If you’re looking to lose weight, challenge yourself with a fitness challenge.
Hands in the air – and out of those crisp packets – if you want to get fit. While most of us feel like we could eat less and exercise more, it’s often difficult to put our aspirations into action.
When I arrived in the UAE, I heard rumours about the infamous Dubai stone. “I’ve put it on and you will too,” chuckled one of my first colleagues. As many of us drive everywhere, order our groceries and restrict outdoor activities during the summer, it’s understandable why the 14 pounds can creep on in.
While I haven’t quite hit the (mile)stone, I have noticed that a diet of brunches, beach days and binge shows have taken a toll. The fitness fanatics of Dubai have yet to convince me that their idea of a good time is more appealing than my comfort zone.
They’re running laps; I’m running a bath. They’re throwing medicine balls; I’m hurling a pizza in the oven. They’re lifting weights; I’m raising a wine glass. Needless to say, I’ve become a pro at synchronised drinking and something has to give – and at this rate, it’s my skinny jeans.
I’ve always enjoyed a 5k run or a cycle ride. Bringing such habits from the cool climes of the UK to the hot humidity of the UAE has not always been possible. Lunge forward, BARE DXB’s 14-day fitness challenge.
The programme includes a workout and nutrition programme, which is designed to kick-start you into healthy habits. As participants are only required to take three classes a week and follow a strict diet with support, I feel like it meets my fitness needs. Plus, as it’s only two weeks – in Dubai terms, two missed brunches – it’s an achievable goal.
BARE DXB’s Classes
BARE DXB has been flexing its muscles in Business Bay since 2015, and is a cross between a gym and a nightclub. After watching the welcome video with lines like “yo gangster” and “lights down, bass up, it’s time to get lit”, I feel like I’m old and need Urban Dictionary.
For the first visit, guests must arrive 20 minutes early. During the briefing, I’m given a tour of the state-of-the-art gym, and informed about the two different spaces. Black is focused on fat burning with treadmills as well as weights, and Lab is focused on building strength with weights.
I’m prepared for my first weigh-in – where you cannot eat or drink beforehand – but the team forget to do this, so I miss out on an accurate account of my progress. (I get weighed on my second session and am 60.1kg.)
Despite all of the upscale equipment, the lockers are broken and remain that way on each visit. So, everyone leaves their items – including phones, which are banned inside – in the unlocked lockers or lobby.
For my first class, I sign up to Black’s Pre-Weekend Calorie Killer with TJ. While it sounds like a Halloween workout video, it’s one of the most popular classes. As more and more people arrive, high fiving each other on their way in, there is a community spirit. While the majority are gym bunnies, there is a mix of genders and abilities, so I don’t feel like I’m the new kid on the box jump blocks.
If Black is a rave, TJ is the DJ. Most of the classes are carried out to a backdrop of R&B beats, and TJ is a cross between a showman and a hype man. Black includes four tight rows, which are marked out by neon lines. There are mirrors to help with form, a digital countdown, and a screen breaking down the workout.
The British-born Dubai-based TJ is the most-friendly gym instructor I have ever met. He had me at, “you can take it at your own pace,” which instantly makes me relax. Whenever I get lost with the lingo – what’s the difference between a jump squat and a box jump? – he is literally on hand to help.
The class starts with gravel laps, which don’t just involve running outside, but around the actual building. There are bent over row weights, squats and push ups. A short break. Then more push ups, back squats, push presses, those jump squats and box jumps, followed by burpees and gravel laps. A short break.
Most of the classes end with a sprint on the non-motorised, curved SKILLMILL treadmill. This is my first time on one, which requires you to power the movement. Forget about tapping buttons to increase the pace, it’s all about moving those legs. While everyone else has gotten into the swing of it, I am holding onto the armrests like stabilisers. “Let go”, encourages TJ, which I manage for a bit and then cling back on for dear life.
As the first class ends, I have not moved this much in a long time. Notorious BIG blasts and men take their tops off to reveal six packs. They look like they’re in a music video, and I look like a sweaty runner.
I leave thinking I’m in pain, but for 48 hours I’m really in pain. I suddenly become an expert on DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which is often a good sign that your fitness is progressing. It hurts to sit down, walk up the stairs and, even more so, walk down the stairs. After avoiding the gym for a few days, TJ checks in: “Best thing to do is try come in again as soon as you can. Get the body moving, as it will help reduce the soreness.”
As I wait for one muscle group to get better, I work out a different muscle group. My classes in week one include Legs and Butt with TJ (who gets your squatting real low) and Arms and Abs with Sheida (who keeps a perfect blow dry throughout).
During week two, my confidence grows. It doesn’t take long until I recognise familiar faces, and get a big smile every time from the staff. I’m now a person who carries a gym bag around, and finishes a workout before 8am. I test myself in the Lab class, and am lifting low weights. By now, I’m less fussed about making a fool of myself, and more impressed with how my fitness levels are improving – hello, muscles.
BARE DXB’s Diet
BARE DXB’s food challenge is, well, a challenge, and runs alongside the exercise programme. The diet increases protein and reduces carbohydrates. Alcohol, cheese, coffee, gluten, grains, potato, refined sugar, salt, soda, soy, tea and yogurt are no-nos. Fresh herbs, spices and low-calorie vegetables are yes please. Plus, we are told to be mindful of portions.
The diet support group is simply a WhatsApp group, which is inundated with questions. If you’re not a group chatter like me, it’s a moot point, and more could be done to address individual needs.
I have never been on a diet in my life, and this makes me rethink my eating habits. At first, I’m craving snacks. As the diet goes on, I’m impressed with my willpower. In fact, the highlight of my meals are BARE’s juice bar shakes. So, even when we can eat and drink what we want for one meal, I don’t indulge as much as normal, as my appetite has changed.
As I reach the finishing line, I feel proud of myself for attending all of the classes and following the diet. Now, when I’m running on the treadmill, I’m not holding onto the sides. Look TJ, no hands. A friend compliments me, asking if I’ve lost weight – and I have. When I weight in, I am now 59.85kg. I have increased my skeletal muscle mass, and decreased my body fat mass and BMI.
While my results might not be off the scale, it has helped me go full speed ahead into my fitness routine. Sure, I am not following the strict diet – no alcohol, no thanks – but it has shifted my mindset. I have a fitness routine once more, and that’s surely more than a step in the right direction.
GO: Visit www.bare.fitness for more information.