What we’re loving: vertical training, gearing up with Ko8 and more

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Stairs and strides

A heel injury from long ago has kept me from being a runner in the true sense. Sure, I can do the occasional one-kilometre run and could attempt an escape from invading aliens, but I prefer to keep more to the cycling, weight training and HIIT side of fitness. Yet when the chance to run stairs came along, it seemed like it might be a good fit for me. Daman ActiveLife has launched TrainZSC, a free vertical-training programme focused on running the stairs at the National Stadium in Zayed Sports City, and believe me, it's fun. The stadium's seating sections are mapped out so participants run up a set of stairs, across two sections in the concourse and then down another set of stairs, taking the whole course two sections at time. The steps themselves are rather low, which allowed me to bound up them quite easily on my toes, while still offering a decent cardio challenge. The middle third of the course is a short run past a few sections on the outside of the stadium, and then it is brought back inside for the last third, again on stairs, until a total of 884 steps have been covered. I completed two rounds in 15 minutes each and discovered my own "runner's high" through vertical training. At this time of year in Abu Dhabi, the summer heat is hanging in the air, which adds another challenging element, but proves that outdoor fitness in the summer is not impossible. There are warm-up and cool-down sections led by trainers from The Room, the track around the pitch is available for walking and running, and there is a children's play area. Daman also conducts health checks for participants. The initiative is set to run on the last Thursday of each month. The next TrainZSC is on Thursday, May 26, from 6pm to 9pm, National Stadium, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, register at www.trainzsc.com or at the door.

* Ellen Fortini

Gear up with Ko8

My personal trainer is always up to speed on the latest tech trends, whether it's a new phone, app or video going viral on social media. So when he arrived one day for our session armed with a string bag with a heap of cables in them, I was hardly surprised. It turns out, it was the KO8, a suspension trainer similar to the TRX but with options for resistance. The resistance bands are the equivalent of 6kg and 10kg and you can add multiple bands to increase the load. The workout options are endless, as are the variety of places where it can be done – inside or out – and with a little bit of creativity, you can work a lot of muscles in one exercise. Take one of our regular movements, for example – stationary lunges with a pull-back row to work leg, glutes, back and arm muscles. What I really like about the KO8 is that it has helped me do things I would have otherwise been restricted from doing because I'm recovering from knee reconstructive surgery. One of these is push-ups. On a TRX, you can use your body weight and vary your angle to perform push-ups vertically, however with the KO8, you can do it horizontally – and make yourself look super strong in the process. To do this, you select a resistance – more weight to make it easier, less weight to make it harder – then put your arms through the handles, a bit like wearing a backpack, and lower yourself into the push-up position. The resistance helps to support your body weight, enabling you to do proper push-ups (albeit supported). You can even add a clap and a bounce for a bit of cardio. My trainer and I aren't the only ones who are fans of the KO8. It's also used by elite athletes and professional sporting clubs such as Liverpool FC, the England cricket and rugby teams and the physios on the European Tour. KO8's parent company, Vitruvian Fitness, held two Functional Movement Certification courses in Dubai – in February and April – so expect to see more of this style of training in the coming months. Visit www.ko8.co.uk for more information.

* Amanda Tomlinson

Getting with the programme

I’ll never hear music in the same way again. In my journey towards becoming a Les Mills-certified instructor, I headed to Dubai for a three-day Gel (group exercise leader) course. The Gel course is a prerequisite for anyone looking to become a group-fitness instructor, whether they choose to freestyle their workout routine or go with choreographed Les Mills ones. There was some serious work that needed to be done. For the practical part, I was taught how to count music, keep with the beat and use visual and verbal cues to call out the steps of a routine. For the theory aspect, I learnt about the physiology of the body. At the end we had to perform our own routines as well as take an exam, putting our knowledge to use. Each class lasted about eight hours, and being around 19 or so other fitness-minded people from around the world was a great experience. Les Mills aims for “a fitter planet” and boasts of its “Tribe” family, which I’m quite excited to become a part of.

* Evelyn Lau

Pedal power

Like many office workers the world over, I'm tied to a desk for most of the week. As much as I'd love to get up and move around frequently, my workday activity consists of trips to the printer (about 10 steps away), visits to the bathroom (about 30 steps away) and, if I'm feeling brave, the short walk to the canteen (about 50 steps). As a result, I have a growing collection of contraptions at my desk to help me be a little less sedentary. This includes a Swiss ball (which I unfortunately didn't put enough air in and is a bit low for my desk), a balance disk (which I often stand on when proofing pages), a pile of books, boxes and newspapers (which I use to create a makeshift standing desk) and for the past two weeks, a DeskCycle. I walked past the little machine in Virgin Megastore about a month ago and added it to my collection. It is designed to be used while sitting at your desk and is silent, so it doesn't disturb others. The devices were previously a little difficult to get hold of in the UAE, but not anymore. I'll admit that when I'm busy, I often forget the DeskCycle is there and use it as a footrest, rather than a foot rotator. For the first few days, I found it strange trying to concentrate while pedalling, but it is becoming easier now. I don't mind if I'm not going fast, or don't have it set to the highest resistance; what matters is that my legs are moving. So far, very few people have noticed it under my desk and no one has commented on my legs moving up and down – in stark contrast to one of my colleagues who bounces up and down on her Swiss ball as she's typing. The DeskCycle costs Dh799 and is available from Virgin Megastore or online through www.deskcycle-me.com

* Amanda Tomlinson