This month we’re catching up with women pushing the boundaries in their field in the UAE as well as paving the way for others. Harriet Stewart, crowned the UAE’s fastest woman and as of yet unbeaten in every race she’s run, enjoys a sponsorship from Puma alongside a busy day job. We found a moment in her non-stop schedule to have a quick chat about what it’s like to be a high-achieving athlete…
What does your training involve?
“My coach has just moved back to the UK so we are training online. He sends me programmes that focus on me improving my times. I have three sessions a week in the gym and two on the track.
“It’s harder to stay motivated now that he isn’t here… I’m not a morning person so getting out of bed at 5am to go and train can be hard sometimes. He is 6ft 4in and scary, so knowing he was waiting for me would push me out of bed.”
How do you keep yourself motivated?
“For me, it’s definitely easier to stay motivated when I am training with other people – whether it is a coach or another athlete. Just knowing that your teammates are at the gym, or at the track, makes it a lot easier to get up and go. It’s about being accountable to other people – they aren’t just your teammates, they are your friends.
“The other thing I always say to people about motivation is to break your training down into manageable chunks. I’m never going to be a long-distance runner, but I know I need the cardio. So I schedule myself one long run per week – because it is just the once, I can manage it and it doesn’t get boring.
“Set goals at the beginning of the week. Look at your training goals versus your work schedule and your social schedule. The nature of this region is that it’s so fast-paced and you are constantly on the go… If you don’t plan and prioritise your training, it’s not going to happen.”
How did you get into sprinting and stay in it?
“When I was a child, my passion was gymnastics… I did it from when I was five to when I was 14. By the time I finished I was training six times a week. But I knew I was never going to be an Olympian gymnast. I quit and kind of fell into athletics – sprinting and hurdling. I was good at hurdling because I was so flexible from all the gymnastics.
“My grandfather was my mentor. He was a British champion boxer. He taught me and mentored me in the mental side of being an athlete, the focus and the preparation – the physical and the mental preparation – before a competition. He gave me grounding as an athlete.
“I also had a formidable coach at the time, who also kept me grounded and focused. And your peers become your mentors in a way too. You train together, you compete against each other… You encourage each other to keep getting better and stronger.”
What challenges have you come up against?
“One of the main challenges is access to the right type of facilities – athletics is still in a very early stage of development in the region and so the level of training facilities are limited. There aren’t any indoor tracks so summer training can really take its toll.”
What do you think holds people back from going after their dreams?
“My favourite quote is, ‘Nothing is impossible. The word itself spells I’m possible’. This is a motto that I live by, enabling me to achieve goals and really focus. I think fear is the main thing that holds people back and prevents them from chasing their dreams in the first place – fear of failure. If I was to share any advice with someone wanting to chase a dream, I’d say break it down into realistic chunks. And then just go after it.”
Keep track of Harriet’s progress by following her on Instagram – @harrietlstewart