x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE apartment gyms: now there's no excuse not to exercise

More and more apartment blocks now come with their own gyms, which is great for residents and trainers.

Alys Hannaway, a personal trainer, assists her client at a gym in Abu Dhabi.
Alys Hannaway, a personal trainer, assists her client at a gym in Abu Dhabi.

Not so very long ago, anyone in Abu Dhabi who wanted to exercise in the confines of a gymnasium faced a dilemma.

Back then, their only options were the Abu Dhabi Country Club (formerly Abu Dhabi Health and Fitness Club), where membership was both costly and vastly oversubscribed. Alternatively, they could sign up to equally expensive hotel gyms, which usually had waiting lists.

For those on a budget, there were also cheap backstreet gyms in downtown Abu Dhabi. Yet here, the overly muscled blokes and rust-covered equipment intimidated many from joining.

But within the past 18 months or so, the situation has drastically improved. Almost every week, a new tower block or housing compound comes online. Not only has this meant rents have fallen greatly, but many of these buildings have their own on-site gyms as well.

Sun and Sky Towers on Reem Island, Rihan Heights by Zayed Sports City, Etihad Towers on the Corniche and St Regis Apartments on Saadiyat Island, to name but a few, all have fully equipped exercise areas that almost match the standards of commercial or hotel gyms.

One of those who has benefited from this has been Ryan Herdie, 34, a property manager from South Africa, who believes that having top-class fitness facilities within an elevator's journey away from his apartment in Sky Towers has vastly improved his health.

"Having this great gym was a massive deciding factor when I first moved into the building a year ago," he recalls. "The thing is, I have such a hectic working schedule, I'm always looking for an excuse not to work out. Now, when I get home and I'm tired, I don't have to get in my car to exercise."

It's not only the occupants of these buildings who have welcomed this trend. A number of peripatetic personal trainers in the city now make a living meeting their clients in the gyms of their homes.

One of these is Kevin McCullough, 32, the chief trainer for the Abu Dhabi company Premier Fitness. He arrived in the UAE 18 months ago from his native Britain.

He says: "It's great having a gym to train people properly. When I used to freelance in the UK, you'd literally have to turn up at people's houses and train them in their living room with a Reebok Step and a set of dumbbells.

"So even if the gyms aren't that great a standard, at least you have a bike and a treadmill and a weight bench."

This means there is more chance of his clients reaching their fitness goals.

"If you have cardio equipment and free weights, you can constantly change the programmes and make them harder when they start progressing," he says.

"If [the client is] stuck in the same routine, they get bored easily and lose heart."

Another personal trainer, Alys Hannaway, also agrees that these new gyms were a positive for Abu Dhabi, yet points towards a few downsides.

"Often with these gyms in apartment blocks, there are rarely any fitness instructors manning the gym. So no one is watching over people, making sure they're doing things safely," says the 28-year-old Briton. "If people haven't trained before and there are no fitness instructors there, people can walk in and pick up weights and they could possibly hurt themselves," she warns.

"Whereas, if you join a gym, you have people on-site and can ask them questions. Plus, part of their job is to go around and correct people. If you see someone doing a dead lift and bending their back badly, they'll probably come over and give pointers.

"Saying that, though, as long as people are careful in what they do in their gyms, it has to be a good thing for the fitness of people in Abu Dhabi."

hberger@thenational.ae