Lisa Hancox | Ironman 70.3 Dubai | Fitness First ME Blog
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Fitness First Inspiration – Lisa Hancox ‘My 10th Ironman 70.3 Race!’

posted by FitnessFirst Team February 11, 2018 0 comments


Having raced in Ironman 70.3 Thailand in November 2017, my training during December was a little lighter; January comprised of a few random training blocks as I had the opportunity to attend both the Faris Al Sultan Tri Training Camp as well as a training camp with my coach and Pro Athlete, Pedro Gomes. Both camps were held at the Barr Al Jissah Shangri La Resort in Muscat, Oman.  It was a great opportunity to train in the hills and swim against the current in the lazy river which is both great for training, are challenging and fun (and I would do it all again!).

This threw the schedule off, and I did not feel I had done a consistent, solid training block for the weeks leading to the Ironman 70.3 Dubai race. I also had 2 consecutive work trips to Jordan to train the team.

Honestly, in the week leading into Ironman 70.3 Dubai I felt like a bit of a zombie and had no idea where my fitness was for the race. I was intrigued to see where I would be racing in the new age group though (maybe this is the one advantage of getting older?).

The Evening Before the Race

The evening before the race, after the bike was racked, I felt like there was something missing – I guess this is since these crazy races become a little more routine it does not seem as complex as it did before.

I didn’t find anything missing and went to race morning comfortable – was happy with where my bike was racked (opposite Ironman 70.3 Dubai winner, Alistair Brownlee) close to the bike exit.

Race Day

I put the nutrition and Garmin (bike computer) on the bike, checked the blue and red transition bags were still in place and got my bike shoes to place on the bike – with the rubber bands as practised in Pedro’s Transition Clinic!

Once all set, I went back to the car and got my wetsuit on ready to race; had my breakfast #2 which consisted of Argi+, Fast Break & High5 gel – yum!  A quick jog down the road got me both warmed up a bit and down to the swim start – with a couple of stops for social chats on the way wishing all a great race.

At the swim start, I tried to position myself as much as possible in the correct position according to my ability.  Once I got started I passed many people on the way out of the marina – so far so good for the race. Then we got out to the open water and the waves were rolling and choppy – as Pedro said, there has never been so much elevation in the swim of an Ironman race – I had no idea where the boys were so was just following other’s arms and legs. This lack of direction takes confidence, even if with less power/speed but I was comfortable – even though I was a bit disorientated!

I was able to follow the feet and see a few orange buoys on my right so knew I was headed vaguely in the right direction!  There seemed a bit of a current so I headed back towards the orange buoys whilst still following the people ahead of me. As I finally hit the beach there were a few waves to ride in a little, I aim to get as shallow as I can whilst still swimming before I try to stand as it is hard work to run through water (although riding the waves I got a cramp in my left calf!).

Lisa Hancox | Ironman 70.3 Dubai | Fitness First ME BlogRun up the beach – there are lots of Fitness First colleagues cheering so I figured I had best keep running even if a bit dizzy from being rolled around in the water. So T1 went smoothly; got the Blue Bag, emptied, decided it was warm enough to have no socks on the bike – a debate I was still having with myself until that moment (cold feet vs time to put socks on?). The decision was made because it wasn’t so cold and it is slow to put socks on when wet, then they need to be changed after the bike anyway since the socks are wet by the end of the bike from the ocean water still dripping off you, and you can’t run with wet socks (dramas of Triathlon racing). So this left only the race belt and helmet to deal with and to re-pack the bag.

Lisa Hancox | Ironman 70.3 Dubai | Fitness First ME Blog

Got on the bike and got shoes on easily – felt the power and was riding.

At this stage in a race, many male athletes pass me fast as I am out of the water quite early but don’t have the same bike power as them. It was nice to see some friends come past me and so far everyone seemed happy with the race.

I kept my power where it should be and it felt surprisingly comfortable. I was concentrating on making sure I consume the nutrition I had planned which consisted of High5 gels and PowerBar Powergel shots.

At approximately 30 kms a large pack seemed to form around me. I tried to not get engulfed and not get slowed down too much. I kept average power but somehow lost rhythm.  A couple of male athletes went past and then stopped pedaling – I might have let them know I wasn’t very happy about that!  The rest of the 90 kms was just about staying away from the other athletes, out of the draft and maintaining my watts!

Into the dismount line I see Kate, an Ironman referee, informing all athletes to dismount, surprisingly quieter and more mellow than normal – I had a little giggle to myself. I racked the bike and ran to the Red Bag.  Helmet off, socks on, shoes on, grab the gels and get out of there!

Lisa Hancox | Ironman 70.3 Dubai | Fitness First ME Blog

Planning an easy start to the run I was happy to be this far through the race and so far felt comfortable.  I was not too aware of many other female athletes in front at this stage other than the usual suspects with whom I no longer share an age group, but hadn’t really concentrated on this long enough to check either. I was happy racing my race as per my race plan. I saw a camera and found myself being playful bouncing around.

My quads soon gave me a nudge that they weren’t very happy but we had a chat and they went quiet…for now.

In my head I broke the run into 6 x 3.5 km phases so I knew where I was in the run as 21 kms is a daunting distance to a non-runner (a.k.a baby elephant)!

The run was 7 kms out and back, and then 3.5 kms back out the same way and then back down to the finish line.  I ran from aid station to aid station to get cold Coke and water for the sugar and caffeine to take me to the next supply, as well as some cold sponges to cool me a little. For the first 14 kms I really enjoyed seeing friends, colleagues and fellow athletes, unfortunately I wasn’t so sociable towards the end.

In the 5th section of 3.5 kms, the cramps in the quads came back but I was running following a tall man in yellow so focused on keeping up with him.

The support on the run was the best I have know it in Dubai – lots of cheers from supporters to motivate the athletes on the run, although by the final 3.5 kms the legs didn’t want to play anymore and I could only think about one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward to the finish line. I was slightly worried that if I stopped they would not start working again. Luckily, 3 kms isn’t too long and soon I was on the red carpet and at the finish line.

I was very happy to be there and the friends who saw me finish took a picture of my happiness!

Lisa Hancox | Ironman 70.3 Dubai | Fitness First ME BlogAlways great to be in the athlete’s village to chat with others and see how their race went, discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well and what’s the plan for the next race.

One of the other athletes I spoke with was my coach, Pedro.  He checked the results online and told me that I was 1st in my age group.  Then we discussed if I would/should take the slot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in South Africa on 1st September 2018.  He recommended that it would be a good lead into the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii which I qualified for in Thailand.  Now the training starts for these 2 races later in the year!

I was happy to receive 1st place for my (new) age group.

Lisa Hancox | Ironman 70.3 Dubai | Fitness First ME Blog

So now to make the plan to have fun at my #11 Ironman 70.3 Race in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 25th February!

Lisa Hancox
National Aquatics Manager
Fitness First Middle East & North Africa


Periodization in Training

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 21, 2017 0 comments

There is no magic formula to help you achieve your desired goals however success in triathlons, or the lack of it, is determined by how you blend the stresses of frequency, duration and intensity into a comprehensive plan while taking into consideration the training principles of progressive overload, specificity, reversibility and individuality.

Most triathletes follow one training system or another by the mere fact that their workouts progress from day to day, whether it’s a random system, mixed system or a periodization one.

In random training, the triathlete does what s/he feels like doing every day with little or no forethought when making the decision. In mixed training, the athlete puts more thought into what to do on daily basis. On the other hand, periodization is a training concept in which the training season or annual training plan is divided into periods, in each period the triathlete focuses on improving a specific aspect of fitness while maintaining the gains made in previous periods. Even though periodization is quite effective in producing fitness peaks at the right times while preventing overtraining and burnout, it is not the only path to peak performance. Training by following the concepts of periodization is, however, the most likely way known today to achieve athletic success.

Periodization in Training

Periodization is not just dividing the annual training plan into periods, it also employs the training principles of specificity, individuality, reversibility and progressive overload.

Principle of specificity:

training should progress from the general to the specific.

Principle of individuality:

training should emphasize the unique needs of the triathlete. For example, early in the season a triathlete needing greater swimming strength may work with weights to develop general fitness. Later in the season, and closer to the target race, this triathlete should spend more time simulating race intensity and less time working with weights.

Principle of reversibility:

workouts should be arranged in such a way that fitness gains achieved in earlier phase of training are maintained.

Progressive overload principle:

arranging workouts that address new elements of fitness and improve them gradually.

While following a periodization plan may help you achieve your goals, it should be used only as a road map and not as a formula – Flexibility and willingness to change are essential to achieving your desired goal(s).

By Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coach
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach


What triathlon distance is suitable for me?

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 21, 2017 0 comments

There are different variations of triathlon distances. The Super Sprint (not a common distance), the Sprint, the Olympic/5150, the Half Ironman, and the Full Ironman distances. First you need to choose one of those various distances, consider your family/work/other social commitments and then start putting in training that is specific to that distance, so what you’re doing is relevant and appropriate to your desired outcome.

Here’s how to decide which distance is right for you:

Super Sprint

Swim 0.25mi (375m), Bike 6.2mi (10km) and Run 1.5mi (2.5km)

If you are completely new to triathlons, starting with a super sprint might be the best distance to sign up for, you need to put in 3-4 hours of training doing 1-2 sessions per sport weekly. So that means 1-2 bike workouts, 1-2 swims, and 1-2 runs per week.


Swim 0.5mi (750m), Bike 12.4mi (20km) and Run 3.1mi (5km)

If Sprint Triathlon is what you wish to tackle, then make sure you’ve got 4-6 hours to spare weekly for training to do 1-2 sessions per sport weekly.


Swim 0.93mi (1500m), Bike 24.8mi (40km) and Run 6.2mi (10km)

If you are able to swim 1.5km in open water, bike 60-80km and complete a 20km run (separately), then Olympic distance is right for you. You’ll need to spare 6-8 hours weekly for training and your longest workout will look like: a ‘brick’ workout, consisting of a 60- to 80kme bike ride, followed by a 14-16km run.

Half Ironman (70.3)

Swim 1.2mi (1900m), Bike 56mi (90km) and Run 13.1mi (21.09km)

Typically the major training for half ironman distance will happen on your weekends – on Friday 80-100km long bike ride followed by an easy transition run directly off the bike, and on Saturday a 15-20km long run. If you can commit to heavier training loads than those for shorter distances, then half ironman distance is suitable for you.

Full Ironman

Swim 2.4mi (3800m), Bike 112mi (180km) and Run 26.2mi (42.19km)

Similar to 70.3, your major training will happen on your weekends but with longer distances. Your longest workout will be a race simulation consisting of 1hour swim followed by 160km bike ride and then topping that off with a 20-25km long run.

When you know you’re ready to commit to putting in the training hours, it’s always better to start with a short distance triathlon (e.g. super sprint or sprint) and work your way up. Once you’ve got a couple of short distance triathlons under your belt, you’ll know whether or not you’ll enjoy moving up to longer distance.

By Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coach
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach

Best 5 Apps for Triathletes - train smarter and keeps track

Best 5 Apps for Triathletes – train smarter and keeps track

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 21, 2017 0 comments

Whether you’re looking for a coach to help plan your training, a tool to track your athletic activity or a way to share your progress with friends, there’s an app that can make it happen. These 5 apps will help you train smarter and keep track of just about any performance metric you can think of.


Strava is both a website and mobile app used to track athletic activity via GPS. Its slogan is “The Social Network for Athletes”. It tracks your swimming, cycling and running and turns every iOS and Android devices into a sophisticated running and cycling computer and it works with your GPS watches and head units, too). Start Strava before an activity and you can track your favorite performance stats, and afterwards, dive deep into your data. Strava is a free app but with a premium subscription you unlock more advanced features such as setting custom goals, training videos and more.

App available on www.strava.com/mobile


MYZONE is a physical activity belt which helps to keep you motivated by offering accurate tracking of your effort levels through live heart rate monitoring, goal setting, social accountability, fun challenges and points to reward effort. MYONE app links to other training tools such as: WATT Bike, Strava, Garmin, Mapmyrun, Myfitnesspal and Apple watch.

To find out more or to get a MYZONE belt contact one of our clubs today.

For Android download goo.gl/brk9Cg

For iPhone download goo.gl/FJeKPN

Training Peaks

TrainingPeaks is a great tool for you and/or your coach to make informed training decisions and measure your progress over time using scientific tools and metrics. with this tool you can set goals, find expert instruction, perform structured training and receive immediate feedback throughout the process.

Access www.trainingpeaks.com/TrainingPeaks on iPhone/Android/web, and choose between a free Basic or paid Premium version of this great platform.

Garmin Connect

When paired with a compatible Garmin device, you can track your steps, sleep, calories, floors climbed, analyze your running, cycling, swimming, cardio activities and more. You can also create and compete in challenges with friends, document personal records and sync with other apps like Strava, TrainingPeaks and MyFitnessPal.

If you are ready to join a massive community of users who walk, run, bike, swim, hike and strive to beat yesterday? Learn more about Garmin devices and how they work with the Garmin Connect Mobile app at Garmin.com.

Wattbike Hub

The Wattbike Hub is the perfect partner for your Wattbike training and it has personalized coaching capabilities, real time performance insight, provides you with unrivalled technique feedback through it’s  and performance analysis.

App available on hub.wattbike.com/hello

By Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coac
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach



posted by FitnessFirst Team November 6, 2017 0 comments

Full disclosure here, I work in the fitness industry and have done for my entire career. Most people think that everyone who works in the industry has some kind of healthy superpower and that everything fitness related comes easy… I’m here to tell you that’s not always the case. Most of us are just like our members and regular gym goers. We face similar struggles with time and motivation so please be reassured we do not all jump out of bed every morning with our surfboard abs and make videos for social media or fitness models on shoot.

Now please don’t get me wrong, we absolutely believe in what we do and we practice what we preach, especially at Fitness First Middle East.

So when I was first approached to join in with a Triathlon, I had visions of how hard it could be and how complicated I thought it would be considering I’d never trained for this kind of event before. The good news is the initial concerns I had, became curiosities and eventually, I realized there was no need to be so overwhelmed with this type of event.

I’ve always been an average jogger, I hadn’t ridden a bike properly since I was a kid and swimming was more of a weekend dip in the pool to cool down in the Dubai heat. So the thought of swimming 1.9km, cycling 90km and running 21km back to back seemed like a BIG challenge. I accepted the challenge and decided to take the training 1 day at a time. I had 6 months to prepare for the DIT back in 2015. Everyone thought I was crazy to be doing the 70.3 as my first triathlon goal, but I was all in. I broke down the training and started with some runs, rides and swims at my own pace and each week I just tried to go a little further and a little longer – and that’s it! There is no big secret how to train for your first triathlon. The key for me was to not over complicate it or overthink it, do what I was capable of week on week and gradually I was improving. 

To build my confidence in the water and in a triathlon setting, I signed up to some shorter distance races in Dubai. I remember my first triathlon vividly. I was living in Abu Dhabi at the time so I drove up the day before and stayed with some friends who were also doing the race but as a relay team. I woke up in the morning, after some broken sleep due to being a combination of nervous and excited about the race. My biggest anxiety was about the swim, I knew that if I could complete the swim I would be fine for the ride and the run. My nerves had me on edge, I could barely speak I was so nervous (very unlike me!). We arrived at the beach, registered and bike racked ready to start the race and I just went for it. I told myself I’d made the choice to accept the challenge and I had been training for it, turning up and doing it was the easy bit! 

And I was so right, I loved every second of it. There was nothing to be nervous about, there were hundreds of people there doing the same thing, cheering and encouraging each other. The experience was hugely satisfying and It spurred me on for the rest of the training. As I prepared for the longer distance I began to find my rhythm. I had a great support system at fitness first which held me accountable and gave me people to train with. I learned a lot about myself in this process as well as training for something new. It changed up my usual style of training which was great for my body and my results. I have since completed triathlons individually and as part of a relay team, it’s worth it!

I would recommend a triathlon to anyone, no matter how short or long the distance or if you’re in a team or individual. It is a fun and enjoyable experience which will stretch you to new realms of results. Check out the sessions available to you and get started. Getting started is the hardest part… Once you start you will love it!

Charlotte Stebbing
National Fitness Programming Manager



posted by FitnessFirst Team November 6, 2017 0 comments

My journey towards Triathlons started in 2015 when I bought a road bike so I could join the growing masses at Al Qudra cycle route. I was injured playing football the summer before and I nearly broke my foot so it was time to hang up the boots and turn to something else. The bug of cycling hit fast and I mean very fast. I went out twice a week and simply loved it. From the freedom of being outside and the time to gather my thoughts I was hooked and saw some rapid weight loss also.

I was then convinced to sign up for the Dubai International Triathlon in November 2015 as part of a relay team so this became my goal. The distance was 90k and it was thrilling to compete and be part of a triathlon team! 

Just seeing everyone competing on the day, the nerves, the fun, the personal stretch gave me a boost and whilst I loved competing I knew my next goal would to be to sign up for all 3 and compete as an individual at some point.

So, in the summer of 2016, I set a goal of competing in my first Triathlon which would be October 2016 and I worked hard all summer swimming, cycling and running to get ready. I took tips, I listened to triathletes and I watched others and began to think I could possibly do this. I even signed up for IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai in January 2017 as the major goal!

My first distance was a Sprint which is 750m swim, 20k cycle and 5k run and I think my time, in the end, was 1 hour 40 minutes. Despite being ill the week before I achieved and completed it and just loved it and this spurred me on.

Over the next 6 months, I competed in 7 Triathlons including IRONMAN 70.3  and I finished this in 6 hours 1 minute. I was hooked. I was inspired. The adrenalin never felt so good.

My tip would be “You never know until you have tried.” Like me,  you could find a new sport, new friends and new goals to aim for. Give it a go and you’ll never look back.

Gareth Jones 
Head of Operations – Mixed UAE and Outer Territories


Where to get advice on triathlon equipment?

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 5, 2017 0 comments

So you decided to do a triathlon, you chose the distance and joined a tri club in your area, a run club and/or a masters swim group to get prepared. Now to have a good training/racing experience you need to have the right equipment for swim, bike & run.

The Swim:

Most local sports shop in UAE stock high quality swim equipment and gear from Speedo, Arena to name a few. Your local sports shop can help you choose between the countless numbers of:

  • Tri suits
  • Swimsuits
  • Wetsuits
  • Goggles
  • Swim training equipment suitable to your level (e.g. pull buoys, kick boards, parachutes… etc.)
  • Swim watch or triathlon watch that counts your laps, track your activity and monitor your progress.

Also, you can chat to your Tri Club buddies and coaches to hear about their experiences using specific equipment for training/racing.


The Bike:

You can approach your local bike shop to get professional advice on:

  • Bike frame (tri vs. road)
  • Frame size
  • Helmet that fits you properly
  • Seat height and tilts angle
  • Saddle suitable for you
  • Pedals and cycling shoes
  • Cassette & crank for your riding style and targeted race
  • Your overall position on the bike
  • Bike maintenance
  • Tri suits
  • Cycling computer or triathlon watch to track your rides and monitor progress.


The Run:

If you’re overwhelmed by the number of options available in the market go to your nearest sports goods shop and get and advice on the following:

  • Gait analysis to identify your running style so you narrow down the runners’ options to what suits your stride (heel-, midfoot- or forefoot-runner).
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Running watch or triathlon watch to track your training & racing metrics.

Now that you are equipped and have all essentials covered, go out there enjoy the training/racing knowing that you have the right gear for you.


Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coach
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach


Triathlon distances – What is the difference

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 4, 2017 0 comments

There are various distances for triathlon races to accommodate triathletes of various skill levels, but these distances might vary from one race to another. One of the reasons that may cause any variation from the standard race distance is the race venue. Sometimes, race directors are challenged to find a safe venue for a triathlon event. To keep the logistics and safety concerns of staging such an event to a minimum, race directors wisely select a race course that is slightly different than the common distances mentioned below.

The Half and Full distances are commonly referred to as Half Ironman and Ironman distances respectively. Half Ironman races can also be referred to as Ironman 70.3’s, with the number 70.3 representing the total mileage of the race.

Here are the common distances of triathlon races:

Super Sprint: Swim 0.25mi (375m), Bike 6.2mi (10km) and Run 1.5mi (2.5km)

Sprint: Swim 0.5mi (750m), Bike 12.4mi (20km) and Run 3.1mi (5km)

Olympic / 5150: Swim 0.93mi (1500m), Bike 24.8mi (40km) and Run  6.2mi (10km)

Half Ironman/70.3: Swim 1.2mi (1900m), Bike 56mi (90km) and Run 13.1mi (21.09km)

Full Ironman: Swim 2.4mi (3800m), Bike 112mi (180km) and Run 26.2mi (42.19km)

Most of the above distances are available for you to compete in locally through our events organizing partner Race.ME. For full list of races, please visit http://race-me-events.com/

Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coach
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach


Where do I start to do my first race? How to prepare for Triathlons

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 3, 2017 0 comments

Triathlons can seem complicated as there is a lot of equipment, locations and logistics to think about. I’ve broken down what you need to consider when doing your first race.

Choose Your Distance

Shorter distances are usually more attractive for first-timers. It’s fun and can be competitive if you want it to be. I’d suggest starting off with a Sprint distance to get familiar with the way triathlon races work and build up to longer distances.

Decide if you want to be part of a team or go solo

Many races allow you to work as a team in a relay race. This means the 3 legs can be split up by 2-3 people. So you can compete and only do the swim, bike or run leg if you want to. Some people like to complete all 3 legs and do it individually. Think about your fitness level, strengths and goals when you are deciding this.

Check out the events calendar & Pick your race

There are lots of different events happening across Dubai over the coming months. Check out the events calendar and see which race suits you. When picking a race consider; locations, times, availability for supporters coming to watch you, if you can race as a family, race packs, information available to you.

Register & Collect your race pack

Register for the race you have chosen, read more information about the race and collect your race pack. Your race pack will usually include; rules, race numbers, swim hat and general need to know information about your race so you have everything you need.

Show Up!

Arrive on event day in plenty of time. Relax and enjoy the day! The hard work is in the training. Race day is the day to get the medal you have been working towards!

Charlotte Stebbing
National Fitness Programming Manager


What does a new triathlete need for racing

posted by FitnessFirst Team September 18, 2017 2 Comments

Triathlon can become as expensive or as inexpensive pursuit as you want it to be. There’s no need to break the bank in order to be race-ready. Here is a list of what you absolutely need to train and race a triathlon.

Essential Gear

For the Swim

Any swimsuit, a pair of goggles that fit and a swim cap.

For the Bike

Any mountain, TT or road bike you have in your garage and if you don’t own one, you can rent one from Revolution Cycles or your preferred local bike shop, a helmet and a shirt for comfort and speed, preferably a close-fitting synthetic shirt.

For the Run

A pair of runners that fit your feet and style of running.

Optional Gear

Tri suit: an upgrade that will take you through the bike and to the run without changing.

Wetsuit: if you plan training/racing in cold water

Clipless pedals and bike shoes: An easy upgrade that translates to more efficiency and speed on the bike.

Sunglasses: Keeps the wind out of your eyes on the bike, and makes the run more comfortable in the sun.

GPS watch: to track your race and share the experience with friends through Strava or similar online platforms.

The most important thing about the gear you use for a triathlon is the comfort.

Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coach
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach


Who are Triathlons for? Is it for me?

posted by FitnessFirst Team September 18, 2017 0 comments

Triathlon is an endurance sport in which the athlete carries out swimming, cycling and running, in that order, and with the clock running during transitions between swim/bike and bike/run. It is an event won by completing the course with the fastest time. It is a great fun and accessible sport for all. It does attract social friendly types of people and fits in different lifestyles.

Why do triathlons?

You don’t need to be a hardcore super fit athlete to take part in triathlons. Many people use triathlon as a goal or a way to get motivated to do cardio, lose weight and also for its social factor to meet other like-minded individuals. Triathlon offers a great variety for training so you are not always doing the same thing and you’ll never get bored, it also offers event finishers a great sense of accomplishment and presents endless challenges! You can always work to go further and get faster.

Who can do a triathlon?

Are you in search of fitness, motivation, a challenge and/or the social benefits of a sport? Then triathlon is for you and you can absolutely train for and participate in triathlons.

Can I really finish a triathlon?

As long as you pick a triathlon that’s suited realistically to your abilities, you put in the training, surround yourself with like-minded individuals and you want it bad enough, then you will finish it. The fact that you’re reading this means you’re interested in endurance and fitness and the chances are very high that you could finish a triathlon.

Do I need to be strong in any of the three disciplines?

You don’t really need to be a strong swimmer, cyclist or runner. Starting to practice all three disciplines will make it possible for you to do triathlon no matter what level you start at and no matter what weaknesses you have. The swim, bike or run can be a challenge for some, but encountering challenges and overcoming them is what triathlon is all about. You may not be the best swimmer, cyclist or runner, but when you finish your weakest discipline, the game is still ON!

Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coach
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach


Top Tips for Starting Your Tri-Training

posted by FitnessFirst Team September 18, 2017 0 comments

Hopefully by now, you have fully committed to your decision to train for a triathlon and you’ve stopped thinking about if you should or not?

Don’t worry, we have all been there!

It can seem daunting and overwhelming when taking on such a challenge… However, the good news is I am here to tell you how easy it can be… yes you heard me right… it can be easy. Now I’m not saying it won’t take some hard work physically and mentally, but we can help you to make the journey as seamless as possible.

Check out some top tips on how to get started with your training.

Don’t over think what equipment you need

There are hundreds of articles and people out there who will tell you about lots of different types of gadgets, bikes, swimsuits and running shoes you will need but my advice is KEEP IT SIMPLE! If you want to explore your options then please do but you do not NEED anything fancy or expensive.

I completed my first sprint triathlon wearing a swimming costume, goggles and mandatory swim hat. For the cycle, I used a standard road bike which cost AED 1500 and a pair of trainers which I then used for the run leg of the race. In fact, even when I did the 70.3 distance the only extra item I invested in was a pair of cycling shoes!

Start Training…

Quit thinking and start moving.  Don’t worry about how much distance you can cover at the beginning. Start working on running, cycling and swimming either indoors or outdoors. The distance will soon start to clock up as your fitness levels increase.

Plan your weekly training schedule

Schedule your sessions around your work, family and social commitments. Consistent training is the key to getting the result you want. This also includes REST! Download a training plan to see what sessions you could attend or to get more guidance on the type of training you should do.

Share your goals!

Tell your family, friends and colleagues what you are training for. This will keep you accountable and will inspire others! Join a group of like minded people who share the same goal and you are guaranteed to stay motivated throughout your training.

Get a Coach

A coach will keep you on track, help you with technique, tips and accountability. You can find a coach within group sessions or 1:1 sessions for a real personalized approach. If you want to get the best from yourself this is definitely the way to go!

Charlotte Stebbing
National Fitness
Programming Manager

Jon Norris


posted by FitnessFirst Team September 17, 2017 0 comments

My first half iron distance triathlon was my second triathlon ever. I had only ever attempted a sprint in the French mountains a few months before.  A friend teased that I should come and do a real triathlon in Dubai, she was a veteran at 70.3 distances and has a strong understanding of the sport and required endurance. Me…..I was naive and keen to impress.

Jon Norris

“What the hell am I doing” was my only thought as I looked around and saw no one and nothing but sand. My wheels were spinning at 16kmh or at least that’s what Garmin said even though my heart was pounding and legs were screaming. The wind was blowing a gale, I felt like I was back on the piste in a blizzard only now sand for snow. Above, the sun glared down with a strength unknown to any man. I seriously contemplated manufacturing a puncture, wishing an injury upon myself or even better being swallowed up by the nearest sand dune and waking up to realise it had all been a bad dream. Alas……I still had over 40km to go.

I finally finished the worst conditions race possible with a time of just sub 7 hrs. More importantly than leaving with just a medal I left with an urge to continue in this great sport and improve myself both mentally and physically for the next race.

Triathlon is an interesting sport

Triathlon is an interesting sport, a discipline that calls to a select few and becomes a way of life. No matter how you found the sport once there you are addicted. Endless hours in the pool, months running wherever you can find the time and moments on the bike that feel like you have been sitting there for days; not to mention all this whilst juggling your family, work, friends, kids school, piano or ballet classes. Food? That becomes a whole new way of life and understanding. If you are not a qualified nutritionist before entering triathlon you soon will be.

John Norris

After a year of continually spinning my wheels, running around the same courses and swimming the same lengths in the same pool with no gains I finally understood the benefits of smart training. Luckily I was swept up into the Fitness First Dubai Ironman effort and enrolled in the Masters Swim classes. I have always considered myself a competent swimmer although it would take a little persuasion to enter the pool however working directly with a qualified coach, Talal Almoallem (@talal_almoallem) and training on regular days within a group has improved my technique and efficiency in the water that I am now happy to say has shaved almost 10 minutes off my 1.9km swim time. Completing the Dubai Ironman 70.3 in 2017 was a huge goal for me and I owe my PB time to training with Talal and the team at Fitness First.

John Norris

Being taught the benefits of swimming sets and the strategy behind them has made me re-evaluate my other disciplines in the sport. With continual support and advice from the Fitness First team I am confident to say that my swimming and biking have both taken large improved steps towards further successes. Alongside the varied classes on offer and the one to one gym instruction my core and overall fitness has jumped enormously which is beginning to be seen in my day to day running programs. With continued guidance from the experts in their fields and the best equipment available in the UAE I have really found new purpose in my gym visits.

Whatever the reasons to get fit there is added benefit throughout your life from living a healthier lifestyle. My journey has just begun and already I am so thankful to the Masters Swim class for helping me get both my feet on the ground to a more productive training schedule where I can see actual results. I have more energy in my day, my days are longer, I am more focused and I now actually look forward to getting in the pool or on the bike. I still struggle some days with the thought of having to do a 10km run, particularly in the summer heat here but what can I say…..my gyms aircon is almost as cool as the staff!

Jon Norris

Jon Norris

Our Team

Let the race begin!

posted by FitnessFirst Team January 9, 2017 0 comments

Here it goes: nutrition – check, water bottles – check, swimming gear – check, race fuel – check, timing chip – check, bed time – check.  4am my alarm goes off and by 4:30am I’m driving to the beach…It’s dark, windy and unbelievably exciting. Any other circumstance would made me question my sanity but not on the race day! I get ready in T1, march nervously towards the swim start to stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of athletes from around the world that are about to battle the same distance across swim, bike and run disciplines to proudly wear the finisher T-shirt…

…before you put on the Finisher T-shirt, you’ve spent months preparing for the race, investing in your mental and physical health, made sacrifices around your work and personal lifestyle because you’ve made a choice. A choice that made you commit to yourself and your team, a choice that has victory at the end of the road and one, that only you can push through when the times get tough!

On January 27th 2017 we are going to witness 160 Fitness First staff changing into the ‘Finisher’ t-shirt & here is how: 2 years ago there were 3 Fitness First employees who signed up to race individually the half Ironman distance triathlon in Dubai…the following year we decided to invite some keen colleagues to join us which brought our numbers to a total of 60 at the Dubai International Triathlon….this year, 160 Fitness First staff, few of our members and key business partners are going to stand proudly at the IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai start line to use their strength, to face their fears and to live our brand. Over the years, we watched the passion grow within our teams which is now unstoppable with clubs supporting major sporting events, competing in international races and our presence across the field in the Middle East. That’s what counts. From the Executive Team to club teams, we live, breathe and just can’t get enough of our brand, what better place to be!

If you look at the team and individual split, not everyone is a pro but everyone is a hero! Some of us never thought a triathlon is something to get involved in, some have only learnt how to swim in the process, others never run more than 5 or 10km and some & for some, focus has always been weight training…. and yes,  there are also those that haven’t ridden a bike since they were kids! But, does it really matter and how do you involve such big numbers?  Simple, they all made a choice and they love what we do. Based on a simple shout out, in less than 2 weeks we exceeded our predicted numbers for participants and the interest kept going. With the support from Fitness First our teams are training hard and awaiting the arrival of their training kit. This amazing initiative would’ve not been possible if it wasn’t for our closest strategic partners contributing almost AED 100,000 in sponsorship, call this a team effort! We’ve created a huge buzz around the business successfully continuing to promote the sense of community through social media activations, never ending what’s app groups, high energy training sessions and have already been asked about the next event. No session is ever too late and no session is ever too early, participation strives! We support them, we help them but all the hard work, come from the individuals…all we did, is ignited the fire!

Key important component of success for any company are when staff is passionate about your product, about your brand, about your future. How powerful it is that 160 staff will be waving the Fitness First flag on the race day, a race that is recognised internationally in the age group and professional field …. The main part however comes way before the race day : it starts with commitments and a plan, then hours of training, strategy, aches and pains, learning the disciplines, early starts and late finished, nutrition changes and body transformations is what it takes to stand on that beach and wait for the whistle to blow.  It starts by not giving up. By then, you’ve earned it, you worked for it, and you are ready to face it. We are proud that our teams represent that.

For some of us, it is just another race, another t-shirt, another medal …. For others, it’s a challenge of a lifetime or a race they never dreamt of participating in. We are making it happen but our staff passion for fitness & movement made the recruitment easy! Truth to be told, you are never too old for the next medal…

Will the numbers grow year on year? Yes. Will we involve our members? Absolutely. Do we love what we do? No doubt.

See you all at the beach on January 27th 2017…. shoulder to shoulder let the race begin!

Kate Milewska
Group Central Operations and Customer Service Manager
Fitness First Middle East and North Africa


Race before the race - Behind the scenes of Ironman 70.3
Our Team

Race before the race – Behind the scenes of Ironman 70.3

posted by FitnessFirst Team March 28, 2016 0 comments

Whether you are an experienced athlete or a first timer, once you press the “Register” button on the IRONMAN website, your schedule, your energy, your world starts evolving around that exact date as you prepare for the race.

You train, you listen, you educate yourself, you push hard and learn new levels outside of your comfort zone. You count the days and make plans until the day where you drop off your machine at T1 & pack your bags for the next day stressing if you will get enough sleep and if the fuel plan you prepared is good enough….then you see the weather changing, the wind picking up and you wonder if your plan will become a reality. Before you turn up at 5am the next morning to complete the bike preparation and walk over to the swim start….someone’s already waiting for you…

Race before the race - Behind the scenes of Ironman 70.3

(Photography credits attributed to the owner)

That someone has also been preparing for months, formed plans and strategies & recruited the best people for the job to make sure, we are all ready for the race day. But our game is a race before the race. We must beat you to the start line, to the transition area, to the swim start and to the aid stations. We must be first on the ground with weeks of preparation, logistics and super team ready to make it happen!


For the first time since I started racing in triathlons just over a year ago, I had the pleasure to witness & be part of the team behind the scenes by joining RACE.ME & the IRONMAN team as one of the Team Leaders for the IM Dubai 70.3 race. Although I could only join the forces few days before the event where majority of the mega jobs were completed, the challenge, experience and team work that I experienced in that time was priceless. We are aware that it takes time and huge amount of work to pull such projects off but unless you are in the middle of organizing & coordinating 300+ volunteers for various Team Managers, setting up the aid stations where the athletes count on you to supply them with fuel and support, getting to site at 3 am and leaving almost 20 hours later holding tightly a “to do” list for the next day, it’s almost impossible to comprehend. I loved every moment of it for the people around me , for the precision in decision making, for the comradely around the base camp and for the challenge and learning’s that the whole experience brought me.

Your days are people intense filled with wins & setbacks, your hard work pays off or you turn up in the morning to find the site a bit less organized than you left it as you realize our close cousin “the 35 km/wind” decided to visit last night… But you race as hard as you can and you push as much as you can for when the athletes arrive , you are standing tall with a big smile, your white Team Leader shirt and a warm welcome wishing them a great day! What’s amazing about a local race is that all of your tri friends are there and they welcome you with hugs and thank you words knowing , that you made a difference to what’s about to come. The race kicks off, the tweets are flying, helicopters are up in the air, the pro athlete watch is on and we are on our stations, ready to shout the words of encouragement and continue with our secret operation behind the scenes.


Being in charge of some of the run course set up, it gave me a chance to really interact with everyone and I loved it. Everyone gives you a smile back and if energy lasts, even a high-5 or a cheeky joke. You run around the stations and they run around the course until the last person crosses the finish line….medals are issued, podium is waiting and the little army behind the scenes is on their way to clean up the tables, pick up the cones and reverse all the set up that made IRONMAN DUBAI 70.3 look and feel incredible. The evening brings congratulations which go both ways and then you know, we are all in this together…

From athletes to athletes.

#getinvolved #oneteam #newexperience

Kate Milewska
Group Central Operations and Customer Service Manager
Fitness First Middle East and North Africa

The one who took the extra Mile…




Our Team

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

posted by FitnessFirst Team November 24, 2015 4 Comments

An inside story on our company experience in the Dubai International Triathlon 2015


Months and months of training leading up to this event were the most exciting, challenging, stressful,   strenuous and I must say fun, where every team member gave his/her utmost best to train and get ready for this big event. Waking up at dawn most days of the week, giving up our weekend sleep-ins and Friday nights just to train, committing to a rigorous training plan and nutrition focused diet, meeting to train as a team in the early hours of the morning and saying the statement “No sorry, I have to train” was the attitude of the Fitness First athletes who decided to accept the challenge and participate in Dubai International Triathlon (DIT).

What better way to challenge our staff than to select this prestigious event with around 800 athletes joining from all over the world competing against us. The Dubai International Triathlon (DIT), with its second time round in Dubai, featured an exciting new venue and race course with a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike ride and a 21.1km run around Dubai International Endurance City.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Start of the Story

A handpicked few of 50 employees by our COO, were challenged to participate in this triathlon coming from different departments with varying fitness levels. For some, they had already done it as pros and for others it was their first time. All accepted the challenge for different reasons, personal goals and records they wanted to achieve. For those who felt they weren’t ready for the full race yet, the team concept was a great option to choose the preferred discipline and participate as a team. This way each member experiences the same competitive atmosphere and shares the sense of achievement that this race offers.

Once the challenge and commitment was accepted there was no looking back, no giving up, it was a goal everyone one of us wanted to achieve and complete. The support and motivation from the Fitness First team was a key driver in looking forward, believing in ourselves and just approaching the day with confidence. When all training was done, all we could do was wait for the moment to act and perform we were all just impatient, at the end feeling we need to do this.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

What motivated you to participate ?

A question we asked all our athletes with most answering wanting to step out of their comfort zone, challenge themselves and to do something they never did before. Others wanted to overcome an injury and prove they can still do it and that anything is possible. Some wanted to train for a reason to reach their personal goals and achieve record results.  For whatever the reason, there was the motivation to get these 50 Fitness First employees to do it.

Click here to watch the video of our COO and others about what motivated them to participate in Dubai International Triathlon as the Fittest Company in the Middle EastThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle EastPre-race moments

Every member of the team was getting ready, the swimmers warming up, the cyclists checking on their bikes racked from last night and the runners showing up to see their teams off. It was all about mixed feelings of excitement, butterflies in your stomach, waves of nausea and a dry, prickly mouth but we managed to get some great pictures through all these race-day anxieties.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Race

The swim leg started at Jumeirah Beach Residence next to Hilton Double Tree hotel, athletes then cycled through Dubai Marina towards Motor City to the purpose built Al Qudra cycle track before finishing at the Dubai International Endurance City where the runners completed three laps of a technical course.

Despite months of training, nobody was prepared for what happened during the race.

A storm a few days prior to the event meant that athletes had to overcome tricky weather conditions which added to the challenge.  The windy weather made the race particularly difficult with high waves during the swim, a bike course with a challenging head wind for most of the. The run course wasn’t all smooth but with uphill roads, sandy pebbly tracks and windy sandy conditions toughing the run course not to mention the midday sun and heat being the final discipline.

All athletes were pushed to their physical and mental limits.

The Swim 1.9 KM

It was an amazing site to watch all the swimmers get prepared and jump in to start the swim leg.

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The mental preparation at the race moment was the most important thing.The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The drive to succeed and push ourselves to the limit was key in achieving the results we aimed for.The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Bike 90 KM

The cyclists arriving at the Dubai International Endurance City village after a strenuous 90 KM bike ride.

Still looking good after this long ride with a smile on our faceThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Getting off the bike happy to have completed the courseThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Bikes all racked up after the bike courseThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Run 21.1 KM

Setting off on the run courseThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Running with no shoes just to get started…this is the Fitness First attitudeThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Waving to the crowd is always a positive attitudeThe Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Post-race moments

The mental race was harder than the physical race and this is what many confessed going through. There were thoughts and feelings of demotivation, defeat and the mind giving up before the body. The fight is to get past these thoughts and convince your brain that your body can do it.

One of the swimmers was overwhelmed with the adrenaline which gave him a slow start and taken in by the rush of all the swimmers felt drained then he told himself it’s now or never, I need to do this for the team and fought his way through the waves and managed to complete his part.

What made this all worth it was the final moment of reaching the finish line and getting that medal over your head with your hands up in the air saying…I did it!

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The moment you put that medal in between your teeth and smile

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East
It’s all about teamwork and the team enjoying the final moments winning together

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Results

All of us are winners and finishers of this great race but a few deserve some extra bit of recognition.

Lisa Hancox for First Place in her category Females 35-39 with a total time of 5:29:37 hrs

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

NoPro Team for second place in the Mixed Teams with a total time of 4:32:51 hrs

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

For the Male 35-39 category we have two exceptional performers who did the full distance

Gareth  Hall with a total time of 5:12:07 ranking 12 out of 80

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

Dennis  Bierman with a total time of 6:25:00 ranking 57 out of 80

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle East

The Final Shot

Now we can proudly say WE ARE the Fittest Company in the Middle East! #FittestCompanyME

The Race to Win the Fittest Company in the Middle EastHana Feidi
Digital Content Manager
Fitness First Middle East

DIT-Hana Feidi

Fitness & Training

Ever wanted to do a Triathlon?

posted by FitnessFirst Team August 11, 2015 0 comments

To complete a Triathlon shows great physical and mental strength, a high level of fitness and a good amount of muscular endurance.

When training for an event like a Triathlon, a lot of the hard work and conditioning is done during training prior to the event. This is so you are in the best shape and optimal fitness by the time you take part.

Obviously, to improve your swimming you will need to train in water, to improve your cycling you will need to practice on a bike and for running, you guessed it…you need to run. However, this article will give you exercises and techniques that will help facilitate your overall fitness, strength and endurance when in the gym…making you a better athlete and ready for a triathlon.



Technique and breathing is really important for swimming. In order to improve your breathing, you need to develop your fitness and your cardio vascular system.

1. The arm bike

This machine works your upper body. Sit down and make sure the handles are in line with shoulder height. Hold each handle and perform a push and pull circular rotation movement. Think of this exercise as freestyle swimming. Aim to complete 5 minutes continuously building up towards 15 minutes. You will feel it work the arms and also your cardio respiratory system. (If you do not have access to the arm bike, you can use the rowing machine. The rower works the upper body and the lower body, combining the big muscles in the legs with the arms. This will improve your co-ordination and whilst doing this, you can focus on controlling your breathing. Aim to complete 5 minutes of rowing and a total of x3 sets)

2. Core arm & leg extension

Having a strong core will help keep your body in alignment and your posture straight. If you can do this in the water when swimming, you will exert less energy which will benefit your breathing and technique especially in the sea against the tide. First, set yourself up into the plank position where your elbows are under shoulders and your knees are lifted so you are balancing on your toes. From there, stage 1 is to tap the left leg to the side then back in and then tap the right leg to the side and back in. Stage 2 is to tap the hands. The main focus should be to keep your hips square to the floor and avoid rotating. Draw your belly in, brace your abdominals to keep the still as you tap your feet or hands from side to side in a slow controlled movement. Aim for x3 sets of 10-20 taps.

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