x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'Social fitness' gym sees members have fun and get fit

The club hosts a number of functions, or Tribe events, which take place either at the gym or at hired locations, including restaurants, hotels and a dedicated Tribe Loft in Jumeirah Beach Residence.

TribeFit, a fitness club in Dubai Marina that uses the concept of “social fitness” to connect members both inside and outside the gym.
TribeFit, a fitness club in Dubai Marina that uses the concept of “social fitness” to connect members both inside and outside the gym.

DUBAI // Movie nights, brunches and soirees normally wouldn't be associated with fitness but a gym that has linked exercise with socialising is quickly gaining popularity.

Throngs of residents in the emirate have registered with TribeFit, a fitness club in Dubai Marina that uses the concept of "social fitness" to connect members both inside and outside the gym.

The club hosts a number of functions, or Tribe events, which take place either at the gym or at hired locations, including restaurants, hotels and a dedicated Tribe Loft in Jumeirah Beach Residence. More than 1,500 members have registered with the gym since its launch in March.

With colourful lights and walls adorned with the likes of Bob Marley, Che Guevara and street art, this is not your average gym. A cinema screen, cafe-lounge area, billiards table and an in-house DJ are some of the club's additional features.

Founder of the gym, the UAE born and raised Ajay Mankani said he was inspired to establish his own club after his experience at other gyms.

"I like to use this metaphor of going to work. If you went to work, sat at your desk, didn't say a word to anyone and then you left, you'd eventually quit, right?" he said. "Hence, many people quit going to the gym."

So Mr Mankani and his team went on a fact-finding mission to the most popular gyms in London and New York. "What was missing was the social component - getting people together, like-minded folk who have an interest in fitness," he said.

With a dominant expatriate population comprised of young professionals, Dubai was an ideal location.

"Dubai is a very transient place and people need a hub to meet new people, instead of the usual spots," said Ryan Cheal, the gym's general manager.

"This is a place where people with a common positive interest were coming to hang out."

That was the case for James Gottfried, a UK expatriate who moved to Dubai eight months ago. The marketing manager in publishing said he goes to the gym every day, spending between two to three hours each time.

"It was perfect because I only moved here recently and it was a great way to make friends," he said. "I'd say half the time I'm working out, the other half I'm socialising."

Mr Gottfried, 27, said the gym has also motivated him to work out more often.

Although the first half of the gym's concept is social, the second is fitness, with nine workout zones sprawled across its 23,000 square feet, including a yoga studio, an on-site boot camp area, a boxing area and a cardio zone. The club also has an off-site location in The Greens with a 25-metre pool and courts for football, volleyball or basketball.

Fitness experts say the "social fitness" concept works as long as events don't interfere with a gym's main purpose - to keep its members fit.

"It's known that when you're socialising with others who are conscious about their health and fitness, you're more likely to as well," said Tarek Samir, a personal trainer in Dubai. "It's also a good opportunity for trainers to get to know their clients better."

But, Mr Samir said, social events should not be held at the cost of the benefits expected from a gym. "I personally disagree with brunches. You work hard all week then it's lost because of one indulgent brunch on the weekend," he said. "The food served at these events needs to be healthy so that training doesn't go to waste."

All fitness-based events, which take place regularly, have food that fits, said Glen Stollery, group exercise manager. But the social events, which take place every four to six weeks, are "purely social".

"Many of our members are young professionals - they work and train hard but they want to play hard, too," he said. "Everyone deserves a cheat day, and we take that concept to the absolute maximum."

mismail@thenational.ae