You know that thing we’re all supposed to do regularly – especially if we love cake and ice cream (and particularly if you love cake and ice cream as much as we do). Exercise. Now we all know that we need to do it to keep our body, mind and soul in tip-top shape, but for many of us it’s not just the will to do it but the continued commitment that’s a struggle. The best way to get around that is to find workouts that are so engaging and fun that they don’t feel like workouts.

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Fortunately, the UAE has a fantastic fitness scene with new gyms, bootcamps, and training trends popping up all the time. Exercise enthusiasts have plenty of options to mix up their workout regime or just try something different. Friday sent two challengers – Mairead Walsh, editor, InsideOut, and our very own art editor, Mark Setchfield, to try 10 new-to-the UAE exercise classes to see how they fared.

Mairead Walsh, 44 Getting older has its challenges and one of them is keeping fit. I am a very competitive person and I already exercise regularly and try to mix it up, but I was looking forward to these new workouts to try something different and to really push my limits. Bring it on!

Mark Setchfield, 47 
I do try to keep fit and my diet healthy, however like many people, I find the motivation to get to the gym challenging, mainly because I hate working out alone in an empty gym. I feel like time hits the pause button as soon as one gets on a cross-trainer.

So to get over my fitness boredom, I looked forward to the new challenges and the variety of innovative fitness classes. Hopefully, at the end of this experiment, I would walk (even run!) away with some new techniques and shape up at the same time.

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Read: Ask the expert: is it true that you need to vary your exercise routine?

1. Bounce FIT

MAIREAD How hard can jumping on a trampoline be? Deceivingly tough! Yes, this seems like a fun workout, but don’t let that fool you – this is serious cardio and a full-body workout. Instructor Juliette is high-spirited and full of encouragement, which you’ll need after the first 10 minutes to make it through the whole hour. From jumping with high knees and high kicks to mid-air twists and running up vertical trampolines, this is a super workout that burns loads of calories. Core stability is key, but all muscle groups get a workout. This is also a test of endurance (yes, I lasted the whole hour!). As breathless as you get, it makes you laugh as you can’t help but feel like a kid having fun.


MARK The last time I jumped like this was on my parents’ bed when I was about six. So how hard could this be? Quite, I soon realised. Following Juliette, I started with a few gentle jumps, adding kicks and turns whilst trying to remain in the centre of the trampoline. As I leapt up over a metre or so, I could really feel the burn. But my stint on the trampoline was short-lived. When asked to land on my bottom, keeping my legs stretched out, I felt a catch and realised I was no longer a sprightly six-year-old. Excusing myself from the class, I was led off the mats for a medical check-up. I was given a bag of ice and watched the rest of the class from the sidelines. I now have a newfound respect for the sport. It’s no child’s play.

Try it yourself

Where: Bounce Trampoline Park, Al Quoz

Price: Dh80 per session

To book: bounce.ae/bounce-fit
or call 04 3211 400.

2. Barry’s Bootcamp

MAIREAD Walking in to the dark, mirrored room with treadmills lining one wall, a weight rack lining another and steps boxes lining the third, you know you’re in for a sweaty session. The smooth-talking, enthusiastic instructor, Bradford, essentially conducts two classes at once, directing half the participants on the treadmills and the other half on the steps through a high-intensity, minute-by-minute workout. Whether instructing every 30 seconds to increase pace or incline, or giving direction on leg lifts, sit-ups, shoulder presses, etc, Bradford constantly provides encouragement and advice on form. And there’s a great energy in the room motivating everyone to push themselves to new levels. I especially liked that Bradford ended the class with a minute of meditation: ‘Think about what you’re feeling right now. Fatigue, yes, but also strength. Did you have a moment when you felt weak and used some emotional, mental strength to push through? Think about the things you want to achieve. Feel gratitude for what you have accomplished and what you’re capable of.’


MARK I’ve heard a lot of people talk of Barry’s Bootcamp like it’s a cool club I should be a part of. Arriving for the 8.30am core training session felt like I had walked into a members’ club – everyone clutching a juice and high-fiving each other. Grabbing a towel, I headed into the dimly-lit studio. As I began my class on a treadmill, I liked the way the instructor pushed me to either increase the speed or the incline. The high-energy music helped keep up with the momentum. Moving to floor we worked on core exercises under guidance and motivational whoops from Bradford.

Try it yourself

Where: Barry’s Bootcamp at Central Park Towers in DIFC.

Price: First class costs Dh80, Dh120 per class thereafter. Packages also available.

To book: Call 04 2544775 or email frontdeskdifc@barrysbootcamp.com.

3. LES MILLS The Trip

MAIREAD It’s a spinning class but in a land far, far away – like being at the IMAX while riding your bike. The room is dark, the music loud and the panoramic screen at the front of the room engulfs you in the journey. I was hoping for a city tour of Madrid or Tokyo, but the digitally-created landscape takes you through tunnels and over bridges on a road that reaches up to the sky. The visuals of the hills and straight-aways definitely inspire you, but I found that without the instructor motivating you further, there was less accountability.

Try it yourself

Where: GFX Fitness Club, Bay Avenue Mall, Executive Towers, Business Bay

Price: Dh85 per session. 
Packages also available.

To book: Call 050 9969470; visit gfx.ae.

4. Float UAE

MAIREAD This is a great core workout. The movements are basic – squatting, jumping, planking, but no matter what exercise you do, it is all a balancing act. Just being able to stand requires a lot of prowess. – especially when your workout buddy keeps falling off the board and causing a tidal wave. But I can’t deny the defeat of falling into the pool wasn’t soothed by the refreshingly cool water.

MARK Is there a place in Dubai where you can’t do yoga? Whether it is on rooftops of high-rise buildings, public parks or even in an aquarium, it is one form of exercise that has really caught on in the UAE.

Float UAE, I’m told is a new concept from the US, where a thick floating board, similar to a lilo, is secured to the pool’s edge. As I jumped into the cool water to get onto the board, I realised if nothing else, I would be able to beat the heat and humidity with a splash in the pool. We started the session with a few simple stretches. Next, were forward lunges and fairly easy yoga moves. Stretching out whilst trying to balance and follow instructions is nonetheless quite tricky. Yes, I fell off the board several times, but I wasn’t complaining as it was quite a relief from the heat. While The yoga moves were fairly easy, staying on top of the board was challenging. And therein lies the fun.

Try it yourself

Where: Fitness First The Meadows

Price: Dh65 per 40-minute session 
for Fitness First members and Dh80 
for non-members. Packages also available.

To book: Call 058 2564735 or visit floatuae.com.

5. Poi FLOW

MARK I had no idea what to expect from this class. There were no bikes in sight, just some weighted bags, or pois. Derived from Maori tribal movement in New Zealand, the class involves spinning the pois in rhythmical patterns. As I had a one-to-one session at the Fridge in Alserkal Avenue, my instructor Ara talked me through the session. First it was my core warm-up with a giant hula hoop. I was quite impressed with myself as I managed quite a good spin. Under the instruction of Ara I managed to get the hoop up to my chest and back down to my hip. Next, I chose my pois. After setting the correct length, I started spinning. I was cautioned that I would hit myself and I did. As soon as I started a simple cross-over, I whacked my face. Regaining my rhythm I had a second try. As I was getting a hang of it, Ara asked me to try the double crossover. It’s a tricky move because you will strike your own head several times. After a few attempts I got it. Much to the surprise of my instructor, I managed three different moves in my first lesson. Not the most strenuous class I have done, but 
the concentration and coordination is challenging and really good fun. I’d love to go back for a group session.

Try it yourself

Where: The Fridge, Alserkal Avenue

Price: Four classes are Dh440. If you sign up with a friend, it’s Dh400 per person.

To book: Email rana@flowground.com or visit flowground.com/class/poi-new.

6. Aquaspin

MAIREAD If the idea of cycling on a sweltering outdoor track does not excite you, then this one’s for you. With the bike submerged in a pool and the water’s surface just above your waist level, the water acts as your resistance. This is much easier on joints, which is great if you have any problems with your knees. Your position is key, as the instructor repeatedly confirms: ‘Don’t compromise posture for pace.’ So you can push yourself as hard as you like and the water does the rest. It’s great to be outside and yet refreshing in the pool.

MARK A pool-based class at the peak of summer is a great start to the day. The bikes are arranged around the edge of the pool facing the instructor. The resistance is the wide pedals that look like oversized flip-flops. I start at the lower-range speed, working upto a moderate speed and then my top speed. During the class we’re standing, seated then leaning over the handle bars working at the three speeds. The final part of the class was using the bikes like gym apparatus, suspending yourself between the seat and handles, using the water’s resistance lunging in and out of the water.

Try it yourself

Where: The fitness club at Fairmont The Palm

Price: Dh75 per session

To book: Call 04 457 3330 or email palm.healthclub@fairmont.com.

7. Bodhi Suspension Pilates

MAIREAD Even though I’ve done Pilates before and I’ve used TRX before, putting them together was pretty tricky and I felt like a beginner at both. The workout space is small and the instruction felt a bit rushed, which is unfortunate because each position requires focus on technique to get the most from the movements. And some movements are more difficult than they look. It’s interesting to find out what positions your body refuses at first, but with practice and focus, you can slowly train your muscles and hopefully not sweat as much!

MARK This was my first Pilates class. The class is a mix of floor and standing exercises, working the core. Following the instructor was easy as the moves weren’t too tough. I think a second class would be easier as you would have mastered the techniques. The hardest part of the class were the core stretches – they challenged every muscle in my core.

Try it yourself

Where: A-Tone Fitness Lounge in Prime Tower, Business Bay, Dubai

Price: Dh130 per session.

To book: Call 050 6545302 or email anjali@a-tone.ae

8. Prama by PAVIGYM

MAIREAD What happens when the lights go out in Prama? You jump, squat, plank and chase the moving lights with your feet or your hands. It’s circuit training, but as well as trying to beat the clock, you have to catch the flashing lights, which add an extra element of competition and focus. Agility, coordination and stamina are worked hard here. There were nine people in our class so we had nine stations to rotate through. With 50 seconds of exercise at each station, a 10-second break between and three full rounds, it was a relentless 27-minute circuit. The whack-a-mole-style punching lights on the wall activity and chasing the lights on the floor are an added fun factor.

MARK The start of the class seemed a little slow as the instructor explained the nine different stations. We started with a team workout, stepping on illuminated circles – the first team to reach 400 steps won. The class turned out to be quite intense, working against the clock around the nine stations. It’s definitely fun and the interaction makes the time pass quickly.

Try it yourself

Where: Fitness club, Fairmont The Palm, Dubai

Price: Dh75 per class.

To book: Call 04 457 3330 or email palm.healthclub@fairmont.com.

9. Pound Fitness


MARK The music was loud, the instructor enthusiastic. The moment I grabbed a pair of drum sticks and found my place in the class of 12 I felt ready to exercise. Pound combines drumming with quite an intense workout. We started off with some simple moves – marching while hitting the sticks together over your head, then stepping up the pace, we quickly moved into double time.

Following the instructor was tricky as some of the moves are quite complex: Lunges, seated floor excercises, twisting my core, banging the floor with the sticks, hitting the sticks above my head, all trying to keep with the beat. Initially, I just couldn’t keep up, and was laughing hysterically. Slowing the pace down made the moves easier. Changing up the music, we went from ’80s house to Michael Jackson’s Beat it. As the class worked together, it was easier to follow the rhythm of the drumsticks, making the moves easier. I tried to concentrate on the beat and the sound from the floor rather than that of the instructor. I did whack my head several times, dropped the sticks more than once, but enjoyed it nevertheless. The routine that got me was the ‘MJ shuffle’ – open-leg squats, arms over your head smashing the sticks, shuffling towards the front of the studio. Three times.

It was a fast and fun class, and once I master the moves, I might be able to make them in double time. I still can’t get Queen’s We Will Rock You out of my head!

Try it yourself

Where: GFX Fitness Club, Bay Avenue Mall, Executive Towers, Business Bay

Price: From Dh85.

To book: Call 050 9969470 or visit gfx.ae.

10. 9Round

MAIREAD There’s a ritual to boxing – getting your hands wrapped, slipping the gloves on, raising them to protective position and assuming the one-foot-forward balancing stance. Before you even start you feel powerful. At 9Round, you have 3 minutes at each station and between your rounds you have 30 second floor exercises to make it a full-on 30-minute workout. It’s unrelenting and empowering all at once. Punching and kicking bags – both stationary and tethered – requires hand-eye coordination and focus. It’s a great stress reliever and fantastic full body workout. 


MARK After a bad day in the office the idea of letting out some stress sounded great. Now, I have never boxed or even worn gloves. The studio was quite sparse and a little dark. Deafening buzzers sounded every 30 seconds to indicate to those working out that it is time to move to the next station, nine in total. After getting my hands wrapped and gloves on, I was off. After some simple warm-up squats and arm exercises, the buzzer went off and then it was 30 seconds of lunges, then punch bags. Soon I realised how much fun this was. I kicked, punched and pounded my way from station one to nine, including the floor exercises and jogs in between sets. At the end I was exhausted. My arms felt long and heavy, I could already see bruises on my knees – but it felt fantastic.

Try it yourself

Where: Indigo 6, Mazaya Building, Al Manara, Shaikh Zayed Road

Price: First class free, then a three-month membership, Dh2,800, is mandatory.

To book: Call 04 321 7997 or 9round.com

Stretching: The truth

MAIREAD

I definitely found that while every class has options to allow people of all fitness levels to participate and take it at their own pace, this selection of classes is fairly intense.

Ultimately, whether on a trampoline, in a pool, using TRX or in a boxing ring, the focus on similar movements such as planking, squats, push-ups and sit-ups is consistent, but the varied environments and circuit styles is stimulating and definitely worth a go!

If I had to pick favourites, I’d say you can’t beat the empowering feeling of boxing at 9Round, but Bounce is the best-value calorie killer and a super mood-enhancer.

MARK

What a couple of weeks! Some may not think back-to-back classes is fun, but it has been interesting. I didn’t love all the classes, but that may be down to trying out so many in such a short period of time. Hardest was Bounce – it’s deceptively difficult. Over time, my strength and endurance would improve, but on the day, I was beaten. The biggest surprise was poi spinning: Not the most challenging physically, but in terms of concentration and coordination the hardest, and something I had never done before.

The one that I would do again and again is 9Round. Who doesn’t love to punch things after a stressful day in the office?