As UAE residents reconnect with their favourite outdoor activities, FitnessLink dusted off the bike and hit the track to experience the Al Qudra Cycling Track in Dubai – and we loved it!
Located at the northern end of Al Qudra Road, a big green archway welcomes you to the cycle track just after the bridge that stretches over Dubai Bypass Road. The first section runs parallel to the road for 18 kilometres of straight riding. We were impressed with how quickly the path can disappear underfoot when there are no cars, pedestrians or corners to contend with and pleased that the clearly marked kilometres made it easy to track our speed.
This track extends up the intersection of Bab Al Shams Road and Al Qudra Roads; where it joins with the second track, a loop of about 50 kilometres passing through dunes and by the famous Bab Al Shams hotel, to ensure continuity. This first stretch is usually most frequented by the biggest variety of riders including those experienced early birds who want to take in the full 84-kilometre loop, amateurs keen to cut their teeth for triathlon season and even the occasional family on mountain bikes who find other locations around town a bit too crowded.
If you do begin here, come prepared with sufficient water and electrolytes, as there is only a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rest stop midway through, with no facilities.
At the end of this road, intersecting with Bab Al Shams Road, rests a second parking lot, a bike store and the beginning of the 50-kilometre loop. You can hire bikes for a few hours from here for 75Dhs (as we did), and it’s nice to be able to take off right away, avoiding the need to load them in and out of a car.
The smooth curves and long distance out to Bab Al Shams meant we could hit top speed fairly quickly with only the occasional cyclist riding past and very little worry of interruption. Because the path yawns across a desert without roads there is no traffic or noise to tarnish what felt to us like exploring Arabia’s past. The rolling dunes and vibrant colour of the sky made us forget about the smog, hustle and sounds of the fastest growing city in the world, and put some serious miles on the clock to boot.
We couldn’t help but relish fresh air before the heat set in and, boy, it sure does beats a stationary bike and air-conditioning any day of the week!
Safety is always at the top of our list, so we recommend you take this loop in pairs to prevent trouble where no assistance is available. On that note, there is also no lighting after dark so make sure have plenty of time to get back before sunset. Another not often considered factor is that while iPods are great for motivation, they should never prevent you from being aware of your surroundings – especially when big groups are overtaking.
This refreshing experience perfectly embodies what UAE winter is all about and has FitnessLink excited about staying fit and healthy outside the gym over the coming months!
Fitness First are seeing the benefit of raising the level of the health and fitness industry in the UAE after coming away with the top prize at the inaugural FIT Awards 2014, according to Mirdif City Centre branch senior general manager Edward Elliott.
The organisation’s Mirdif location came away with the prestigious Facility of the Year 1001+ Members prize during the gala evening at Jumeirah Emirates Towers’ glittering Godolphin Ballroom.
Organised by Sport360° in partnership with FitnessLink.me and the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), the awards aimed to recognise excellence and achievements of the health and fitness industry in the UAE for the first time.
Courtesy of sponsors Daman and Dubai Sports City, 375 attendees packed in on Friday, January 12 to see the best practitioners and events rewarded for their outstanding work.
“As a brand, Fitness First really has stepped it up during the four years I have been in the Middle East,” Elliott said. “We put the attention into the small items in the business, coaching our staff and focusing on operations. The FIT Awards have been fantastic.”
The achievements of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, were also recognised with the Ultimate Recognition Award.
FitnessLink co-founder Grant Goes believes the event has “planted the seed” for future developments in the Emirates.
“The whole process has been really cool,” he said. “To see everything come to fruition has been heartwarming. This has planted the seed for more growth in the future. It has created a great foundation. This is another stepping stone to show how the industry is coming together.
“You want role models for people, and the winners have done that extra little step.”
A total of 185 entries from facilities, organisations, initiatives, leaders and individuals in the fitness world were registered across 14 categories – 88 of which were polled and judged as finalists of their respective categories.
More than 23,000 votes were cast by the public from November 1 to December 1, their selections guiding the strict judging process.
All but one of the 14 finalists went through a thorough three-stage judging process involving 20 hig-hly professional and experienced industry leaders, the process overseen by auditors Deloitte & Touche.
It was a memorable evening for Exhale Fitness Studio, who came away with both the Studio of the Year and Ladies Only Facility of the Year titles.
“It is so overwhelming, I did not expect this at all,” managing partner Rama Jayyousi said. “The judging process was so vigorous, I am out of words.”
The exception to the judging process was for the Fitness Event of the Year, which was decided purely by public vote.
Sharjah Ladies Club took the prize, reward for April’s 5km Sharjah Ladies Run which attracted more than 250 people.
“We were hoping for the best, and luckily the best came,” events and public relations manager Ameera Al Aami said.
“This was a really fun night and great for the Sharjah Ladies.
“Our main purpose is to support the ladies of Sharjah. We have another running event on January 15, and we are hoping to double the number taking part considering the first one was organised in quite a short time.”
There is an app for everything these days and health and fitness is no exception. According to businessinsider.com, in 2014 health and fitness apps grew 62 per cent in usage, compared to apps overall which grew 33 per cent. Whilst men use apps generally a little more than women, the reverse is true in the health and fitness area with women in the 25 to 54 age group being most interested.
Almost 20 per cent of smartphone users have one or more applications on their device. Such is the growth in their popularity it is estimated that by 2015, 500 million smartphone users worldwide will be using a health app.
The most popular apps are in the diet, weight loss and fitness areas. Calorie counters, fitness trackers, workouts, diets, progress logs; these are the most downloaded, so for example, last year MyFitnessPal had 40 million users. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, or walk more steps in a day, make time for a seven-minute power workout in your living room or simply get started, fitness apps can help.
►1. Fitocracy: Available for android, iOS and on the web, this app uses games and community to help you reach your goals, whether these are weight loss, cardio/stamina or muscle gain/toning. It is free for the basic version, but if you want something a little more personal, there is a very inexpensive option. It’s not so useful for complete beginners who don’t know the common exercises used in the workouts.
►2. Fitstar: Sadly, only available for iOS, the free version is designed to get you moving, but the premium version for as little as $49 per year has the added options of getting lean and strong. No equipment is required so you can do it anywhere. It has images to demonstrate the exercises and your level is assessed with a Fit Test so that you get the appropriate workouts.
►3. Couch to 5k: One of my clients has just downloaded this with a view to starting running in the New Year. It is ideal for beginners to train to run 5k in just 9 weeks with 3 runs a week. It’s $1.99 on apple and android.
►4. MyFitnessPal: A phenomenally successful free app available for iOS and android and for good reason. It is a simple calorie counter and exercise tracker with a huge database of food items and makes it easy for you to see exactly what you are eating and how many calories you are using to help keep you on track. You do need to be diligent with your recording though.
►5. My Diet Coach: This is like having your very own motivational speaker everywhere you go. If you want to lose weight, this is a great app. I love the fact that you can upload photos and notes that inspire you, reminders about what you want to eat and avoid, together with weight loss and fitness goals.
So there is no excuse for not improving your health with so many tools available. Apps are ideal for the self-disciplined who are busy, travel or who are on a budget. But if you lack motivation or have special issues you need to work on, stick to a live instructor.