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Photo courtesy of Eva Clarke

Saying Goodbye to HUA: Eva Clarke’s Inspiring Legacy

Eva Clarke, fitness mentor and trainer at NYU Abu Dhabi, is leaving after seven years. Here’s a look at the many ways she has inspired students and trainees to be their best selves.

NYU Abu Dhabi is full of exceptional people. One of them, who has been with us for many years and has left a tremendous impact on our community, is Eva Clarke. After seven years at NYUAD, the fitness mentor and trainer is leaving Abu Dhabi. But her legacy is here to stay.
Clarke came to Abu Dhabi in January 2012 to start coaching in the city, but she was soon scouted by Kaisa Pedersen, Fitness and Wellness Specialist at NYUAD, who brought her to our university in summer 2013. Her signature training, HUA, from military slang “Heard, Understood and Acknowledged,” has become one of the most popular fitness classes on campus. Over the years, Clarke has beaten 16 Guinness World Records and many of the attempts were assisted by fundraising efforts for children from underprivileged backgrounds. Beyond being an extraordinary athlete and arguably one of the toughest people on the planet, Clarke is an incredibly warm and inspiring person for all who know her.
This inspiration is clear in the experience of Brandon Chin Loy, Class of 2020. “As I attended more and more classes, I realized that HUA is also a lifestyle. Eva’s classes, at their core, call on commitment and persistence,” Chin Loy explained. “They taught me to challenge myself and fight against self-doubt. For me, HUA is, and always will be, a pillar of both physical and mental strength.”
When asked about the impact that she has left on NYUAD, Clarke shared, “I think my impact was to show that nothing is impossible. I see myself as a mum and I hope that I make people think ‘if Eva can do it, I can do it.’”
Importantly, however, she recognizes that for each person the impossible is something different and it may have nothing to do with physical activity. Rather, she feels, it is about trying and being one’s best self. Clarke believes that she needs to lead by example, not only in her classes but also in life. That’s why she does not shy away from challenges.
Resonating with the atmosphere that Clarke aims to set up, Sarah Daakour, Postdoctoral Associate at NYUAD, described HUA as a philosophy of life. “It’s about not quitting, not wasting a second when you can always do your best. It’s about challenging yourself, believing in yourself and what you’re capable of, physically and mentally,” Daakour emphasized.
One of the most powerful ways in which Clarke helped others on campus realize their potential was the recent Guinness World Record group attempt for the most burpees in 24 hours. She successfully led a team of five to beat it in April, during lockdown.
Just as Clarke has influenced the NYUAD community, she admits that for her, the journey in Sama Towers and on Saadiyat has been equally transformative. “I was all about the physical challenge but watching the students under pressure of studying doing the physical exercises inspired me to be a different person and learn a lot about myself,” she shared.
She sought new areas of growth, especially in areas she is uncomfortable in. As a result, Clarke started pursuing a degree in education in 2016. It also encouraged her to learn more about everyone’s needs and see how to best accommodate different levels of fitness and emotional wellbeing in her classes.
This philosophy of connecting with others through training runs deep in HUA classes and is a recurring theme in conversations with many of those who attend them. “Eva's enthusiasm, acceptance, sense of humor and encouragement have created an amazingly supportive and diverse community,” expressed Michael Shiloh, Associate Professor of Practice of Interactive Media. “I feel that we all accept, encourage and support one another.”
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Photo courtesy of Eva Clarke
The emotional aspect of exercise has been particularly overt in the last few months when all activities, including HUA, transitioned to virtual space. Clarke admitted that Covid-19 has completely changed her outlook on fitness because she is not training for a specific goal now and is instead focused on connecting with her students. She described HUA as a fitness for wellbeing and happiness, rather than focusing solely on the physical aspects and performance. While Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on many, participation in online fitness classes helped some students to take ownership of this part of their routine.
“Doing her recorded workouts — with all the humor and positivity she radiates — has helped me stay grounded through this crazy world and stay connected to the NYUAD that became home in a way that nothing else has,” shared Hannah Greene, Class of 2022, when asked about her experience in Eva’s online classes. “She still manages to motivate, inspire and challenge us even 10,000 kilometers away.”
Clarke will be leaving Abu Dhabi on Sept. 12 for Australia where she is planning to continue working in fitness. However, the online HUA classes for NYUAD community are planned to continue during the fall semester and will, hopefully, help many more NYUAD community members to be their best selves.
Beniamin Strzelecki is a columnist. Email him at
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