12 alternative workouts in Bahrain

Akido, ballet, paddle boarding and more ways to get fit outside a gym

With all the scientific studies reporting plenty of convincing facts and statistics about the link between health and consistent exercise, there should be nothing stopping you from raising that heart rate. Getting the big muscle pumping has proven to decrease risks of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and diabetes (to name a few), and it keeps us looking good and feeling happy.

Yet many of us find it hard to get ourselves to the gym on a regular basis for reasons like: ‘it’s too boring’, ‘I have no time’ or, quite simply, ‘I hate it’.

While some of us might be able to do something we hate for a short period, it’s not a sustainable habit in the long run (‘scuse the pun). That’s why it’s important to find an activity you enjoy, that’s fun, and which brings you together with like-minded people to keep you motivated. There are plenty of fun fitness classes to choose from in Bahrain and these are just a few of the quirkier, more interesting ones.

Aikido

Developed by Morihei Ueshiba back in the 1920s, Aikido is a Japanese martial art that was inspired by a combination of the founder’s martial studies, philosophy and religious beliefs. The Japanese word Aikido is made up of three characters (ai-ki-do) which are said to translate as ‘the way of unity with the fundamental force of the universe’ and is a ‘budo’, or martial way, that is meant to be a discipline to perfect your spirit. It’s not simple to describe but generally uses coordinated whole-body movement and balance, and training is usually done in pairs (attacker and victim), each student working to his or her own skill level. Increased stamina, flexibility and muscle development tend to occur naturally as a result of your training.

The first and only non-profit training facility for Aikido on the island is the Bahrain Aikido Academy, founded in 2004 by Sensei Soufiane Nidbelaid and is headquartered in the Somerset Residences in Juffair. They have other dojos (or bases) at Amwaj Islands, British School of Bahrain and the French School of Bahrain. Register as a member by getting in touch via email.
Bahrain Aikido Academy, Somerset Residences, Juffair, aikido.bh@hotmail.com, www.aikidobahrain.com (3777 4006).

Ballet

Ballet is not just for kids! You can actually pick it up at any age and fulfil that life-long dream to be a beautiful ballerina. For older beginners there is a steep learning curve but it’s definitely worth your patience as, while this form of exercise is more subtle and feminine than other programmes, the fitness and body sculpting results are second-to-none. In comparison to yoga or Pilates, you’re constantly moving and stretching so therefore you end up with leaner, longer and stronger muscles. Your posture drastically improves, as does your gait (walk), you increase your cardio endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility, speed… The list goes on.
If ballet appeals to you, then we suggest checking out Ballare Studio in Bahrain where they offer a range of classes to adults in the morning and evenings for BD5 per class. You can also get package deals for BD45 (ten classes), BD85 (20 classes) and BD125 (30 classes). The studio also offers a range of other dance and fitness classes to adults including jazz, tap, break dance, Yogalates, tribal fusion belly dance, Bollywood fusion, and plenty more.
Ballare Studio, Palace Garden 1, Saar, info@ballarestudio.com, www.ballarestudio.com (1730 0021).

Capoeira

It is said that capoeira originated in Brazil as far back as the 1600s and that African slaves played an important role in its creation. It’s a Brazilian martial art form that combines fight, dance, movement and rhythm, using complex moves that can be performed, played as a game or used in self defense situations. Anyone can get started, no matter their fitness levels, and you’ll find it working on many different muscle groups to build strength, awareness, speed, agility, flexibility, balance, coordination, concentration and rhythm.

Instructor Luciano da Silva has been teaching capoeira here in Bahrain since 2009 and holds classes for kids and adults at St Christopher’s Junior School in Saar on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays from 7pm to 8.30pm for adults, and Mondays and Wednesdays, 4pm to 5pm for children three to seven, and again from 5pm to 6pm for ages seven to 13. It’s BD45 per month for children and BD60 per month for adults.
Visit ‘Capoeira Bahrain’ on Facebook, lucianobisc8@gmail.com (3885 9308).

Dance Sanity
Insanity meets Zumba in this high energy workout that’s done to motivating music. It combines plenty of unique moves so you can dance away your troubles, based on the principles that this class is fun and easy to do and allows you to achieve long-term health benefits. The instructors call it a ‘feel happy’ workout that’s great for the mind, body and soul. In Bahrain, head to Oxygen Gym in BarBar where May leads the class for BD5 per session.
Oxygen Gym, BarBar, mayoosh87_1@hotmail.com (3363 6030).

HIIT
The principles of HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training can be applied to any workout and it aids extreme fat burning, making it incredibly popular for those of you seeking fast weight loss. Basically, it involves short bursts of intense activity followed by a short period of rest, and it works for almost all levels of fitness. You can apply the concept to all sorts of other fitness techniques from running to swimming, kettlebells to TRX but for dedicated HIIT sessions, go to Studio RCT in Sanabis where they generally work on a 60-second work period in stations created by trainer Roberta Trzebinski (these change each month) in order to use as much as your muscle’s sugar stores as possible. She also incorporates occasional Tabata workouts and finishes off with some stretching based on yoga and Pilates movements. Classes are one hour at BD7 per hour or BD5 if you pay for four to eight classes.
Studio RCT, Orchid’s Dream No. 1, Sanabis, www.pilatesbahrain.com (3944 5816).

Kangoo Jumps

Now this type of exercise is great fun and perfect if you have any issues with your leg joints. Kangoo Jumps requires the use of ‘rebound shoes’ with a patented Impact Protection System, which were invented by a Canadian engineer with an aggressive knee injury. Looking for an alternative way to get fit again, he found the boots absorb up to 80 percent of the shock on the joint and so he was able to exercise. Now, the boots are considered to be the world’s lowest impact shoe, allowing people of all skill levels to exercise and reap the benefits.

Bahrain-based Dana Harris is a qualified personal trainer and pioneered the idea of Kangoo Jumps on the island a few years ago. Nowadays, she’s teaching classes over at Barbar’s Oxygen Gym on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 11am for BD7.5 per session, BD55 per month (eight sessions with boots) or BD40 per month (eight sessions, using your own boots).
Oxygen Gym, BarBar, dmb_dam@hotmail.com (3683 8638).

Kettlebells

If anything has become a fitness trend lately, it’s kettlebells. Simple but effective, the kettlebell is a cast-iron weight used in exercises and movements that combine cardio, strength and flexibility training, and help improve general mobility. While it’s a relatively new worldwide fad, the kettlebell or ‘girya’ is said to have been around since 1700s Russia and was originally used for measuring grains. Soon enough, the farmers that were using them realised their strength-boosting benefits and so the kettlebell as we know and love it today was born.

Actually, you can just buy some kettlebells, find some DVDs and get started at home, but just as with anything, it’s better to have a bit of guidance first, particularly if you have a weak core or issues with your shoulders. The best thing to do is find out if your local gym provides access to kettlebells (many do, including Vie Lifestyle Lab at Domain Bahrain or the Royal Country Club at Royal Golf Club, for example) and then consult with the facility’s personal trainer on what exercises are best for you to try. You’ll also find various independent personal trainers around the island with kettlebell training certifications. Just make sure they’re legit before you start taking advice.

Muay Thai

Thai boxing might be grueling but it can be so much fun, and seriously satisfying, once you master it. The ‘art of eight limbs’, as the professionals call it, is a highly physical sport that combines the use of your fists, elbows, feet, knees and shins, kicking and punching your way to a better body. You’ll boost cardio, improve muscular endurance, increase coordination and nail self discipline, all in one class.

On the island, Bahrain Muay Thai offers classes for men, women and children at any skill level throughout the week from 4pm to 9.30pm, from BD25 per month.
Salmaniya, opposite the water garden (3436 1565).

Nia
Combining 52 basic movements and techniques such as various dance styles, Tai Chi, Aikido and yoga, Nia barely even feels like a work out. But it is. In fact, it’s a very effective work-out; a non-impact physical conditioning programme that was founded in San Francisco, USA back in 1983. It’s like strength training, aerobics and bodymind techniques all rolled into one enjoyable, efficient and addictive hour-long class that’s set to a backdrop of funky music.

In Bahrain, Nia instructor Iman Fouad teaches at the Royal Golf Club for BD4 (members), BD5 (Riffa Views residents) or BD6 (non-members) per class.
Royal Golf Club, Riffa (1775 0777 ext. 306).

Stand Up Paddling

SUP, or Stand Up Paddling, originated in Hawaii as a form of surfing but has become super popular across the world as an effective and enjoyable cardio and core workout that can be done by anyone at any age and any skill level, and is particularly suitable for us island dwellers. What you’ll need is the equipment, which includes the board and a paddle, then have a go at regular SUP or even try SUP yoga – it’s pretty tricky at first but once you get the hang of it chances are you’ll never look back. You can get together with Bahrain’s group of paddlers who gather at Amwaj Islands and call themselves the Bahrain Stand Up Paddling Association and offer demos and trial clinics, as well as equipment so you don’t have to invest until you know it’s love.
Call 3445 9457, email info@dukite.com or visit ‘Stand Up Paddling Bahrain’ on Facebook.

Tribal Fitness
This might not be a new concept in Bahrain, as Tribal Fitness, which mainly focuses on natural movement, has been around since 2009, but founder Craig Heslop and his team did open their first facility last summer and launched a bunch of new, fun programmes since then. This includes their Junior Desert Survival Programme, which allows kids aged six to 15 (separated in two age groups) to explore and connect with nature while gaining practical survival skills. Also check out their Bedouin Businessman package which is basically desert survival training for small corporate teams where you’ll experience fire lighting, shelter building, rescue techniques and plenty of other skills that’s great for team building within the workplace. The ultimate aim of this programme is to strengthen your team so Craig, who leads it all, also personalises everything and follows up to ensure those positive changes are still in tact.
Tribal Fitness, Budaiya Highway, www.tribalfitness.com (3947 3710).

TRX

Another fitness buzz ‘word’ of the moment is TRX, also known as suspension training. The concept was first born in the Navy Seals and is now used by the US military and other hardcore athletes such as baseball teams, Olympic-level runners and cyclists, and even Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters. In a nutshell, you need to use a TRX Suspension Trainer, which is a training tool that allows you to use gravity and your body weight to do loads of different exercises. It develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability, turning you into a fitness machine in no time. You can get one yourself and set it up at home, or head out to Studio RCT in Sanabis where they do classes for groups of four, lasting around 55 minutes, at BD15 for drop-ins or BD10 in advance for four lessons.
Studio RCT, Orchid’s Dream No. 1, Sanabis, www.pilatesbahrain.com (3944 5816).

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