Strong is the New Skinny

Meet the women behind Intense Gym, as they share their philosophy on health, life, and workouts.


The sign ‘Strong is the New Skinny’ shines new and bright among the many ice cream shops and restaurants on a popular Degla side street. Underneath that neon sign is the new Intense gym: a ladies only gym built by women, for women who are looking for something more in their workouts.



The atmosphere at Intense is anything but. It has a cozy, home-like feeling that welcomes you as you walk in. It’s feminine but not girly, emphasizing that the beauty of women is found in their strength and not in their looks. A quiet outdoor seating area invites ladies to sit and read or chat over a coffee and snack. The trainers are welcoming and encouraging.


But once the workout starts, the intensity begins.


Intense is a dream made real for personal trainer and owner, Aya Wahied. Aya left her eight-hour-a-day desk job to become a fitness coach. At the time she was the only person in her family to be interested in fitness training. She met her husband while training, and even did a bit of training at their wedding. She is dedicated to her work and spends eight hours each day teaching, followed by four hours of personal training.


After a decade of working for various gyms in Cairo, Aya began to see a need for something different. A dream began to take shape as she worked with women. One woman in particular inspired Aya. Mai: a dedicated mom of two boys, was interested in training and improving her personal fitness. Aya says, “Mai was strong, the strongest one in my cross-training classes.” As a veiled woman, Mai could only work out in ladies gyms. Aya comments, “Many women can’t join a mixed gym, and there was no ladies only gym equipped with anything heavier than four-kilogram dumbbells and boring weight machines.” Mai kept asking Aya for a more intense workout plan and a place where she can do it. Eventually conversations led to Mai becoming Aya’s business partner in a quest to create a women’s gym that meets women’s needs. It took two months for them to settle on a name, but they kept coming back to the word “intense".

 Intense Gym can be found in Maadi Degla.


Intense caters to ladies who want more from a gym than just aerobics classes and weight machines. They are one of few places that offer cross-training classes. They offer a wide selection of fitness classes, as well as courses in nutrition and health. They also have fun classes such as belly dancing and salsa. Perhaps most importantly, they have a supervised kids’ area with games to keep the kids occupied while mom gets some time to concentrate on herself. They also offer pregnancy and post-pregnancy personal training, and classes for children. But it’s not just a place for working out. The juice bar offers drinks and healthy snacks to be enjoyed in the trendy outdoor seating area.


But ladies need not be afraid. Working out is not about becoming skinny, it is about being fit and having a healthy lifestyle. Aya is against the idea that working out gives you ‘manly muscles’. “To be beautiful you have to have muscle, but don’t be worried about building muscle mass,” says the slender Aya, doing a few pull-ups. Mai adds, “When I began to get physically stronger, I began to become stronger on the inside also, and I want women to feel that for themselves.”


Want to get strong but don’t know how to start? Intense places strong emphasis on knowing their clients personally and tailoring a fitness plan to meet their personal goals. Their philosophy is to start slow and to discuss between trainer and trainee to find what works for each individual. Mai encourages women not to be intimidated by the name Intense,anyone can do these exercises,but to see it as a challenge to have an intensity of focus on your goals and self-improvement.


Aya and her husband do some heavy lifting at their wedding.


As Intense Gym continues to grow, they want you to be a part of the experience. They are offering membership discounts to the first 70 members who join. Aya and Mai invite you to come look around and have a chat with them.


To our friends at Intense: Welcome to Maadi!


Amanda Wentzel is a health and fitness enthusiast and Art Director of Maadi Messenger.

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