Well being: Workout during the working day

Want to squeeze in a gym session before work or during your lunchbreak? No problem. According to a new report, boutique fitness studios are increasingly located in Dubai office towers to cater to the working community.

The NRG Fitness centre in Dubai Marina. Courtesy NRG Fitness

Boutique workout studios are springing up in office towers across Dubai to meet new “live, work, play” demands, according to new research.

Real estate business Core Savills pinpointed the trend for fitness centres in office blocks in its latest Dubai office market report.

“The advantage of fitness brands in commercial buildings is for employees to be able to squeeze in a 45-minute spin session at lunch or before or after work, given their structured and intense workout format,” says David Godchaux, the chief executive of Core Savills.

“The number of work-live-play developments in the pipeline are changing Dubai’s working environment, embracing the new age of fitness.”

Mr Godchaux says Core Savills had not­iced a “significant spike” in inquiry levels in the past two quarters.

“The spatial requirements are smaller than for traditional big-box gyms, resulting in lower operating costs,” he says.

Key areas with a high concentration of workers for this kind of fitness studio are Dubai International Financial Centre, Downtown Dubai, Business Bay and Jumeirah Lakes Towers, he says, and studios will often differentiate themselves by adding a boutique of “athleisure” wear or an organic cafe.

Christina Guastella, the director of NRG Fitness in Dubai Mar­ina Walk, says it is important to minimise the “time expense” for gym-goers and that NRG took advantage of a gap for a “boutique urban environment” not being offered in the local market.

Finding a location with accessible free parking and a parking valet service was important in setting up NRG, she adds.

David Craig, the director of operations and business development at Flywheel Sports Dubai, the only international branch of the US indoor cycling gym, says location is a big element to Flywheel’s attraction.

Flywheel has two Dubai gyms. Most visitors to its Burj Views Towers site are residents in the area, working in DIFC or Business Bay, he says, while the Gold and Diamond Park gym offers lunchtime classes that are “well received” by local office workers.

Q&A: Suzanne Locke expands on the new craze for boutique gyms in prime office areas:

Where are the hot spots for boutique gyms?

David Godchaux of Core Savills points to examples like Barry’s Bootcamp in Dubai International Financial Centre’s Central Park, Real Pilates in One Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Adidas RunBase in Dubai Design District (D3), which offers high-intensity interval training, barre and yoga classes. D3 is a “perfect example of blurred edges between the spaces of work and play”, he says. Older industrial areas like Al Quoz’s Alserkal Avenue are also being regenerated, he adds, with gymnasiums among the incubators and warehouse art galleries.

Why don't the big guys open up in these prime office blocks?

Fitness studios can “derive value from prime retail strips”, says Mr Godchaux, as they require smaller spaces – 1,000 square feet or less – than bigger competitors with fully fitted gymnasiums. This makes it easier to reach full occupancy: they do not need to rely on a large number of memberships to cover relatively high rental rates. Bigger gyms may only be profitable when paying under Dh100 per square feet; a boutique brand can afford Dh300 per sq ft.

Is this happening in Abu Dhabi?

Yes, a similar emerging trend has been spotted in Abu Dhabi, according to Mr Godchaux. He says that as rents have declined over the past few quarters, entry levels have become afford­able for gym operators within ground floor/retail sections of prime commercial buildings.


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