The frog jump, the crab walk, the cobra pose: there's a reason why so many exercises are named after members of the animal kingdom. We can learn from all creatures great and small when it comes to keeping fit. There are no fancy machines and quick fixes in nature, only animal instinct.
This instinct is increasingly being moulded into exercise routines by trainers and gyms around the world. Follow any fitness fanatic on social media, or spend enough time in the gym, and it's likely you'll hear the phrase "beast mode" being thrown around – a term coined to push athletes to their absolute limits.
A new kind of beast-mode workout has arrived in the UAE. Fitness First gyms across the Emirates are offering Animal Flow classes, a trademarked workout created by American fitness instructor Mike Fitch. After years of trying different exercise methods, starting with weight-lifting and running before moving on to yoga, free-running and circus skills, Fitch realised that the one thing all these exercise methods had in common was their animalistic actions.
"I'm always the first one to say I didn't create animal movements," Fitch says, explaining the rationale behind the workout on fitness podcast Something RDX. "I simply figured out a way that we could use these basic animal components to figure out how to improve the function of the human animal."
The result is a programme combining ground-based and quadrupedal (using all four limbs to walk) movements with various forms of bodyweight training to create a challenging yet fun workout emphasising multiplanar, fluid movement. In what looks like a combination of martial arts and yoga, Animal Flow includes a range of exercises and movement combinations that are grouped into six components – wrist mobilisations, activations, form-specific stretches, travelling forms, switches and flow – each designed to elicit specific results.
"No matter what your sports or fitness goals are, Animal Flow will improve your mobility, strength, endurance and power," a spokesperson for Fitness First UAE says. "Whether you're an extreme athlete or simply looking to get fit, this class is for everyone who wants to get into their peak physical condition and have fun while doing it."
Animal Flow might be the newest bestial way of exercising in the UAE, but it’s definitely not the first. Here, we round-up four other ways in which you can take inspiration from the animal kingdom when it comes to meeting your fitness goals.
The natural world and yoga go hand in hand, and the influence of animals on the practice is evident at every level. Participants are encouraged to tune in to their bodies and their surroundings, and adopt a peaceful mindset as they gently stretch and tone different areas. Between the downward dog and various poses influenced by the cat, cow, camel, lion, stork and turtle, there are dozens of asanas encouraging you to mimic the movements of animals.
Some places even it a step further by incorporating actual animals into their classes.
Take, for example, the cat yoga class at a cat cafe in Brooklyn, and the goat yoga craze that swept across the US in 2017. The latter was a predictably short-lived fad , but in Dubai, pet yoga classes such as puppy yoga at K9 Dubai and yoga with the cats at Ailuromania Cafe – are held from time to time.
Swimming with a fishtail strapped to your legs is taking off around the world, albeit it usually involves a glittery, shimmering tail that gives you the look of a mermaid. Believe it or not, mermaid fitness is now a thing, and it's not as crazy as it sounds. Yes, you have to strap on a mermaid tail and swim around – but in terms of getting you fit, it's a great workout. Not only do you get all the usual benefits of swimming, but the mermaid motion, dolphin kick and monofin techniques are proper core-toners. Try the Aqua Mermaid fitness class at Yas Waterworld.
This is another human movement workout concept that takes its inspiration from the animal kingdom. However, unlike the fluid movements of Animal Flow, Zuu focuses on high-intensity strength movements that really get your heart rate up, and centres on strength and agility. From bear crawls and gorilla walks to frog squats and donkey kicks, this primal workout is designed to target every muscle in the body in ways that traditional workouts don't. Sign up for a class at MeFitPro on Al Jreena Street, Dubai.
Human beings might not have enough power in their legs to jump quite like a kangaroo does, but that's where the help of specially designed boots comes in. The shoes that kangaroo jumpers wear are designed to limit the impact on your joints, offering a gentler way to work out compared to traditional running and jumping.
Of course, the boots also make the motion of bouncing far more enjoyable, and also give you an insight into the heights a kangaroo can reach. The boots have now been built into high-energy exercise classes that are a lot of fun and can burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour, plus the exercise helps to reduce cellulite, promote tissue repair and improve digestion. Try a class at Kangoo Club in JLT and Mirdif, Dubai.