Maha Nasrallah

Maha Nasrallah

Maha is a Psychosexual and Relationship counsellor who grew up in Lebanon, studied in London, and has been living in Dubai since 2013. She has always been active and involved in sports even from a very young age, but her interests evolved into more nature-based activities with time. She is extremely passionate about adventure, the outdoors, and fitness in general, and mostly enjoys Rock Climbing, Olympic Weightlifting, Mountaineering and Hiking, Traveling, Snowboarding, and High Intensity Training. She finds engaging in challenging activities and being connected to nature to be very therapeutic, and aspires to continue to grow through these experiences. Seeing and feeling the changes and benefits of this lifestyle herself, she hopes to inspire others to step out of their comfort zone and live a more healthy, passionate, and fulfilling life by sharing her own journey and adventures.



How To Fix Your Dirty Cleans

DISCLAIMER: The information presented below is not written by a medical professional or coach, but is based on personal experience and research. If you notice any signs or symptoms of EIUI, please consult with your doctor to explore a potential diagnosis or rule out anything serious. It is also recommended that you check with your doctor or coach before performing any of the suggested exercises.


Imagine this: you’re competing in an Olympic Weightlifting meet and you’re approaching the platform to attempt a heavy Clean and Jerk. You set up on the bar, get your hook grip on and everybody watching just goes quiet – you pull strong, rack the bar and get into the squat! You use all your strength to stand up, and just as you start, you feel a little bit of pee making its way down your thighs involuntarily.

You have no idea how much you just peed, and you can’t just bail because you’re about to finish the clean, but the only thing on your mind is that you’re hoping no one noticed! You feel utterly mortified and flushed! And just as you complete the lift, you glance as quickly and subtly as you can at the platform to check on how much embarrassment you have just faced.

Exercise induced urinary incontinence (EIUI) has multiple names including exercise-induced urinary leakage and stress urinary incontinence, and is probably a more common issue for women than it is for men. If this has happened to you, don’t worry; you’re definitely not the only one who’s been through that. Many athletes, even elite CrossFitters, involuntarily pee during heavy exertions. Though this article is focused mainly on the Cleans, this also happens often while doing heavy Deadlifts, double-unders, trampolining, and running. Some of the suggestions to correct it could therefore help if you experience this during other forms of exercise.

Now that you feel somewhat reassured, it doesn’t mean that you should allow this to continue. EIUI is an issue firstly because it indicates that there is an underlying problem either in your technique or in your core strength, and weaknesses need to be addressed before they lead to bigger issues like injuries. Secondly, it is embarrassing. Thirdly, it could affect your performance because you’re going to worry about it and hesitate during the lift, not to mention that it affects your choice of clothing as you will probably start to avoid wearing light colored bottoms when you know you have heavy cleans in your workout!


Strengthening Your Core

Many people immediately assume that doing sit-ups and crunches are the equivalent of what strengthening the core means. In reality, these kinds of exercises are not sufficient, and so while you may have ripped abs and look fantastic (jealous!), that doesn’t always mean you have a strong core. A helpful way to understand what the main “core” is composed of is to think of it as a canister consisting of the muscles between the diaphragm and pelvic floor. It is important to note that your core mainly acts as a stabilizer and not a main mover.


WeightedPlank After Strengthening Your Core


I found that one of the most effective exercises that transformed my core is the weighted plank. Initially my coach incorporated this exercise in my program to help core stability during back squats, but I found that since I started consistently strengthening my core, I haven’t experienced any EIUI.

One recommendation would be to add planks after each session as accessory work. If your planks are quite strong already (for example you can hold a solid plank for at least a minute), then you could start by placing a small plate of a few pounds on your mid/lower back and do three sets of 30-45 seconds. With consistent training they should start to feel easier, meaning you can start to add some more weight and/or hold it longer.

If holding a solid plank is difficult for you to begin with, then start without weights and do three sets of 30-45 seconds until you’re able to hold a solid plank for over a minute. We all started somewhere, and with consistent training and a gradual build-up that suits your needs, you will get there.

Another exercise that helps build core strength during cleans is the Pause Front-Squat (FS). Rack the bar, get into your bottom FS position, hold it there for a couple of seconds then stand back up. It’s a great exercise to reinforce the ideal motor pattern of a FS and train your body to withstand heavy exertion.


Good Technique

The core should be continuously engaged throughout the movement to keep the body safe and efficient. If you “lose your core,” it puts you in a disadvantageous position, thus increasing the risk of injury and making it more difficult to successfully complete the movement.

One of the technical errors athletes make in a clean is letting the bar crash on them. A common reason for this is when they swing the bar out once it meets the hips rather than pulling it up with their elbows and keeping it close to their body. The core has to then exert more effort to lift the weight and stand up, thus potentially causing EIUI.

To correct this, firstly make sure your hips, back, and shoulders are aligned correctly in each of the clean positions. If your hips are too high or your butt is coming up too soon in the first pull, the bar will inevitably get away from your body after it meets the hips because of its initial inward direction. Secondly, clean pulls help with strengthening the full extension and learning to pull up rather than out. Finally, muscle cleans can help reinforce proper turnover of the bar.


alyssaCleanPull after the 3rd paragraph in Good Technique

Another reason the bar is crashing on you might be that you are dropping too soon into the squat instead of meeting the bar with your shoulders. That could be more of a mental thing where you don’t feel confident that you are able to pull the bar up high enough to meet it, and so you drop too low too quickly to ensure that you do. In this case, working on power cleans could help in learning where to meet the bar and building that confidence. Another small detail that I found helped me is to keep the hook grip on during the turnover, as that helps you stay connected to the bar. Be aware that this does require very good wrist and shoulder mobility.


Cleaning Up

This is clearly a very unusual topic to be reading about. Believe me, it was also strange writing about it! But if we keep avoiding talking about difficult or embarrassing matters, we will never progress and be healthier and happier individuals. We need to put our embarrassment aside and address this issue for fitness and safety reasons. Remember that everything needs to be built on a strong foundation, otherwise it can crumble and fall apart. So before you start treating the symptoms and ameliorate the image, take a deeper look inside and work on the true core.

I would like to thank my coach Alyssa Sulay from Catalyst Athletics for continuously helping me become a better athlete, and my training and life partner Eugene Bo Babenko for his knowledge and constant support. Much of the information provided in this article was inspired by what I have learned from them.



Individualized Programming & Coaching

We all want to explore the depth of our capabilities, and continue to push our limits. If you’ve climbed a mountain and enjoyed it, you’re going to want to climb another more difficult one. There’s a great excitement that comes with taking risks and challenging yourself, but there’s a certain level we don’t go past because we don’t want to get hurt. Unless you feel extremely confident in your ability to keep yourself safe, you will most likely prefer to have a mountain guide lead you to the top of that mountain.

A similar concept follows when it comes to training. You can keep pushing your body to improve without guidance, or you can progress and grow with the right support. Here are some reasons why having individualized programming and coaching is helpful.


Achieve Goals

You train because you have certain goals; whether they’re increasing your fitness level, maintaining good health, or improving your athletic career. Probably the biggest reason people work with a coach is to help them achieve their goals. And one of the coach’s main roles is to be able to develop a plan/program that will help the client achieve them.

Just like learning to play an instrument, you could be self-taught and learn the notes from an online source or from observing others. On the other hand you could also get an instructor who will not only teach you the notes, but will also provide you with the right exercises to learn the skills that you need to be a better musician.


 TNF run 2 at the end of achieve goals



Address Weaknesses

One of the most significant benefits is when it comes to working on your weaknesses. In order to move better, be healthier, or become a more proficient athlete, you must have an honest evaluation of both your strengths and weaknesses. That way you can then modify and enhance the areas that are holding you back as well improve further.

There may be certain muscles/areas in your body that need strengthening, or imbalances in your form that need correcting. Not only is it difficult for you to assess your own body, but it may also be less effective for you to design your own program to address these areas if you do not have the adequate experience/knowledge.


Feedback and Information

To the untrained eye, things may seem right when evaluating your body and how you move, but there may be nuances that only an expert notices. An experienced coach is better equipped to objectively analyze the way you move and give you clear and constructive feedback to help you improve your technique and/or get stronger.


 MattJessyCoaching add to feedback and info part


When it comes to complex movements, minor adjustments can make a significant difference and positively impact your performance. Even with less technical exercises, the coach could offer suggestions on how to breathe, time your movements, and pace your workout.

Information can be gained not only about your own body, but also about fitness, sports, and health in general. Your coach could be a source of knowledge, or at the very least someone who can point you in the right direction with the information you are looking for. Continuous learning is always good for your brain and soul, and learning from others can give you a lot of insight into new avenues.



One of the most important advantages in terms of health is to prevent or reduce the risk of injury by teaching good form. This, again, is where receiving professional observation and feedback is key as it’s more difficult to diagnose a problem or be aware of subtle incorrect movements when training on your own. Even if you are a professional athlete or coach, an external observer can notice things you might not. It’s easy to let things build up without even realizing it until your body breaks down, so get yourself a good coach’s eye before it leads to injury or longstanding physical issues.


 Physio add to Injury part


In addition to bad form, an uncontrolled or haphazard program could lead to injury as you may be doing too much, conducting certain movements or lifting weights that your body isn’t ready for. A good coach will write a program that fits your needs and progresses nicely into heavier weights or more intense/difficult levels at a pace that works for you.



Lots of people struggle with being consistent with their training because they get bored, don’t see progress, or need a push from an external source. If you relate to any of this, then having a coach would be very helpful to you. The coach could make sure to change things up often enough for you not to get bored. Plus, it’s always more fun to work out with someone, assuming you get along with them! You will also see progress if the program is right for you and you stay consistent. If you aren’t making any headway, you and your coach can identify the reason your progress is being stymied and address it.
Also, you are more likely to commit to something you have invested in both financially and psychologically. Not to mention that being held accountable for completing your workouts and the efforts you put into them would make it less likely that you skip your training or slack off during.


Moving Forward

It’s no mystery or revelation that following a program designed specifically for you and getting professional coaching has so many benefits, and I can say from my own experience that I’ve learned so much from just the little time I’ve spent so far working with my coach. Nowadays with the Internet and exposure we have, it’s not difficult to find a great coach that’s suitable for you even if they are in a different country (of course considering that you are able and/or willing to invest some money into this).

When looking for a coach, it would be more effective to work with someone who is either specialized in your focus area, or has significant experience in the field. For example, if you are looking to become a better endurance athlete, then it would be best to seek out someone who is either an expert in that field or who works with them. It would also make more sense to work with a coach who has a physiotherapy background if you have injuries that need extra care.

One more factor to take into consideration is your relationship with the coach – it’s important for you to relate well to each other and feel safe enough that you receive their feedback well and trust in their method and approach. Also, building a positive relationship with your coach can make the journey much more enjoyable.

This is not a quick fix though, and it’s not about someone else doing the work for you. It’s about taking your goals seriously, and wanting to grow and evolve in ways that you couldn’t on your own.



The Authentic Athlete

Congruence – something many of us strive for but struggle to achieve. The lack of it is a huge source of anxiety for many people; when your actions are not aligned with your values or goals, it creates inner conflict. For example, if you believe in honesty, but you end up lying, you will feel anxious and guilty. This concept applies to most things in life, but for the sake of relevance, I’m going to talk about how this is applicable to fitness and health. You want to train or eat better or look a certain way, but your lifestyle just doesn’t fit with achieving your goals. Sound familiar? The purpose of this piece is to help you explore your motivation behind your goals, and where the conflict is, so that you can hopefully attain more congruence in your life.

Questioning And Rearranging Your Goals

Before you start looking at your actions, have a think for a second about what drives you. What is it exactly that you want to achieve and why? What do these goals mean to you? And how important are they? If you’re finding it difficult to answer some of these questions, then another way to explore this area is by projecting into the future and thinking about what it is that you want to see different in your life. If you imagine your life or yourself 5 years from now, what would you like to see? And how does it feel to imagine your life like that? Think about all the things that you have to let go of or go through to achieve those goals and ask yourself if you’re willing to do that. Usually, when a person is internally motivated to change, and that vision is highly important, that person is more likely to achieve it and sustain the change.


Maha and Jade plank after paragraph 6

The Meaning of Authenticity

The changes you need to make to achieve your goals depend largely on your intentions and who you want to be. If you want to train mostly to have fun, then make sure you are doing something you actually enjoy! If you don’t know what it is that you enjoy, then explore different activities for a period of time and step out of your comfort zone. As long as you have an open mind, you should find things you'll enjoy. If what you do feels like a punishment or an obligation, that suggests that your goals are not aligned with your actions, and you will most likely stop eventually. So either change your goals, or the activities you’re engaging in.

If you want to be a competitive athlete, then you have to live like one. That means that your training, nutrition, and recovery are going to have to take priority over many of the other things you might enjoy such as going out drinking, staying up late, and eating whatever you want, whenever you want. You might find yourself spending less time with your usual circle of friends because your lifestyles don’t align, but hopefully you will also make new friends who have similar goals as you. These are some of the things that you will need to be willing to go through to fulfill your aspirations, and so this lifestyle may seem unappealing and unlikely to make you happy. However, if this is truly who you are or who you want to be, then you will actually be happier living authentically than pursuing momentary pleasures that aren’t aligned with your core.


5th Ave Street Pistol after paragraph 4


If you want to train mainly for overall health and fitness, then that also comes with a whole package of lifestyle changes you need to be willing to make. Granted, you will most likely still be able to have more of a work/life/training balance in terms of socializing and the “traditional” meaning of having fun, but that still doesn’t mean that there won’t be any “suffering” involved. Looking and feeling a certain way isn't only a result of exercising, but rather a considerable chunk of the work comes from what you eat and how you live. Finding the time to train is also one common challenge, and so this is where you need to reassess how much you value your health and wellbeing, and what areas in your life you can shift around or let go of to honor yourself and make time for it.


Food after paragraph 5


The Message

Sometimes you may feel frustrated with the outcome or the process – like you want to be stronger than you actually are, but your lifestyle is not aligned with getting you there. It’s easy to come up with excuses and blame other factors, but if you really want to change, then take a closer look at your goals and your actions. If they are not congruent, then one of them needs to be re-examined. Ultimately, the goal is for the change to not feel like a continuous effort, but rather for it to be integrated into your life and become part of what defines you as a person. In other words, if you want to be an athlete, then be an athlete.

None of this is aimed to discourage you – on the contrary, it is aimed to encourage you to really look deeply into what it is that you want and what you are doing to get there. Often we reach a point in life where we find ourselves stuck or lost, and feel empty or dissatisfied. This usually happens because we are not living authentically, and we avoid dealing with difficult emotions or decisions in life. The truth isn’t always pleasant or even comfortable to deal with, but the sooner you are willing to confront it, the easier it will be to be happy.



Lift Your Way Up! The Power Of Weightlifting

People lifting may look ridiculous, like what’s the point? What is so special about those movements? Although I’ve always been into sports, that’s what I used to think about weightlifting. I’m not sure there is a better way of answering those questions than trying it and finding out for yourself. I must warn you though, you might love it!

As you start to learn to lift, your desire to perfect the movements and lift heavier develops, and the challenge of getting that technique right and hitting that weight keeps you hungry for more. If you really get into Olympic Weightlifting, not only will it make you physically stronger, but it will also push you and help you grow in so many other ways as a person.

Getting Started

Your journey will start with learning the fundamental techniques of the two main movements: the Snatch, and the Clean and Jerk. Practicing those movements will feel very awkward at first, especially if your mobility isn’t great. It will also seem like a lot to think about when attempting the lifts because they are quite complex in terms of coordinating the timing and pushing and pulling of different parts of the body. But despite the awkwardness of the beginning, its complexity is actually an integral part of what will motivate you to come back and try it again and be better.

Gradually, you will start lifting heavier weights, and each time you increase the weights, you feel more and more accomplished and charged. In the first phase of your weightlifting journey, you might be focused on just hitting heavier weights rather than perfecting your technique, but you will soon reach a point where you will realize how important it is to have good technique, and you will start to value it even more as you start to notice the progress you make when you improve your positioning and lifts.


Weightlifting and Body Image

With consistent training and a nutritious and high quality diet, your body will start to change, especially your legs, glutes, and lats. Unfortunately for the ladies, some of you might have to say goodbye to some tight dresses and jeans that won’t fit you anymore, but that’s a sign of strength rather than just increasing the numbers on the scale. And that’s one of the things that is going to shift inside you as a person – your view of what a good body is. You will start to appreciate a healthy, strong, built and curved body rather than a “perfect” one. You will start to feel vibrant and sexy, and you will start to love your body.

You will have more energy because your goals will transform from just looking “good” (however you used to define that), and as a result counting calories and depriving yourself from some nutrients, to getting and feeling stronger, and consequently nourishing your body well. If you’re anything like me, you will get hungry more often, and therefore need to eat more frequently. And what a tough life it is having to enjoy delicious meals with all the proteins and carbs and not worrying about your weight like you used to. I’m actually indulging in some sweet potato fries and a paleo burger as I write this, and I suspect that being able to eat this way may subconsciously be my true motivation behind my love for weightlifting!

Weightlifting and Confidence

There are amazing days in lifting, and there are extremely frustrating days. That’s just part of the process. I know this without any doubt now from my own experience, but in the first few months of my journey (and occasionally today) there were days where I would literally cry in the gym out of frustration. When you’re at your low points in your lifts, just notice the self-talk that runs through your mind. Do you put yourself down? Do you feel hopeless? Are you hard on yourself? Do you get stuck in that negativity, or do you recover quickly and show compassion and optimism?

Of course sometimes during those days it’s best to cut the weights, or stop those snatches and clean and jerks and just focus on squatting or other accessory work that would support your training and help you feel better. But with time, you will start to realize that after those low points, there will be awesome high points, and you will feel incredible hitting PRs and all. Nevertheless, it’s totally ok to go through the downs – some days your body is just tired, or you’re mentally not focused or going through some emotional challenges in your life.

As you grow, you will start to deal with these frustrations and difficulties in a more constructive and effective way. And you will notice your self-talk transforming from a self-defeating attitude to a more understanding one. Of course, with consistent training you will become a more competent lifter, and therefore feel more confident in your abilities not only physically, but also in life in general as you start to realize how persistence and dedication through the tough times pays off at the end. And if there’s one thing weightlifting teaches you, it’s patience.

Weightlifting and Patience

You cannot lift heavy weights right from the start. Well maybe you could, but you will most likely hurt yourself at some point. If you want to progress, you need patience and discipline. Following a program and having a qualified coach will teach you the necessary skills and get you stronger, but it will all happen with time.

In this day and age we are so used to instant gratification that we get frustrated when we don’t get what we want immediately. Learning to have the discipline to appreciate the results of your hard work further down the line is one of the main life skills that weightlifting continuously teaches you. You need to train to get stronger, learn from experience and improve, grow from the challenges, pick yourself up when you’re feeling low, believe in yourself, change what you can and deal with the difficulties, and trust the process.

Weightlifting and The Mind

A huge part of weightlifting is mental, and it’s often underestimated. Learning to focus in the moment, on your body, your breathing, and push out distractions and negative thoughts is crucial. Learning to deal with stress and failure and manage your emotions and be calm is also extremely important. These are very helpful skills to have in life.

You also need a good support system; an attentive and competent coach, an encouraging group, and a safe environment. And just like other things in life, not everyone will understand why you do what you do, and many people will disagree with it, and you need to learn to deal with that too, but many people will value it and motivate you further. And guess what, you could be motivating others too.

Weightlifting and The Community

Doesn’t it feel good when you know you’ve made a positive impact on someone else’s life? Weightlifting, like many other activities, can really help motivate others to move better and challenge themselves. If your lifting journey is shared with or even just visible to others, you will inevitably inspire some people to either try it or start being more active. It’s not uncommon to receive comments or messages from other people (especially women in my case) expressing how inspired they were when they saw a video or picture of mine, and as a result pushed themselves to be fitter and stronger.

This leads me to another relevant topic, which is the community and expansion of your social network through weightlifting. Again, like many other hobbies, joining a class or gym opens up many opportunities to meet like-minded people who will not only make your sessions more fun and provide encouragement, but could also potentially become good friends.

The Conclusion

Olympic Lifting is not for everyone, and we can say that about any sport or interest. You have to find what excites you and enhances your quality of life. The only way to find your passion though is to explore, and having an open mind will help push you out of your comfort zone and try things you may have inaccurately judged.

I found one of my passions, and I’m so grateful for having tried it despite my negative pre-judgments, because of all the ways it has made and continues to make me a better person. Olympic Weightlifting will help you move better and be stronger both physically and emotionally. When you move better, you will live healthier for longer. And when you are stronger, you will overcome challenges more easily, you will feel so good about yourself, and you will thrive.


Subscribe to this RSS feed

Subscribe to AdventureFit Travel