I grew up learning gymnastics. I took lessons four days a week, for two hours a day, for five years straight. While it wasn’t something I kept up with after the age of 10, I’ve always been thankful for the flexibility that it gave me from a young age. It was also a great introduction to fitness. All these years later, I’ve been lucky to carry around some of that passion for fitness and agility.
These days, there are several fun and unconventional ways to keep fit. Some people like to rock-climb, some like to bounce on trampolines, while others prefer parkour or swinging on a set of monkey bars to get their sweat on. For those who want a mix of it all, there’s Bounce’s X-Park Ninja Warrior Obstacle course.
While the first X-Park in the UAE launched at Bounce Dubai last year, a branch has now opened in Bounce Abu Dhabi at Marina Mall. Located near the entrance on the top floor, it’s unmissable – the bright neon lights will catch your eye immediately.
The course is tucked away behind a fence and, as it is a “ninja” obstacle course, there are (naturally) three ninjas on hand to help you along your way. The course is open to anyone who is more than 125 centimetres tall.
I had no idea what was in store for me. I soon realised that my biggest challenge was mentally overcoming my fear of some of the obstacles. However, this time around I have a better idea of how to tackle them. Despite Bounce Abu Dhabi being 1,000 square feet bigger than its Dubai counterpart, its X-Park is not quite as large. It has 13 obstacles (rather than 18) and is set on one floor. However, don’t let that fool you into believing it’s easier to navigate.
Navigating through the X-park course
The course is designed to work all parts of the body. One obstacle may focus on jumping, while another needs you to get climbing. It’s a good way to build up a sweat and challenge yourself while getting a holistic workout. The course can be completed in different ways: obstacles can be viewed as individual challenges or the whole thing can be raced through as a circuit.
To start with, one of the ninjas accompanies me through part of the course. I have to bounce on a trampoline and grab hold of a cargo net to get to the top (or, if that’s too daunting, there’s the option of crawling up it instead). Once up, I slide down a fireman’s pole for the next obstacle: walking across a slackline.
Looking down at the thin material, I’m hoping some of my former gymnastics skills will kick in. However, the slackline is quite shaky. Luckily for me, there’s a net to hold on to that helps me cross. Next up, my arms and upper body are in for a challenge with the traverse. I can either cross on a set of monkey bars or climb on to something that resembles parallel bars. I try the monkey bars first and get to about a third of the way before I drop. I also try the other set of bars, but find it too difficult. I am able to bypass all this by just walking through.
The next obstacle proves to be the most challenging – at least mentally. It’s the same one I was hesitant about at Bounce Dubai: the vault run. It consists of three trampolines and jumping over a raised barrier. Thoughts of overjumping and tripping keep running through my head. Even after I watch others do it, I’m still worried. The ninjas take their time and even do fancy flips to show it’s not as bad as I think, but I still dread what might happen if I “mis-bounce”. Eventually (and after a lot of encouragement), I decide to just get it over with, and even though my bounces are subdued, I make it over.
Thankfully, the next couple of obstacles are easier for me. There’s an over-under, where I have to crawl up and down some barriers, followed by a rope swing. The sea of pipes is a bit of a challenge, considering I have short legs and you need to balance on stabilising balls with pipes protruding out of them.
The wedge run made me nervous when I was in Dubai, but I know better this time. Without much ado, I do my best parkour artist impression and jump from one angled piece of wood to the next. I then have to transition through a bouldering wall. This one seems a lot easier to cross than the one I remember in Dubai. Either way, as someone who has never properly rock-climbed, I’m pretty proud of myself for making it through.
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Finally, my inner gymnast is given a chance to shine as I’m tasked with walking across a balance beam – something my 8-year-old self worked on extensively. Next up is one of my personal favourites: the spider climb. I find it takes a mix of everything (upper body, core and lower body) to make it across.
The last two hurdles are the Tramp Up, in which I bounce on a trampoline and pull myself up on to a ledge; and the Rollers, where I need to run down a set of rollers to finish the obstacle course. I can see why people get delayed here, but the key to getting through is running fast and not thinking too much about what you’re doing.
All in all, the Abu Dhabi X-Park experience is thoroughly enjoyable. The course is challenging, mentally and physically (I feel soreness in my arms and shoulders for the next day or so), but not so difficult it can’t be done.
One of the most interesting aspects is observing the hesitation adults display compared to the willingness of children to just go for it. It reminds me of a simpler time, when I too would have balanced on those pipes or beams without a second thought.