By Gureni Lukwaro
With the advent of the New Year, many of us have probably committed ourselves to New Year’s resolutions. Some of these might be resolutions that focus on improving certain areas in our lives while others could help us have more fun and enjoy life more fully.
A little over a year ago Dr. Jeremy Palmer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Arabic and Translation Studies, decided to start 2015 with a bang. He registered to compete in the Urban-Ultra Extreme3 2015 race, a 140km totally self-supported, three-stage race which takes runners through a rocky mountain terrain and over the spectacular sand dunes of the UAE. The three-day race will take place from January 8-10, 2015.
In preparation for this race, Dr. Palmer had to make significant changes in his lifestyle. “I have trained for this event by simply committing to exercising everyday – or nearly every day – for over a year. I’ve run early in the morning during the middle of the summer here. I sometimes wake up before 4:00 a.m. to go running – and I am not a morning person!”
“I have also cut out soda and junk food from my diet for the most part. I try to eat meat only on rare occasions. I get plenty of protein from quinoa, chia seeds, beans, legumes and more. I do still enjoy chocolate, peanut butter and ice cream but I try to save it for special occasions,” he said.
“In addition to my own efforts, the AUS Wellness Program has helped me greatly in preparing for this race. I attend circuit and spinning classes regularly. The Wellness coaches are highly qualified and trained to help staff and faculty live a healthy lifestyle. This program is a gem and I tip my hat to AUS for providing this outstanding resource,” he added.
This will be the third race for Dr. Palmer who ran his first official marathon in January last year. It took him three hours and 40 minutes to finish the 42km Dubai Marathon. Later that year, he completed his first ultra-marathon in Germany where he participated in an 80km marathon.
“I had to walk some of the ultra-marathon because the elevation change was over 3,000 meters on mountain trails, which makes running even more challenging and rewarding,” he said.
With these two major accomplishments in hand, Dr. Palmer decided that the Urban-Ultra Extreme3 2015 would be the next challenge for him.
“I am doing this event to see how I handle myself in long-term physically and mentally-challenging situations. Moreover, the race takes place outdoors and I will be running, sleeping, and living outside for three days. I have to carry all my food and all my gear, although a tent will be provided at night and there are water stations along the course every 10 km. I think it is a good idea to get out into nature,” he said.
There are many benefits in taking part in such physical activities, according to Dr. Palmer. “I have found that I am actually more productive in my research and a better teacher when I am exercising regularly. I rarely get sick when I am exercising and eating healthy. I do shorter workouts during the week and then a long run on Saturdays. I frequently go on trail runs with the Dubai Trail Runners group which is made up of men and women from many different backgrounds from all over the world. Around campus I sometimes push my one- year old in the jogging stroller to give my wife a break and to add more of a challenge to my runs. We also go on bike rides as a family,” he explained.
Dr. Palmer said a lot of good things have happened to him as a result of this journey, including losing some 30 pounds. “Other than the weight loss, I have stopped snoring – which my wife appreciates! I rarely get sick, I have more energy and focus in my teaching and research. If I can make positive changes in my life, I think anyone can. If you start slowly and smartly, you will be amazed at what your body can do. Before making big changes in your exercise routine though, I would recommend talking with a health coach or physician.”
“I hope that my participation in this race will provide a positive example to our students at AUS,” stated Dr. Palmer. “There are numerous AUS professors and staff members who are successful in their work and family lives – and they make time for exercise. I, too, am more successful in my research, teaching, and family when I am regularly exercising. And more than this, I have seen so many beautiful mountains, wadis, sand dunes, farms and villages in the UAE, thanks to getting outside and exercising. The UAE is a country with great natural beauty. Go and explore it!”
With additional reporting by Nour Al-Ali, English literature and mass communication double-major senior student at the American University of Sharjah.
Gureni Lukwaro is a Social Media Specialist, Writer and Editor at American University of Sharjah.
For more information about American University of Sharjah, please visit www.aus.edu