A couple of weeks ago, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council for Dubai Government, announced the launch of the Dubai Fitness Challenge. In a bid to make Dubai one of the most active cities in the world, locals and expatriates alike have been challenged to exercise for 30 minutes a day for 30 days, between 20th October and 18th November.
Throwing down the gauntlet to everyone, from seasoned athletes to those who shy away from physical activity, the Dubai Fitness Challenge will see the city offer over 1,500 free classes to participants, as well as weekend events such as the opening weekend carnival in Safa Park and an ‘extreme fun and games’ weekend on 3rd and 4th November at Skydive Dubai.
As proponents of an active, largely outdoor lifestyle, Chasing Zest is fully behind this initiative, and we hope that all of our readers take the challenge by signing up on the website here.
With the challenge in mind, we’ve come up with 30 different ideas for the Dubai Fitness Challenge. All of the below activities are available here in the UAE and the wide variety means that you will never get bored of doing the same thing each day (although that’s fine too!). Perhaps you could try something new? Or introduce your friends and family to some of your favourite hobbies? We hope that you find the below useful. Please let us know how you get on, and good luck!
The perfect social sport for those cooler winter evenings, tennis usually becomes popular amongst the general public when Grand Slams such as Wimbledon are televised. In the UAE, we are lucky enough to host the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships each February, meaning that we can see some of the top tennis stars in action without having to travel.
There are dozens of tennis courts in the city and we can’t mention them all here, but some of our favourites are The Aviation Club, Habtoor Grand Resort & Spa, Desert Palm and The Wilson Tennis Academy at Le Royal Meridien (for those who are serious and wish to join the academy).
Kayaking is popular in Dubai and there are a wealth of operators from whom you can buy and rent kayaks. SeaYou, who offer kayaks to buy and rent, as well as specially guided tours around areas such as The Palm, and Fahrenheit Beach Sports, who have amazing clear kayaks and host night kayak tours. Perfect if you have guests coming to stay!
We cannot state enough how much we love fat biking! Whether you are a beginner who likes to stick to the beach or are perhaps a little more advanced and feel the desert dunes calling, it’s a fantastic way to get fit and have fun at the same time.
We would definitely recommend hiring a fat bike first before you commit to buying one. Rentals are available at Trek out at Al Qudra (ideal for those who want to explore the surrounding desert), whilst Platinum Heritage offers sunset beach fat bike tours with electronic assistance for those who feel they may need it.
Around a two-hour drive from Dubai lies Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre, the Middle East’s first dedicated mountain biking centre. The trails are free to use and are open all year round. Moreover, the routes are all graded so that you can choose one that matches your ability, from beginner to advanced. If you don’t have your own bike, you’ll need to hire one in Dubai or at Showka Cycles en route. There are ample facilities, including a campground, parking, restrooms and showers.
Road biking is huge in the UAE, and each outdoor season brings with it an array of events such as the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge and the Urban Ultra Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge, to name just two.
Dubai has some amazing cycle paths that take you out into the desert at Al Qudra, or closer to town at Nad al Sheba. The autodrome is also open to cyclists every Wednesday evening. If you don’t own a bike, rentals are available from places such as The Cycle Hub, Trek and Wolfi’s.
After you’ve cycled, be sure to check out our yoga expert Tegan Fern’s essential poses for cyclists, to help your muscles recover.
Pop down to Kite Beach in the early evening, and (wind permitting) you’ll be greeted by the most beautiful sight of dozens and dozens of kite surfers with their brightly coloured kites dancing in the breeze.
Kite Surf Dubai offers group and private lessons, as well as equipment to hire and buy.
Paddleboarding improves core stability and balance whilst being as strenuous as you want to make it. Whether you fancy a leisurely paddle or a real workout, there are plenty of places along the Dubai coastline which make for prime paddleboard locations with stunning views of the city.
Dubai Fitness Challenge has a ‘Sand, Sun and Beach Fun’ weekend on 27th and 28th October, where you’ll be able to give this popular activity a go.
You don’t have to be able to do 180s, flips and rolls to get a good workout when wakeboarding. Beginners will discover that just getting up and travelling in a straight line requires a whole-body effort that will soon leave you feeling fatigued but invigorated.
Again, this is another sport that relies on weather conditions being right for you to get the best experience. We suggest that you check the surf report on Surf Dubai’s site, and if all is well, book yourself in for a lesson or, if you already know what you’re doing, rent a board. Be sure to visit Single Fin (one of our favourite Dubai eateries) for coffee or lunch afterwards!
Snow boarding / Skiing
Yes, you heard us! Don’t limit yourself to the desert and the water when there’s a haven of snow waiting for you at Ski Dubai – especially if you have an upcoming winter skiing or snowboarding trip planned. Tune up your skills with some lessons or head to the Freestyle Zone to test your skills. Who said keeping fit was a chore?
After a busy, stressful day at work, there’s nothing quite like a walk to help clear your head. Whether it’s a leisurely amble through your local community or a brisk stroll through one of Dubai’s many parks, the benefits are endless. Our experts The Lighthouse Center have already written about the positive effect green spaces have on our mental wellbeing, so you can be sure that walking will help you mentally as well as physically. It’s ideal for those who are not used to exercise or who have perhaps been ill.
We’ve already discussed the benefits of yoga here on Chasing Zest with our expert Tegan Fern. During the Dubai Fitness Challenge, Tegan will be getting involved in several classes. Having attended one of her classes recently, we can honestly say that we sweated (oh yes!) and left feeling lighter, looser and calmer.
There are so many amazing places to hike in the UAE and Oman that it deserves a feature in itself. As mentioned above, Hatta Trail Centre also has hiking trails that are open to the public, meaning that you can have a good idea of what to expect. Further afield, there are many wadis in Oman that are just waiting to be explored, or you could stay close to home and discover some of Showka. As always, make sure you are well prepared and never, ever go alone.
Running / Jogging
Some readers may shudder at the thought of going for a run or jog, whilst others are already well-known on the Dubai running scene. Over the past five years or so, Dubai has become much more runner friendly. One of our favourite places to run is the Jumeirah Beach running track, which offers over 6km of uninterrupted running. It’s also possible to run from the end of the track to the canal, for those who are endurance junkies.
Pilates improves flexibility, strengthens your core and improves your posture (less slouching can only be a good thing!). If you’re already active, Pilates will help lessen the risk of injury. Some of our favourite places for Pilates classes in Dubai are InspireMeYoga, Piloga and Real Pilates.
Scuba Diving / Snorkelling
Diving is another one of those hobbies, much like skiing or wakeboarding, where you don’t realise just how much physical effort you’re putting in until the end of the day. What’s more, it gives you an incredible opportunity to check out a completely different world! Al Boom offers dives in Fujairah, Musandam, Dubai Aquarium and Dubai World Islands. PADI courses and taster sessions are available.
Sand Running / Hiking
The UAE has a gorgeous desert landscape right on our doorsteps, so it would be sad if we didn’t make the most of it. Running or hiking through the sand offers multiple benefits and works different muscles to those used when running or hiking on flat, stable surfaces. Check out Emily Fitzgerald’s tips here and then start planning a trip to Al Qudra or Fossil Rock…
Climbing / Deep Water Soloing
Outdoors or indoors, there are plenty of opportunities for climbing in the region, no matter what experience you have. Beginners would probably be best sticking to places such as Rock Republic for expert guidance, whilst Deep Water Soloing is proving to be very popular in the Dibba area.
Rollerblading / Skate Boarding
For many, rollerblading or inline skating conjures up memories of childhood, whizzing around at a roller disco trying to impress those watching. You may also picture super fit people skating up and down places such as Venice Beach. It always looks a lot easier than it is, and often the hardest part about it is stopping and starting (or getting up off the floor!). When skating in Dubai, always check that it is permitted in that area (you may be stopped by the police otherwise, or even fined). Dubai Autodrome on a Wednesday night is a good option, but it is hilly. If you live in a skate-friendly community, that’s also a great place to practice.
Not only is it fun, trampolining is also good for your health. It’s surprisingly low impact since the trampoline absorbs some of the impact when you land. Moreover, the up and down bouncing movement improves lymphatic function by stimulating the lymphatic valves to open and close simultaneously, flushing the body of toxins as a result of the increased lymph flow. Your balance and coordination will also be challenged, whilst your heart rate will most definitely rise! Check out Bounce for a whole new world of trampolining fun.
Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do for all-round fitness. Being low impact, it is ideal for those who are currently injured or who have problems with high impact activities such as running. The range of swimming styles and strokes means that there is something for everyone, plus being in the water is also a good stress reliever as it forces you to focus on your breathing. In Dubai, strong swimmers can enjoy sea swimming (do ensure that conditions are safe) whilst pools at places such as Fit Republik offer lanes for all abilities.
Indoor cycling has really taken off in Dubai. There are so many studios to choose from, each one offering something unique. Wattbike sessions are ideal for cyclists who want to measure their power and performance whilst classes all offer different vibes. We particularly love Motion, where you’ll work hard in a candlelit room and find yourself fully immersed in the music. For full-on competition, amazing tunes and instructors that will motivate you to beyond your limits, you can’t go wrong with FlyWheel.
Get yourself over to the ice rink at Dubai Mall and give your lower body a great work out. Feeling brave? There are a host of ice hockey teams to join, all competing in different leagues. If you’re anything like us, however, you’ll be clinging to the side or making use of one of the penguins for children. Baby steps!
Boot camps allow flexibility, different exercises and a motivating group environment. As the weather improves, it’s nice to see so many taking place outdoors. Our fitness expert Samantha Wright, holds boot camps each week in different locations. You’ll often have to commit to more than one session, which is a great way to ensure that you don’t make excuses. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get after a morning sweat-fest!
With martial arts, you are learning a skill as well as getting fit. Disciplines vary, but across all of them, you can be certain that you’re improving your strength, endurance, agility, balance, self-discipline and confidence. Ladies only classes are available throughout Dubai. Fit Republik offer classes, but there are several other studios dotted around town too.
According to Wikipedia, Parkour is “a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible.” This does not mean that you’ll find yourself leaping from building to building along Sheikh Zayed Road, but it guarantees that you’ll be moving functionally, improving your balance and building confidence, all within a safe environment. Classes are available for both children and adults through Parkour Dubai.
Last week our experts The LightHouse Center talked about ‘Equestrian Therapy’ and how bonding with horses can improve our mental wellbeing. Add to this the physical benefits of horse riding (balance, posture, stronger legs and core to name a few). Get lessons at Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club or Desert Palm, or venture out into the desert with Al Jiyad Stables.
Cross fit workouts will improve your strength, coordination, power, and help you to build muscle. Whilst it can appear daunting at first, everyone started somewhere and you will soon become familiar with the common terms and will know the difference between a power clean and a snatch. We think that Inner Fight has a pretty good scene going on and enjoy their regular podcasts.
Basketball / Netball
If team sports are your thing, then you may already know that basketball and netball have a huge presence in Dubai. The social aspect is appealing to many, as are the different leagues and divisions, which offer an opportunity for all levels to get involved. Check out Dubai Netball League or Duplays as good starting points.
Our last activity is something we’ve all done at some point, either formally or…not so formally. Whether with a partner or solo, dancing releases feel-good endorphins whether you’re into your latin, hip-hop, jazz, ballet or contemporary. There are a plethora of dance schools out there, or, you could do like we do – close the curtains, crank the music up and dance your heart out!