From trampolining to upside-down yoga, there are more ways than ever to shape up in Dubai. Holly Sands heads to JA Ocean View Hotel to discover Speedflex, the latest way to get your cardio fix.
If there’s one thing Dubai reacts to faster than most, it’s a health and fitness fad. From last year’s CrossFit craze to the more recent penchant for getting your cardio by trampoline instead of a treadmill, via the numerous cafés now serving up a caveman-suitable protein fix, we love to stay fit – and the newer and trendier, the better.
Step up Speedflex, currently in its soft-launch phase at JA Ocean View Hotel. Established in Newcastle in the UK in 2013, the new workout expanded across the country, then to Colorado, South Carolina and Dallas in the US before arriving on UAE shores earlier this year.
Endorsed by former Newcastle United footballers Rob Lee and Alan Shearer, it’s a high-intensity and supposedly low-impact workout that uses equipment where the resistance is provided by hydraulics mechanisms and the force exerted by the user. Without getting too heavily into the mind-blowing science-y stuff, the basic idea is that there is a reduced risk of injury, and you’re less likely to experience muscle soreness the day after your workout. But here’s the best bit: classes are free until Monday September 1 – all you need to do is book an initial consultation (a 30-minute trial, plus a body analysis session) and then they can get you started with training.
At the centre’s Dubai home in JA Ocean View Hotel, trainer Antonio Scimeca explains that each session is essentially high-intensity interval training, with an emphasis on cardiovascular exertion rather than building muscle. Even though you’ll be straining almost every limb during your 45-minute group class, Antonio describes it as a ‘leaning’ exercise that’s great for shedding fat, but not for gaining and building muscle mass. In other words – for those who want nothing more than luscious, lithe limbs it might just be everything you’ve been waiting for. ‘This is the good stuff,’ our prophesising gym buddy whispers to us, as we wait for the rest of our class to arrive.
After strapping on our belts, which monitor heart rate and calorie burn during the session, and beam the stats onto large screens on opposing walls, everyone in the class (a small group of less than ten, though up to 15 can be accommodated with bookings recommended) takes up a position at a machine. For the warm-up, it’s a few seconds pushing and pulling at each piece of equipment before moving onto the next – much like a typical circuit workout. After just one round, we’re feeling a little daunted, but the rest of the group who we discover have been attending classes for a month or more, are all smiles, high-fives and cheery encouragements.
As the session progresses, it’s clear the aim is to push hard enough that your heart rate is above what the device around your middle deems 90 percent capacity (we’re sceptical about this bit, as at one point one member of the group’s went to 101 percent, which defies basic maths). There is much encouragement from Antonio once the group all ‘get into the red’, as it’s known, with everyone encouraged to ‘push and pull, push and pull’. [Note: this is not an activity we recommend after a heavy night out].
Everyone is absolutely dripping with sweat – so much so that even the provided small towels fail to adequately mop up the perspiration, and big, wet drops glisten all over the floor. If you normally leave the gym with a faint glow and a slight flush, you’re in for a shock. Fortunately, 45 minutes passes quickly when it’s broken down into circuits that comprise 45-second workouts on each piece of equipment, followed by a two-minute rest.
Once the session ends, the results are beamed up on the boards, showing, among other things, how much time each person spent ‘in the red’ (ie, above the 90 percent) and how many calories they burned, which in our session ranged from 551 to 990 per individual. Not bad for less than an hour’s work, particularly when compared to the couple of hundred you might burn in an hour on the treadmill.
While we’re not quite convinced by some of Speedflex’s promises, we’re in no doubt that it will have its followers in Dubai. With so many workouts pushing an agenda that involves becoming stronger and more muscular, the market for workouts that claim ‘leaning’ rather than building is, right now, under-served – and there is no shortage of men and women in search of a waif-like physique. Here’s hoping it delivers. Free until Monday September 1. After September 1, classes Dhs150, monthly membership from Dhs805. Packages available include annual and couples’ memberships. Speedflex, JA Ocean View Hotel, JBR (04 814 5666).
Here are three more ways to get a cardiovascular workout – and have fun at the same time
Bounce Work up a sweat as you leap around on trampolines for an hour at the city’s most popular new kidult hangout. Al Quoz, www.bounce.ae (04 321 1400).
Urban Energy Fitness Try the high-intensity, high calorie-burning cardio boxing class, which the trainers promise will not only help you shape up, but also tackle stress. Various locations, www.urbanenergyfitness.com (055 886 9158).
Flywheel The NYC import promises a thigh-blasting indoor cycling session that will leave your heart pounding and your ears ringing. Burj Views, Downtown Dubai, dubai.flywheelsports.com (04 423 2544).