Tried and tested: Transformation challenge at Raise

Our digital editor set out to drop 8% body fat with a four-week challenge. Here’s how it went…

We’ve unanimously decided here at the office that the Dubai stone is oh-so-real. The pounds you inevitably collect from enjoying Dubai’s myriad takeaways, Deliveroo services and get-a-car-everywhere lifestyle quickly pile on.

But I’m on a mission to shift mine. And while dropping a whole stone in April might not be feasible, I’ve signed up for a body transformation challenge at Raise, Jumeirah Islands Clubhouse, with an end goal of dropping 8 per cent body fat by April 30.

So for the next few weeks, I’m being put through my fitness and nutritional paces by nutrition coach and personal trainer, Ivana Pesic, who has devised a custom training and eating plan to help me hit my goal.

Keen to shape up too? Here’s how I’m doing it.

A community-focused gym and wellness space, Raise has already secured a loyal fanbase of those that live in the areas surrounding Jumeirah Islands. It’s sleek and modern, with dedicated training zones such as The Studio, HIIT, X-Trim as well as Cardio and Weight, and offers a roster of classes from spin and bodypump, to yoga by the poolside. One of its best bits is the outdoor gym, which overlooks the serene water and must be one of the prettiest and most peaceful work-out spots in the city.

Each week, I’ve got to complete six workouts. Three of these are personal training sessions with Ivana, three are self-led workouts she puts together and shares via TrueCoach. Each one-hour workout is either about strength and conditioning or a sweat-inducing cardio session, and some are a mix of both. Ivana’s sessions are sweat-inducing right from the warm up, whether it’s an outdoor jog or a circuit of stretching, planks and mountain climbers, and are well thought out to work every muscle in my body.

Each week a new meal plan is provided via Nutrito, which also comes with a handy shopping list of all the ingredients needed for meals for the week. My meal plan is based around ensuring calorie deficit each week, and shows exactly how much protein, fat and carbohydrates are in each meal. There have been lots of tasty salads packed surprisingly full of flavour, and nothing takes longer than 45 minutes to make, so it doesn’t feel like you’re spending all evening cooking. Plans can be tweaked based on what you like and don’t like too, and as someone who always skips breakfast, I’ve surprised myself by enjoying pretty much all of them, from omelettes to oats and Greek yoghurt.

Week 1

There’s nothing quite like going from hardly workout out to six sessions a week to make you realise you’re seriously unfit. While training has left me very sore some mornings, I’ve also got bags more energy by the time I make it to the office.

The nutrition side is more of a challenge to get used to, although the meal plan has introduced me to recipes I will continue to make after the challenge is over. My vice has always been sugary drinks, and cutting these out has been a real challenge. To date, I’ve dropped 1.5% body fat, so there’s 6.5% to go over the next three weeks.

Week 2

I’ve integrated spin and Body Pump classes into my regular workouts so I keep my exercise regime mixed, and the cardio workouts are helping me burn more calories, so I’m now almost 3% body fat down. I’ve always hated spin classes, but the high-energy classes at Raise are tuned to brilliant soundtracks, and you’re so busy enjoying the music you don’t mind spending 45 minutes on the bike.

Sticking to a nutrition plan is tough, especially when I don’t feel like cooking. But the best results have come from cutting out almost all carbs, really reducing sugar intake, and swapping sweet coffees for black tea.

Week 3

Despite having two cheat meals on the weekend, I’ve dropped the most weight so far, with 1.5kg down this week. Training is becoming a part of my morning routine that I actually enjoy almost all my morning sessions (except when a circuit involves burpees!).

The meal plan is really filling, and I’m rarely hungry afterwards. I certainly prefer the meals that take minimal preparation time, but I’ve been introduced to lots of recipes that I’ll continue to use after my challenge is over. A lot of the breakfast smoothies and healthy protein pancakes are my favourites.

Week 4

I’ve come to the end of my four-week challenge, and despite having visitors in town and a few cheat meals along the way, I’ve seen a noticeable difference in both my weight and fitness. Though I didn’t manage my full target of 8 per cent body fat, I did manage to drop 5 per cent.

The best part, is that I’ve managed to shift training into a part of my everyday routine, and pledge to continue to train at least five times per week for another month. While I may not stick to the nutrition plan, I’ll certainly be making healthier meal choices going forward. Thanks to Ivana’s nutritional knowledge, I plan to keep going with healthy eating, and hope to drop another 4 per cent in May.

Find out more at and about Ivana’s meal plans and training at

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