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FitnessInside Abu Dhabi’s new boxing studio PUNCH

PUNCH is an innovative new boutique boxing studio in Sheikh Zayed Sport City’s tennis stadium – the only one of it's kind in Abu Dhabi.
Ann Marie McQueenJanuary 7, 20198 min
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PUNCH boxing Abu Dhabi

For many of us the two worst words in a fitness class come right at the beginning, when the instructor says “pair up!” We all know it’s good to meet new people and work out in a group setting – that’s why we are there, after all.  But this phrase is enough to send even the most extroverted exerciser back to the terrors of being the unchosen one in grade school, never mind a newbie. That won’t happen at PUNCH, the innovative new boutique boxing studio in Sheikh Zayed Sport City’s tennis stadium.

PUNCH offers what no one else in the capital does: boxing classes based on a heavy bag, rather than sparring with another human.

A killer workout

There are punching-only and HIIT versions to their classes, with the latter mixing timed boxing rounds and weighted and bodyweight-based exercises. And in the trend toward shorter workouts, all classes are just 45 minutes. It’s not cheap – Dh100 per class, with five-, 10- and 20-class packages available – but the cost is in line with other gyms of its size and speciality in the city.

You don’t have to cart anything but yourself to class, as PUNCH provides handy wrist wraps and the boxing gloves too.

The class I tried would be accessible for everyone from advanced boxers to beginners. The participants were left winded and sweaty, while during the class the instructors helped each person focus on form and function and made it easy to follow along with the routines. It’s dark inside the modern studio, too, and the music is loud. The bags are big enough that you almost feel hidden, so you never have to feel self-conscious if that’s your tendency.

So in addition to being a killer workout, each 45-minute class provides an opportunity to pummel whatever might be bothering you right out into that bag. Boxing is therapy, truly.

There is one catch, and it’s pretty obvious: you have to like boxing. I tried the class out with a friend who is a yoga and CrossFit enthusiast, and while she agreed it was a good workout, her verdict was “not for me.”

Bags that can take a punch

PUNCH’s heavy bags – imported from the US  – are state-of-the-art. Filled with water, encased in sturdy latex, and teardrop shaped, there won’t be any of the sagging that happens over time to the traditional variety. They seem to have beat Dubai with the bags, coming ahead of UnderdogBox’n studio, which due to open in Dubai Media City in the early part of the year. 

The owners of PUNCH are a trio of young boxing enthusiasts who spotted a gap in the capital’s fitness scene and moved fast. They are Bashar Al Eid and Jawdat ­Bilbeisi, buddies from Jordan, along with Emirati instructor Lama Helweh.

PUNCH co-owner and instructor Lama Helweh

They promise an intense workout in a fun atmosphere, one that can burn up to 1,000 calories in a session and yield big results in just 3 classes a week.

Helweh, who is also an instructor, says she used to worry a bit before sparring-type classes that were mostly men. “I thought: ‘I hope there is someone my size so I don’t injure myself.’”

That’s why at PUNCH newbies don’t need to worry that they’ll be paired with a pummeling expert or someone dramatically different in size. And on the flip side, intermediate and advanced boxers won’t experience the frustration of a partner unable to absorb their fist velocity. You are free to box at your own level, feeling like a champion no matter how you look.

And you never have to hear the words “pair up” again if you don’t want to.

  • The details: PUNCH is located at the Sheikh Zayed Sport City Tennis Stadium. Wraps and gloves are provided with the price of the workout. There are two to three classes per day; the gym is closed on Friday. There are showers at the stadium and healthy snacks from nearby Costa or Simple Cafe. There is a two-for-one offer on introductory classes, which cost Dh100. There are five-, 10- and 20-class packages available. Class schedules, booking and payment are done entirely online.

Featured photo: PUNCH

Ann Marie McQueen

Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.

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