Guest Blog: Dropping (weights) in Dubai – Crossfit Lifespark

Once again, the amazing people at my gym are sharing their crossfit travelling experiences with us. This time, Panos visited Crossfit Lifespark ( Dubai (yup, Dubai!!! – where I have never been, but which sounds AMAZING!!).  Here’s his story…

photo I offered Rae to jot down some thoughts from my recent visit to a CrossFit box in Dubai, so here we go!

Business, and my twin godkids, brought me to Dubai for a week. Having read a number of CoveredInChalk blog posts, from fellow CrossFitGVA members, I decided to follow their example and drop in at a local box. Not exercising for 6 days in a row would have been bad for my conscience.

Fortunately Dubai has a significant British/American expat community so there are 5-6 boxes in the city (according to at least). I discovered that a couple of them had shut down. And that there were another couple opening up and not appearing in the affiliate list.

I also discovered (later) that the Dubai Arab population is getting obsessed with CrossFit and that there’s a bit of CrossFit fever going on.

With 5 boxes to choose from, it becomes a bit of a tough choice where to go. As I had a rental car I could literally drive to any of them. After screening all their websites and looking at the coaches/programming, I decided to play safe and visit the “Reebok Crossfit Lifespark” box. I felt that being sponsored by Reebok, the box would be a serious one, plus their past programming looked ok.

I e-mailed them and got a quick response to proceed and register in their online system. Which was pretty easy and very complicated at the same time. Very easy to navigate but with a lot of documents to sign, acknowledge etc. Their class schedule was depicted in an excellent and easy manner (I think a bit better than ours). The system also e-mails you after you register for a class and it creates an automatic Outlook calendar invite. Impressive! Their platform also works well on i-pads and  every coach can check class attendance and confirm that the people did show-up.

I hit the box on a Tuesday afternoon, gunning for the 19:30 class. Went a bit early (19:00) to meet the coaches, do some mobility work and not be stressed for time. The box is located very close to Dubai Marina. It’s on the ground floor of an office tower and looks over a small canal. Pretty cute location overall.

The gym itsphoto 1_1elf is actually L-shaped and has 2 big spaces. They’ve decided to use each space as a classroom and they call them Box #1 and Box #2. Box#1 is used for normal classes while Box#2 is used for Fundamentals (12 sessions long), mobility classes and “female only” sessions. The big side of the L is where you enter and that’s Box#1 which is slightly bigger than ours. The smaller side of the L is Box#2 and that’s the same size as the one we have. Hopefully Rae can attach some of the pictures I took for you to see the layout.


From an equipment/design/space perspective, I was pretty impressed with all of the following:

  • Box #1 had a full blown pull-up rig across the whole space, extending up to the roof (~3.5 meters). Rogue design and very well spaced out, could accommodate 12-14 people hanging from it at the same time.
  • There were 2 climbing ropes available although the ceiling wasn’t that high
  • A full set of Rogue plates (in pounds) was at the end of Box #1. Next to plenty colour coded kettlebells (in kgs)
  • The box had at least 30 barbells, in weights of 20, 35 and 45 pounds
  • Box #2 was were all their jump-boxes were stacked, along with all their Reebok medicine balls, 5 rowing machines and a Rogue GHD (the “donkey” you’ll see in a picture)
  • Box #2 also had a rig across the back wall were 6-7 people could hang at the same time
  • There were shower rooms (2) plus water coolers in every corner
  • And 2 very lovely dogs sitting next to the office space at the corner of Box #2 (which belong to the owners and are always there as I discovered later on)

The box is being ran and owned by Candice Howe and her husband, Ben. Candice placed 2nd in the Asia regionals in 2013 and 2012 and she did make the games back in 2011. She was also the first person I bumped to when I entered the gym. Very friendly, she guided me around the box and told me where to find what. We had a chat about our origins, where we grew up and she made me feel @ home immediately.

Ben was the person coaching the 19:30 class. The schedule had a warm-up (knee-raised 10m sprints, bounds around the gym followed by hollow-rocks, all X3), a skill section (toes to bars and double-unders) and a WOD of 3 snatches (40kg), 6 push-ups and 9 knees-2-elbows. I found the warm-up quite good, the skill-section a bit rushed (plus I didn’t feel I learned much as I knew the skills already) and the WOD way too demanding on the hands. I literally ripped both even though I did have big, well developed calluses. This was a bit annoying and I ended up finishing the WOD bleeding (but I did finish…).

The class itself was full, with ~15 people, most of whom looked relatively new to crossfit with the exception of a couple of individuals. I didn’t have much time to interact with them as the 60 minutes went by really fast and you can’t really talk in the skill section when you’re alternating between toes to bars and 2-unders. I felt a bit rushed, going through warm-up, skill section and WOD without pause. It was like being in a 60’ WOD, the wall timer was always running. We did some good stretching at the end and then called it a night.

Took a shower (silently screaming with ripped hands), exchanged t-shirts (they now have a black CrossFit GVA shirt that will likely go on a wall), paid 20€s and left. I had met some good people (Candice/Ben), had burned way too many calories (which I don’t need to do as I’m trying to bulk for the winter)  but didn’t feel stronger or more skilled.

Two days later I was back there again. This time in the morning, after having spent 80’ driving in heavy rain (one of thirteen days of rain in Dubai, lucky me…). I was 20’ late for the class (09:20) and apologized to Greg, the coach. He was cool about it and walked me through the schedule. Strength skill this time with split-jerks which I felt good about vs Tuesday’s programme. The WOD was 3 power snatches, 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups, 9 box jumps as a 12-min AMRAP with 30secs break every 2 minutes (basically 5 rounds). I managed to complete 9 full cycles which apparently was the day’s best (so far) amongst 17 people).

Then I stayed for another 30’ to practice some more split-jerks, chat with Greg and called it a morning. Felt much better about the 2nd visit as I did learn more, there were less people in the class (8) and I really liked the interval AMRAP WOD. If you’re ever in Dubai do check out the place, both the space and the people running it are cool! I’ll be back 😉

photo 5_1 photo 5_2 photo 5 photo 4_2 photo 4_1 photo 4 photo 3_2 photo 3 photo 2_2 photo 2_1 photo 2 photo 1_2 photo 1_1 photo 1

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply