Dubai's Olympic Playground offers a more holistic approach to living well and features equipment usually found in a playground, such as climbing frames, hula hoops and space hoppers.
Anti-gym alert: Get active at the OP Integrated Lifestyle Centre in Dubai
A new “anti-gym” in Dubai is offering a different perspective on health and fitness.
“We actively discourage personal training,” says Matt Coe, a former professional British rugby player and the co-founder of OP Integrated Lifestyle Centre.
OP (short for Olympic Playground) features an open space decked out with equipment usually found in a playground, such as climbing frames, hula hoops and space hoppers.
Members are encouraged to, well, play.
“We don’t want to be the black- ceiling gym with graffiti walls, or the yoga and Pilates gym, but something in between,” Coe says. “We want to bring people together, everyone from the chief executive to the housewife, coming together and having fun.”
“It’s not a gym but a lifestyle centre,” insists Coe’s wife Carolyn, a life coach and the co-founder of OP. “Each person is guided on how best to use the centre. We have several services from life coaching to rehabilitation and nutrition. It was about getting all these services in one place.”
The classes involve not just the usual fitness exercises, but also movements focused on improving hand-eye coordination.
Juggling, for instance, Coe says, can stimulate both body and mind. “So many people are under stress. We’re trying to make people react to stress in a better way and still be able to make better decisions. These are the life supplements we want people to be able to take away with them.”
At OP, there are only a few conventional weights – such as kettle bells and plates – but there are no machines such as treadmills.
Remedy and recovery
Carolyn says the centre focuses on clients in their 30s, particularly those who are already noticing signs of imbalance or immobility within their lifestyle, such as bad sleep patterns, nutritional problems or burnout.
“All these things when put together, can cause problems in later life, so we want to catch these people before it’s too late,” she says.
“For some people, we might say they need to tone down their physical activity, concentrating more on stimulating their parasympathetic nervous systems through different forms of treatments and movements,” she adds.
Coe says OP’s staff includes a former professional golfer and a two-time Olympic synchronised swimmer, so there is also a strong emphasis on athletic training.
The centre also offers DNA testing to show what kinds of exercises will best suit a member’s genetic make-up.
The big picture
“This is much more than a gym – they have created a playground in an office tower,” says Jeremy Parker, a partner at the Dubai start-up Aseel Consultancy and one of the centre’s first members.
“It’s about getting healthy, with weight loss, fitness and other improvements being by-products of fixing the bigger picture, a complete solution to get all the elements of my life back on track, rather than just getting fit.”
Parker says that in just a matter of weeks, he’s already reaping the benefits such as increases in daily productivity and improved sleep.
Lelanie Nabal, one of the Middle East’s Adidas ambassadors, is a fan of the facility, too.
“It can be very intimidating for people to walk into a gym, especially women. OP is more comfortable and it’s so fun,” she says.
“At OP they’re not just focusing on getting people in shape or fit but it’s everything from sleeping patterns to nutrition. Everything you do will affect your body.”
• OP Integrated Lifestyle Centre is located in Silver Tower, Cluster I, JLT, Dubai. For more information, call 04 365 3399 or email email@example.com. Membership rates vary, as the programmes are customised