For Saudi-born personal trainer, Mai Kholief, fitness is a religion. She’s knee deep into activities like crossfit and weightlifting and has always been very passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle through working out and eating right.
Couch potatoes are a no-go for Kholief, whose classes make sure to keep you on your toes. While dedication and commitment are two big words in the fitness world, she qualifies them both.
The 28-year-old has been inspiring women in Saudi Arabia to keep fit and moving all the time so there is balance of improving overall strength, stamina and cardio.
Catching up with the young Saudi trainer, we walked through her journey into the world of fitness training.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m half Saudi half Egyptian. I grew up in Jeddah, and went to University in Cairo where I majored in economics and political science. I’ve had an active lifestyle for as long as I can remember. Kickboxing and weightlifting were a big part of my life in Cairo. Since moving back to Jeddah, I’ve worked at a PR agency, and at a couple of leading banks to pursue my career in finance. More recently, I work in a Treasury trade-room at a leading bank as a Treasury Senior Officer, while simultaneously building the MFIT brand.
To broaden my knowledge and experience and to become certified, I took several fitness courses, such as NASM, TRX, Crossfit, Calisthenics and Bootcamp. I founded MFIT in 2016 with a vision of empowering women to be stronger, healthier and to become the best versions of themselves!
What’s a typical day like at MFIT.
On my way to the MFIT studio, from the bank, I fine-tune the day’s work-outs for the two to three classes ahead. Each class is typically just under an hour and includes warm-up stretches, the WOD (Work-Out of the Day), and cool-down stretches. The WOD is usually a blend of calisthenics, TRX, Cross-fit with an overall HIT (High intensity Training) theme. We always find time, during the class, to also raise awareness on progress on an individual level, as well as address any questions the clients may have. I sneak-in a workout either before, or after the classes.
What inspired you to become a personal trainer?
I’ve always been keen on leading a healthy life-style, through being active and eating clean. I also realized that women in Saudi Arabia don’t have the tools and facilities to lead a similar life-style. Ladies’ Gyms are rare, and expensive, where personal training is always a pricey optional extra. I wanted to make an impact in my community by providing ladies in Saudi Arabia with an affordable facility where they would be better-informed on how to reach their fitness goals.
Was there a turning point in your life when you realized that it was the time to get into fitness training?
I have always been into sports. I was into long-distance running and basketball at school. When I came back from University in Cairo, I tried several of the leading ladies’ gyms and felt that it would only take me so far. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands, and started taking fitness courses overseas. I made sure I was certified, and that I acquired the necessary knowledge and experience to start MFIT.
You are an advocate for women’s fitness training. A lot of people will tell you that it is a very unusual career for a Saudi woman in Saudi Arabia. What do you have to say about breaking these stereotypes?
I can see, as an outsider, why some may be surprised, but I have had nothing but support from my friends, family and the community in general. I am a firm believer that there is nothing a woman can’t do. This has become more and more evident in Saudi Arabia, where women have taken key leadership positions, as CEO’s in leading corporations and senior roles in government.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Seeing my clients progress and reach their goals while making a positive impact through raising awareness away from ‘fitness fads’. Most of all, I love empowering women, and giving them the confidence to be the best and strongest version of themselves.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you have faced?
Although I was always confident that MFIT would succeed, no one could have predicted the immediate and exponential growth. Juggling a full-time high-demanding job, while keeping up with this growth has been tricky, but manageable.
You have a very demanding day job as a Treasury Officer. You also run classes for fitness training, you travel the world in order to learn more and you make sure to keep yourself fit all at the same time. How do manage your time and prioritize your tasks?
I don’t have the time, I make the time. Preparation is key. I set regular mini-goals, fight through the many distractions, and I make sure to maintain discipline and focus, to achieve them one by one.
When you first got into fitness training, what response did you get from family and society?
Everyone has been very supportive. MFIT wouldn’t be where it is today, if it wasn’t for the unconditional support from my family and friends. I’ve had several calls from a variety of media channels for interviews, which is testament to society’s comradery.
Do you have a motto/mantra that keeps you focused?
There is nothing a woman can’t do, especially when it comes to fitness.