high fat and high protein food are slow digesting and keep you feeling full longer as opposed to simple carbohydrates. 

Iftar: 500ml of water + chicken skewers, avocado, potatoes, few gaimat nibbles. 

After Iftar I immediately take my "super supplements", which are: 5000IU of Vitamin D, Omega-3 (either 1 or 2g), and Green Superfood (sometimes I drink it after water, rather post-meal). Don't do this unless you consult a doctor.

Snack: Before training I drink coffee (with coconut milk, no sugar) and a fruit.
Train at 10pm 
Post workout meal is not always consistent, sometimes I'd eat tuna mixed with olives or have an actual meal rice with chicken, based on time + magnesium.  I have stopped drinking whey or protein shakes since last year.
Sahoor: Cycle starts again with where I consume again another meat and veggies/salad source.
Water:  I drink at least 2.5-3L during the feeding window.

So yup, there is no secret to making the best gains or losing fat in Ramadan. Following a simple nutrition diet and training regime, and you're good to go. Neither will have an effect on your worship during the holy month with proper planning and dedication. There is a saying, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 
Ramadan is not yet over, so I hope you picked a tip or two from my experience that will benefit you in your either nutrition or training. 

Feel free to leave comments ;) 

Yours truly,


Friday, July 13, 2012

Winning my First Medal: 2nd place

One thing I like about competition, it exposes my weaknesses. Although it doesn't necessarily come to my advantage *during competition*, it gives me insight on what I need to work on for the future.

And that's exactly what I did.

Competing at the Burn Room Crossfit Throw Down event today (13/7/20122) was, well, interesting. There were a total of four events, and they have announced the workouts, except the final, just two days ahead of the event.

First workout was:

300m Run
21 deadlifts @ 95lbs
200m Run
15 deadlifts @ 135lbs
100m Run
9 deadlifts @ 185lbs

*10 minute time cap

I knew that running is one of my weaknesses and that it was going to suck. So I paced myself in the runs. Deadlifts were okay, but that 185lbs after the run and the volume before it, my lower back was fried. I got a total of 42 reps, and I knew I have done my best in that workout, even though I wasn't entirely happy with my performance. But I knew, there is nothing I can do about it, it was a true all-out effort and that was good enough!

Second workout: 

As many reps as possible of:

1 minute of handstand pushups
2 minutes of box jumps @ 24 inch
2 minutes of kettlebell swings @ 16kgs
1 minute of burpees.

I was so excited for this workout, why? Damn I spent so much time trying to learn handstand push ups for the Crossfit Asia Regional Competition that took place 2 months ago. And all that hard work definitely paid off. I was able to rep 3 HSPU in a row & under a minute. That itself was a PR for me. And that's the coolest thing about the competitions, the butterflies in your stomach before you hear the 3,2,1...GO! can really add to your performance if you had the right mentality. I finished with a total of 98 reps.

Third Workout

12 minute cap:

3 overhead squats @ 65lbs
3 pull ups
6 overhead squats @ 65lbs
6 pull ups

This is the kind of workout I truly like and find enjoyable. However, I have to admit - I had a bit of a mental block with this workout. I achieved - in a way - what I aimed for, which was finish the 12s, but boy those OHS felt like something else. The weight itself was not necessarily heavy, however, my level of balance is completely off,especially having stopped going overhead in the past 6-8 weeks to allow my back to recover from a condition. Although I gave myself that excuse (not a good thing), I realized why I didn't do better or more in this particular workout, when I thought I will smash it. I got a total of 60 reps here.

After the third workout, they announced the top 5 men and women, and I was excited to hear my name! I actually had a shot of making into the top 3 given the cumulative of my previous scores!

There is that moment where you need to talk to yourself before a competition to tell yourself, this is it. You have this ONE chance. One moment to achieve what you came for, and that's what I did in this final workout.

So, fourth and final workout was:

60 Double Unders
50 wall balls @ 20lbs
40 Knees to Elbows
30 Sumo Deadlift high pull @ 16kgs
20 dips
10 squat cleans @ 95lbs.

* 20 minute time cap.

Whew. That was one long and killer of a workout. For me, wall balls were the hardest movements I had to do. I have always struggled with wall balls and had quite some misses. Especially with the ball being about 9kgs, I knew going in that will slow me down, and that was OK. I knew I could do the other movements if I broke them down into a specific pattern and still be able to get a decent score. However, surprisingly, I didn't just have a decent score, I have reached the point where I finished with 11 dips, putting me ahead. In the final workout, the main thing that kept me going and what I learned from previous competitions, is. STAY COOL. SHAKE IT OUT. FOCUS. & get back into the movement. Literally, my dips were one rep at a time. So I finished with a total of 191 reps.

The cumulative of my four scores have left me getting my first medal at 2ND PLACE! 

When they called out the 3rd name, I thought...damn, I wanted to make it top 3. Until, the organizer was looking for the 2nd place winner, and it was quiet...and suddenly I hear my name, I jump with excitement and I ran to the podium saying "Yey! My first time!" 
& everyone, obviously, laughed. I am cheesy like that =P.
Few days ago, when I was looking at a pictures of the medals on Facebook, I said, "damn, it would be nice to have one of those around my neck for once." I visualized it. For fun, more than anything else, really. But it shows the power of visualization and mental focus when it comes to competing. Believe it. Mentally see it, and let your body do the work.

Honestly, winning second place was NOT anticipated AT ALL. But I believe giving and doing your best has it's own way of rewarding you, and all the training sessions you had, the sweat drops, blood and tears, is all worth it in the end. In many ways than just winning a medal. I have learned about further weaknesses I have in this competition, and knowing what I am capable of achieving, I want to work hard, to progress further and be my best.

Until next time!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Workout to raise awareness on human trafficking

Would you like to get fit while raising awareness about an important issue?

Katie Pattison-Hart, a Dubai-based resident and one of the five women who broke a world record by crossing the Atlantic Ocean unassisted in their "Row for freedom" campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking are continuing their efforts - and YOU can take part.

For the next 12 months, the 27 million project will announce physical challenges that will contribute to the overall aim of collecting 27 million reps to acknowledge the 27 million victims taken against their will and forced into slavery. Each meter ran, repetition performed, pound lifted is counted.

The project is in collaboration between the Row for Freedom team and the Crossfit gym, The Burn Room, in the United Arab Emirates.

Each month the challenge is different and announced ahead of time.

"The challenges are monthly although some months are proving difficult to rack up the numbers which means other smaller events will take place within the month," said Katie in an interview with 999fitness. "The first month [May] it was running. This month it's pounds lifted and next month it will be stairs climbed." 

Katie is working with UAE's government, The National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking regarding ways they can help with local shelters. She added that the NCCHT have also seen a reduction in cases last year. 

"If people are more aware of the issue they will be more likely to report cases," said Katie. "And if we can also raise funds for the shelters that really need financial support we will be helping the victims in their recovery once rescued."

So put your training clothes and shoes on, and donate some reps!

For more information:

More on the 27 Million project, go to:
Stats on UAE human trafficking, visit:

Yours Truly,