“If you want to get fit, you have to give away only one thing. Your excuses.” Unknown
A steady stream of expats have been returning to Abu Dhabi from their respective home countries over the past few weeks after escaping the UAE’s hot and humid summer. With the new school term interrupted nearly as soon as it began with a long Eid break, many of us have enjoyed yet another break in various locations across the globe. Vacations of any kind are usually indulgent resulting in a few extra unwanted kilos or is that just me with my pub roasts, bbq’s, afternoon teas and sugary sweet cocktails.
So it’s time to get fit (again) and tone up those wobbly bits. Abu Dhabi is as much awash with every type of sport you can think of as it is with indulgent brunches and cocktail bars. Exercise is big business here and the city is full of gyms and every possible form of exercise class is on offer here, there’s really no excuse not to get active in some shape or form although I regularly manage to avoid anything too strenuous.
So here is my top five ways to get fit in Abu Dhabi………
1. Cobra Fitness
Located in the underground car park at Al Bander in Al Raha Beach, Cobra Fitness is a boldly decorated space offering a full schedule of daily sessions for members and non-members. This popular gym is as real as it gets, the only true ‘fight gym’ in Abu Dhabi, you know a gym is serious when it has a full size boxing ring, 60Kg dumbbells and Hip Hop pumping through the speakers. Affectionately known as ‘The Pit’ the clientele come from all backgrounds, the military and pro athletes to IT geeks and yummy mummies, all with the same goal of training hard to get the job done. It’s definitely more intense and less pretentious than other gyms in the capital, the walls are emblazoned with graffiti motivation ‘Push till ya spew’ and ‘Train insane or remain the same’ which set the scene perfectly.
Australian tattooed owner Mat is generally there whatever the time, marshaling the training and offering his own unique words of encouragement. The team of instructors have been hand picked based on their passion for fitness, their work ethic, knowledge and experience. Some are World and Regional Champions in their individual disciplines, Mr Long the Muay Thai coach has over four hundred fights under his belt. Fancy a Personal Training session? Ask for Sam for a good one-on-one workout (ok busted I’m biased he’s my son).
Loads of sessions are available including Boxing, Muay Thai, Ladies Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for adults and kids as well as Abs Destruction, Spartacus circuits, Fighter Fitness, Wrestling, TRX, Tabata, Ladies Self-Defence, Spin, Bootcamps and Vertical Flex. Yoga classes are being introduced from this week on Wednesday mornings (check website here and Facebook for weekly schedules, up-to-date class listings and promotions). A range of pre and post workout juices, healthy snacks and protein rich ready meals are prepared daily by Arlequin Abu Dhabi and sold in the Cobra Cafe.
Don’t let the testosterone filled space and strong aroma of Thai oil put you off because whether you are a resident or a visitor to Abu Dhabi and want to train in a welcoming but industrial atmosphere, Cobra Fitness is the place to go. Expect to see some sparring, the mats packed with fighting drills and some crazy lifting in the free weight section.
Location: Upper Basement, Al Bandar, Al Raha Blvd, Khalifa City
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 6:00am to 10:00pm. Friday – Saturday: 7:00am to 11:00am
Telephone: 02 449 6524
**Latest promotion** Three months unlimited membership for AED 1500 which includes all classes and access to all the facilities (promotion ends 30/09/16)
2. Bodytree Studio
I’ve been a regular customer at Bodytree Studio for over five years enjoying weekly Reformer Pilates sessions as well as dipping in and out of their other classes. Bodytree is the city’s only fully equipped Pilates studios located in a converted villa offering a range of Stott Pilates, Yoga and Dance classes from its dedicated large and airy exercise rooms. The studio attracts an abundance of Lululemon clad lycra expats and many locals who enjoy the wide range of group and individual classes in a full weekly schedule.
Pilates was developed in the early 1900’s by Joseph Pilates using exercises and equipment to balance development of the body and mind through core strength, flexibility, and awareness. Lifestyle, bad posture and inefficient breathing all contribute to poor health so Pilates devised a series of exercises and techniques to strengthen the body. Stott Pilates as offered at Bodytree focuses on maintaining the natural curvature of the spine and Pilates Reformer offers versatile exercises to promote length, strength, flexibility, and balance using the spring, ropes and weights system.
Along with the opportunity to strengthen your inner core, Bodytree is home to Nectar Juice Bar which offers a nutritious juice and smoothie menu along with a range of healthy bites. All of the drinks can be pre-ordered and tailored to meet individual requirements, optional organic extras such as chia seeds, whey protein, goji berries, flaxseed, manuka honey, acai powder or freshly grown organic wheatgrass can be added for an additional charge (try my personal favourite the Sustain(able) Energy juice).
Some gym bunnies may say that Yoga and Pilates are not real workouts but judging by the way you ache for days after a Reformer session I beg to differ.
Location: 11th/26th Street opposite the Adnoc petrol station
Telephone: 02 443 4448
Visit Nectar online at www.lifeisnectar.com for more information and to view their full menu. Telephone: 02 444 1119
3. The Body Company
For something a little different try an Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) training class offered by The Body Company here in Abu Dhabi. A high tech way to work out that’s popular with people from all walks of life including high-profile Olympic athletes such as Usain Bolt. Clients wear a specially designed suit that’s placed on specific muscle areas to deliver impulses via the electrodes to the target areas causing muscles to contract as if they are actually moving, intensifying natural muscle activity.
Ideal for anyone looking to increase their general fitness and flexibility, the classes are offered in two modern studios, one mixed and one for ladies only. Private rooms are also available that are perfect for ladies looking to work out in private. EMS is good for body shaping, fat reduction, weight loss and tackling problematic areas like cellulite as the impulses activate blood circulation and burn fat. For men it can also act as a weight loss and fat reduction tool and increases muscle growth and endurance levels.
I must admit I was a little skeptical before I attended the class I but it was actually really good and not at all painful as I had anticipated it might be. The impulses (controlled by the instructor) are just a tingling sensation which intensifies as the pulses get stronger throughout the series of squats, lunges, bicep curls, ab crunches and twists. EMS certainly works your whole body, the intense workout is said to increase muscle activity by eighteen times, if my DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) for the few days after the class are anything to go by I can confirm I certainly worked out!
The Body Company was introduced to the capital by Lena Dobschall and Christian Deerberg who are originally from Germany where EMS also originates from. Different classes are available for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels targeting body shape, muscle growth and weight loss with both male and female trainers available according to individual preference.
Location: Floor 2, Centro Capital Centre, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street (near ADNEC)
Telephone: 056 334 2286
Read more about The Body Company in my previous post here
4. Yas Marina Circuit
The clever marketing people at Yas Marina Circuit came up with the idea to open up the facility for bi-weekly community fitness sessions a few years ago. Walking, running and cycling the iconic 5.55km Grand Prix track has become a regular fixture in so many people’s fitness regimes. Initially open on just Tuesday (TrainYAS) and ladies only Wednesday (GoYAS) evenings more recently a third night, StartYAS was added on Sundays, and the best bit it’s all FREE (bike and helmet hire is charged separately).
The popularity and success of StartYAS, TrainYAS and GoYAS supported by Daman’s ActiveLife programme encourages thousands of people to walk, run or cycle around the circuit at their own pace every single week. I have been a semi-regular visitor of the years with family and friends, I have also taken many visitors to enjoy the buzz of exercising on the racetrack that they have previously only seen on the TV. As well as the weekly sessions Yas Marina Circuit is also the location for 5K fun and charity events such as The Color Run and Walk for Diabetes which I have participated in and the the annual TriYAS and the Zayed Marathon which I have not!
Where else in the world can you train at a Formula 1 racetrack week in, week out for free? Where else can you Walk for Diabetes, get pelted with coloured paint at the annual Color Run event or participate in TriYAS. Where else can you take have visitors to experience the unique thrill of going around an iconic grand prix track that that fills worldwide television screens when the F1 comes to town every November. There’s really no excuse not to take advantage of this free activity and get on track with your fitness, grab some friends or family and take a sunset stroll, a sweaty run or a speedy cycle around this fabulous facility – I might just take my own advice and see you there!
Location: Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
StartYAS: Sunday 6pm – 10pm, TrainYAS: Tuesday 6pm – 10pm, GoYAS (ladies only): Wednesday 6pm – 9pm (In addition on Wednesday evenings the CrossfitYAS team offer FREE introductory Crossfit sessions at GoYAS. 3 x 15 minute sessions are available between 7-8pm).
For more information on the wide range of activities and events available at Yas Marina Circuit visit www.yasmarinacircuit.com
5. At Home
Working out in the comfort of your home is not a new trend, Jane Fonda was prancing about in her bright lycra and headband in fitness videos decades ago but now it’s all about social media projecting the popular fitness gurus into the spotlight. Long gone are the days of firing up the VHS now it’s about Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. If you find the thought of joining a new gym intimidating (just me?) then the advantage of working out in private behind closed doors has its appeal, the downside is that without that financial commitment or regular time slots it’s so easy to skip your own schedule (really just me?).
The likes of Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach and Australian Kayla Itsines have made working out without the confines of a gym popular again. Cheeky Londoner Wicks is the current king of Instagram and Snapchat with his #leanin15 cooking videos, 90-day Shift, Shape and Sustain Plan and HIIT sessions proving extremely popular with people from all walks of life. Add in his two mega successful recipe books (with exercises at the back) that top the Amazon charts (third one on the way too) and it’s a win win. His YouTube workouts have led to a TV programme transforming people’s lives with effective eating and exercise plans. His likeability factor combined with his easy fuss free exercise porgrammes that can be performed anywhere, his firm bod and out and out determination are all more than enough to get you motivated.
Itsines’ toned abs and her BBG (Bikini Body Guide) has inspired over ten million women to get healthier, fitter and more confident with her workouts and recipes. Bikini body workouts require no or minimal equipment to workout at home, at the local park or at the gym with high sweat twenty-eight minute resistance sessions. Meal plans offer five new recipes every day (standard, vegetarian or vegan meal plans available). With her new ‘Sweat With Kayla’ app it’s even easier to get started and bikini body confident ready to hit the beach as the UAE weather cools down.
Another option is the 30-day fitness challenges that can be done at home. I completed the 30 Day Squat Challenge a couple of years ago (read about that here and here) but there are others that target specific areas like the abs, beach body, plank, push-up and LBD (little black dress) challenges. These fitness routines are a great way tone up your body at home with easy to follow charts that help you track the exercises and rest days – visit 30dayfitnesschallenges.com for more information
So all you need is oodles of willpower and above all with whatever method you choose a reason to try and a desire to succeed, it’s time to burn some calories and build some muscles. In the words of Wicks ‘prep like a boss’ to sort out your nutrition too as apparently as the saying goes ‘great abs are made in the kitchen and not in the gym’.
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett. All rights reserved. Additional photos used courtesy of www.cobrafitnessuae.com, www.bodytreestudio.com, www.lifeisnectar.com and www.thebodycoach.co.uk