When done correctly, CrossFit can be a powerful workout, one that combines strength training with mobility and cardio.
“It involves gymnastics, Olympic lifting, speed, endurance, agility, recovery, nutrition, patience, and so much more,” says Megan Mileham, a UAE CrossFit coach. “I love how you’re encouraged to work on your weaknesses,” adds Mileham. “It requires you to be an all-around athlete, to embrace not being great at something and try to face it.”
There are so many sub-communities that have cropped up around the sport, too, says Emirati CrossFit athlete Amnah Al Bahar.
“I think the scene in the UAE is at its peak,” she says. “Everyone is so passionate about CrossFit and a lot of people I know have used it as a stepping stone to other fitness.”
If you’re teasing with the idea of trying CrossFit or already know the sport but just don’t know where to go, read on.
CrossFit tips for beginners
Don’t be afraid to jump in, stress the pros.
“CrossFit in the UAE is inspiring because it feels like it can be for everyone at every level of fitness,” says Mileham. “There are thousands of people changing their life by changing their lifestyle here in the UAE — young, old, fit, unfit, male, female. The CrossFit community is supportive and welcoming.”
It’s a sentiment Al Bahar echoes.
“Just start,” she says. “It goes for any fitness, not just CrossFit. A lot of people think there’s a prerequisite to joining CrossFit, but there really isn’t. The only requirement is courage. Be courageous enough to step into a beginner’s class.”
Once you’ve found the right gym and community for you, be open to learning.
“Focus on the quality of movements way before the weight of the barbell,” advises Mileham. Get ready to feel humbled as you tackle the new skills, she adds. “Enjoy all the little milestones along the way. It’s a long process that never has a destination, but the journey is really beautiful.”
Don’t try to do too much too soon, suggests James Wright, gym manager at CrossFit Alioth.
“It can be easy to be sucked into all the many things we cover in CrossFit. Just try not to do it all at once,” he recommends.
Also, don’t be intimidated by the new knowledge and moves. “Things can be modified to allow even the newest athlete to train with the most experienced.”
After training, get ready for results, says Al Bahar.
“I love CrossFit because the promise it made to me years ago: The harder you work, the further you go.”
You can find a rundown of CrossFit gyms in the UAE at CrossFit.com. Here are some of our favorites.
Vogue Fitness, Yas Abu Dhabi
If you want a gym that makes champions, this Abu Dhabi venue is the spot for you. In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, Vogue Fitness ranked as the number one fitness team in the Middle East and Africa, with their CrossFit athletes ranking internationally. There’s also plenty to keep you entertained; classes range from standard CrossFit to Olympic lifting to intense cardio-focused sessions. And if you can’t make it out to Yas, the Vogue brand has expanded across the city.
“I love this place as they’re very focused on progressing your technique and making sure you take a record of what you lift,” says Josefine Wallstromer, account and community manager at ClassPass, a gym aggregator app.
The Friday Warrior WOD at 9am is particularly popular — especially, Wallstromer adds, “just to feel blasted and start your weekend in the best way!”
Fly High Fitness, Dubai
Brand new and absolutely massive, this Dubai gym wins any battle when it comes to size alone. With over 70,000 square feet, there’s plenty of room for CrossFit, gymnastics, martial arts, olympic weightlifting, aerial yoga and more.
“The CrossFit space is super, with the best equipment and loads of corners for different steps to progress to, such as the strongman area,” says Wallstromer.
Crossfit Goldbox, Dubai
The community atmosphere is what draws people to Dubai’s two Goldbox gyms (Al Quoz and Business Bay).
“There’s this great all-around atmosphere that makes you feel very welcomed,” says Wallstromer.
Athletes linger for the solid coaches and incredible interiors, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the open-plan gym with natural light. Classes include CrossFit workouts and routines focused on endurance, strength, gymnastics, and Olympic weightlifting.
Crossfit Alioth, Dubai
CrossFit is the pure focus of this Dubai gym. Members start with a fundamental course that involves learning all the key moves, then progress onto more advanced training. These include gymnastics, endurance and weightlifting sessions. Crossfit Alioth also has a free taster trial class, and dedicated classes for women only.
Arena Fitness — Crossfit Abu Dhabi
Founded by Hisham Awad, an Abu Dhabi born-and-raised athlete, this CrossFit gym tries to draw all levels of athletes. Novices have ‘CrossFit lite’, a version of CrossFit that aims to instruct in the basic moves of CrossFit; and ‘on ramp’, a class to prepare complete beginners for all that crossfit has in store. More advanced athletes can brave traditional CrossFit, endurance routines, mobility and personal training. All this happens in the exposed-brick, urban-inspired interiors of this trendy CrossFit ‘box’.
Much-loved by those in the know, this 5,000-sq-ft CrossFit gym aims to provide a mix of fun, mental toughness and honesty to create solid results. Extreme athlete Marcus Smith — who ran a marathon a day during the month of the last Dubai Fitness Challenge — is the gym’s founder.
“Fitness means being physically and mentally able to live life to the fullest,” says the athlete. “People are often under the illusion that they have to work out for hours but they don’t,” he adds.
At InnerFight, there are all the standard Crossfit classes you’d expect, plus special ones for children and obstacle courses.
Dubai CrossFit Championship
The Dubai CrossFit Championship will be held towards the end of 2019. This four-day official CrossFit event brings together competitors from around the world.
For athletes, this is an exciting time to get involved at quite a high level.
“In 2018, six UAE residents qualified for the Dubai Crossfit Championship,” says Diego R Centeno, senior advisor, Dubai CrossFit Championship.
For non-athletes, there are opportunities to get involved as supporting staff and as spectators. A documentary filmed during the 2018 event, Fittest in Dubai, will be released later this summer.
Featured photo GoldBox Fitness.
Danae Mercer is a freelance health and travel journalist. In addition to working as editor-in-chief of Women's Health Middle East and Men's Health Middle East, Danae has written for The Sunday Times, CNN Travel, Dubai Tourism, The Guardian, Afar, Bloomberg and many more. She's based in Dubai and is a trainer at Crank. instagram.com/danaemercer