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Members attend a fitness session of @ The Park (ATP) group at Dubai Internet City Amphitheatre. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan | Gulf News

Dubai: How to stay healthy? Join free fitness classes.

That’s exactly what Portuguese expat Freddy Martins set out to do when he moved to Dubai. To make it easy for UAE residents to take the healthier route, he thought, why not provide free fitness classes?

Now, people attending the regular fitness sessions has grown in number.

Money not a problem to stay fit

For fitness enthusiasts, Martins believes in the ethos of accessibility. More importantly, he believes that money — or the type of training — should not be a hindrance for one to stay fit.

Martins, a former football player who once represented Portugal, started a free fitness concept called At The Park in Dubai.


Eight years out, the community has grown in number. Today, nearly 400 UAE residents train every week across a number locations in Dubai.

From small group to community

From being just a concept, At The Park (ATP) has snowballed into a massive community where residents enjoy free fitness classes every day – seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“Eight years ago, when my wife Tatiana and I came to the UAE, we started working out in parks. We went with our colleagues and trained together in different venues.”

- Freddy Martins, founder @ The Park fitness community in the UAE
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Freddy Martins, founder of @ The Park fitness community in the UAE.

“We have people attending our fitness sessions from different emirates including Ajman, Sharjah and of course Dubai,” Martins told Gulf News.

“Eight years ago, when my wife Tatiana and I came to the UAE, we started working out in parks. We went with our colleagues and trained together in different venues. As more people became curious about our workouts and started joining us, an idea struck me to start free fitness for a larger audience. The small group has turned into a big community.”

Training and locations

Fredy and his wife Tatiana have worked together to get permissions, thus helping the community to flourish.

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Tatiana Martinho, @ The Park co-founder: "We have HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes, cross-training, Zumba, Yoga, calisthenics, running, padel tennis and more. The list goes on as more coaches come to us with new types of workouts for our group."

“We have 17 coaches teaching free fitness in different locations. The Dubai Internet City is one of our very popular locales where people come to work-out.”

Other popular locales include The Science Park, Zabeel Park, Padel Art, Dusit Thani, Egyptian Club. Residential communities, too, have opened their arms to At The Park, including Town Square Dubai, Meydan and The Palm Jumeirah, where Fredy organises community runs.

Changing lives

Community members are grateful for their life-changing moves.

Filipina house-maid Gwen Gaje, for one, is grateful for the community. “I love fitness. I am very lucky to work for a family who believes in the importance of fitness, too. I heard about free yoga classes and I initially joined At The Park for this. Gradually, I got hooked to the community. Today, thanks to the love and support of the group I am proud to say that I am a Spartan racer.”

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Filipina house-maid Gwen Gaje, a member of the @ The Park fitness community.

From fat to fit

Indian expat Jay Ashar is over the moon after having shed 9 kg in one year. “Thanks to @The Park, I prioritised my fitness goals. From being overweight at 84 kg, I’m now down to 75 kg.”

In the last 12 months, Ashar completed three triathlons, two full marathons (42.2 kms) each, one half marathon, and secured two age group podium finishes in 5-km races.

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Indian expat Jay Ashar credits @ The Park for helping him reduce his weight from 84 kg to 75 kg.

“I could achiev From being overweight at 84 kg, I’m now down to 75 kg.e all this, thanks to the various fitness sessions I have been attending at At The Park. In this community everyone welcomes you with open arms to help one achieve their fitness goals.”

‘Me’ time

Moldovan expat Valentina Gargalic said: “ATP was a life-changing find for me. When my children grew older, I found myself having more time for myself and shortlisted two things of interest — sports and socialising. ATP offers both. From a wide range of sports activities, like swimming, running, cycling, dancing, crossfit, calisthenics, etc. these sessions improved my social sense. I have made friends for life here.”

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Valentina Gargalic, member of @ The Park at Dubai Internet City Amphitheatre: “ATP was a life-changing find for me...I have made friends for life here.” 

What inspires her to keep going? The coaches’ dedication and engagement.

“They never skip classes just because it is free. They are so dedicated it touches my heart. I personally workout six days a work with ATP.”

Sudanese expat Sarah Ahmed Hassan Abdellatif joined ATP six months ago. Her fitness routine involved just hitting the gym thrice a week. “After joining ATP, my sports activities have flourished," said Abdellatif. who said she now works out six times a week.

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Sarah Ahmed Hassan Abdellatif works out six times a week with @ The Park fitness community at the Dubai Internet City Amphitheatre.

Support, encouragement

“Being part of this community has not only transformed my fitness journey but really pushed me to achieve things I never thought possible, she added. And for the first time, she completed 10 kilometres in three races in one month. "Thanks to the support and encouragement of ATP coaches and members. I am grateful every day for this incredible opportunity, friendships and personal growth I experienced with this community.”

Fredy said: “We are constantly looking at ways and means to provide a variety of fitness sessions. The aim is to involve as many UAE residents in fitness events and we are always working for that.”

‘Mega yoga’ event

On June 24, the community is organising a “mega yoga” event to celebrate International Day at the Dubai Police Officer’s Club.

“We have over 380 people registered so far and the number is rising. Anyone can take part — and it is free,” said Abdellatif.