UAE Portrait of a Nation: a Dubai policeman and the positive power of exercise
Abdulrahman Al Hashmi runs a free boot camp group called Navy Dxb
Abdulrahman Al Hashmi knows the meaning of being lonely all too well; he lost his father, aunt and other close relatives in just a single month.
At first, the young Dubai policeman reacted badly, taking the sudden tragedy out on himself despite knowing it was not his fault.
The 30-year-old found himself succumbing to dark moods, feeling completely lost in the world and emotionally rundown.
But coming from an athletic background, he soon realised that exercise allowed him some escape, even helping soothe his sense of hopelessness.
“I started to train more than three times a day,” the officer told The National.
“In one month I became better physically and mentally, and I even became happier than I was before my crisis.”
Realising the restorative power of exercise, Mr Al Hashmi began wondering if there were others in a similar predicament who he could help.
He signed up to become a personal trainer, believing that with the right qualifications he could have a real impact on others who were struggling.
Today, some five years on from losing his father, he now runs a hugely successful boot camp, with about 1,000 regular members.
The company - called Navy Dxb - provides a community to anyone wanting to step outside of their usual routine and exercise among like-minded people.
The sessions take place every Wednesday and Saturday on Kite Beach in Dubai, often drawing 80 to more than 100 people.
“I thought if sports helped me get my life back together, it will help others as well and make them happier,” Mr Al Hashmi said.
“So I got certified as a personal trainer and started training people for free on Kite Beach.
“Navy is a place where people can break from real life responsibilities to train and meet new people with the same mind-set.”
Taking a stroll along Kite Beach on any given training day and curious onlookers can quickly be drawn into the energy of the group.
At the beginning of each session, Mr Al Hashemi makes everyone shout his or her name out loud, with the crowd cheering in response.
He also encourages his team to make even more noise when runners jog past watching them. The group’s enthusiasm, he finds, is brilliant at motivating strangers to join in.
“People used to tell me that I was good at motivating others by getting them out of their comfort zones,” he said.
“So when I started Navy Dxb, I started doing just that. I also started taking life-coaching courses to learn how to add more value to people’s lives; to make them feel loved no matter how different they are.”
Navy Dxb welcome all ages, with its current youngest members being three-year-old twins.
The pair assist Mr Al Hashemi by spotting anyone not doing a certain exercise properly, or missing a rep, while their parents train.
Rawan Majdalawy, from Jordan, has been bringing her children to the group for several months. Her daughter Tuleen, 14, and son Sufian, 12, love the exercise.
“Everybody communicates with them and when they participate and speak out in front of the group it boosts their confidence,” said the 39-year-old.
“At their age they may think that fun means drinking alcohol and doing drugs, but this group is an inspiration for them when they see healthy and muscular people having fun through fitness.
“I keep going to Navy’s because I couldn’t get those positive vibes anywhere else.
“I can spend quality time where I can be my fun self and at the same time spend time with my children.”
In addition to the free boot camp sessions on Kite Beach, Mr Al Hashemi also holds a volunteer class at the Senses Centre in the city for those with special needs.
He encourages his team to go along and take part – “spreading the joy” of exercise, as he puts it.
“It started after two guys who worked there passed us while walking on the beach,” he said.
“They said they liked the energy of what we were doing and wanted us to do something similar at the centre.
“We recently started fitness and hiking trips abroad where we seek the best possible packages.
“We went to Georgia and we will be traveling to Nepal next month.
“The goal is to include everybody, especially people who cannot afford to do such activities on a regular basis.
“We will also be launching in Serbia and Egypt and hopefully we will soon be all around the world.”