Shyama Krishna Kumar on day one of the nine-week transformation challenge at 9Round Dubai. Photo: A.K Kallouche/Gulf News

I first walked into 9Round at 7am on a Tuesday morning. That it was too early for me to be out of bed was way beside the point; one look around the kick-boxing gym and I was ready to do about turn and flee to safety. For someone who has seen the inside of a gym only once or twice previously in her life, the setting of the austere but intimate-looking space could only evoke feelings of fear and panic.

Here’s some context: When I’m not at work — a nine-hour-long desk job that involves a lot of reading — you’ll either find me on a couch Netflixing the hours away, or at a bar with friends, doing what people generally do at a bar. The most physical activity I manage to fit into my day is when I force myself to take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.

So, in order to pull myself out of this funk and as a gift to my almost 30-year-old body that’s screaming for some exercise, I decided to sign up for 9Round’s nine-week transformation challenge (challenge being the operative word here). I almost gave up on my first try — I refused to return for three days because I couldn’t go through the pain again — but some cajoling from friends and family and I was back there and by the end of day two, I was already enjoying the sweat and pain.

But first, let’s talk a little bit about 9Round.


9Round boxing gym, a US-based enterprise, offers a kick-boxing-themed fitness programme that incorporates functional, interval, cardiovascular, and circuit training regimens. A workout at 9Round lasts exactly 30 minutes, and as the name suggests, involves nine stations, where you spend three minutes each, with a trainer helping you every step of the way. Between each three-minute high intensity exercise, you also do a 15-second short workout, to help cool down.


Stations 1 and 2: Strength training

You’ll use dumb bells, kettle bells, medicine balls, jump ropes and other equipment to build strength and stamina.

Stations 3-7: Kickboxing

The gloves come on and you’re ready to punch and kick your way through some hard-core stations. The focus is on building power, increasing coordination and timing, and developing shoulder conditioning and speed.

Stations 8 and 9: Core strengthening

These exercises involve tightening and strengthening all the muscles in one of the most common trouble spots, the core — think different kinds of crunches, planks and bridges.


Having rarely been to a gym, motivation to actually head to one comes very, very scarce. But after working out at 9Round for a week now (three days for the first week), I can safely say that I’m slowly beginning to look forward to it. Most of the credit goes to the workout itself: The fact that the exercises change every day keeps things interesting because you can’t anticipate what’s coming next.

Also, if I was at a regular gym, I imagine myself being quite lost as I search for the next best machine to work out at. Having my 30 minutes already mapped out for me, while a trainer watches closely at every step, makes me feel more confident and relaxed at the same time.

When I’m punching away at the bags, I like to imagine myself as Sylvester Stallone from Rocky. There’s something inherently cool about learning a sport and it makes the workout all the more exciting. And you instantly feel all the stress from the day draining away from you.

Goals I’m hoping to achieve by the end of nine weeks

1. Get into the habit of working out regularly and truly enjoy exercising.

2. According to doctors, nutritionists and the internet, the ideal weight for someone my height (5ft 2 inches) is around 50kg. I’m hoping to return to this weight or at least close to it after my nine weeks at 9Round. (I currently weigh 56kg)

3. And to take the focus away from weight loss alone, I look forward to gaining strength and building some muscle.

MEET THE TRAINER: Amin Elmoatassime

Out of the three trainers I’ve worked with so far at 9Round, Amin Elmoatassime was the very first, and the most patient, if I might add. Having moved to Dubai three years ago, Elmoatassime was first a salesman at Givenchy, while he worked as a personal trainer in his free time.

The 23-year-old began to show interest in sports when he turned nine and by the time he was 10, he was already taking part in taekwondo competitions. He then switched to full contact, and began training in kick-boxing, French boxing and Muay-Thai.

The taekwondo black belt joined 9Round when it opened six months ago and says helping people achieve their fitness goals brings him true joy. “The good thing about 9Round is that you can train any time you want and in a short span of 30 minutes burn up to 500 calories. In addition, you learn the techniques of kick-boxing,” he said.

The details

What: 9Round

Where: Indigo 6, Mazaya Building, Al Manara, Shaikh Zayed Road

Price: Package (minimum of three months) begin at Dh2,800