Wellness and Beyond

wellness-beyond-robWhen it comes to fitness, Rob Donker makes it look so easy. A personal trainer, nutritionist, wellness speaker, multiple award-winning Natural Physique competitor and founder of corporate wellness company Beyond Wellness, Rob’s passion comes across in every move he makes, whether it be on a treadmill at a well-known Dubai gym, working out with the crowds by the beach or through an Instagram post where he raves about the latest health craze.

Here, Rob speaks to Mother, Baby & Child about keeping your family healthy, looking out for fitness-related myths and how tree hugging has nothing – and we mean nothing – to do with the foundation of wellness.

  • You are the Founder of Beyond Wellness; what do you think transcends the concept of wellness as we typically know it?

Many people will rubbish wellness as some sort of tree hugging, yoga, hippy practice. Real wellness, however, is probably one of the most important factors in our lives. It is having the drive to get up in the morning, a clean bill of health, the stamina and mobility to function throughout your day, in addition to being happy with your current situation in life.

  • Mothers often fall into the trap of being too busy to take care of themselves. How can they find the time to cater to their health and well-being?

This is something which may initially seem very hard, but can be achieved with some smart “hacks”. Mentally, a great way to start your day mindfully and purposefully is through meditation. You can easily find 10 to 20-minute guided meditations on YouTube and play them through your earphones in the morning when you get up before the mad rush.

For fitness, we have High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a form of exercise which reaps maximum results from short intense bouts of exercise, typically lasting 15-20 minutes in total.

Lastly, making the right food choices on a very hectic schedule can be hard, but not impossible. Eating healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, hummus, cottage cheese etc. makes it incredibly easy to eat well through the day with zero preparation.

  • Ramadan tends to involve changes in lifestyle, particularly when it comes to nutrition. How can families ensure they’re getting all of the nutrients they need?

I think the issue with Ramadan is that people feel so hungry by iftar they tend to overeat, so eating mindfully becomes an important factor. There are normally around 4-5 hours of time when most people eat after sunset so eat small, regular meals to sustain your energy to avoid feeling lethargic and sleepy. This mean you can still take part in activities during the evening too.

  • Out of all the health and well-being tips you give women, which ones do you think are the most important and why?

Lifting weights won’t make you bulky. Women seem to think this will happen and, understandably so, since it’s all over social media and magazines. What they don’t mention is that almost all of these fitness models are on performance-enhancing drugs which will form excess muscle. In fact, when women lift weights – naturally – they develop a strong metabolism which would help reduce body fat, in addition to building better muscle tone and shape.

  • As a personal trainer, what was the weirdest fitness request you’ve ever gotten?

The strangest requests I receive are regarding changing body parts, men wanting smaller bums and bigger biceps, women wanting smaller calves and bigger chests. It’s great that people have goals and there’s a lot we can do over a substantial amount of time. However, some particular requests would require a plastic surgeon!

  • The number one question: how do we avoid falling off the fitness wagon?

I think accepting that it’s going to happen is the first way to avoid a drop-off. Life isn’t perfect and it’s going to get in the way sometimes. Many people stress out so much that something has ruined their regime that they go “all out” so to speak and end up making matters worse. So, if you ended up have that croissant with your morning coffee, who cares, it doesn’t mean you need to eat a bucket of fried chicken for lunch and biryani for dinner. One little treat isn’t going to ruin your whole week, so don’t stress.

  • How can we make sure we’re doing the right thing for our bodies; can one size fit all when it comes to health and well-being?

As with most questions in health and wellness, it depends. Yes, we could theoretically all follow the same training regime to burn body fat and build muscle. However, with workout regimes, there are factors which need to be taken into consideration; can you perform the exercises properly? Will you comply to the frequency of sessions per week? Are they enjoyable for you?

In terms of nutrition, this is more tailored as with most people there’s going to be a variation in calories depending on gender, age and weight. Moreover, allergies and intolerances need to be taken into consideration. However, as a blanket statement, a healthy, balanced diet combining all the essential nutrients is key to health and well-being.

To keep things as simple as possible, in order to shed excess body fat and feel better, eat less and move more.

  • You’re a supporter of the corporate wellness concept. Why do you think it’s so important and how can we make sure employers in the UAE are aware of this?

In the UAE, there’s a very strong ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude. This could be fine for a short period of time, but we know it always causes trouble on the long run. A recent YouGov Siraj survey has found that 60% of UAE residents were stressed and 65% out of these claimed this was from the workplace. Many people spend far more hours than required at work too.

Another study by Dubai Heath Authority has found that a staggering 81% of people in Dubai didn’t engage in enough physical activity on a weekly basis to increase or maintain health and wellness. This is why we need to be in the workplace educating staff and management about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This not only helps staff, but also the company in increasing productivity and decreasing health insurance costs.

  • With the wealth of health tips available out there, we often get confused. How can we keep it simple and get back to basics?

I fully agree, there’s a lot of information out there which can be misleading and confusing; the 5 main tips I would give to people to get the basics right are:

  1. Drink lots of water, this is vital for literally ever cell in your body to function properly.
  2.  Eat predominantly fresh fruit and vegetables, white meats, fish, eggs, good fats and herbs and spices.
  3. Take part in some kind of activity daily, even if its walking for 30 minutes. Try to be vigorously active at least 3 times a week (jogging, playing with the children, cleaning the house, all of these count).
  4. Find time for yourself in a relaxing environment to either meditate, pray or reflect.
  5. Practice gratitude for happiness, there is always something in life to be grateful for.
  • Are you concerned over our children’s future? How can we ensure the coming generations are healthily happy?

Yes, it’s a very worrying time to be bringing up children. Feed them properly, get them into activities and sports so they enjoy exercise from a young age and, most importantly, spend your precious time with them. This is the best way to keep your kids healthy and happy in this modern age.



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