Name: Amna Al Haddad Age: 26 Location: Between USA & UAE
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you? It means learning to empower yourself from your past, from your fears, and going after your goals – whatever they may be.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training? My fitness journey began when I was about 19 years old. I was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle: eating all the wrong things and doing nothing about it. One day, I woke up and realized that I couldn’t continue living like that!
So I took it upon myself to take much needed action and go for a walk around a park called Safa Park, in Dubai. That was where it all began.
Since then, I decided that there was no going back, and became a daily gym-goer, doing bodybuilding exercises. But then I wanted more.
I joined Crossfit and after participating in only a few sessions, I decided to compete at the Crossfit Games Open. I qualified to compete with a team at the Crossfit Games Asia Regionals in Seoul in South Korea in 2012, where I was the first Emirati or GCC or Arab woman to participate. Through Crossfit, I fell in love with weightlifting and made the decision to focus on weightlifting. That is what I have been doing for almost four years now.
In April 2015 I won an IWF championships, the Asian Interclub meet in Jordan, where I won 6 gold medals and 3 silver in the Arab, West-Asian, and Asian categories in the -63kg weight class.
What does a sample workout look like for you? That’s a tough one. It changes and varies often! As an Olympic weightlifter – my training consists of:
Clean and Jerk
Squats – and more squats.
Bodybuilding exercises – lat pull downs, shoulder presses, reverse flys
And from time to time there is a fun variety to keep it exciting like banded GHR, leg presses as examples.
And abs, lots of abs
Favorite Lift: Clean and Jerk!
Most memorable PR: I don’t think I have achieved it yet. I could think of a few, but I’m not yet satisfied!
Top 5 songs on your training playlist: I am actually running blank right now my top 5 songs (forgot my mp3 player in the car, haha!) But definitely, Face Everything and Rise by Papa Roach has been a PR song for me!
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag: My training book, weightlifting shoes, and Goat tape.
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why? Both. I have gone through periods where I trained alone out of choice, which frankly, I hated. But it taught me to push myself and find ways to create my own environment that works for me. So for about two months, I made the decision to train alone in my home gym, and it was probably the most fun I had training.
I enjoy training in weightlifting environments when everyone is weightlifting. There is this electric atmosphere ,and when everyone is PRing, it just pushes you beyond your boundaries.
Best compliment you’ve received lately: A few friends regarded me as great friend to them, and that’s one of the biggest compliment anyone can get. I feel honored!
Most recent compliment you gave someone else: That a friend is awesome for being herself and pushing beyond boundaries!
Most embarrassing gym moment: Probably crying through a training session. It has happened quite a few times.
Favorite meal: Pizza with ranch sauce. Give me all the ranch.
Favorite way to treat yourself: Taking myself to a spa treatment/day
Favorite quote: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
Favorite book: Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers
What inspires and motivates you? The self-growth that I have attained through this journey, not the PRs, media attention, or sponsorships. But the lessons learned and the failures that pushed me to become a better person.
What do you do? I quit my job as a journalist three years ago to pursue being a full-time athlete/weightlifter, and have sought support and sponsorships on my own. I am the CEO of” Amna Al Haddad’s Awesome Journey in life”.
I do not have a regular 9-5 job, and I come up with ideas and execute them and figure out how to raise funds to support my training.
What else do you do? I read a lot, educate myself on business. I fostered two wonderful kittens — and will do as long as I am able to foster. I have taken hip hop classes. I’m also a professional couch lounger.
Your next training goal: To compete at the 2016 April Asian Continental meet – Olympic qualifier.
What are you most grateful for? Being able to wake up every morning.
What life accomplishment are you most proud of? I am proud that my actions in these last few years have opened a path for women in the Arab world, and GCC particularly, to pursue Crossfit and strength sports and compete.
Aside from that, I am an everyday person who turned her life around from depression to pursuing the Olympics and made great strides during this big goal that I have put ahead of me. I am proud that I didn’t give up when God knows there were many reasons to walk away. But I made myself a promise to see this goal to the end of the 2016 Olympics; and know deep down whatever happens, is what meant to be.
Three words that best describe you: Hard on myself, Self-motivated, Type-A
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out? I, for the first time, decided to move away from home (Dubai) to come and live in the USA all on my own in my very own first apartment. I truly have isolated myself in a way. How did it turn out? I made a lot of mistakes at first, but I also learned a lot, like the true concept of responsibility and how to deal with things in a foreign country. I also learned that I am truly OK on my own. Still waiting for my future husband to show up in the picture, though!
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training? Eating what I like, often, and staying lean!
How has lifting weights changed your life? It made me more resilient. For me, it’s more about the journey and not the weight on the bar. It changed my life in far too many ways to describe in words.
It made me seek truths, it made me learn to deal with failure, it made me learn to take things one day at a time and be more patient.
It’s not about the weight on the bar for me anymore.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training? Once you start, you’ll get addicted! It feels great, empowering, and hey…do you really want to take multiple trips to your car to carry those grocery bags in this horrible winter? I know I don’t!
If Amna’s story inspires you, read on to learn more about—and join!—our community of strong, inspiring women…
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