The nine new weird and wonderful UAE workouts you have to try
March 15, 2014
Updated: March 15, 2014 04:00 AM
Tired of your usual workout? Exercise needn’t be boring: we’ve picked out nine novel – and challenging – classes in Abu Dhabi and Dubai
1. Kangoo Boot Camp
These hour-long classes are expensive, due to the necessity of the gear rental, but it was entirely worth it just to jump around like a little kid for an hour. The most difficult part is getting up on your feet, and it takes a little getting used to. These jumps also offer a pretty serious workout, since they aren’t as springy as they look. After five minutes of various jumping routines I was already fully sweating, heart pounding, wondering how I was going to get through the next 55 minutes. Squats are a serious core challenge and, later, the instructor used the weight of them to help in leg- and ab-sculpting exercises. Plus, this is a rebounding-type exercise which is supposed to be easier on your joints and believed to have added physical benefits, including providing a boost to the immune system.
• Dh120 for 60 minutes, available at Tips N Toes in Khalifa City six days a week (www.tipsandtoes.com; 02 557 2255)
* Ann Marie McQueen
2. Zen Ga Flow
Zen Ga Flow is a relatively new hybrid of yoga, Pilates and dance, designed to develop balance, inner strength, mobility and control. There are old staples, such as downward dog and arabesque, and, in our class, the teacher reminded us to “imprint” on the mat during a core session, something only Pilates students would know how to do. This is a deceptively difficult workout and the hour flew by because I never knew what movements were coming next. A tough sculpting workout, it provides a good alternative to the seriousness of Pilates and the sometimes-tiring spiritual side of yoga.
Indo-Row is basically a spinning class using rowing machines whose resistance is provided by water rather than air. The machines are set up in two lines facing each other. To encourage you to row harder, you’re competing against the other team to row as fast and as far as you can within a certain time, with the high-tech machines recording all your results. While there could be a testosterone-fuelled competitiveness to proceedings, thankfully the cheery instructor Florin Prioteasa keeps the atmosphere friendly and fun. Whether you relish the experience, however, really depends on whether you enjoy using a rowing machine or not. This is suitable for most fitness levels, but to keep up with the top rowers you’ll need to be super-fit.
• Dh60 (non-members) for 60 minutes, Tuesdays 7.15pm at Hiltonia Beach Club, Abu Dhabi (02 692 4324)
* Hugo Berger
4. Fighters Fitness
“Am I going to die?” asked a friend I dragged to Fighters Fitness, a workout that’s not for the faint of heart. Every Friday morning, Cobra holds what may well be the most gruelling workout session you’ll ever attend. For one hour, you’ll perform short, high-intensity exercises that will jack your heart rate up and challenge muscles you didn’t know existed. The goal is to feel the buzz of full-body exhaustion. The workouts are simple and low-tech: jump rope, sprints, bunny hops, flipping tyres – and, in the case of the first session I attended, carrying a partner on your back while climbing five flights of stairs. No two sessions are identical, but they almost always end with abdominal work – and one person (or two) throwing up on the side. Cobra’s motto, after all, is “Push till you spew”, which you’ll hear a lot from the gym’s unrelenting but good-humoured chief instructor Mat Dryden.
As the name would imply, you’ll be cycling under water. While the concept is believed to have originated in Italy in the 1990s, the craze is new to the UAE. There are two locations offering different versions in Dubai: at L’Atelier Aquafitness, which offers something like submerged spinning with a dash of water aerobics. Balance Wellness has a spabike pod, which looks pretty sci-fi: a 150cm-high tank containing 300 litres of water. Once inside, you’ll cycle away, either sitting or standing, while 18 jets massage you throughout the 30-minute workout. At L’Atelier Aquafitness, the workout is harder than it sounds and involves the whole body, because water offers 12 times the resistance of air. It’s recommended for newcomers and all ages because buoyancy in the water guarantees a zero-impact exercise that protects your joints and spine.
Developed in Japan by Izumi Tabata as a method of training the Japanese figure-skating team, Tabata asks you to give it your all – for a very short time. That is harder than it sounds. In our 45-minute class we rotated through four sets of two simple but tough exercises – high-knee jogs, followed by press-ups, then planking and crunching and ending with star jumps – performed for 30 seconds each, with a short break in between. The process is reminiscent of an old-fashioned PE lesson, providing a fun, tough workout that passed quickly.
• Dh55 per class at Get Moving Fitness & Spa Centre in Abu Dhabi (www.getmoving.com; 02 642 5665)
* Felicity Campbell
7. Mojo Reformer Pilates
This is basically turbocharged Reformer Pilates, integrating cardio and strength training. It seems a common experience, to pay for expensive Reformer packages only to discover there’s more breathing and stretching than sculpting. If that’s familiar, Mojo is the place for you. You’ll be sweating within five minutes of the warm-up, with reverse pikes, wheelbarrows, planks and side-leg presses featuring in an average energetic class of 15-plus sequences.
• Dh90 per 55-minute session. The studio’s aim is to provide daily sessions on the hour. Mojo Body Fitness Studio, 7th floor, Concord Tower, Dubai Media City (www.ilovemojo.com; 800 656696)
* Rebecca McLaughlin-Duane
8. The Rebounder
The Rebounder promises a 60-minute, zero-impact, fat- burning workout that involves bouncing on an individual trampoline to pumping tunes while holding hand weights – with the added promises of the lymph fluid-clearing, immune system-boosting and cell-cleaning benefits that jumping up and down are purported to give you.
• From Dh65, classes run every Wednesday from 10.30am to 11.30am at DanceFit in Dubai (www.dancefitme.com; 04 388 3157)
* Ann Marie McQueen
Bokwa is like Zumba, but way cooler and easier to do. This street dancing-style workout, which has swept the United Kingdom, has its own lingo. The workout is based on the letters, or specific sequences, like C or L, that participants trace on the floor. Then they are jazzed up with “groove and flavour”, those little hip rolls and shoulder shakes and toe pivots you might have seen on So You Think You Can Dance. You have to concentrate, so the mind doesn’t tend to wander, and you can make it tougher or easier, depending on whether you add impact and jumps. My instructor, Jodi Clark, is from the UK and offers classes at Eastern Mangroves Hotel and Spa.
• 60-minute class at Eastern Mangroves Hotel and Spa, mixed class at 6pm on Mondays; ladies-only at 10am on Thursdays (email@example.com; 02 656 1146)