A new fitness destination has opened in Abu Dhabi, which is combining state-of-the-art gym technology with cutting-edge treatments, environmentally friendly products, and thought-provoking workshops to deliver the ultimate wellbeing experience.
The Bridge, which is situated near the capital’s National Aquarium in Al Qana, consists of seven different areas, which the location calls ‘tracks’. These tracks combine to make a holistic hub which aims to transform its members with treatments and classes that are backed by science. Humanizing Wellness is the tagline for this new outlet, and it does this in seven key areas:
MOVE: Work up a sweat at the gym and The Bridge’s wide range of fitness classes.
PAUSE: Give your body some TLC at its spa, or one if its unique classes.
TASTE: Dose up on vitamins at its 100 percent organic food and beverage outlets.
Choose: Shop at its concept store, which sells sustainable and environmentally friendly products.
SEEK: Unwind at The Bridge’s outdoor space and take a yoga class or meditate.
EXPAND: Exercise your brain at an art workshop or admire works by local talents.
LEARN: Attend a class or watch a documentary to boost your wellbeing knowledge.
The idea is that a membership at the Bridge isn’t just about shifting calories or working on your muscles. Combining these seven tracks will help you live a holistic life. For example, if you exercise, you need to recover. So, you’ve immediately intertwined three of the tracks — MOVE, PAUSE and TASTE.
One of The Bridge’s main USPs is that many of its services are backed by science and heavily researched before they are introduced to members. So, if it isn’t going to deliver results, you won’t see it on the list.
Al Qana is an up-and-coming part of Abu Dhabi, and the huge space owned by The Bridge is jaw-dropping. The building covers 8,000 square meters and includes an art gallery and a theatre, along with sustainable, natural wood and greenery, lots of open space and floor-to-ceiling windows, which bring light and warmth. The top floor also has a rooftop restaurant and a swimming pool, which is set to open later in the year.
The simple goal of the MOVE team is to help you reach your exercise goals. But the onus is on the coaches to do this with you — a bit like a PT. When you start at MOVE, you get to choose from one of their international coaches to help you on your fitness journey. The coach will do a full in-body assessment including mobility and posture — something that isn’t readily available in many gyms — and develop a personalized program.
But you won’t just be getting help from a coach. You’ll also be given a state-of-the-art wristband that can be synced to all the gym’s fitness machines; it’s been especially designed by Technogym in custom white, which complements the gym’s decor. When you’re on the rower, for example, its screen will automatically assess your technique and whether you are keeping to the program that’s been set for you, in terms of reps or speed or other measurables. Having that type of information in front of you almost eliminates the need for a personal trainer, and it also records your progress as you go.
There are eight workout spaces in total, all equipped with machines or free weights. These can be used for a variety of classes that work on function and muscle development == and all of these have been created by the coaches and backed by research and science.
You’ll also find a 200m indoor running track located at the perimeter of the gym, plus triathlon training machines and several indoor road cycling options. There are several extras available, one of which is Biocircuit from Technogym. It’s a set of machines that calculate all your measurements plus speed and force. Every time you use a piece of equipment on the circuit, it adjusts to your height automatically (so, no more wasting time trying to get that bike seat in the right position) and your weight preferences. But get this: there are no physical weights, it does it all through the machine.
“The main aim for us is culture, environment and community”, explains Charlie Kennedy, MOVE Manager, “We want people to feel comfortable coming into the gym, and it can be incredibly intimidating stepping into a facility this size. We want to offer a softer approach and give them creative classes, guidance, and support to get them out of their comfort zone and try new things”
People of determination are also catered for here — there’s special equipment and a coach who is trained to help.
The Bridge has three food and beverage outlets, and each uses 100 percent organic produce. Their philosophy is “from farm to table” and TASTE gets its produce from UAE farms, plus nearby countries, wherever possible. The key here is to take advantage of nutrients and vitamins, which can be lost if they are kept in a chiller for too long.
“TASTE for me is about being sustainable, and we deal with local organic farmers because we want to be organic, and we want to contribute to the movement of the UAE to keep everything local,” says Aristide Eka, head chef at TASTE, whose menu is already 70 percent plant-based.
“We want to give our guests a wholesome meal; that’s the foundation of TASTE,” he says. “We’re going back to the old way of cooking, and we’re offering something that a member’s mother might cook, such as braising and slow cooking.”
The TASTE team also works with nutritionists so that meals are balanced and backed by science and research, to ensure they are aligned with members’ health goals. And to keep everything as healthy as possible, their recipes have been modified so that instead of creams, they use nut milks or corn grits to achieve a similar texture. They also spend a lot of time fermenting ingredients, based on the philosophy that fermentation eats the sugar and the gluten, therefore making their dishes lighter.
TASTE’s menu is diverse, featuring daal and hummus, provincial stew and pasta. It’s been kept simple, meaning luxury items like lobster or caviar are nowhere to be seen. They make gluten-free items and there’s also a kids’ menu.
“The main thing is simplicity, with complexity at the same time,” chef Aristide adds. “It still needs to go with the nutritional, healthy and organic elements and of course, have TASTE. So, it looks simple, but there is a lot of work behind it.”
TASTE can also be combined with MOVE to add a nutrition plan to your fitness journey. The Bridge follows a functional nutrition approach, where they dig deep into the root causes of what causes a person to have health issues such as bloating or migraines.
“It’s much more than just basic nutrition,” says Sedra Jundi, nutritionist for TASTE. “We will sit with the client for a good 75 minutes to really know the full picture.”
Gathering information on medical and family history sometimes includes finding out how a person was born — was it by cesarean section or a natural delivery, for example. The nutritionist will then create a personalized plan, together with recipes and a grocery list, and they’ll check in on progress weekly and monthly.
The aim of PAUSE is to get you to slow down, balance your parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion response), and focus on inner healing, recovery and techniques that highlight your digestive system.
PAUSE’s main USP is The Bridge’s spa. It offers a variety of treatments that take you on a spiritual journey, including sound healing. Alongside traditional treatments such as massage, the spa boasts lots of other more technical treatments, including a CRYO unit to help banish muscle soreness. The spa also houses one of the only AIRPOD capsules in Abu Dhabi, which offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Get ready to feel rejuvenated, as it delivers a 35 percent increase in oxygen into your body tissue. One hour in the AIRPOD can equate to eight hours sleep for some.
You can also try out the infrared sauna, which offers waves and light therapy that goes deep inside your body, prompting you to sweat within.
“We are exposed to over 200 chemicals every day, from outside, perfumes, hand sanitizers and hand wash and these chemicals go inside your body, which is what causes diseases that we are unaware of,” explains Natalie Johannes, senior therapist at PAUSE. “If you’re not exercising to removes the toxins in your body, the infrared sauna can help to do that. It helps your body get rid of those toxins, sweat internally and at the same time, it helps with muscle recovery and nerve damage.”
And while the therapists are from different corners of the world, it’s all about connection for the PAUSE team. From massage to marma therapy, they use touch to balance your energy center and ensure that their healing intention is also felt by their clients.
“It’s simple but meaningful,” adds Johannes
Asha Sherwood owns Abu Dhabi Review, an online and social platform that gives you the scoop on everything happening in the capital.