Sweat drips down my face, a thumping beat surges through my body and multi-colored strobe lights illuminate figures that are moving around me in the dark.
No, this isn’t an illegal desert rave. This is CRANK, Abu Dhabi’s trendiest new boutique studio.
Already a well-established institution in Dubai’s Al Serkal Avenue, the Abu Dhabi branch is located at the freshly revamped Sheikha Fatima Park in Khalidiyah.
Of course, the UAE isn’t short of fancy fitness centers, but CRANK is on another level of cool.
On first impressions, the attractive smoothie bar and racks of stylish fitness apparel make it look like a trendy fashion store or café. But, as soon as you start the workout, you realize that this isn’t a place for posers.
The RIDE cycling classes are fast-paced, exhilarating and definitely challenging. The lighting, special effects and sound system are out-of-this world incredible, and as I watch the stage become encased in a wall of light and a fan of glorious color covers the wall behind, it feels more like I’m here to watch a band or DJ than do a work out.
Aside from the brilliant mixes and shouts of encouragement from our instructor, Fabio, my main motivation for peddling faster than I ever thought possible is the scoreboard displayed up by the stage. There is no competitive or intimidating element to CRANK and it could not be more friendly, but that scoreboard, combined with my own determination to do my best, makes me dig deep and work extra hard.
Before too long I’m sweating so much my hands are slipping off the handlebars, and the fact that nobody can see my bright red face in the darkness is suddenly a total blessing. Indeed, even if you consider yourself fairly fit, you won’t be able to coast along at CRANK and you very definitely will not get bored.
There isn’t much chance to breathe between each ‘race’, and the tracks alternate between fast sprints, heavy climbs and ‘dances’ that invite you to make things even more challenging by alternating press ups over the handlebars with tapping back into the saddle.
Just as I’m wondering how much of the 45-minute session is left and how long I can keep up this intensity for, Fabio says the most comforting words imaginable: “not too much longer to go now guys.”
The last part involves resistance training and, presumably because I’ve nearly spent every last bit of my energy, I can’t believe how hard it is to shoulder press a tiny pair of dumbbells while cycling.
But, as mentioned, the experience is anything but daunting and even those new to fitness and indoor cycling will be made to feel totally welcome. If you leave a puddle around your bike or struggle to remove your shoes from the pedals because you’re so exhausted, that just means you did it properly.
The facilities are also flawless. Cycle shoe rental is included in the price, the changing rooms are hotel-standard lovely with fancy toiletries and soft towels, the staff are super helpful and attentive and everything is immaculately clean.
Every participant also gets a performance summary sent straight to their inbox. I was amazed to see that I’d burnt over 600 calories (although I was so tired and thirsty afterwards that I had no difficulty in believing I’d worked that hard), and now of course I’m determined to beat that next time.
CRANK has the fabulous ability to turn your cardio into a fun social event and it left me in a brilliant mood for the rest of the day.
I will absolutely be back again and, judging by how busy the classes are, it seems that the rest of the city is also hooked, too.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.