Dubai Fitness Challenge is Making Fitness Easy
Every November, the Dubai Fitness Challenge transforms the city into a hub of sports activities, featuring numerous free events. A local resident decided to give it a go.
I find myself in a location that's usually buzzing with 400,000 cars speeding across 14 lanes.
It's a place where standing is unthinkable, but for a few hours annually, this stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road, the heart of Dubai, becomes devoid of cars.
Today, I'm part of the Dubai Run for the first time, joining 226,000 locals and visitors who hit the streets, running where cars usually race at 75 mph (120 kph). Earlier in the month, this very road was transformed into a massive cycling track for the popular Dubai Ride, drawing in 35,000 cyclists.
These are just two of the thousands of events taking place across the city each November, a month that sees Dubai come alive with free fitness activities as part of the seventh annual 30x30 Dubai Fitness Challenge.
To transform Dubai into one of the most active cities in the world, to inspire people of all ages residents and holidaymakers to do 30 minutes of exercise a day for 30 days, and in doing so, improve their health, boost community and morale and explore what Dubai has to offer.
The emirate is transformed into an extensive fitness arena; trendy fitness studios and free events pop up all over town, while fitness apps, hotels, shops and everything in between run fitness-themed collaborations and offers.
As a Dubai resident of three years, Dubai 30x30 has always lured me in with its free classes and popular group events, but 2023 was bigger than ever, and with a wedding approaching, I made it my mission to see what this city truly offered.
After all, fitness studio memberships can seriously add up, and finding even 30 minutes a day in this vibrant city can be tricky – but, for now, this was a month of opportunity and excitement lay ahead.
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A city initiative
Dubai Fitness Challenge galvanises the city in a way not seen before and 10 million people have participated since its launch in 2017 rising rapidly each year.
Working together, the government and private organisations offer everything possible from free F45 and Pilates to pop-up spin classes at the city's coolest hotels and venues.
Because of this, morale and participation are high 2023’s attracting an impressive 2.4 million participants offering tourists the experience of a different side of Dubai.
“I love how you have the freedom to dip in and out and can make the most of the free sessions and setups on your own schedule,” says Olivia, a woman I meet enjoying Kite Beach Fitness Club’s padel courts a great chance to try a paid-for sport which in many places is free for the month.
“I’ve managed to get a few courses around the city; it’s such a great way to connect with friends, get active and explore the different neighbourhoods,” she says as we stand at the Dubai 30x30 hub a bustling microcosm for the initiative especially erected for the event.
There’s a high-octane vibe, and on a sunny Saturday, next to the sands and Arabian Sea, I enjoy a free Pilates class and see children dancing in Zumba sessions.
For these 30 days, there are free court rental slots – and 8,000 people took part in The Dubai Padel Cup across the month, including use of the free clinics and courts.
The same sentiment is shared at an F45 class, just one of the famous studios offering a handful of weekly free classes during 30x30.
Booking online in a few minutes, just a day before, I head to F45 in the Financial District and find a busy class of both members and newbies.
“I’ve just popped out from work as I wanted to try something new,” says fellow attendee Ali.
“I rarely find the time to work out in the week, so having this nearby where I can get away and get some headspace was a game-changer, and I’ve taken full advantage.”
We share this sentiment.
One morning, I venture to RTA Mushrif Park Cycle Centre set in the greens of parkland, where weekday sessions run from 7am to 8am, and 4pm to 8:30pm.
At weekends, there’s a laid-back, community-driven vibe. A typical city-dweller, I don’t have a bike, but I pick up a free ride for the session and head out to explore the park on a guided tour.
“I might come back at the weekend and bring the kids,” I overhear a woman divulging to a cycle buddy and rightly so, as this is perfect for family adventures among nature and wildlife.
Exploring the emirate
Dubai Fitness Challenge is a wonderful excuse to get out and see the city for free or relatively cheaply, with places usually commanding high prices or limited bookings now offering fitness events open to all.
At Aura Skypool, one of Dubai's hottest hangouts suspended 200 metres in the air, the crowd usually comprises very laid-back sunseekers.
But one morning the vibe changes when it opens for the Aura Skypool Triathlon.
For around £50 participants can (statically) row 3km, cycle 3km and swim 250 metres in the spectacular infinity pool finishing off by soaking up views onto Palm Jumeirah and the ocean.
This welcoming, inclusive, action-packed agenda reaches far beyond the city and into the corners of the emirate itself.
In the Hatta enclave Dubai's nature and adventure capital there's free stand-up paddle boarding and guided hikes.
Set 80 miles (130 km) inland and framed by the stunning Hajar Mountains, it often lies off tourists’ radar, but the all new Dubai Stand-Up Paddle brought 1,000 visitors to paddle across the Hatta Dam.
It books up quickly, and I’ve already set a reminder in my calendar to book for 2024.
Dubai Fitness Challenge is an initiative of epic proportions, sending a ripple of energy, spirit and community through the emirate
Attracting both tourists to the region and residents to take part for 30 minutes a day a time to dedicate themselves, explore new sports and activities and, perhaps, get out and see Dubai for all it can offer, beyond the beaches and city.
The spirit of this month is best summed up by the Dubai Run.
Being one of the hundreds of thousands of people running, jogging or walking 5 or 10 km, taking photographs, laughing with friends and pushing pushchairs I find myself amazed by the energy.
Sharing the experience with everyone from toddlers to serious runners
Flanked by the skyscrapers of the iconic Sheikh Zayed Road and looking back on what a truly unique offering Dubai Fitness Challenge is in today’s arguably less community driven and supportive world.
For now, it's back to the usual sporadic gym attendance and the presence of this community, coming together in health and month, is already missed. Until next year…
The opinions shared in the GymNation blog articles are solely those of the respective authors and may not represent the perspectives of GymNation or any member of the GymNation team.