There's a phrase I've heard tossed around between some recently arrived expats to the capital: the Abu Dhabi flabby. Adopting an effective routine in a new city to keep the kilos at bay can take some time, but a decent health club or gym is key to any well-rounded fitness regiment. That's why we at M were excited to learn that The Village Club at Abu Dhabi's One to One hotel has just opened its new and improved gym and swimming pool to the public, with a tennis court coming soon.
It will be clear to those expecting the kind of experience offered by a stand-alone health club or big corporate gym that this is a facility on a smaller scale. The brand new gym, with its laminate flooring and wall-to-wall windows overlooking the pool, still smells of fresh paint. It offers a towel service, holds half a dozen treadmills and elliptical machines for those fighting fat, a couple of stationary bikes and rowing machines, big shiny mirrors, flat-screen TVs and a decent selection of weight machines that cover the major muscles.
But as a regular weightlifter I have a hard time taking a gym seriously when it lacks such exercise essentials as a basic bench press. There's also only a single set of dumbbells tucked in a cramped corner, and just one or two adjacent benches on which to curl, push or press. With a yearly price tag of Dh3,000 for women, Dh5,500 for men, or Dh6,500 for couples, workouts may come cheaper than at some of the more established hotels in the city, but it will also come with less muscle-building or fat-burning potential. Plus, if you're someone like me who needs a sweating crowd of other eager lifters and crunchers to keep me from daydreaming at the gym, the small space might never really get you pumped.
For a limited-sized gym, the six different fitness classes that the club offers are a good start. Those seeking that extra push can meet in the gym's adjacent aerobics room for sessions as diverse as Thai boxing, abs, Pilates and tango. But, unlike some other fitness centres, advance bookings are recommended and cost extra - Dh30 for Village Club members. A personal trainer can also help you achieve your goals for Dh180 per hour, or Dh1,500 for a 10-session pack.
The shortcomings of the small gym aside, the entrance to the club area is from the back of the hotel's sprawling, grassy al fresco dining area, which would be great for a post-workout snack. And the lawn surrounding the pool and gym, partly sheltered by big shady trees, makes an even better spot to relax with family, friends, for a light meal and a cold drink. Plus, as a Village Club member, you can dig in or drink up at any of the hotel restaurants at 15 per cent off the menu price, as well as save at the hotel gift shop.
Access to the Village Club can be a bit of a challenge. With continued construction on seemingly all sides of the hotel, the only way into the complex, at least for now, is along the obscure dusty road off Defence Street. Crews have blocked access from Delma Street, and potential new members could be easily discouraged by the two "road closed" signs placed about 500 metres ahead of the club's gates. Ignore the signs, though, you're going the right way. To sum up, The Village Club offers a new, less expensive fitness alternative in an attractive setting, but probably won't get serious fitness enthusiasts breaking a sweat. For more information about The Village Club, call 02 495 2070.
Dismayed to discover the calorie and, especially, fat content of a Starbucks Frappuccino, there is a low-cal alternative, also lower in fat. As much as I've been trying to watch my calories this summer, my local Starbucks seems to be pushing their Tazo Chai Frappuccino in my face every time I pop in. I started to wonder how it stacked up nutritionally, as it tastes far too good to be very healthy. Dismayed to discover the calorie and, especially, fat content, I looked online and found a low-cal alternative, also lower in fat, which is just as good for me.
EMIRATES PALACE IFTAR: The "Aquagraphic" fountain, which drops water in choreographed patterns, is worth a visit to the pavilion alone. Dh205 for iftar, Dh75 for suhoor Sunday to Wednesday, Dh95 for suhoor Thursday to Saturday, Emirates Palace Terrace, Abu Dhabi, 02 690 7999 ATLANTIS IFTAR: Not as hi-tech as the Emirates Palace pavilion, but right on the Royal Beach, with a shisha lounge and a small marketplace where you can buy crafts and jewellery. Dh145 per person, iftar 6.30-8pm, suhoor 9pm-2am, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, 04 426 2626 RAMADAN EXHIBITION: One of the most well-known exhibitions is the one in Sharjah, where you can shop for electronics, furniture, clothes, shoes, jewellery and cars. Until September 21, 8pm-12.30am during Ramadan, 4.30pm-10:30pm during Eid, Expo Centre, Sharjah, 06 577 0000 THE FOURTH RAMADAN FESTIVAL: Under the patronage of Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed, the Emirates Heritage Club in Abu Dhabi is holding religious lectures and discussions on philosophy until September 13. Starting from 10pm in the Abu Dhabi Theatre and Cultural Village, Kaser al Amwaj, 02 658 0660 RAMADAN WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT: Table tennis and taekwondo will take place under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak and the Abu Dhabi Women Association to try to educate women about health and sport. A small gallery will offer items for sale. The invitation is open to all women. September 9 and 10, 9pm, Al Jazira Club. For more information call: 02 447 5333 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org