As a para athlete, Zainab Al-Eqabi has regularly cut a striking figure on the local fitness scene. A UAE resident for the last 20 years, the Iraqi expat lost her leg to a bomb blast in her home country at the age of seven and has used a prosthetic leg to get around ever since.
Despite “always looking” for ways to push herself outside her comfort zone, the digital content creator says she wasn’t expecting to do what she did over the weekend — pull a Jeep Wrangler weighing 4,800 pounds.
The ‘Jeep Challenge’ was a free community event hosted by Fitness Hubs at The Sustainable City in Dubai as part of the ongoing Dubai Fitness Challenge.
“I was attending the event on Friday, watching people drag the Jeep from one point to the other — but I wasn’t considering participating myself at all,” said Zainab. “As I watched them though, I began thinking: why not?” Before she knew it, Zainab found herself slipping on the light green belt attached to the vehicle’s front bumper — and slowly, but steadily, towing it for about 50 metres to the cheers and applause of children and adults alike.
“I really love being out of my comfort zone,” she told WKND, clearly still exhilarated in the aftermath of the feat. “It makes you so happy when you do so and realise that you have the power and energy to reach your goals and dreams.” The vocal fitness advocate added it would’ve been fine even if she didn’t succeed that day. “It’s all about challenging yourself and figuring out who you are.”
Zainab took to social media to talk about the feat and received an overwhelming response. “[This is] the beauty of attending fitness events and activities,” she wrote. “It motivates you to break barriers… to be inspired… I had an incredible time!” The post garnered nearly 52,000 likes in less than a day.
In the video, Zainab can be seen accepting a hand from one of the coaches as she strains against the leash partway through. “I shared that bit on purpose, because it’s important for people to know that, sometimes, you need team work to achieve things too,” she said.
Zainab wasn’t always into fitness. On the contrary, she used to steer clear of any kind of sport. “It was in university that I was forced to include sports in my life, as my doctor warned me that I might run into serious medical issues if I didn’t work on strengthening my back due to my prosthetic leg.”
The influencer was then introduced to gymming, weight training, swimming and cycling. “I was not aware there was so much you could do with a prosthetic leg,” she reflects today. “I think we set these ideas in our minds because of society and what it thinks you can do. But I can’t live without sports now. It’s not just something I need for better health — it keeps me really happy mentally too.”
Don’t think of fitness as torture, suggested the athlete, who is all praise for the city’s efforts to push the public towards a more active lifestyle. “Of course, it involves some hard work, but there are so many types of sports that you can always explore which form suits you best. Don’t cross out all of them just because you don’t enjoy the few you’ve tried. Fitness is a very achievable goal. We’re just good at making excuses!”