With events including movie nights, bingo and barbecues all hosted by TribeFit, the gym’s founder Ajay Mankani tells Gemma White that at his fitness centres, flexing your socialising skills is just as important as sculpting your abs.
So, you’re on the treadmill, earphones in, watching some movie (probably featuring Ashton Kutcher or Dennis Quaid) and out of the corner of your eye you see someone sidling up. Odds are that the words ‘no chance’ are on the tip of your tongue before they can even ask if you’ve finished using the unilateral muscle builder that promises defined thighs in three days – or if you come there often.
The fact is, gym rule number one has always been that approaching someone is cheesier than Simon Cowell eating a quattro formaggi. Well, that’s what we always thought until a revelatory chat with Ajay ‘Big Chief’ Mankani, founder of TribeFit (we hesitate to call them just ‘gyms’) sheds a whole new light on things.
‘If someone talks to you in the gym it can come across as an invasion of your personal space,’ admits Indian-born Ajay, 43. ‘But the point of sessions at TribeFit is that our instructors go out of their way to introduce people to one another, so we let it be known to new members that you can expect people to come over and say hello; that it’s a little bit like a networking experience.’
And for today’s blogging/tweeting/instagramming fitness fanatic, the TribeFit concept – as another way to social network – is the perfect way to reach out to like-minded ‘tribal warriors’.
‘I used to hit my local gym five times a week and it was a solitary experience,’ says Ajay. ‘If you went to work and slaved away in your cubicle every day without saying a word to anyone, you’d quit, right?’
TribeFit’s model attracted 26-year-old interior design consultant Joe Hodgson to sign up to become a warrior. ‘After my first week of being a member I was invited along to brunch at Cabanas on the Palm and that definitely helped break the ice.’ he says. ‘More recently, I’ve been to the movie nights that are held in the gym – complete with popcorn and bean bags – and to a night out at Blue Marlin with a group who had all met at TribeFit.’
The gym’s Dubai Marina branch attracts members from the area as well as JLT, The Springs and Meadows, with women making up around 70 percent of the gym’s membership, with ages ranging between 20-35 years. Offering a wide range of events to choose from – and you don’t have to be a TribeFit member to attend – life within the tribe includes art-house films ‘of the sort you’d catch in London or New York’, brunches, parties, beach barbecues, networking events, inspirational talks and even bingo nights – where we can only assume the legs elevens are toned to Gwyneth Paltrow-like proportions.
‘It’s almost as if the gym is incidental to the entire social experience,’ says Ajay. ‘It’s like a social club that’s set in a gym.’
Membership Dhs199-399 per month. Sat-Thu 5.30am-midnight; Fri 8am-8pm. Silverene Tower Dubai Marina, www.tribefit.com (800 87423).
Three more events to get you networking…
If the thought of making a public speech is enough to fill you with a sense of dread, join Dubai Toastmasters to learn from and network with some of the best public speakers in the city.
Meets take place alternate Mondays. 7.15pm-9.15pm. Al Futtaim Training Centre, www.toastmastersclubs.org (055 668 1921).
Ladies Coffee Morning: Trading Tuesdays
Pick the brains of local female entrepreneurs on a weekly basis and swap tips on everything from Forex stats to new developments in social networking.
Tue from 10.30am. Shakespeare & Co, The Village Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road, www.mptdmcc.com (04 447 9860).
Need help with plot development or your protagonist’s love triangle? The Dubai Writer’s Group’s Critique Group meets fortnightly to read, evaluate and help with each other’s prose. RSVP via the group’s Meetup page.
Meets take place alternate Saturdays from 6pm. The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai, www.meetup.com/dubaiwriters (no number).