CrossFit Lifespark: Creating a fit community

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Team ethic: Make friends for life at CrossFit LifeSpark.

CrossFit gyms are referred to as boxes and Dubai’s Reebok CrossFit LifeSpark was literally just that, a small empty classroom within a school, when they first launched on Valentine’s Day in 2011.

But in the last few years the scene has exploded here in the UAE and the founding expat ‘power couple’ Candice Howe and Benjamin Ford will now be celebrating the club’s third anniversary in a massive open-plan personalised CrossFit space in Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT), a home away from home for a blossoming CrossFit community comprising of hundreds of CrossFitters from as young as five years old… with ‘community’ being the standout word.

“Since we’ve opened here in JLT we’ve just continued to grow organically and it has really helped us define what LifeSpark is about for us,” explains Howe, a successful Reebok CrossFit athlete who is once again preparing to take on the world when the CrossFit Games Open commences on February 27.

“At LifeSpark we’re about health and longevity, about letting our community thrive, be as healthy as they can be whether that’s chasing their kids, changing a tyre, paddle-boarding at the weekend or trying to be a competitive CrossFitter, we really try to cater to everybody.”

She added: “We have a growing teens and kids programme, we work with one of the local high schools. There’s a big importance placed on functional movement in CrossFit, learning to move your body and having a healthy relationship with your body, which is important from a young age.”

CrossFit LifeSpark encourages the mixing of all skill levels (apprentice, craftsman and competitor, with specific movement standards geared to each group) in each class too to further inspire and unlock potential in others.

They not only encourage all members to try their hand at competing in the CrossFit Games Open for regional and world qualification, amongst other local fitness-related events, but spurring on others in their own personal challenges too (the club notice-board is littered with PBs and other member achievements).

They also have one of the most comprehensive programmes in place for beginners and those intimidated by CrossFit’s competitive and athletic nature, free taster sessions are run twice weekly to a 12-session introductory ‘Essentials Course’.

“We require all those who wish to join our thriving community to first participate in our 12 one hour Essentials Classes in order to learn the fundamentals of CrossFit CrossFit movements, protocols and community,” says Howe.

“In that month you’re in class with the same eight people in a very safe, controlled setting and these people become your peers, your friends by the end. “In that way we’ve built a close-knit community and if somebody doesn’t show up for a couple days, when they’re back their friends will be going ‘oh, where have you been?’

Founded: February 2011

Location: Concorde Tower, Cluster H, Jumeirah Lake Towers

Members: 250 members (including approx. 25 regular kids) and counting – the biggest CrossFit community in the uae

Rates: Class drop-in costs Dh100, while there are various monthly membership packages available priced between Dh500 and Dh900. Children pay Dh300 for a block of five classes, or Dh500 for 10.

Contact: www.reebokcrossfitlifespark.com

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New-trition: Have your cake and eat it at ICONS Coffee Couture

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With the country’s love affair with designer cupcakes and other sweet treats, and with diabetes still a problem, we welcome ICONS Coffee Couture, where those with a sweet tooth can have their cake and eat it without the guilt.

This fashion and lifestyle coffee shop in Dubai’s Souk Al Bahar is on a mission to add sparkle to the idea of healthy eating as well as popularise the use of the natural plantderived sweetener, stevia, which stars in all of their incredibly yummy desserts and pastries instead of sugar.

Stevia, also known as honey herb, is the first all-natural sweetener with zero calories. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and, unlike normal sweeteners, free from chemical enhancements.

Everything is created by celebrity pastry chef Stefan Kopetz. They cater to all meals of the day through highly nutritious, energy boosting protein shakes and fruit blends, hearty and wholesome soups and sandwiches, as well as warm and cold power salads bursting with flavour and exciting meat and veggie ingredients.

Founder of ICONS Coffee Couture Elena Weber, a former international model, said. “The idea is all about having something healthy, but joyful!

“We use Stevia, organic, and fresh ingredients all of which help detox the body and improve the immune system to provide healthy options to our customers.”

www.meeticons.com

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Is Bokwa the new Zumba? Dance fitness craze to hit the UAE

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Energetic, exciting, and exhilarating, backed by exotic pulsating beats and centred around pure, unadulterated dancing fun…is Bokwa the new Zumba?

That’s what the whispers are around Abu Dhabi’s fitness enthusiasts who sampled the new dance fitness craze to hit the UAE this month.

But with the African dance-influenced Bokwa incorporating letters of the alphabet somehow into a serious sweat-inducing calorie scorcher, we wouldn’t quite call the two of the same family, but rather rivals that will fight it out in dance fitness studios this year.

Bokwa® was developed by international fitness personality Paul Mavi, a leading Los Angeles based Group Fitness Instructor.

Tapping into his native South African roots as a dancer and musician, he developed it for his own classes over an eight-year period, and now Bokwa has a loyal following across the globe with certified instructors and participants in dozens of countries, the UAE now among them thanks to Bokwa instructor and Abu Dhabi newcomer Jodi Clark.

The idea is to simply dance out the shape of letters and numbers with your feet while busting some daring and energizing cardio dance moves that you later realise make up a sort of choreographed routine when all put together.

In this way, Bowka also sneakily works and tests your brain’s motor skills and memory functions in a new and unique way. And to top it all off, driven by some hard, hopping rhythmic African, Latin, Popular Dance and House music beats, it’s bound to turn even those with two left feet into confident dancers.

From this month Clark is leading classes through Inspire Sports Management (who operate out of Hilton Abu Dhabi and Al Bateen Secondary School), and will teach at Eastern Mangroves Resort and Spa, and urges people not to be intimidated by all the hip-gyrating, speedy step work and occasional air guitar.

“I’m always a little bit apprehensive trying to describe Bokwa to newcomers – that we dance out numbers and letters of the alphabet, for one, sounds very strange. They think ”A”, how are you going to do that?’

“I remember when I first got sent on the Bokwa instructor course, I watched a video and was also thinking ‘Oh my God, how do people know what they’re doing (in that class)?!’ Because if you just walked into a class in the middle of it and you saw everyone in action you would think it’s a choreographed routine and think you can’t do it.

“But when I format the class I always start it off with some simple steps, basic letters like ‘L’ and ‘C’, and the way the class knows what to do is by sign language, so if I put my fingers into the shape of an ‘L’ or ‘C’ they would know what steps to do next. Once people start to understand the concept it kind of flows from there.”

With so many letters in the alphabet, dance combinations are endless and there is the potential for more difficult class routines as time progresses and people become comfortable with the format.

“Some letters even have more than one move!” adds Clark. “For example, for the letter ‘C’ there about three different remix steps for that. There’s the ‘L Walk’, the ‘L Shake’, the ‘L Swag’… And as people continue the classes they get hungry for it, they want to try remixes, combos and get creative.

“You don’t need to be a dancer or co-ordinated, just be able to enjoy the music and have some fun while burning calories. Try Bokwa. I know this sounds cringey and cheesy but you kind of want to look at it as an experience rather than a fitness class. It’s supposed to be fun and the time is supposed to go.”

Oh, and did we mention you can burn around 700 calories in one 50-55-minute session? Bokwa is now on at Al Bateen Secondary School on Saturdays from 10am.

For more information, visit www.inspiresports.ae or call 050 1575508/40/60. If you’re really unsure on your feet, Introductory Bokwa classes at Eastern Mangroves will take place on February 17th, with complimentary one hour sessions at 6pm and 7.15pm. For bookings please call 02 656 1152.

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