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Passion, Parkour and Societal Expectations – Amal Murad

Parkour is “the activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.”

Amal Murad spent her childhood barefoot, jumping up walls, climbing trees and running around outdoors. She didn’t realise at the time that she was in training to become the first female Emirati to coach and compete in parkour. After university, Amal got a design job that had her sitting at a desk for twelve hours a day. In her mid-twenties she started to attend a local parkour group run by her cousin – she was one of the oldest members and the only woman there.

Amal went on to become heavily involved in parkour, eventually giving up her steady government job and associated benefits for this passion. She is sponsored by Nike and now trains and runs parkour groups for local women in Dubai.

We talked about the opposition Amal faced when she gave up her stable job for parkour, and how challenging it has been to strike a balance between personal interest and societal expectations. We spoke about stereotypes in Arabic society with respect to marriage, work and hobbies. Amal recounts that while her father has been her biggest ally, others around were highly vocal that her unusual hobby would result in no man wanting to marry her. We discussed how social media has its own idealistic pressures and how she deals with cyber-bullying. We talked about how a major injury helped her become a better coach as well as a better partner. And finally, Amal, who is seven months pregnant, gives listeners some tips and advice for exercising while pregnant.  

You can find Amal (aka Leap of Hope) on her instagram page.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas:  (00:00)
Hello Ladies and gentlemen, my guest on today’s show is the first woman to coach and compete in parkour. Amal Murad started jumping around and climbing trees as a child, but like most of us gave up play for a job that had her sitting at her computer for 12 hours a day. In her twenties, she started to attend a local parkour group. She was one of the oldest members and the only woman there. She went on to become heavily involved in the sport, eventually giving up her steady government job and benefits for her passion. Amal is sponsored by Nike and now trains and runs parkour groups for women in Dubai. We spoke about expectations and stereotypes in Arabic society with regard to marriage work and hobbies. Amal told me about the opposition she faced to giving up her stable job for parkour and how the sport offers mental challenges and growth. We discussed how social media has its own idealistic pressures and how she deals with cyber bullying. We talked about how a major injury helped her become a better coach and a better partner. And finally, Amal, who is seven months pregnant, gave some tips and advice for exercising while pregnant. So let’s get into it. Amal, thanks so much for coming on When Women Win. I’m delighted to have you.

Amal Murad: (01:23)
Thank you for having me.

Rana Nawas:  (01:25)
So you’re the first Emirati woman to coach and compete in parkour. What is parkour?

Amal Murad: (01:31)
Parkour, just to give you the literal definition, it’s you going from point a to point b in the quickest and most efficient manner. So in the process of you trying to reach that point, you are overcoming obstacles, physical ones. But, in reality it’s a lot of problem solving happening while you’re doing that. You need to find the quickest route. You need to understand how to move your body in the space that you’re in. So it’s both a physical and mental game.

Rana Nawas:  (02:00)
And it started in France, right? Getting across the city.

Amal Murad: (02:04)
It’s using the city as your playground basically. It’s understanding the place that you’re in and you know, just, just the fact that you’re, you’re touching the surfaces, you’re jumping on them, you’re, you’re learning how to overcome them. It’s, it’s very artistic in a way.

Rana Nawas:  (02:21)
And it’s fast real time problem solving. I mean, you’re not stopping to assess, you’re running while you’re problem solving. Amazing. Now it’s not the kind of thing you stumble into, right? It’s not a yoga class. So how did you get into parkour?

Amal Murad: (02:35)
Well, if I have to really dig deep in when I first started, it would be when I was a child. Our culture back in the day, we used to play in the neighborhood, that’s just how we were – barefoot, like we didn’t have no games. We barely had a computer with a dial up modem that we could only use like half an hour to an hour a day. So we had rules. So the only thing we had was the neighborhood, and we used to climb trees, we used to climb walls, we used to make up games as we go. I feel like that is when I really started doing parkour, but I just didn’t understand that it was actually a sport. It was just me being a child and me exploring. And then, while I grew up, I was always into sports, but it wasn’t parkour. I was into basketball, I was into football, volleyball in college. And then when I actually got into graphic design, which is my degree multimedia design, that’s when I stopped moving, really. So I stopped doing normal things like, as a child, and I started doing grownup things. So that’s when I started, you know, being, or like using my computer 12 hours a day, deadlines, and I lost a big part of what made me who I am. But the way I got back to it was that my cousin opened the first parkour gym in the UAE. You know, when you, you’re not thinking about it too much and you’re like, oh, I want to try this, you know, I want, I, I’ve done it as a child. And I’ve always looked up to like stunt doubles and thought what they did was cool. I was like, okay, might as well go and try it out. And unfortunately there weren’t any, all lady classes, and I never trained in a mixed environment. So, the first step was convincing my dad that I wanted to try it and because my cousin owned the gym, he kinda like gave me the okay

Rana Nawas:  (04:30)
Cousin, being a guy?

Amal Murad: (04:32)
Yeah, being a guy. So he’s like, okay, you can go as long as your cousin’s there, and as long as you know, like to be careful, take care. And we’ve always learned to know our boundaries. Like I went to a mixed university so I was okay being immersed in that environment, but training was a whole different world. Like understanding how to because you’re, you’re sweating, you’re in, in weird positions, you’re, you’re not really a presentable as they say in a gym. I had to kind of find a way to, you know, still hold onto my cultural values while I’m training. So the first thing was like, oh gosh, I have to wear millions of layers so that if I ever do a trick, my stomach isn’t going to show while I’m in a flip or whatever it is. So the first thing was just understanding how I can still respect, you know, my parents’ wishes, my own cultural values, and also do something that I want to try.

Rana Nawas:  (05:26)
Because the class was – you were, were you the only woman in the class? Or?

Amal Murad: (05:29)
When I first started, yeah, I was like the only girl and I was almost the oldest, because all of the guys who are in class for like 18 and 17, and I was in my twenties, so I was like that old girl, the girl who doesn’t know. I didn’t progress nearly half as fast as they did because they’re younger. They’re more mobile, they’re less scared. And I’m the girl who was like, I haven’t done sports in a very long time and I’m trying to parkour basically.

Rana Nawas:  (05:58)
Well, I’m glad you touched on society. I’d like to talk about that because a big theme on When Women Win is defying stereotypes. And this is a big sort of part of your life, right? So I mean Emirati society is, is conservative, right? When you, you’ve been talking about the cultural values, etcetera. So how did Emirati society react to your passion for running and jumping on concrete?

Amal Murad: (06:25)
Well, the older generation, like some of them understood it when I was younger, but the second you get older they’re like, well, why are you doing this? Like, what are you gaining? And for me, when I first started this, I wanted to try something new. So the first thing, when you think about the stereotype, the first kind of comments that I used to get, like, what are you gaining doing this? Okay. It’s not even a sport in the Olympics, you know, like as if like, as if I were going to make the Olympics if I started in my twenties, like you know. But that’s the first thing that they try to kind of find logic in is like, if you’re not really gonna, get anywhere with this, why are you investing your time in it?

Rana Nawas:  (07:04)
And an answer like, because I love it, is just weird to them.

Amal Murad: (07:08)
It’s like what? Like, you’re not going to go anywhere. That’s how we are as a society, we’re very goal oriented, we want results, and we, if we find something that isn’t going to give us or make us reach a certain place, we dismiss it thinking that it’s not important. So what happened was that the first step was, okay, why this specific sport? The first, then the second thing that people were asking me was that, why don’t you just go into gymnastics? So they, they find alternatives that are more feminine, more acceptable. But even gymnastics, like firstly it’s in the Olympics. Secondly, there are all lady classes. Thirdly, it’s, it’s the more popular kind of sport. So people first lent, like were leaning towards the familiar, and the biggest thing was like, oh, but you’re going to a mixed gym. So like, oh, why are you going to mixed gym? I was like, because there aren’t any classes. Like if there were an all lady class, I would go to it, you know, it wasn’t. The biggest thing with me is that I didn’t want it to be, you’re a rebel. Like I didn’t want to give that message. I didn’t want to go like I did this regardless of what the society wanted, you know, and the media loves that. Media loves portraying that, but that was never the case. Like my parents knew about it. I wanted to do it because I loved it and I ended up becoming the first parkour coach because I wanted this to be accessible for women that they didn’t need to go to mixed classes so that we can actually build a platform for women and they didn’t need to go through all of this stereotype.

Rana Nawas:  (08:46)
Yeah. So you’re the anti rebel, in fact

Amal Murad: (08:49)

Rana Nawas:  (08:52)
Great. All right. I really want to go deeper in this, but first I want to about injuries for a second, because parkour is a very high impact sport, and I imagine you’ve had many injuries or am I wrong?

Amal Murad: (09:04)
Not many.

Rana Nawas:  (09:04)

Amal Murad: (09:05)
I had one big injury, which is, I broke both bones in my forearm. But what’s so funny about it is that it wasn’t during training. It was a freak accident. I was at the gym but I was preparing class and I slipped off of a high top. I wasn’t jumping or anything. And the, it was devastating because the first thing that people tell you is that it’s because of the stupid sport that you’re doing. But it was a freak accident. Like I wish I could say something as like I was doing a triple back flip and that’s how I broke my arm. But it wasn’t the case. Like it’s not a cool story. It was just, I slipped and it could have happened anywhere.

Rana Nawas:  (09:44)
Can I just say for you people, who do these kinds of sports and always say, well, it was a freak accident. My husband rides a motorcycle. Okay. And it’s, his passion is the dirt bike. Okay. So, motocross. And he’s had like seven surgeries, and each one of them is unique and isolated incident. It’s nothing to do with the sport, you know.

Amal Murad: (10:05)
But like I had injuries that were training related. I did like, like for example, I was doing strength training, so it wasn’t really parkour, and I ended up tearing an ab muscle because I overstretched.

Rana Nawas:  (10:17)
Oh Wow.

Amal Murad: (10:18)
Injuries are inevitable when it comes to high impact sports. If you want to take it to the extreme. Again, if you give someone a car like, okay, this is your car, you decide how fast you drive, right? You would decide what limits you will go to.

Rana Nawas:  (10:34)
Can you do that in parkour though?

Amal Murad: (10:36)
Yes. So that’s what I wanted to show woman because people think about theatrics, like can you back flip, or that’s the first thing I get as a coach, like I want to learn how to back flip. I tell her let’s learn how to jump on the ground, learn how, how to move your body on the ground. And then that is like one of the advanced movements that isn’t a necessity and isn’t even needed to be a healthy person or a fit person in parkour. The reason why I got into parkour was like how smooth the movement was. Like how people moved in this space that were in – flow, basically, and that’s what I love teaching is that, we forget how to move as grownups, like as kids, even the way we squat is perfect form and when we grow up, that’s when we get scared to do anything, and we start getting rigid with the way that we move.

Rana Nawas:  (11:28)
Why is that?

Amal Murad: (11:30)
I think it’s, it’s so many factors. It’s the way we grow up. It’s we’re taught to be scared. Basically it’s we’re taught to walk a certain way. It’s never natural. And I feel like because of this constant need to please everyone else or in order to achieve certain things in life that are not necessarily important. The last thing on people’s mind is health and the first thing in people’s minds is how do I look or how do people perceive me? Even in training and in a job kind of environment, it’s never about, okay, why? Okay, let’s ay, why do you want to reach a managerial position? Like for me, that was the biggest thing of why I decided to quit my corporate life and decided to be a coach. I kept asking myself like, why do I want to reach a managerial position? There are people who hate their jobs, they hate their jobs, and they’re like, I can’t wait to be senior manager. I was like, you hate this job. Why are you working so hard to become a senior manager for a job you hate? That just shapes who we are and it changes us inside out literally.

Rana Nawas:  (12:38)
Well, I want to pick on two things that you just mentioned. You’ve talked about health a lot, so I never thought about parkour as healthy. You know, for me it seems like a high impact sport that, you know, I’m sure it’s good for your core and strength and all of that, but what is health to you?

Amal Murad: (12:54)
Once I started becoming more into a specialized personal coach, this is when I started really digging deep into less about the physical side, but more about the mental side of training. The most important thing that I feel that we do not talk about at all when it comes to sports, fitness, whatever, is the nervous system. So the nervous system, how does it work? The nervous system is your brain and your spine. And they’re the ones that are doing all the work, sending signals to everything, right? And what happens is that in parkour, you build such a strong relationship between your mind and your body, and we tend to forget that relationship because when we train, we switch it off, right? You switch off your mind, you want to go and forget about all your problems. The trainer is giving you a program, you’re training and you’re not thinking, but with parkour, I might do something in a route, and you might use the same route but do something completely different. And that’s when the problem solving that I talked about comes in to play, where you decide what you’re supposed to do in the place that you’re in and what your limits are. So I won’t tell you like, okay, first class, jump off buildings Like people think that’s what parkour is. For me, I’ll just set like three small boxes, and I tell you, if I told you to find five different ways of going about this, how would you do that?

Rana Nawas:  (14:22)
So as you’re exercising your mind as well as your body.

Amal Murad: (14:24)
You’re exercising your mind. You’re actually, you’re building that quick kind of, you know. Okay. Your intuition, the more that you train, the more that you drill, your body starts navigating through the space so much quicker and it starts finding different routes that you would never even think of using, but at the same time it requires so much body awareness and strength for you to be able to actually implement these in an environment that you’re in. Every day is a different day. I could have the same setup, same setup, and I could spend like a month just training on the same setup and have a million things to work on. You know.

Rana Nawas:  (15:04)
Gosh, you make it sound like so much fun, Amal.

Amal Murad: (15:06)
It is though!

Rana Nawas:  (15:07)
You really do!

Amal Murad: (15:07)
It’s my job to make it sound interesting.

Rana Nawas:  (15:07)
The other point that I want to pick up on that you mentioned earlier was the movement, and you’ve really flagged to me that we associate body movement with children, with childhood rather, with childhood. And as we age and as we start our jobs, you know, we’re not, I mean we have to go to the gym to move our body. Because I like you, I was very athletic as a kid.

Amal Murad: (15:36)
Really? Hang on! The way you make parkour sound and the way you make your husband sound, it’s like I’m not into this. You know?

Rana Nawas:  (15:37)
I’m not into extreme sports. I did basketball and volleyball, swimming. I was a swimmer, so that was my main sport. But now I just, you know, if I want to exercise, I feel I have to go to a class, you know, I don’t just jump in the pool, I don’t go to a basketball court, you know, these are the things that I used to do as a child and I wonder why.

Amal Murad: (16:04)
It’s very interesting, because again, I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing. I don’t know if it’s part of our community. I don’t know, if it’s just an Arab thing. I feel like now it’s become a very universal that sports is the last thing on people’s minds, like it’s a luxury and not a necessity because what are really our priorities now, like if you think about it, money number one, if you’re not making enough money, you’re not happy with your job. It’s never about the job. It’s never about what you’re doing. It’s about it. Like you can ask anyone, why would you quit your job and get another job because it has more benefits. It was never about. Because I love it. It’s very rare to find someone.

Rana Nawas:  (16:50)
It might be about stability, right?

Amal Murad: (16:52)
Which makes sense, but with my journey of actually quitting my job, I worked in a government job, that’s the most stable thing that you will have, and you have like a good amount of hours. You could come back home, do what you want. I did it for four years almost. But if you think about it, is there a way where you can find stability outside? Because there’s a difference between being comfortable and being stable. And there’s another difference between, you know, wanting to live a luxurious life versus being uncomfortable or having a comfortable life. I feel like we have gotten so used to the luxurious part that it has become our stability. Like I think if I, I have a range rover or whatever, I’m stable. You could buy another car that’ll take you just the same places, but it’s not a range rover. And we’re not aware of this. Like I wasn’t aware of it until fourth year.

Rana Nawas:  (17:48)
Amal, what car do you drive?

Amal Murad: (17:50)
A jeep wrangler. I am no way telling people quit your jobs, and it’s not easier. 10 Times harder. It’s not stable. You will get days where you start questioning yourself and be like, what? It was so much easier back then. But at the same time like what do you want to achieve? And, are you actually working towards your goals in a fulltime job and is it what you really want? Or is it what people expect you to want again. But now I could, I could live off of not even quarter of my salary back then. That’s how much I’ve changed. We have this weird tendency like the more money you get, the more you spend and I don’t know why that happens.

Rana Nawas:  (18:36)
I always try to explain this to people that wealth is actually income, less expenditure, so you can increase your wealth in two ways, some money on or decrease the amount you spend.

Amal Murad: (18:46)
It’s literally what happened with me, like the more money I had, the more I spent. I didn’t even know what I was spending on. I just didn’t have money by the end of the month, and now I’m getting quarter maybe of what I made and I’m saving more and I don’t understand.

Rana Nawas:  (19:00)
That’s interesting. You’re making a quarter of your salary but you’re saving more.

Amal Murad: (19:05)
I don’t know if it’s the fear of not having enough money the next month because it’s not stable or it’s really just me having that mind shift. The mindset change.

Rana Nawas:  (19:16)
You are sponsored by Nike?

Amal Murad: (19:19)

Rana Nawas:  (19:19)
Which is pretty cool. How did that happen?

Amal Murad: (19:23)
Well, it’s a very interesting story. Nike approached us as athletes three years ago, and they made like a focus group.

Rana Nawas:  (19:32)
Sorry, who’s us?

Amal Murad: (19:33)
Me and like, so we were like Saudis, there was one Kuwaiti I think, locals, Emiratis. I remember they got people from abroad, the marketing team from abroad and they were showing us videos and telling us like, do you feel empowered? And the videos are all like amazing woman and they’re like wearing sports bras and shorts and running streets and jumping off of things. And I was like, no, I don’t relate to that person at all because the things that we face, the first thing that I told you was I had to think what am I going to wear so I can train without feeling like I’m a bomb, not respecting my own culture.

Rana Nawas:  (20:15)
So you need modest athletic wear.

Amal Murad: (20:17)
It’s not even like I’m doing it for people. It’s just the way I’m brought up. Like I don’t want to train in sports bras and shorts, it’s just not who I am. But almost all of us, like 99 percent of all of us said that the most thing that we were afraid of or what will people say about you. So that was the number one fear. Like why, why don’t we get into sports. It’s a male kind of thing for a guy to have a career in sports, like it will make you money. You need to get kids who will marry you. And like all of these questions are like forever engraved within us. It’s programmed. And then, since childhood, the first thing, even the first thing I thought about was like, who will accept me as wife?

Rana Nawas:  (21:01)
Wow. I think this is a very Arab thing. You know, I don’t think it’s much of an issue, outside of the Arab world. You know, if a woman wants to get into sport, you know, Oh my God, who’s going to marry? I had the same thing for my parents when I wanted to do a phd, Phd. I wanted to do it. So I got offered to do a phd on the back of my engineering degree and it was a really interesting program. I did my Undergrad at Oxford and the PHD was six months Oxford, six months Cambridge, six months in Munich, six months here and there. And my parents were like, PhD, Oh my God, who’s going to marry you? You know? So I didn’t do a PhD!

Amal Murad: (21:37)
You didn’t?

Rana Nawas:  (21:37)
No, no. It’s true.

Amal Murad: (21:41)
God. And that’s just how scary it is. Like we believe it to some extent because we shouldn’t do it.

Rana Nawas:  (21:46)
You believe your parents right? When you’re. When you’re 18, 19, 20, you believe your parents, or at least I did. I don’t know.

Amal Murad: (21:52)
I know I did. There were days where I’m actually like, the reason why I, it took me so long to actually create an instagram account that’s public. Oh my God, like local Emirati who has a public instagram account and puts her face on instagram wasn’t huge like a couple of years ago. Now it’s more open. Now you have influencers and all of that, but like back in the day, it was like no, people will know you and people should not know, you know, like, and I had this conversation with my mom and I had this conversation with my dad and sometimes they say things and it’s the truth, like people don’t accept it. Like there are people who will retaliate and be like, listen, like you’re not, you know, I had comments, you don’t represent the Emirati girl. Like don’t say you’re Emirati. Like, you know, I’m not representing the Emirati girl, I’m representing me, you know, but at the same time you need to think you are an ambassador regardless. You are going to be considered someone from the country and you re,present that sport or that field. So I had to be very aware of how I represent myself and I had to be critical with the way I have to, you know, talk to people about my sport. Like I have to be careful. Like I can’t just go, like, do whatever you want, you know, who cares? We’re a collective society. We care about each other, everyone is in everyone’s business. That is just how it is. You can be walking in the street and people will know who you are, you know, like they will know. So my biggest struggle was just accepting that people might not accept me and it’s scary. It’s so scary because you want people to accept you and love you and everything. But I was like, you know, the first step is like, okay, there are people who won’t like me and I’m okay with it, but I’m not going to be like, you don’t like to me because you suck, I want it to be like I understand you don’t like me. And I know that there are things that we might not really see eye to eye. But it’s okay, in a lot of ways I could change people’s minds that way. Because people, I don’t understand this thing that we have now, the more haters you have, the more famous you are.

Rana Nawas:  (24:10)
Is that a thing? I’m totally oblivious to this.

Amal Murad: (24:12)
That’s a thing. Like you hear it in songs like shout out to my haters. I was like why? Why are we like that? Shouldn’t be your motive.

Rana Nawas:  (24:20)
Can I ask – have you ever faced cyber bullying?

Amal Murad: (24:23)
Everyday, probably.

Rana Nawas:  (24:25)
How do you? Well, okay. What kind of cyberbullying?

Amal Murad: (24:28)
Okay. So there are different kinds. There’s the cyberbullying that more into your, your parents like they didn’t raise you right. And that that’s the most hurtful for me because like you don’t talk about my parents, my parents raised me right? Like especially my dad, like my dad.

Rana Nawas:  (24:46)
I like how your southern American is coming out. My dad raised me right!

Amal Murad: (24:51)
Yeah. You don’t know, like because they always say the men won’t support you, but my dad was my biggest supporter. Like don’t talk about my dad. For me that’s a line, you know, that was the first thing that really hurt, but I learned to just, you know, like calm down and ignore and you will show people how you were raised through your actions and then you have people who make fun of how you look in general, so that’s like another world of like, oh, your nose is big and your face and you’re like, I’m training. Why should I care about how I look like? You know? That’s the biggest struggle with social media. You get pushed to wanting to look a certain way because that’s how you get famous if you’re pretty, you know, and I was like, when I’m training, I’m sweating and like I look like I got run over basically and I’m dying.

Rana Nawas:  (25:42)
And, you’re a parkour coach. Yeah. So you’re gonna, you’re gonna put the stuff you’re going to put on is not you at the beach looking your best.

Amal Murad: (25:49)
But the problem is like if you go and just write fitness in Dubai or whatever, like Dubai fitness, hashtag whatever. You’ll see people in sports bras with abs and like, so who do you think people will go to? The person who looks really pretty and has abs and all that, and the girl who has no idea what her body looks like and she’s wearing baggy clothes. She’s jumping around and she’s sweating and like. So again, the perception of people is super important on social media, but how do you maneuver your way where you’re like, I’m not that, but I can still offer so much more. And it’s just a different world of trying.

Rana Nawas:  (26:25)
So in terms of dealing with cyber bullying, what’s been your tactic?

Amal Murad: (26:29)
To be completely honest, there are times I answer.

Rana Nawas:  (26:35)
Oh, you’re not supposed to do that?

Amal Murad: (26:37)
And apparently they say like, oh, just ignore. I can’t. Like there are times where I’m like, oh, okay, let’s go, you know, have some points. I have some points, you know, and a lot of them, some of them come from a religious aspect and I come back with another religious aspect like, okay, I understand. And also there’s this, and they don’t know how to answer because they’re only, you know, they only take what they want.

Rana Nawas:  (27:01)
People only see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.

Amal Murad: (27:04)
And sometimes I just, you know, sometimes I get messages, of like bullying, just like, oh, look at your face or whatever. I was like, I know, but you know, I love it. Like I love my face. Like it’s okay, don’t get hurt. I don’t know why you’re so hurt by my face. And sometimes it turns into a joke and they start laughing and I started laughing and it’s like, okay, problem solved, you know.

Rana Nawas:  (27:29)
Well, it’s not true what they said about you not finding a husband. So you got married?

Amal Murad: (27:33)
Yes, I did. Thank you.

Rana Nawas:  (27:36)
So tell us about your husband in terms of your parkour and how that happened?

Amal Murad: (27:40)
My husband. Oh Gosh. So, my husband is also an athlete, so that was amazing because we both shared the same environment. And what was funny is that like we were in different sports and we always saw each other from afar and he knew like, I didn’t accept myself at first because you know, the whole, I’m not going to get married is still in your mind, whether you like it or not. I was still being all like, I’m on Nike, I’m on a commercial, I’m doing amazing things. But in the back of your mind, I’m like, but I’m still not going to find a partner, but I’m still not gonna. You know, you still have the buts that are at the back of your mind. And you know, the second I started being like, oh, I need to focus, I need to focus on who I am, I need to really build who I am and if I don’t accept myself, no one will accept me. And I really immersed myself in sports. I got my degree, I quit my job, I got my car, like I was so independent, and like I knew what I wanted and I chased after it. The second I did that, I got a phone call from his mom basically telling me like we want to propose. And I was like, wait, I’m not ready now. I didn’t like, the second, I didn’t care about it and now you come, I’m like, I don’t want it now. You know, it just happened when I accepted myself and I feel like it kind of changed the minds of everyone in the family who thought I was doing something wrong, and it’s so sad, but that’s the truth. But that a guy accepting me was their point of changing their minds about what I did. And it wasn’t my accomplishments.

Rana Nawas:  (29:29)
It was a validation.

Amal Murad: (29:33)
But he, my husband changed so much, like the fact that he accepted what I did and not, and not be like, okay, I accept what you do, but. Because you have that, I like her but I don’t feel like now it’s time because she’s a married woman, she needs to change, you know. We were just engaged, so we actually signed and he’s like legally my husband, a couple of days after that I, I broke my arm so he saw me at my most vulnerable state. And the fact that he stood by me, even though he like technically didn’t even know me, you know, I was that person on social media, you know.

Rana Nawas:  (30:12)
I think I can hear the listeners all over the world because when women wanted to listen to in 129 countries and so they’re, they’re listening and they’re saying, what do you mean your husband didn’t know? You know? I know. Yeah. What do you mean you got a call from his mom proposing?

Amal Murad: (30:27)
I wish it was like a love story. It wasn’t really, it was in the sense where we both were really passionate about our sports and he saw me through instagram and I saw him through competitions. He was always there in the background, but we never really built a relationship. And for us, in our culture, every family’s different, but we had an engagement period of getting to know one another and then we get married and if we feel like, that’s in our family, if we feel like we’re suitable, we go ahead with it. If not, then – it’s basically you’re dating during the engagement but in front of your family.

Rana Nawas:  (31:03)
It’s really wide open.

Amal Murad: (31:04)
It was like, yeah, he comes to the house, he sits with my dad. Like you get to know him very differently.

Rana Nawas:  (31:09)
So you were saying about when you broke your arm and he was –

Amal Murad: (31:13)
He was there for me and I didn’t like depending on people. So this is coming from a girl who is like, I’m going to quit my job, I’m going to do my thing. And even when I did get engaged, I was very, I still depended on myself like I, because at the end of the day, me and my, we’re only two sisters in our family, we don’t have brothers, so I never got used to depending on the guy, like even my dad raised us to be guys, like, you take care of yourself, you depend on yourself. Like this is how we were raised, and my dad’s military, so we didn’t have a choice. So, because of that, that was how I was. And I felt like if I stayed that way, I don’t think marriage would have worked in general. I don’t think that I was going to be able to give as much as I could because I would be so reserved. And that breaking my arm, I really believe in it that it did happen for a reason and it changed the way that I depended on my husband and how I wanted someone else to take care of me rather than just, oh, I can live in my life and do my thing. You know, it’s an interesting shift. I didn’t expect myself to change this way, but I think that’s why things happen to you. Yes. So you learn from them?

Rana Nawas:  (32:28)
Absolutely. And what did you learn from breaking your arm and how did you come back? Because it’s a parkour runner and instructor, I mean you’re jumping, you’re using your arms to jump over obstacles. So how long did it take for you to get better?

Amal Murad: (32:40)
So what’s ironic is that I quit my job right after I broke my arm. So people are like, no, that’s a sign that you should stay in your full time job so that you don’t like it’s an omen. So it’s like it’s a sign that you should stay and you shouldn’t be a coach. But that was when I knew what was at stake and how much I could lose if I don’t follow my dreams. So the first thing that happened was that I needed to know how to heal first. And as a coach you have to learn how to deal with different people. You will have people who had injuries before. So for me that was motivation. Like I need to know how to fix myself so that I know how to fix others. You know, I cannot be the kind of coach who never went through anything and that when someone has an injury I’m like, I know how you feel like no, you don’t. At the end of the day, you really don’t. Books will tell you, but experience is very different. So for me it was like extremely painful. I got surgery, I have plates on both the online radius bones with six screws each and it’s heavy and it’s the fact that you have alienware in your body in itself is a journey and mentally tiring. That is what pushed me that much harder. So I, I learned how to rehab myself, understanding slowly get back into training and understanding that there are things I might never want to do again or my body will not let me because a lot of people are like, you’ll come back a hundred percent. They say that, but God gave you that arm. Like God’s perfect creation is different and your arm is different. Now, it’s like bionic woman. I love my arm though. I love it with its plates, with it’s everything, but I learned to use it in very different ways when it was broken and was injured. I learned the compensations that happen when one body part is not working. How your body is scared. So what was weird is that I met urologists. It was so interesting because he worked on just seeing how my eyes moved. And one position, because I fell backwards on my hands, so when I looked back, my eyes don’t stay back far for awhile. Like it comes back to the middle. I subconsciously don’t want to look at that space because that’s how I felt. I was looking back and I didn’t notice that. I was just like, why are you making me do the stupid training? And you start learning how your body recovers, but your mind does not.

Rana Nawas:  (35:18)
And your mind is just programmed it to make sure that this never happens again.

Amal Murad: (35:22)
It protects you and that’s what’s amazing. Your body knows how to block things out, but it’s subconsciously doing the work to help lock that up. So you’re not thinking about it subconsciously, but you are. Well, what I want to talk about now is that you’re seven months pregnant. Congratulations. That’s wonderful. And you’re a big advocate of exercise, exercising while pregnant. Yes. So what advice do you have for women on exercising while pregnant?

Rana Nawas:  (35:51)
Oh my God, this is huge. Huge question. Okay. So 90 percent of the people in our population are mothers and they’re the ones who are coming to me and if I don’t understand what changes are going through their bodies, I won’t be able to teach them. I can’t keep. If you go to a personal training certification, you think about an individual, but you never really have the specific traits of the individual. It’s a very vague person. Okay. You have a person like, okay, well what if that person has an injury? Gave Birth, is facing some symptoms, is you know, has a degenerative disease. But it just, you have to know that you will have people who have all of these cases, and they will come to you. So right now I can’t just tell you, so if you’re pregnant you can do this because it’s, it’s not a one size fits all strategy. There are so many things to look for, but one thing that I could tell you is please don’t just listen to your body because we don’t know how to listen to our bodies. We are in flight or fight mode 100 percent throughout the dayThis is our lives. We’re fast paced deadlines, whatever. We don’t know when to stop with the way that we’re living. Even as an athlete, you don’t. You know how to push. You don’t know when to stop. So if you go to a person and be like, listen to your body, what does that even mean? Like are you waiting for pain to be an indicator that’s not necessarily always the case with pregnancy, sometimes you might not face any pain, but you’re facing symptoms such as coning and sometimes you get a hernia from too much pressure in your stomach when the way you move while you’re pregnant. For me, I would really say research, do your research. As a pregnant woman, you don’t just rely on trainers. Your body is yours and you are all you have at the end of the day. That trainer is going to stay for a month or two and leave, and understand what your symptoms are. Find the right resources, go to journals, go, go and meet physiotherapists like the doctor is like, okay, six months later you can go train because she’s there to see whether your uterus is is back in its place back to its size. It’s never about, okay, what about your pelvic floor? What about your muscles in your stomach? What about the other parts that change during pregnancy because they tell you, just go back to if you’re an athlete, can bounce back. This whole concept of bouncing back makes no sense because every person’s different and your core doesn’t work the same way, the relationship between, or you had something that changed your center of gravity and suddenly it’s not there anymore. Like I think you’ll forget how to move the same way. So I would say like find a pelvic floor specialist, go and research, go and find real resources and real information about how to train. Um, I also give seminars. I listen to podcasts like there’s so many things I can do while I’m in the car. You don’t need to put like all I need to go and research online, find the resources and just listen to them online.

Rana Nawas:  (38:58)
I, for me, I had. So I have two kids. I had two pregnancies. And the first one. Because you’re scared with the first one. I don’t know about everybody. I’ll just talk about myself. I was scared and I wanted to do the best I could. So I went to these pregnancy yoga classes. Yeah, Prenatal Yoga and pilates. But what I found afterwards, after I gave birth was that my back muscles were very, very weak. All my muscles were really weak and it’s because I wasn’t getting enough of a workout from the prenatal yoga because I had been doing yoga for so long. But I’d also, as I said a background in sport and everything, so, my muscles were really, really weak. So for my second pregnancy I used a lot of weights. I, my focus was weight training, to build up the muscle, and that worked out much better for me.

Amal Murad: (39:49)
Yeah. And I, like I told in my seminars, when I give seminars about training, I always tell people, you have to think about the normal human patterns. Are you going to do stretches? Like you’re doing yoga in your day to day life? Probably not so much. You’re not going to do weird, you know, backbends when you’re, you’re just sitting with your child, you know, but you will hip hinge and carry your child. You will squat to get things from the car. You will rotate. These are like the, the movements that you will push, things, pull. So these natural movements have to be incorporated in your training in general, in life, not just in terms of pregnancy. As a coach, I need to educate people like it’s not always about the fancy stuff. You need to build the foundation. You need to understand normal body movements that need strengthening. So how would you strengthen, for example, your back? Like for example, people do deadlifts and I tell them, do you know why you’re doing deadlifts? They’re like, yeah, because it strengthens your glutes or something. I was like, it’s a whole body movement. Your whole body needs to coordinate together to carry the sway off the ground. And that’s what we do everyday. So you need to understand what are these basic human body patterns and these are the things you need to strengthen. Do you need to lift 500 kgs? Probably not, because I don’t think you will reach the point where you will need to, but you will need to progressively add that load, because explosiveness is one thing, you know, but having to learn the move, learning how to control, how to move, and then adding load to that move. I feel like that’s a good pattern to follow in terms of actually gaining the strength to perform these activities as a mother or as a person in general, in life. So I don’t know if that made sense.

Rana Nawas:  (41:40)
I think that’s fantastic advice and really practical tips that listeners can take onboard. So thank you for that. I’m going to add just one last question for you. Who’s a woman that’s influenced you?

Amal Murad: (41:53)
Oh Gosh. It’s an easy answer. It’s cheesy answer. It’s my mom, definitely my mom. My mom is a working woman. She started her own businesses, when she was 20 and she got married and she, my mom’s Bahraini, so she moved away from home to live with my dad. She started her business here in a stranger’s land basically when she was only 20, and she still owns the businesses to this very day, Mashallah. And, I learned very early on how much you need to work for the things you want because people gave her lots of like, oh, you, you never sit at home with your mom, with your, with your children, sorry. And you never sit with your children. You never spend time with your children. She always did, but it wasn’t all the time. Like she made me understand the meaning of sacrifice. When I was younger I was, I was more iffy about it. Like, why? Why aren’t you, why isn’t my mom here? You know? And, and that hurts now thinking about it because now that I will become a mom and I know how much work you need to put into raise kids and provide for them, oh my God, life is not cheap. You know, and we didn’t see that as kids, but I learned that while growing up, the true meaning of what it’s like to be a working woman, who people have expectations for, like, people expect you to be a certain way and people talk about work life balance like it exists, like it doesn’t, okay. Like, and I learned that through her process, through her understanding how to raise us. And I love her for it, because I don’t think I’d be this person. I don’t think I would follow my dreams if it weren’t for her because she, she did it and she’s still doing it and she’s, although she works like a minimum of 12 hours a day, I can proudly say that she’s doing what she loves and always there for you. And she’s happy and if she’s happy, her kids are happy, you know.

Rana Nawas:  (43:58)
Amal, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure chatting to you. And where can listeners find you?

Amal Murad: (44:03)
I’m on instagram, it’s @leap.of.hope. So my name is Amal, and it means hope. So leap of faith, leap of hope. Because I jump around a lot. It’s supposed to be a pun, but people don’t get it.

Rana Nawas:  (44:17)
No, I’m really glad you explained that actually. I’ve been following you for some time.

Amal Murad: (44:20)
I took a leap into this career and I also do parkour and my name is hope.

Rana Nawas:  (44:26)
Brilliant. Well, the handles will be in the show notes. Great. Thank you again. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. I’d love to hear from you. So please head over to to give feedback. While you’re there, you can find all episodes and show notes and sign up for our monthly newsletter. Wherever you’re listening right now, do remember to hit the subscribe button to be notified of future episodes. And please write a review when you can, to let others know what to expect. Thanks and have a great day.

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