Need for Speed: 13 Dubai-Based Classes To Get You Fit, Fast

While anyone who's ever truly committed to living a fit and healthy lifestyle knows that there aren't any genuine quick fixes (and fad diets are a terrible idea, for many reasons!) when it comes to getting fit and/or losing weight, sometimes you just need to speed things up a bit - whether that's because you've got a holiday, wedding, or school reunion coming up (or an anticipated run-in with your ex), or you're trying to get into shape for a fitness-related goal (be it a 10k, obstacle race, or some other form of competitive or non-competitive active event), or you're just trying to make sure that you see and feel enough results to make sure that you actually maintain your motivation before it disappears faster than avocado on toast in a hipster cafe. Sometimes, no matter how motivated you are, it can be disheartening not seeing ymotour hard work start to pay off, whether you're new to starting a fitness regime, trying to break through a plateau, getting back into it after recovering from an injury, or if life has gotten in the way and made you feel too run down to keep up with your normal routine, or if you're just going through a bit of a lull in your regular training. Time and time again, research has shown that a combination of both strength and cardio is one of the most effective ways to get fit and lose weight as quickly as possible (it's one of the reasons why HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training - works so well), and thankfully, there's plenty of great group classes out there to help you achieve just that. And yes, I'm aware that CrossFit is often listed in these things, and if that works for you then that's awesome, but while I do similar exercises in the gym and will do the odd class here and there, since I personally don't tend to do that, that's why that isn't in this list. Here are some of my personal favourite Dubai-based fitness classes that can help you reach your goals that much faster. In no particular order...

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Soulful Cycling Class, Motion Cycling

While spinning is great for cardio, I often feel like I'm missing out on the strength training aspect. At Motion, this isn't quite like a normal indoor cycling class - nope, here they combine that with strength-based exercises, using your body weight and the bike to perform tricep dips, push-ups and forward crunches, and using dumbbells to perform presses, arm raises, and so on, all while you're cycling set to the beat of the music (and boy, do they have tuuuunes - the instructors here take great pride in their playlists, even more so than the average cycling instructor, since the music is so important when it comes to the tempo of the class). The instructors are friendly and super-motivational without being cheesy, and will help push you through - and you'll need it, since this is the sort of class where you're thrilled that they provide a towel because it's like you've bathed in your own sweat. Aside from the towel, they also provide water and cycling shoes, and have lovely shower facilities with towels, products, and all you need to refresh yourself afterwards. Parking is free on Fridays, but otherwise costs AED10 once you've passed the first hour (it's Green Chip parking). The studio is on the 18th floor of the Oberoi Business Centre in Business Bay so the view are pretty epic when the curtains are open (and when they're not, they use atmospheric candlelight to set the mood and make it more soulful). A single class costs Dhs120, while prices decrease when you purchase a package, and it's open to both women and men.

2. Shred and Stretch, Inspire Yoga & Pilates

When you're hella busy, it can be tough trying to decide between a strength-based workout class, or a yoga class. It's a problem I often face anyway - while I can always commit to finding time to work out, when you train as often as I do, you need to balance it out with sufficient stretching to avoid injury and essentially crunching your body into a human pretzel (and I often find that most fitness classes do not integrate enough stretching into their classes, especially when they're running behind schedule or are busy), and it can be hard to choose. Sure, you can find an hour in your day to exercise, but do you spend that time working out, or do you spend it stretching? This decision can be even harder to make when you're trying to achieve a fitness goal in a shorter span of time. Enter the Shred & Stretch: An ideal combination of both! The classes are based off of body weight tabata or circuit training much in the style of Jillian Michaels' 30-Day-Shred (and if you've ever tried that, which I have, you'll know that it's a pretty darn effective programme). You'll spend the first few minutes of the class being taken through the routine by your instructor, complete with demonstrations and time for queries, followed by the first half dedicated to an intensely sweaty, and seriously tough workout. You'll then spend the remaining part of the class holding some deep, lusciously intense stretches that your muscles will absolutely love you for (they might hate you a little at first, but they'll love you for it later - much like in yin yoga). By the time you finish, you'll feel like you've had your cake and eaten it too - except if there was any cake involved here, it'd have been burnt off in a fiery inferno of sweat and your burning muscles. The studio is just off Sheikh Zayed Road, right next to Bystro cafe, on the 1st floor of the building, and shower facilities with products, and towels, are available. Water is available in reusable cups from their jug, and they've got an in-house boutique selling clothing and equipment too. A five-class pack costs Dhs400 (and it's available with 3 classes a month on GuavaPass), and it's open to both women and men.

3. Tabata & Boxing Circuits, Round 10 Boxing Club

As anyone who's ever done boxing will tell you, one of the hardest parts is the fitness level required to do this sport - whether you're doing it just for fitness reasons, for fun and training, or if you've actually done a fight. Strength and conditioning is key, and while this gym does offer classes that solely focus on that, I'd rather go to my normal gym if I'm just going to do that without being able to hit the bag. Fortunately, most of this gym's classes are an awesome combination of both. Whether it's the BIT Tabata, BIT Cardio, Boxing Circuit, or Power Boxing Class that you're taking, classes are all different each time in terms of which exercises you do (so you never get bored) based on what the instructor chooses that day, but they do follow the same great general format: A warm-up (usually consisting of running around the area blocks a few times, or if you're injured and can't run like me, they'll allow you to spend that time skipping instead - you just need to make sure your body is properly warmed up and your heart has been revved up before you begin!), followed by a strength workout (sometimes just body weight, other times using equipment from dumbbells to battle ropes to weighted medicine balls, bars, boxes, TRX, and more), then some boxing work, usually done on the bags but occasionally done with pads if the class is small enough. The gym itself has a great old-school vibe, and is the only dedicated boxing-only gym in Dubai. I was sold when they played Weird Al Yankovich's Amish Paradise during class on my very first visit. Shower facilities are available, but you'll have to bring your own towel and products, and you'll have to either bring your own wraps or purchase them there (they cost Dhs40 for one pair of wraps). Club gloves are available, but if you have your own or plan to do this regularly, I'd suggest investing in your own because you'll understand when you see how much sweat gets in there (and you see how much you need to wash your fingers to get rid of the smell for days afterwards) - this has nothing to do with Round 10's gloves, this is just the case with any boxing gym or club's in-house gloves, it happens when you're sweating like a mofo in there! They do also sell gloves there too if you choose to buy a pair eventually. They offer a free trial class for first-timers, otherwise a single class costs Dhs100 with prices decreasing with package or membership purchases (and it's available with 3 classes a month on GuavaPass), and it's open to both women and men.

4. Punch, 1SIX8

While Round 10 is more of a traditional boxing gym's workout, Punch at 1SIX8 is a unique approach that combines boxing with HIIT training - let's call it HIIB, or High Intensity Interval Boxing. The trainers do have a background in boxing training (one is even a former fighter!), so technique skills are still taught and are on point, but the workouts here are designed to run in a circuit-based routine, interspersed with body weight workouts in between rounds. It'll leave you breathless with muscles aching, but a massive smile on your face - this is efficient training combining strength and cardio at its best, and it's a ton of fun. The music here is notably good and they create excellent playlists, the trainers are incredibly motivational, the studio is cool with neon lighting that sets the mood, and it's a great method of stress relief to boot. It's open to both men and women, and they have showers with towels and product available. They offer a free trial class for first-timers, otherwise classes start from AED110 each, decreasing with package or membership purchases. They are also available on GuavaPass, and often run seasonal deals so check their website or social media for offer updates.

5. Burn, 1SIX8

If you're into HIIT (I can't bring myself to say "HIIT Training" no matter how common or tempting it is to say, since HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, so saying that is like saying "ATM Machine" - ATM stands for "Automated Teller Machine." You get me.) This class's formula is simple but super effective: There are four sections, which consist of rowing, TRX, running, and strength training (a combination of body weight and dumbbell based weight exercises). Participants move from section to section throughout the class, with it broken down so that you complete each section once (in any order, either based on your preference or where you just wind up in the class), but no matter which order you do it in, trust me, this class is tough. You'll be left breathless on the treadmills - my most dreaded part but probably one of the most effective methods of improving my cardio to date - and the rower will start of feeling ok then remind you relatively quickly that it's actually also seriously tough, while you shouldn't let the TRX fool you - it may look simple, but if you've ever tried a TRX squat or burpee, you'll know just how much harder these damn things are than doing them on the ground. Seriously. The end result is a great combination of strength and cardio that is wrapped up in a seriously efficient amount of time (the class is under an hour), once again with great tunes and awesomely motivational trainers. It's open to both men and women, and they have showers with towels and product available. They take both men and women, offer a free trial class for first-timers, otherwise classes start from AED110 each, decreasing with package or membership purchases. They are also available on GuavaPass, and often run seasonal deals so check their website or social media for offer updates.

6. Barry's Original, Barry's Bootcamp

One of the world's original popular HIIT style classes, there's a reason why this has been such a hit (or HIIT, should I say? Sorry, had to be done) with the Hollywood elite - it works. This workout also combines different segments of strength and cardio in a heart-pounding, strength-dripping workout, that will see you move from the treadmill (once again, this part is excruciating) to the weights section, then back to the treadmills and then back onto the weights and benches for some strength work, moving between them until you've finished your circuits. The idea behind these kinds of classes is that the interval training not only burns the most fat possible, but that it keeps you burning fat with a seriously boosted metabolism for a while even after you've walked out the classroom door. They've got a smoothie bar out front (which admittedly isn't cheap but it is convenient) along with a retail section (it's a bit of a brand name thanks to its cult status), and beautifully equipped bathrooms with full facilities. It's open to both men and women, your first class costs AED80, then single classes cost AED120 after that, with prices decreasing with package purchases.

7. Ryde Strong, Souplesse Cycle

While Motion offers strength training added to a regular spinning workout by using the weights on the bike, this class is a great combination of both for people who'd still rather do that part off the bike, but want to make sure they get both in, and as intensely as they can. The class begins in their small but well equipped workout room at the back of their main spinning studio, where you'll run through body weight and equipment-based strength exercises using the TRX, medicine balls and dumbbells, before then moving onto the bikes for a spinning session that's run on their special moving bikes. Their RealRyder bikes may be stationary in that they don't roll you around, but they do move and twist from side to side, adding a lot more fun to a regular spinning workout since you not only get to cycle forwards, up and down, but also side to side, and the "dancing on the bike" bits combined with the dark and atmospheric studio (it reminds me of being in a spaceship or outer space, but in a good way), with good tunes, make it a ton of fun. The instructors are great too, with Nikos or "Nick" in particular being one of the most sincerely friendly, genuine, and therefore motivational trainers we've had yet. The studio is small but there's a great family vibe to it, and parking is relatively easy around the area which is a bonus - it's open to both men and women, and they have showers with product and towels available. Your first trial class is free, then classes cost AED115 (and they are available on GuavaPass), with prices decreasing with package purchases.

8. Muay Thai, Team Nogueira

If you thought regular boxing was hard, try this - it's the same principle in that it's a combat sport so you'll get in both strength and cardio, since the conditioning is just as important as the strength, except here you'll not only throw a variety of punches but you'll also use your elbows, knees, and legs too. The class is run by a competitive champion (their Muay Thai Head Coach, Mounir Lazzez, is a professional MMA fighter, and the Desert Force Welterweight champion, as well as Arab Muay Thai Champion, African Kickboxing Champion, Canadian Kickboxing Champion and Tunisian Muay Thai Champion), and this gym specializes in MMA so you know they really know their stuff when it comes to this type of sport. You'll begin with warm-ups followed by conditioning exercises, technique training, and occasionally some light sparring, before a solid cool-down that'll have you grinning from ear to ear no matter how much your lungs are wheezing, your heart is bursting, and your limbs aching. The gym may seem intimidating at first but don't worry, the people here are friendly and it has a great community vibe to it, and does have shower facilities, though we'd suggest bringing in your own towels and product. They've also got a cafe upstairs with delicious fare, including authentic acai bowls and smoothies approved by the Brazilian MD. Aside from training people for fitness, they train actual fighters here too, and watching the other members do everything from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to MMA, Judo, Aikido, Karate, and more, will motivate you further. It's open to both men and women, they offer a free trial class for first-timers, and then pricing will depend on the discipline you choose and whether you opt for a monthly membership or more, so it's best to inquire with them about costs.

9. Prama by Pavigym, Fairmont The Palm

This might look like a giant arcade game or like you're about to work out in Tron at first, but don't let that faze you or trick you into thinking it's just about fun - it is a ton of fun, but this is a seriously tough workout wherein I once took one of my fittest male friends with me to try his first class here and even he was gasping within minutes (in a good way). Here, you'll use the uniquely laid out floor and wall markings to run through a circuit of body weight based exercises (with the occasional Boss ball and such thrown in), but this makes great use of the clever design to work your body and mind at the same time, since it'll require coordination to get through a number of these sequences. It does almost make it feel like a game - and you can even save your score, since it's all hooked up to the system so your numbers can be recorded if you wish, particularly useful if you're a regular who wants to track progress - but it's a fast-paced and intense game in which you are left breathless and physically using your body to get the work done rather than just your fingers on a game controller. Ok, so it's a lot like Tron then, but without the death part and with great benefit to your physical health if done properly. It's open to both men and women, and since it's located at a five-star hotel's gym, their shower facilities are pretty epic (probably one of the nicest shower facilities available in any drop-in class we've tried so far). Limited numbers of participants are allowed in the room at a time, but I can see this being pretty epic for team bonding activities or groups of friends. Classes cost AED75 each, though there are occasional deals on discount sites like Groupon, and it's also available on GuavaPass (which is what I usually book it through).

10. Gone in 60 Seconds, Warehouse Gym

The name is cute, but the workout isn't - yet if you do it often enough, your butt will certainly be more so, if tight tushies are your thing. This is a circuits class, named as such because you'll typically do each move in rounds of 60 seconds (sometimes it's one minute, sometimes it's more). The routine varies with each class, starting with a run around the block in cooler weather, followed by everything from wall balls and ball slams to the dreaded Ski Erg and Assault Bike machines, kettle bell moves, dumbbells, body weights, and more, all run by The Warehouse Gym's in-house trainers. This is one of the most well-loved gyms in Dubai and it's easy to see why - the space isn't just cool to look at, but it's also an enormous and well-designed space with some of the best varieties of equipment you could hope for. That's all based out of their original Al Quoz location - the boutique gym also has a spot at The Beach at JBR, where their circuit classes are equally as challenging and varied, but it'll often incorporate some work in their outdoor section right on the beach as well as inside their glossy indoor section. It's open to both women and men, both locations have unique and fully fledged bathrooms (with seriously cool decor), and towels and basic product is supplied, along with healthy cafes located within the gym for you to fuel up in and hydrate afterwards. There are also phone charging stations at the Al Quoz location, and water isn't provided for free but only costs a very fair AED1 for a bottle. The class is available on GuavaPass, and drop-ins are available, though the classes are also open to all members (and membership costs will depend on what type you get, so I'd suggest visiting their website for more details).

11. Commando Camp, FitLife DXB

If you're going to do a bootcamp-style class called Commando Camp, you're probably going to want to do one that's run by former Royal Marine Commandos if you can. And thankfully, you can, since a lot of the trainers (and the founder) at FitLife DXB are, in fact, just that. This is a circuits-based class that they'll run using whatever equipment is around the location it's in - the class is held at a variety of locations, including the beach. Their older indoor classes used everything from battle ropes, medicine ball slams, rowing, body weight exercises, kettle bell swings, sled pushes and pulls, bear crawls, sprints, box jumps, and more, but in their outdoor classes (which go on hold for the summer because these are seriously intense classes that might kill you if it's done in immensely high heat - and these guys don't take weakness for an excuse, so if they've paused them for the weather there's a good reason why), you'll be using whatever else is available to you in the area while being challenged by the elements. They're sticklers for good form here, but that's probably because the company is made up of guys that specialist in personal training. One more bonus? They incorporate a good amount of warm-up and stretching here, which is necessary if you want to keep doing workouts like this on the regular. It's open to both women and men, and prices vary.

12. Signature & Amped Up!, Physique 57

If you think barre workouts are easy, then clearly you've never tried one. These things require you to use muscles that you just aren't used to using like that, so while the movements may look tiny and easy to the unfamiliar eye, trust us, this buuuuurns. I once bought a monthly discount package with a personal challenge set to do this for 30 days straight - it never got easy, since it's up to you how much you want to challenge yourself here, but the booty and ab gains I made were pretty epic. While this isn't the type of class that will have you shedding the pounds like fat melting off you, it will tone you up seriously fast and in a way that lasts, and noticeably so. While there are several great barre classes in Dubai - the ones at Define are also pretty awesome and I'd recommend them for the beautiful studio and super-friendly trainers that are so genuinely nice they alone would make you want to return - the ones at P57 are notoriously grueling, and for good reason. They will work you hard, but you'll have fun doing it. It can get expensive at AED480 for 4 classes (they do have a free trial though), but primarily because it's so addictive (and the trainers are usually so friendly) you'll want to keep going back (and sadly, those kinds of prices have now become standard fare at a lot of these types of classes in Dubai, as you can see if you've read the rest of this post). They do offer great discount deals once in a while, and they have amazing shower facilities in here. My only qualm? They don't provide water here, nor do they have affordable water options at hand (last I checked anyway, and I'd been going for a while), with the options they had costing around AED10 for a bottle (yes, 10, not 1). Thankfully if you go to their Al Thanya location, there is a Waitress downstairs that you can pick one up from on your way upstairs. It's much more popular with women and most of the classes are women-only, but they do actually offer some Mixed classes that allow for men to come too. As for men who may scoff at the idea of dudes doing barre - drag them along to one class and see how they fare after a minute or two of the clamshell or hairpin exercises, and let's see how easily they'll laugh through their gritted teeth and tears (that they'll try to disguise amidst the sweat dripping from their brow).

13. Train BLACK, BARE

What this gym lacks in size - it's not a huge space, but certainly big enough - it makes up for in oomph. I'll warn you about this straight off the bat: This class is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for the uninitiated. By that, I mean that while the class does welcome people of varying levels, personally I'd not suggest taking this class if you're completely new to exercising or if you're not confident about how to handle things with the right form. The instructors do try their best to come around and correct you, but it's mainly because the classes here get so damn busy (during the popular times, it gets packed), and with the seriously fast pace not to mention the dark lights and neon vibes, I'd personally say that it's something better taken once you're already in a good place in terms of your fitness routine and are just looking for something to really up your game and challenge you. I've seen a lot of fitness professionals take this class and find it a super-tough and challenge workout (in a good way), but that's also what shows that if you are in the right place to take it, this could be just what you need - hello, plateau-buster. This class feels like you're in a club - except it's the middle of the day or a morning, and you're exercising - because of the serious tunes (they often get in an actual DJ for it), and the neon glow paint that you're encouraged to wear for it. This makes it all the more fun, which you're going to need to keep you motivated (well, along with the super-energetic instructors) since the strength part (which uses bar and weight workouts much like the Les Mills Body Pump classes) along with raging treadmill sections (if you've ever tried a SkillMill, trust us, you'll never forget it once you do), will leave you feeling like a sweaty human jelly by the end. You'll really feel your abs (and everything else) the next day, but keep it up while eating well and you'll see results soon, too. It's open to both men and women, and they do have shower and gym facilities available along with a variety of healthy snacks. One session costs AED100, with prices decreasing with package or membership purchases; classes must be booked online through their app in advance, and paid for through the online booking system as well - they don't take payment in-house.

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