How and where to work out for free in the UAE

Tired of paying astronomical rates for your fitness routine? Try one of these free classes instead.

Free yoga class at Umm Suqeim Park. Courtesy Natalia Fata.
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Start your weekend with circuit training in Dubai’s Al Barsha Park. This 60-minute workout has grown since launching in December, and now attracts up to 30 participants every Friday, from 8.30am. Overlooking the lake, to the left of the main entrance, sessions target all fitness levels. They involve a 10-minute warm-up, followed by two rounds of 30-second exercises, which typically include lifting and slamming weighted ropes, TRX pull-ups and lateral raises. A 15- or 20-second break separates each activity.

Personal trainers Sarah Crowther and Naj Ganyana are behind the classes. “We want to help people move their bodies and improve their health without spending a small fortune on gym membership or expensive classes,” Crowther says. “Fitcamp is mostly circuit-based with the odd team competition and fun group activity thrown in for good measure.”

Crowther and Ganyana shout words of encouragement via microphones connected to wireless headsets. Background music includes motivational remixes of music by the likes of Adele and Rihanna.

A 10-minute cool-down completes the hour-long class, which involves all major muscle groups and helps burn fat. With a responsive WhatsApp group, the class is sociable and a great way to make new friends. Bring a towel and bottle of water.

• Pre-booking is essential; for more information, call or WhatsApp 052 834 9936 or 056 548 4397.


There are a variety of free yoga sessions popping up across the UAE. One of our favourites is the Wednesday night hatha class at Umm Suqeim Park, next to Dubai’s Kite Beach. Targeting all fitness levels, each posture can be completed to varying degrees of difficulty, with standing poses, hip openers and backbends all part of the mix. Running from 7.30pm to 9pm, the classes are held on the grass to the left of the main entrance opposite the beach.

Instructor Natalia Fata takes participants through a relaxing and rewarding 90 minutes. “Everyone comes with baggage and stress,” she says. “Within 20 to 25 minutes, we’re all moving together, and by the end, we have found peace and comfort. Anyone can come no matter what their age, religion, gender or background.”

About 60 to 80 students attend each week. Bring a mat, water and warm jumper for the cool down.

• For more information, call Natalia Fata on 055 860 0677 or visit


For something different, try one of the weekly parkour “jams” in Abu Dhabi. A training discipline that uses movement to get from one point to the other, parkour includes running, climbing, swinging and vaulting, and is usually practised in urban spaces. Often featured in movies, it has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Today, anyone from complete beginners to seasoned pros can participate in the two-hour sessions every Friday in the capital. The location changes each week, so check the Meetup group ( for details. Attracting between 10 and 30 participants, the jams include a light warm-up before instructors teach new techniques. These might include how to climb a wall, how to do flips and how to land safely from a jump without hurting your knees or back. "It's a great atmosphere," organiser Iyad Al Mrouj says. "We'll have some guys doing simple stuff over and over, and then one guy doing a really hard movement. The jams are spread over a wide area and sometimes large crowds gather to watch."

• Jams start from 3pm. For more information, call Iyad Al Mrouj on 056 127 7818 or visit

Nike+ Run Club

Run your fastest kilometre at Nike Running Club’s Tuesday speed sessions. Held at 8pm at Gate 1 of Zabeel Park, Dubai, the classes feature 400-metre interval training with Nike coaches and pacers. Those looking to build their fitness from scratch, may prefer the Friday “Ready Set Go” sessions at Burj Park in Downtown Dubai. Coaches check stride and gear, and set up beginners for a lifetime of running.

A third “Just Do It” class on Sundays is ideal for long-distance runners. Starting from Dubai Marina Mall promenade, the group sets off at a slower pace and covers up to 9km in each session. Finally, for ladies only, Monday’s 8pm class sets off on a 3km to 4km route from Sunset Beach.

“We have a session for everyone,” says Rafael Roots, an NRC coach. “Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate or advanced runner, we cater to all fitness levels. Many people, beginners included, have gone on to become triathletes or marathon runners.”

• To reserve a space, visit

Trekking training

Anyone wanting to target their quads and glutes should consider trekking training at Yas Marina Circuit. Held from 7pm to 8pm every Tuesday night, sessions are designed to help mountain climbers scale peaks more efficiently. They also offer an excellent overall workout, and whether you’re planning to conquer the next giant summit or not, you can dramatically increase your fitness level, strength and even hand-to-eye coordination with this great cardio workout.

Run by Amy Subaey, director of UAE Trekkers, sessions involve climbing up and down sets of stairs in a variety of styles including running, skipping and hopping. Students might also walk down stairs backwards or bear-crawl up and down.

“We often take in five flights of stairs, but if you’re a beginner you just do whatever you can,” Subaey says. “In between sets, we do planks and other body-weight exercises. There’s a great vibe at Yas Marina Circuit. It’s very sociable and a fun place to be.”

There are usually eight to 10 people at each class.

• For more information, call 055 886 2327 or email