Abu Dhabi, UAE: IT consultant Shahzad Ahmed knew that he had hit a low when, during a family outing on the Corniche three years ago, he could not even catch up with his five-year-old daughter Aisha.
The Pakistani-Canadian weighed 114 kilograms, had suffered from high blood pressure for more than a decade and was at serious risk of developing diabetes.
“I couldn’t even run 100 steps and that made me realise that I needed to take charge of matters,” said Mr Ahmed, 46.
So he decided to turn his life around and take up regular exercise. Now he is well on the way to getting even fitter by taking on the challenge of a lifetime – a 2,300km bike ride through two of Europe’s highest mountain ranges.
The mHealth Grand Tour event, which started on Sunday, will take him on a 15-day ride starting in Vienna in Austria, through the Alps and Pyrenees, and on to Barcelona in Spain.
He will be raising money for the Team Blood Glucose charity, which educates people about the risks of diabetes.
This is a cause close to Mr Ahmed’s heart because many members of his family suffer from the disease.
“I believe people with [type-2] diabetes are no different from people with a chronic illness such as obesity, which can be managed and controlled,” he said.
“I want to inspire others to take control of their lives and believe that one can achieve anything they put their mind to. I also want to motivate people to know more about diabetes and how it can be managed.”
The mHealth Grand Tour is designed so that diabetics can take part. Participants’ blood sugar will be monitored during the event and the findings will be studied by researchers at Imperial College, London.
As a keen cyclist in his youth, Mr Ahmed said the tour provided him with the opportunity to combine the activity with his passion for travelling.
Mr Ahmed pinpointed the moment he began to get unfit to the time when he moved to Abu Dhabi, 10 years ago.
“I am a foodie and all the rich delicacies available in this part of the world appealed to me. There is such a wide variety of cuisines available here,” he said.
“Also, my mother was an excellent chef and I developed a love for food when I was younger.”
Over the years, he tried numerous diet plans without any success.
“I would lose some weight and then gain it back. This continued for years,” he said.
So, after being outrun by his daughter, he decided to take up running and cycling. First, he signed up for a 10km race at Zayed Sports City. And although he finished last, he did not give up. He then began cycling at the weekly Yas Marina Circuit training sessions.
During a three-month intensive programme for the Grand Tour, involving two hours of cycling a day, five times a week, he has managed to shed 20kg.
He said he could not have achieved such results without the backing of his wife Dua and daughter, who is now 8.
“Although the training took away from time that I could have spent with my family, they supported me throughout,” Mr Ahmed said.
His wife said: “Although I worry about his safety, I am glad he has taken up this challenge as he has set himself some goals. Also, it is not just a personal ambition but his wish to help research and raise funds for diabetes.”
For more information visit www.mhealthgrandtour.com.
© The NationalSep 2014