20 April 2018Last updated

Healthy body

The 30 day shape up challenge

Want to get in shape but don’t know where to start? Team Aquarius have selected, tried and tested some of the best fitness regimes the city has to offer…

1 Jul 2013 | 04:55 pm
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Web features editor Kerry-Ann Henrico, 30, attended a minimum of three Flywheel classes and two Flybarre classes a week for a month

What is it? Flywheel is an intense 45/60-minute indoor stadium cycling class, while Flybarre is a 45/60-minute
mat-based workout, which incorporates a mixture of Pilates, a ballet barre, resistance bands and ball.
Kerry’s goal: I would like to improve my overall fitness levels, increase muscle mass and tone up. 

Kerry says: While my diet is healthy, I have trouble sticking to a regular exercise routine so that is my main concern when it comes to shaping up. I’ve tried spinning before and found it hard to stay motivated, but Flywheel puts a new spin (pardon the pun) on cycling exercise.

The USP is the competition. At Flywheel, not only are you faced with all the normal trials of a hard-core spinning class (tough mountain climbs and descents), but there’s a scoreboard (or Torquboard as it is called by the Flywheel masses) at the front of the class that displays the participant’s progress. Depending on how hard you work, you move up and down the Torquboard. The results are then recorded.

I found my first few Flywheel rides to be challenging, but still manageable and the selection of upbeat tracks kept me motivated. After the third week my stamina increased significantly. My legs were no longer begging for me to quit and the muscle cramps I experienced in the first two weeks had ceased. After checking my personal stats, I was pleased to see a marked improvement with each class – in the ride I performed at my best, I burnt 650 calories! After each class I felt exhilarated with a great sense of achievement.

In between my Flywheel classes I attended Flybarre twice a week. I can honestly say that this is the best all-over body workout I have ever done. Very effective for toning and strengthening, Flybarre targets specific muscles groups, but it takes practice. Even after two weeks I was struggling to assume the correct posture and form when doing the moves.

The result: Trying to fit both Flywheel and Flybarre into my schedule with a full-time job and other commitments was hard, but since beginning the classes my fitness level has improved and I have noticed a gradual difference in my overall muscle tone. Friends have also commented that I’m looking trimmer, which is a nice bonus.

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A before-and-after body composition analysis test showed that I have lost just over 1kg in fat and replaced it with 1kg of muscle. For me, a combination of both workouts is the most effective balance of cardio, strength and toning workout I’ve ever done.

To book: Flywheel and Flybarre classes are priced at Dh110 per session or you can purchase a package of 10 for Dh900. For more information call 04 423 2544.

Deputy editor Catherine Langley, 32, had personal training at FitLab at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club three times a week for a month

What is it? Personal training based on the principles of circuit training three times per week.
Catherine’s goal: I’ve been a keen long-distance runner since my teens, but in recent years I’ve felt as though my fitness has plateaued.

Catherine says: For the past few years my exercise regime has consisted of two 5km runs a week, with a longer run on weekends. I tend to increase my distances if I’m training for a running event, but generally it doesn’t deviate much from that. In my twenties I found this routine to be perfect for keeping me slim and trim, but since hitting my thirties I’m no longer seeing results. 

My personal trainer, Joel Neale, explained that this is quite normal because, as studies show, in as few as six workouts our neuromuscular systems adjust to a particular stimulus. Ultimately, our bodies (just like our minds) get bored and the only way to keep them motivated is to create variety in our exercise regimes. My first thought was that I would have to give up running, which is my favourite exercise, but as Joel clarified, it’s more about mixing up the routine, rather than changing it completely. As I enjoy running, he recommended I substituted my longer runs for interval running – mixing sprints with stints of brisk walking in between for recovery. Then, in order to improve my overall fitness, he tailored my sessions to include short runs with circuit training.

I consider myself to be quite a fit person, but after my first 45-minute session with Joel I realised that while I have good cardio and strong legs (like most runners), my upper-body strength is lacking. For this reason, Joel introduced a selection of upper-body exercise tools, including kettlebells, TRX suspension straps and dumbells, and combined them with aerobic techniques including lunges, star jumps and burpees. We also regularly worked my core with the plank and Spider-Man push-ups and every session ended with a stint on the rowing machine. Joel kept every session varied in order to keep my body in shock. Apparently this improves results... and it definitely keeps monotony at bay.

In addition to my exercise routine, Joel created a strict, high-protein diet for me. Typical meals included grilled fish with steamed vegetables and chicken salads (with no dressing). Alcohol was prohibited, as were cheat days, so I had to be very disciplined. I’m a fairly healthy eater, but this 21-day food plan put me to the test. I was tempted to reach for the cookie jar on a few occasions, but I had Joel’s words ringing in my ears. “Diet is 75 per cent and exercise is 25 per cent, so don’t let it slip!”

The result: Since beginning the personal training with Joel, I have definitely noticed a big improvement in my overall fitness. I find my running has improved dramatically and I’m much more able to push myself than I used to be. A before-and-after body composition analysis test also revealed that I have lost 1kg of fat and gained 1kg of muscle. An added bonus is that I have lost two inches from my waist and one from my hips. While I’m not ready to hang up my running shoes just yet, Joel definitely made a circuit convert out of me.

To book: A package of 10 personal training sessions at FitLab, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club is priced at Dh2,000 for members and Dh2,500 for non members. For more information call 04 295 6000.

Sub-editor Anna AbouZeid, 30, attended CrossFit classes at Reebok CrossFit LifeSpark, two to three times a week for a month

What is it? A training programme that builds strength and conditioning through a variety of challenging workouts. 

Anna’s goal: I want to lose weight, get fit and find a new activity that I can commit myself to.

Anna says: I’ve always been pretty active. I try to do a few spinning classes each week, supplemented with a jog or paddle-boarding session, but my downfall is my diet.

I generally eat pretty well, but my portion sizes are a problem and I find it very difficult to say ‘no’ to treats.

Right now I’m about 18kg away from my ideal weight.

CrossFit is all about doing functional movement (exercises that mimic the body’s natural motions) at a high intensity. This includes free weights and gymnastic-style moves. Each one-hour class begins with a group warm-up followed by a skills session, where the class learn or practise an exercise like pull-ups, bench presses or rope climbs. It sounds intimidating, but the reality is that each exercise is scaled to the individual ability of each person. For example, if you find pull-ups particularly challenging, the instructor will hook you up with an elastic band, which helps to support your body weight.

After the skills sessions the class moves on to the workout of the day – known as WOD in CrossFit circles. This will include a series of exercises that are either performed in Amrap (as many rounds as possible) format or RFT (rounds for time). This part of the class typically lasts around 20 minutes, which sounds short, but it’s high intensity. During the final stage of the class we are led through a series of stretches, which helps to lengthen and loosen muscles. Our instructor then sends us on our way, but not before reminding us to eat a hefty protein-rich dinner that evening. 

My month at CrossFit was definitely harder than I thought it was going to be. It made me realise that even though I’m fairly active, I’m quite weak in some areas and CrossFit provides overall strength training. Without fail, every class brought me to the point of nausea, but I always left the ‘box’ (it’s not called a gym in CrossFit world) feeling on top of the world. It’s amazing how something that can be so tough can make you feel so invigorated.

The result: I have a lot more energy. I managed to lose almost 2kg of fat and gain 1.3kg of muscle on this programme. I’ve also noticed that I have more stamina during my spinning classes, as my muscles used to tire out on the bike, but now they can push through even harder than before. CrossFit is an excellent complement to other exercises.

Ultimately, CrossFit, along with a high-protein diet with a lot of fruit and vegetables, could be the long-term solution to achieving my ideal weight. I’ve already signed up for a membership and will continue to do two classes per week from now on.

To book: Membership at Reebok CrossFit LifeSpark is priced between Dh600 per month, which entitles you to two classes a week, and Dh900 per month, which entitles you to unlimited classes. Membership is required in order to attend this gym. For more information call 04 450 8234.

Art director Sara Raffaghello, 35, signed up for 12 sessions of Technoshape at Talise Fitness, Jumeirah Beach Hotel

What is it? This patented technology is designed to stimulate circulation and enhance fat-burning around the midriff area, which is a particularly difficult part of the body to target through conventional exercise.

According to the experts, fat burning occurs more readily in parts of the body where the circulation is better, so the side effect of stimulating the area is that you lose inches.

Sara’s goal: I want to be able to fit into pre-baby jeans without a muffin top. Losing weight around my middle is my goal, as it’s a hard area to shift weight from.

Sara says: I started having babies three years ago and since then I’ve found it a lot harder to lose weight. I used to have so much free time to do sports, but now I lack the motivation to get out of the house after my little ones have gone to bed. As a result, I haven’t been at my ideal weight since before I had children.

I combined healthy eating with a 12-session course at TechnoShape. I had three 40-minute sessions a week, which involved walking uphill on a treadmill so that my heart rate stayed in the fat-burning zone – around 135bpm. The TechnoShape belt goes around the waist and feels warm and tight. It’s pretty comfortable and as you wear it under your clothes no one can see it. At the same time it’s connected to an air pump, which passes air through the belt, causing it to tighten and loosen and massage your stomach.

The exercise is easy to do and you’re in control of how fast and what incline you walk at. Of course it goes without saying that for the best results you need to keep your heart rate in the target zone. I was a little daunted about the prospect of beginning exercise again, but this system is great for people wanting to reintroduce themselves to fitness as you ease yourself in and it’s all done in the seclusion of a private room.
The result: TechnoShape targeted the fat burning and I can now see and feel results. I was measured on my final session and have lost 3cm from my stomach and 1cm from my waist and hips. I’ve also lost over 2kg of fat for what feels like very little effort.

To book: The Technoshape course is priced at Dh2,100 for 12 sessions, but if you book before the end of Ramadan you can take advantage of the summer deal, which includes an additional three sessions. For more information call 050 174 2190.

Editor Louisa Wilkins, 34, signed up for a month of Mysore yoga at The Yoga Room in JLT

What is it? Mysore yoga is the traditional way of teaching and learning Ashtanga yoga, whereby you practise in a group setting, but get one-on-one instruction. The interesting and lovely thing about it is that the timings are flexible. Nea Ferrier, yoga instructor at The Yoga Room, opens the doors every morning at 6.30am and is there until 9am. So you can turn up at any time within that period, lay your mat down and get busy with your own personal yoga practice. Nea is on hand to give advice and instruction, but the class is held in silence.

Louisa’s goal: To get bitten by the yoga bug.

Louisa says: My first interaction with yoga was when I was about 15 years old. I don’t know what possessed me, but I got a big picture book on yoga out of the library. I can’t recall the name of the book, but I remember the photos vividly. I worked my way through the book, forcing my little sister, who I shared a room with, to join me in my evening yoga sessions.

But as an adult, it wasn’t until an injury stopped me from running that I made time to try yoga properly. I’ve tried various types of yoga at various different centres around town and always enjoyed them but never stuck at them. After trying one of Nea’s Mysore classes, I decided now was the time to give it a proper go. “If I do it every day for a month, by the end of it I will definitely know if it is something I want to carry on with or not.”

In reality, committing to going every day was hard – between work, kids, school runs, dogs and general life chaos, it wasn’t always possible to get there. Over the month, I probably averaged about three times per week. But when I managed to make it, I loved it. Not only was it a great, serene start to the day, but I really felt like I was learning something.

When I started, Nea talked me through each pose and movement – correcting me as I went. The entire course of poses took me about 45 minutes. By the end of the first week, I was able to remember most of my routine. By the end of the second week, I could do the entire thing without being prompted and Nea began teaching me more poses.

By the third week I was feeling very at home in the sunny, warm classroom, nodding shy “Hellos” to some of the other students and feeling more at ease with the ‘Ohm’ chanting at the start of the Mysore session.

Slowly, as the weeks went on, my yoga practice went from taking 45 minutes, to taking about an hour. I was a lot more flexible, able to hold the poses with more stability and able to stand still on one leg for longer. I could feel muscles toning into shape and joints loosening up. Additionally, I had more energy, was sleeping better and found I was better able to concentrate during the day. And when I couldn’t make the class, for whatever reason, I really missed it.

The result: Even though I only lost 1kg over the month, I benefited in so many other ways.

To book: One session costs Dh75. A package of 10 sessions costs Dh650. Alternatively, pay for a month of unlimited classes for just Dh750. For details on classes and summer deals, call 050 518 9966 or visit

Fashion stylist Gemma Jones, 26, booked in for the Summer Wellness Retreat at Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah

What is it? The four-week Summer Wellness Retreat is a detox regime. The programme starts (and ends) with a wellness body scan, which measures and interprets fluid between cells in the body. This is followed by a variety of therapies, including eight yoga sessions, eight human regenerator sessions, two colon hydrotherapy sessions, one green detox scrub, one body brush plus detox body mask and one detox massage. Each participant is monitored by medical therapists, Dr Elisabeth Makk and colonic hydrotherapist Kay Vosloo throughout.

Gemma’s goal: To tone up and improve health.

Gemma says: When I was given the opportunity to try out the Summer Wellness Retreat it couldn’t have come at a better time as I was at a point, personally and professionally, where I needed to take care of my mind and body. The retreat began with an electronic wellness scan. The results were presented on a computerised 3D representation of the human body. My scan highlighted a few stress-related health issues, such as low lung capacity and inflamed digestive organs, which I was unaware of, and Dr Makk prescribed homeopathic remedies.

I got started with yoga, combing a mix of Hatha, Vinyasa and meditative classes twice a week. Each time I had a class I was also scheduled in for a Human-Regenerator session.

It sounds a bit space-age, but it involved me stepping inside a quantum pulse device (one of only five in the world) which generates electromagnetic impulses to naturally regenerate cells. The sessions lasted around 30 minutes and according to the experts, the results include healing, regulation, strengthening and anti-ageing of cells. After a few sessions I noticed an improvement in my energy levels.

There were three 60-minute spa treatments included in the package – the detox scrub, the body brush plus detox body mask and the green detox scrub. I scheduled these on weekends, which enabled me to enjoy the spa’s facilities.

Midway through and at the end of the month I was booked in for colon hydrotherapy sessions. Resident hydro therapist and nutritionist Kay used a massage technique on my stomach to hydrate, cleanse and strengthen the large intestine. She also offered advice on diet and nutrition.  

The result: Before the retreat I felt as though I was around 5kg from my ideal weight, so I was really happy that the end result showed I’d lost 2kg of fat and gained 1kg of muscle mass. My metabolic age also went from 27 to 21 and on top of that I feel more relaxed and balanced in general. 
To book: The Summer Wellness Retreat is available at Talise Spa at Madinat Jumeirah until September 15. It is priced at Dh2,990. For more information
call 04 319 8181.

Our junior beauty writer Sonam Basantani, 26, tried Balance Well-being 360°’s 30-day Weight Loss Plan

What is it? A customised diet-delivery service based on your body type and according to Ayurvedic principles, digestive capabilities, likes and dislikes.
Sonam’s goal: I want to change my lifestyle and eating habits and hopefully lose a bit of weight along the way.

Sonam says: I’ve been doing Pilates for over eight months with a personal trainer and try to keep active. However, I’m about 10kg away from my ideal weight. Living in Dubai has made it harder for me to shift the weight. There are always parties and fabulous new restaurants to try, so it’s easy to be a victim of the ‘Dubai stone’.

I signed up for a 30-day food plan at Balance Well-being 360°. The programme began with a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor who took my BMI and pulse, before suggesting a few lifestyle tweaks to aid weight loss, such as drinking more water and not eating after 7pm. Once that was sorted a customised lunch and dinner meal plan was tailored to my needs. On the advice of the staff at Balance Well-being 360°, I opted for the Weight Loss package, which is around 1,100/1,200 calories a day and is designed to kick-start weight loss and boost metabolism.

The best bit about this service is that it takes the hassle out of making the healthy choice as it’s delivered to your door daily. Everything was individually packaged in microwavable containers, and meals came with cutlery and napkins. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
There is also a lot of flexibility when it comes to food selection. When I had specific requirements they were accommodated. The menus were also a big bonus because they were different every day and there was plenty of choice: two for lunch and two for dinner. Meals were varied and tasty, from delicious soups to crisp salads and wholesome main meals such as breaded John Dory. New dishes were also introduced fairly regularly, which is good news for those who are on this diet for a long time. I only noticed a few repeats during my 30-day plan.

The result: This was harder than I thought it was going to be because there was no cheat day. However, it is possible to incorporate a day off into your programme if you feel you need one. By the end of the month I had lost 1kg of fat, but the main difference was in how I felt physically, as I had much more energy. I think this is a great option for people living a hectic life who want to kick-start their weight loss and give their body a detox. 

To book: The 30-day Weight Loss Plan is priced at Dh2,940. For more information call 04 384 7010.