Dubai: From swimming 14hrs to cycling 200kms a day, these Indian expats pushed the limit to meet fitness goals

Members of Kerala Riders credit their families, employers for supporting their endeavours during the Dubai Fitness Challenge


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Wed 30 Nov 2022, 6:00 AM

Members of the Dubai-based cycling group Kerala Riders went to great lengths to mark the Dubai Fitness challenge of 2022. While one swam 14 hours at a stretch to cover 25kms on the closing weekend of the challenge, another rode 200kms a day, totalling 6000kms during the month.

“Members of our group always try to push themselves out of the comfort zone for DFC,” said Abdul Sameekh, who achieved a personal best by swimming 25kms at a stretch. “Each year, we try to do better than the previous year, and I was able to pull off this achievement this year.”

Lalu Koshy, who cycled 666 kilometres continuously for 33 hours last year, took up the challenge to cycle 6,000 kilometres this year but admitted it was not easy. “I had not done any workout for almost four months as I had travelled to India,” he said. “I was unsure if I would be able to make it, but I powered through”

Swimming 14 hours

On Saturday, Abdul Sameekh started his swim at Al Mamzar beach at 4:30am, taking 1-2 minutes of break every three kilometres to hydrate and replenish. He said, “During early morning and evenings, it was fine. But in the afternoon, it was more challenging.”

For the Indian expat, it was a slow build-up to his final goal. “Every day, I would swim at least three to five kilometres, and every weekend I would swim 10 kilometres,” he said. “To my knowledge, no one in the UAE has attempted a 25km swim. So, I approached the lifeguards at Mamzar beach for permission. Dubai is so supportive of activities like this!”

Abdul, a general manager at Alwafaa group, credits his coach Mohandas Puthukkattu for helping him with his training. “For six months, I trained under him, and he helped me understand my body,” he said. “He would monitor my heart rate and coach me to swim so that it stayed under a certain level. This helped me swim longer distance without feeling fatigued.”

Abdul, a triathlete, said his family’s support was the biggest factor that kept him going. “During the DFC, we work out 7 to 10 hours on weekends,” he said. “At other times, we are out for at least 5 hours training and preparing. My wife Sherina and my kids Nihan and Naira are very understanding, and they are always encouraging me. Without their support, I would never be able to do these things.”

Cycling after a break

Lalu Koshy, who cycled 8.5 to 10 hours every day to achieve his goal, also said the role of coach Mohandas was integral. “When I was in India, I could not keep up with my training,” he said. “So, when I came back a month before the fitness challenge, I was unsure whether I could do it or not. But my coach Mohandas prepared me well.”


For Lalu, the biggest challenge was his muscle pain after each ride. “From my residence at Qusais, I would go to Mamzar, and from there, I would ride to Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah,” he said. “Some days, I would have to take shortcuts because of traffic. On those days, I would ride to the Waterfront market afterwards to ensure that I got in the 200 kilometres I needed. The first one week, I would feel a lot of muscle pain, but my coach showed me proper stretches and cool down techniques. That significantly helped me.”

Lalu also credited his employer and boss for helping him by adjusting his working hours. “My manager Hussam Arwani at my company Towam equipment really encouraged me and helped me,” he said. “He cut short my work hours so that I could achieve this. My sponsor, Triathlon Hub, also helped by providing all my hydration requirements and electrolytes for free. My next aim is to run a full triathlon next year. Let’s see if I can do it.”

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