Without a doubt the hottest facility launch of the year so far has been FitRepublik, smartly and stylishly located in the heart of Dubai Sports City.
Up and running only about a month now, it is nevertheless already a hit with the community, young and old. Sport360° takes a closer look to find out why.
— Maha Abouelenein (@mahagaber) February 10, 2015
An Olympic swimming pool is one of many jewels in the shiny FitRepublik crown. Push a button and a wall beneath splits the pool in half so that Learn-to-Swim classes can take place in the shallow end side by side with triathlete training or adult swim fitness in the deep end, with no interruptions.
There is also plenty of stand seating for parents to look on from, and we reckon this space will do well in hosting big swim competitions and events in the future (hint, hint).
In fact, swimming programmes also include competitive and recreational squads for juniors, and an aquatic club is launching any minute, allowing members to participate in meets.
To the left of the pool is a well kitted functional indoor training zone catering for their adult CrossFit classes and kids’ functional training sessions alike. Meanwhile outside is receiving an impressive obstacle course for boot camps, Ironman and outdoor CrossFit workouts.
They’ve made very good use of the gym zone, with dedicated sections full of specialised equipment for elite, Olympic and power lifting, cycling, rowing and more, and upstairs there is a very lovely and spacious cardio zone with all your fail-safe classics – the treadmills, ellipticals, bikes etc.
They also stock some workout units that you wouldn’t normally see in other gyms but which might personally tickle your fancy – such as a Jacob’s Ladder, a cardio conditioning 45-degree treadmill climber; and a VertiMax, the world’s leading speed and jump training system, geared towards serious sprinters and jumpers.
Gymnastics in particular has been booming since the launch because FitRepublik boasts the only permanent and Olympic equipped gymnastics arena in the UAE, and all coaches are ex-national or ex-Olympians.
Recreational and competitive training is offered for tykes as young as two all the way up to adults. There are even elite invite-only gymnastics sessions for kids vying for floor time at Olympics 2020!
That said, the MMA zone – complete with boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, karate, judo, taekwondo, BJJ, Capoeira and wrestling equipment, as well as an awesome octagon, plus current and ex-professionals in these sports on hand to guide you every step and kick of the way – will definitely be a big hit too.
— FitRepublik (@FitRepublik) February 11, 2015
Two large group class studios help cater to the hundreds of classes they host including various forms of yoga, Pilates, Zumba, dance, aerobics, spin, Les Mills sessions, and more. Kids yoga and ballet are on the way.
As big as the space already is, it’s set to get even larger with the impending launch of Nathalie’s Café: Coffee and Kitchen, a health-conscious and clean comfort food pit stop not to miss on your way out of a workout, or while waiting for kids.
On top of that, FitRepublik’s retail space stocks high quality supplements such as PAS Nutrition, the official supplements partner of the English track team and many Premier League teams; alongside other fitness and exercise related products and accessories.
FitRepublik co-founder Ali Al Amine is extremely proud of the finished product, and for him, to choose his preferred activity area is like picking a favourite child.
— FitRepublik (@FitRepublik) February 1, 2015
He says: “The passion for this not only comes from the demand and opportunity Dubai offers, and my desire to be in an entrepreneurial role, but also from my passion for sport – I am a mountaineer, a triathlete, CrossFitter, swimmer… all of this is where the idea came from [for FitRepublik].
“I have a favourite area within every zone of the space, not just one; if you put me in the swimming pool area… well I personally like the combination of functional training that entails that you jump in the water, jump back out, carry a kettlebell, then go back in the water again… I feel like a child again in the gymnastics area, love to jump on the trampoline and land in the foam pit; and I do like to do a bit of sparring in the octagon too, it makes me feel like an elite fighter even if I’m nothing close.”
— FitRepublik (@FitRepublik) February 4, 2015
He adds: “We’re already started sponsoring athletes and absolutely plan to host as well as endorse athletes. This is not a gym; we’re very welcoming here, very personalised, collaborative. Our job is to partner with you to make better versions of who you are.”
Membership options are pretty flexible and worth looking into – the basic package includes access to the gym, classes, and use of different sporting zones when not in group use.
If you opt for the Basic +1, it means you can tack on full use of one sporting zone such as the CrossFit facilities. Basic +2 allows for two disciplines at once, and so forth. You can switch disciplines every three months throughout the duration of your contract.
A premium membership allows you free reign of everything at FitRepublik, while outside guests can pay Dh150 to use all facilities for a day.
This is indeed a place where everybody can find something that’s either fun or focused to do, and where they’ll be in good hands. For more information, visit
What better way to take advantage of the fabulous weather at this time of year than by spending the days lounging with a book, splashing about, taking on new watersports or fitness classes or just spending quality time with family, at one or more of the emirates’ stellar beach clubs.
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Here are our top spots…
Nation Riviera Beach Club
To arrive inside the Nation Riviera Beach Club guests can take a walk from the St Regis through a discreet, air-conditioned marble tunnel that runs below street level.
Awesome health and recreational facilities include 200 metres of private pristine beach, a fresh water, temperature-controlled swimming pool with swim-up bar and Jacuzzi, plenty of watersports and state-of-the-art exercise facilities, alongside beach circuit training, Pilates and sunrise/sunset yoga.
There are also luxury sauna and steam rooms, great dining at Cabana Bar & Grill, and various supervised indoor and outdoor activities for kids at the Treasure Island Children’s Club, distinctly designed as a mock pirate ship. Nanny services are also available.
Club entry per person (adult or child) on weekdays is Dh300, and Dh400 on Fridays and Saturdays, while those under four go free. 02 694 4780; www.nationrivierabeachclub.com
RIVA Beach Resort
A hit with a young, trendy, more svelte crowd who come for an evening SUP and sundowners set to throbbing music, RIVA is still worth a peek no matter your age or interest as it is incredibly easy on the eyes; think St Tropez meets Ibiza meets Dubai.
To be a member rewards you with full use of all its stylish facilities – sun loungers by the sea, the Shoreline Palm Jumeirah’s only climate-controlled pool, their Technogy-loaded gym, plus preferential rates for personal training, classes, beauty services and private bookings.
You’ll get invitations to any RIVA events and discounts on yacht charters, watersports and F&B. Friends and family are welcome free and only charged for pool/day bed/lounger use.
Daily entry is affordable at Dh100 per adult, Dh50 for kids, which includes sun lounger/daybed and towel. On weekends you pay Dh175 (Dh85 for kids 4-16). 04 430 9466; www.riva-beach.com
Saadiyat Beach Club
It may have been rebranded but it’s as full of taste and classic charm as ever, from its well run The Workout Room, where popular bootcamp programmes, yoga and barre classes are led by dedicated professionals; straight down to its serene stretch of beach with views of some of Saadiyat’s most ambitious developments.
Spa facilities are definitely worth a visit, and their pool area is one of the most stunning in the city, with attached cabanas so you can dive straight in and lap up luxury.
Meanwhile the restaurant, Safina’s, and evening hotspots Cabana9 and De La Costa, are some of the capital’s top venues right now.
Attractive memberships are offered, but take advantage now until February 28 when daily entry per adult is Dh175. Meanwhile, ladies are treated on Tuesdays and pay Dh125. 02 656 3500; www.saadiyatbeachclub.ae
It’s smack in the middle of busy The Walk, JBR, yet Meydan Beach is an elegant exclusive affair.
Enjoy access to deep blue infinity pools and a private beach, poolside dining, members’ gym, spa treatments and a salon. While the club seems more suited to adults – think Monte Carlo chic with white sun loungers and expensively dressed visitors – there is a play area and paddling pool for kids.
Day rates start at Dh250 per adult (incl. Dh100 F&B voucher) or Dh150 for entrance only; and kids from Dh75 (Under 4s are free).
Go glam and splash out Dh500 (weekdays, or Dh750 on weekends) for a cabana for more space; it includes a fruit platter and bottles of water for two people. 04 433 3777; www.meydanbeach.com
Not only popular with the hotels nearby, whose guests have complimentary transport and access; even Abu Dhabi’s city dwellers regularly make their way over paying just Dh100 (weekends, half that on weekdays) for a prime spot in the sun on a stylishly tucked away shoreline.
You’ll find enthusiastic volleyballers and avid outdoor circuit trainers (they offer classes), as well as Noukhada Adventure on-site operating eco, non-motorised watersporting rentals from SUP to sail boats and kayaks that can take you round nearby mangroves, with views of Yas attractions and, randomly, a private ostrich farm.
Hot-white cabanas and DJ sets make it a popular lazy Saturday spot for young crowds. The food is fresh and yummy too. Changing facilities are standard and there’s no pool but it’s a great scene for what you pay, with affordable monthly and annual deals too. 056 242 0435; www.yasbeach.ae
Set on Dubai’s shoreline and combining the awesome facilities at both the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, you and yours are truly spoilt for choice.
They have 500m of private beach, five lovely pools and a watersports centre offering waterskiing, wakeboarding, windersurfing, SUP, banana boating and sailing for small additional sums. The children’s pool has a waterslide, while adults enjoy swim-up bars.
Entry Sunday to Thursday for adults is Dh225, Dh125 for kids aged 4-12; on weekends it’s Dh350, Dh175 for kids. Add a weekend BBQ and it costs Dh425 (adults) or Dh225 (kids). 04 399 4141; www.westinminaseyahi.com
The ultimate; with incredible, extensive facilities to ensure you’ll be there well past sunset.
Bring the kids too, they have their own dedicated play area with qualified overseers so you can spend some quality ‘you’ or ‘two’ time at the excellent newly rebranded spa, top-notch restaurants, near the sea sampling extensive watersport offerings, or chilling in one of Abu Dhabi’s most beautiful marinas.
They have an exhaustive list of fitness classes, popular tennis courts, a cycling/running path, two luxurious temperature-controlled pools, plus immaculate lawns with nice secluded pockets away from the sprawling beach for further relaxation and sunning, as well as a lovely lazy river.
‘Cultural snorkelling’ with interesting underwater sculptures is a quirky highlight, and bird and dolphin watching. Outdoor guests pay Dh500 on weekends and Dh300 on weekdays, and kids Dh300 and Dh150 respectively. 02 690 9000; www.kempinksi.com
Other worthy mentions:
Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi – Still reasonably priced, packed with fun and activities for kids as well as awesome dining and gym facilities for adults. They’ve got everything, down to free wi-fi. 02 697 9302
Jumeirah Beach Hotel – Going strong for over a decade with one of the best watersports centres in town and five-star food and service. With 700 sun loungers and 900m of beach, it’s huge yet still cosy. 04 348 0000
JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa – A fantastic family-friendly atmosphere. Peacocks strut around this desert oasis as visitors bask at one of the three freshwater pools. Kids have shaded pools of their own too. 04 814 5800
Competition based on who can lift the heaviest weight has been around forever and Olympic weightlifting, while not among the world’s coolest sports, has been making a comeback in big part (to purists’ slight annoyance) thanks to CrossFit, where technical moves like the clean and jerk are commonplace.
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What’s also cool is that nowadays as many girls as guys are powdering up to learn more.
Even before a gain in local interest recently drew triple Olympic medallist Pyrros Dimas of Greece to Dubai for a seminar and weightlifting competition, we heard of ambitious Emirati girls like Amna Al Haddad and Khadija Mohammed, who have both been breaking barriers and competing on the world stage, joining others here with dreams of Rio 2016.
If you’re thinking of going beyond CrossFit and breaking into the sport, there are now some dependable faces to get to know in Dubai who can see you safely and successfully through.
One coming highly recommended is American Ikaika Paakaula, based out of 24 Fitness (24fitnessdubai.ae), who has been lifting since he was 10.
Sport360°’s Kara Martin spoke to Paakaula about Olympic lifting, and its lesser known mental and physical benefits.
Q. So… kids can do this at ten?
A. Yeah, people do it at six! So… my uncle back home in Oregon owns a gym and one day this guy came in and asked if anyone was interested in learning Olympic weightlifting, and a bunch of them, my brother, cousins, we all joined this weightlifting programme.
My brother was 10 at the time, I was eight, and my mum made me wait two years because she had heard all the old rumours of how weightlifting’s bad for your growth if you start too young, but if you have the right coach… no, it’ll be fine. Unless I was supposed to be like 6’5”, maybe [it did affect my growth] (laughs) but oh well. I’ve been doing it for almost 18 years now.
I got into competitions and built up to a really high level of competing, gathered a couple state records and was ranked number one overall nationwide in my age group and weight class. I continued weightlifting competitively but my coach at the time honestly wanted us to dedicate our lives to it.
I wanted to be a kid, to go snowboarding, try other sports like American football. In high school and throughout college I played football but still kept lifting… then some friends moved out here when the fitness community was just getting going, and they were like ‘oh my gosh, Olympic lifting is so young out here’, and I was convinced to come out.
What did you like about weightlifting so much?
Doing something with my brother and cousins… then once we got really good at it we were actually really good as a team and in the northwest we won everything.
Thinking back, it really does teach you discipline, gives you a structure, and a drive to achieve anything else; gives you the basic building blocks for life, in a sense. It absolutely shaped me as a person from early on.
We would do five days a week, an hour and a half training a day, sort of thing – school, work out, go home, do homework, do it again. I didn’t really have a life as a kid.
Growing up with that type of training… anything else I’ve come across since has been kind of easy (laughs).
It takes a toll on you though, training like that. I mean, the professionals hit their peak in their early-to-mid twenties and by the time they reach their late twenties, they’re old for this sport.
You met the legendary Pyrros Dimas here. Was he as you’d hoped?
Yeah, he was literally my idol growing up, I was so relieved he was really nice and humble. He critiqued one of my lifts and actually was impressed.
He looked at me compared to a couple other lifters that were here (CrossFitters with short, stocky builds, tighter muscle-wise) and he said ‘oh you have a weightlifting body’ – long, lean, flexible etc.
People assume the former, a bit shorter, stockier, but some of the best lifters around aren’t really that assuming to look at, they look like the average guy in normal clothing.
Based on my quick tutorial with you, I gathered that it’s less about arm and upper body strength and more lower body strength…
In a lot of things, actually – the stronger your legs (and core), the stronger you’re going to be overall.
Your arms are just following through. That’s why we would do squats every single time we worked out. If you want to get stronger, you’ve got to work them around 4-6 times a week.
And what else can lifting help in?
Mental strength, builds confidence. Mentally you’ll be able to start recognising things, your coordination will improve and things will start to fire a lot more, and quicker, in muscles.
Doing compound exercises where multiple big muscle groups are working at the same time – as they are in lifting weights generally – can burn a lot of fat too, even without doing a lot of cardio.
You gain a lot of useable strength and explosiveness – most Olympic lifters tend to have a lot of vertical, can jump higher, are really good sprinters… your athleticism goes up a notch.
CrossFit gave Olympic lifting a boost but you have some thoughts about ‘the sport of fitness’…
The good thing about CrossFit is that it gets people moving and has made Olympic lifting more open to all, not just elite athletes. There are good CrossFitters out there teaching our moves properly… but not many.
I’ve heard numerous stories of CrossFitters going into a session having never used a bar before, they get a five-minute demo and get thrown 20-30 reps at a time… it’s bad.
Seeing the technique of some of these guys in competition makes me cringe sometimes, almost makes me hurt.
You need some sort of basic knowledge of the movements before you start putting them against the clock and in multiple amounts. Developing as an Olympic weightlifter, I myself never went over five reps, and that was only during warm-ups; other than that, 2-3, or one.
Each lift should be perfect, 100 per cent effort rather than just to get the movement done as quick as you can. I’m a perfectionist. That, to me, is CrossFit’s downside. And the injuries in turn give Olympic weightlifting a bad name.
Tips for those wanting to go further with weights?
If you really want to be good at Olympic lifting, stick with it five days a week for a year. We’ve got some good trainers here – Derrick and Gordon [Branford], both from my hometown (Derrick and I used to be on the same team), are great too.
Get some Olympic lifting specific shoes too, they make a huge difference.
Mentally, for a beginner, it’s hard because there are so many moving parts so it all comes down to repetition to get that muscle memory.
That’s another thing about CrossFitters – they want things now, want the heavy weights… but here you have to be patient, precise and disciplined.
Get in touch with Ikaika for sessions and send your questions at [email protected]