If your exercise and eating plans went out the window over the festive period, don’t fret, because January is the time to get back on top, and once you’ve started exercising properly again you’ll soon get used to an endorphin high that you won’t be able to live without. Last year, the Dubai Health Authority claimed that only 19 per cent of the city’s population do the right amount of exercise to stay healthy – a dismal figure by anyone’s standards. Feel like you could be sitting in the remaining 81 per cent? Don’t worry; we’ve come up with 11 fun ways to get fit that won’t hurt your wallet, plus five great running routes and five original classes, all outdoors – so you can make the most of January’s deliciously cool temperatures, while toning up.
Use outdoor exercise machines Al Barsha Pond Park is a hidden gem, and though it is becoming popular with Barsha’s families, it’s still fairly quiet. Dotted around the circumference of the park’s large pond (as you can see, the name doesn’t lie) there are a number of free outdoor exercise machines, which are ideal for varying up your keep-fit routine. As well as good value bicycle, pedal car and go kart hire (Dhs50 refundable deposit, Dhs20 per bike, two-seater kart Dhs20, four-seater kart Dhs40), there are also tots’ playgrounds, larger climbing walls, balance boards and monkey bars (no contact details).
Invest in a space hopper Bounce around on a space hopper and not only will you be working your thighs and glutes as you launch yourself and your core muscles to keep your balance, but you’re guaranteed a few fits of laughter – and with all those endorphins buzzing around, you’ll hardly notice the inevitable little bruises. We particularly like the Science Museum Giant Retro Space Hopper. Once you’ve bought it you can bounce anywhere, whenever you like (though perhaps not Sheikh Zayed Road or similar), for nothing. Dhs62 for hopper, shipping costs vary. Available from www.flashwear.com.
Pitch up and play basketball If you find yourself nearer Old Dubai, join in with the Filipino crowd playing basketball in Satwa. Groups play on the free courts next to the Rydges Plaza hotel most nights, and it’s a great way to build up your cardio and leg strength. Alternatively, down towards New Dubai, try Al Sufouh Park near Dubai College (04 399 9111) where you’ll find floodlit basketball courts that are free to play on. All you’ll need is an outdoor ball and a group of friends. There’s also a small grass football pitch if you fancy a change.
Explore the city by rollerblade Okay, so you might have to invest in a pair of skates (try K2 at The Dubai Mall, which sells good-quality skates from Dhs630, or Go Sports skates from Dhs240), but once you have them you can explore huge chunks of the city. It works similar muscles to running, but the additional challenge of staying on your feet means you’ll work other muscles you forgot existed (aching arms, shoulders and stomach are common). We particularly enjoy the paths around the JLT lakes for their wide, smooth pavements, lack of traffic and handy railings to grab on to.
Whizz round on a go kart Why let the kids have all the fun? There are several spots along Dubai Marina’s walkway where you can hire peddle go karts and group buggies, and from there hurtle manically around blind corners, scaring the life out of joggers, dog walkers and Marina dwellers out for a gentle stroll. As the karts are relatively light, it’s not the most intense workout, but you’re bound to have heaps of fun doing it. Dhs50 refundable deposit for all buggies, single-eater Dhs30 for 30 minutes, four-seater Dhs40 for 30 minutes. Various locations including outside Marina Mall and near Stefano’s on Marina Walk.
Set up your own circuit Round up a few friends and set up a circuit in your nearest park (we like Zabeel Park for its monuments to Dubai’s twin cities – did you know we have over 20?). Work out six different stations to train different areas of your body. To keep it cheap, start with separate areas for crunches, sprints, squats, press ups and up-downs (lying down and standing back up again), and spend 60 seconds on each before rotating – your workout will be varied and interesting, and the time will fly. Just be sure to pick a timekeeper first!
Pick up a hula hoop You may be surprised to learn that the humble hula hoop can be beneficial in a number of different ways, and as well as toning the obvious core muscles used to keep the hoop up and helping you burn fat, repeated sessions are also said to improve the flexibility of your spine, and prevent back injuries in future. Dhs18-79. Available from Géant Hypermarket, Ibn Battuta (04 368 5858).
Try trampolining If you’re under 21, head over to Fun City, where you can have a go at trampolining – an activity which Time Out was recently told is more effective for your fitness than running by British TV personality Mr Motivator. As well as improving your cardiovascular fitness, trampolining is also said to improve balance and promote bone density (reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis). Bigger kids can try out Safa Park’s trampolines. Fun City, Al Reef Mall, Deira (04 222 2405). Safa Park, Al Wasl Road (04 349 2111).
Hire a family bike at Creek Park Pile the family onto one bike at the waterfront Creek Park and work out together – exercising as a family will not only boost everyone’s health, but also improve communication as you’ll be interacting far more than you might in front of the TV. Alternatively go with friends, and tone up together cycling up and down the tracks – it’s not as easy as it looks, especially if your mates happen to weigh upwards of 90kg, but you’ll give your quads a decent workout. Dhs60 per hour. Creek Park (04 336 7633).
Cycle Mushrif Park Got a bike but not keen on braving the multi-lane roads and vanishing pavements? Mushrif Park has a great, scenic cycling track that runs approximately 2.5km, winding around the nature reserve’s little hills. Cycling is low-impact, easy on the joints and good for toning your calves, thighs and rear. Some studies have also linked cycling to improved mental health – all the more reason to take it up if you’re feeling the January blues. Dhs10 entry per car. Mushrif Park (04 288 3524).