In January’s – The Alignment Issue cover story, Raising the Bar, Founder of FitnGlam, Helena Hijazi shares how she embarked on a journey to transform the landscape of women’s fitness in the region.

Scroll through to read the interview below.

What inspired you to launch FitnGlam?

After moving to Dubai, I struggled to find a fitness space that catered exclusively to women, offering both privacy and a full range of equipment and services. The mixed gyms had small, under-equipped women-only areas. I envisioned a place where women could comfortably access all forms of fitness and wellness under one roof – cardio, weights, classes, and community – without the need to compromise. This was the inspiration behind FitnGlam.

The facility also has direct access to a CRYO clinic, providing members with a rounded holistic journey – tell us more.

We aim to offer as much value as possible to our members and our partnership with CRYO adds an exciting dimension to the FitnGlam experience. We want to provide a well-rounded approach to health and fitness and ensure our community has access to the latest and most effective wellness therapies. Cryotherapy has a lot of benefits, such as reducing muscle soreness, inflammation and accelerating recovery after workouts. I personally use CRYO and love the experience. It is now a key part of my wellness practises and perfectly complements my fitness routine.

You’ve created a place in the UAE where women could just be themselves – was this the plan from the outset?

Yes, absolutely – since day one, our focus with FitnGlam was to build a space where women could truly be themselves. We recognised the need for a fitness and wellness facility for women that catered to more than just the physical aspects of exercise. We wanted to create a space where women could feel entirely comfortable, both physically and emotionally, to embark on their fitness journeys. In many fitness settings, women can sometimes feel selfconscious or judged, which can be a significant barrier to achieving their goals. We wanted to break down those barriers and have an environment where women of all backgrounds, fitness levels, and ages could come together, support one another, and focus on their individual aspirations without any fear of judgment.

FitnGlam has handpicked personal trainers and nutrition coaches who work with clients on custom plans. Can you expand on this?

Our approach is personalised for each individual member. We start by simply having an open and honest conversation about your goals, expectations, fitness experience, and dietary needs. From there, our expert trainers and nutrition coaches collaborate to create tailored plans that align with your individual needs. These plans might incorporate strength training, cardio, or classes depending on your preferences, with a balanced dietary plan to complement your fitness and health journey. Our members’ success is our success, so we stay involved every step of the way to provide guidance, support, and motivation throughout the process and to ensure the results are long-term.

To refuel, guests can visit PROTEINHOUSE – how important was it to have a dining space that complements the wellness element?

We all know that fitness is not just about the exercises you do; it’s also about what you eat and the nutrition you provide your body. That is why we partnered with PROTEINHOUSE. It’s a place where members can grab a nutritious meal, snack, or smoothie pre- or post-workout, giving them the right fuel to make the most out of their fitness journey. We actually worked with PROTEINHOUSE to create a bespoke menu for FitnGlam centered around women – with preferred sizes, ingredients, and nutritional profiles that support a healthy, active female lifestyle. This means the food not only tastes great but also complements the specific nutritional needs of our members, whether they’re looking to build muscle, lose weight, or simply maintain a balanced diet.

The gym has everything from boxing, Barre, yoga to Pilates – what are some of the main classes offered?

We offer all sorts of classes for different interests and fitness levels. Our most popular classes are HIIT, Cycle, and Boxing for intense, calorie-burning sessions, yoga for flexibility and mindfulness, and Pilates for core strengthening and toning. We also offer specialised classes like dance-based workouts, and Barre for those who enjoy a mix of ballet, Pilates, and yoga. Our classes are boutique and specifically designed for women, so our members can always find something that resonates with their personal fitness journey.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

One of the most significant challenges we faced in the journey of establishing FitnGlam was entering the highly competitive fitness industry, particularly with like a huge risk, as many people warned us against excluding men from our clubs and cutting off half the potential customers. However, we wanted to stay true to our vision. We knew there was a specific need in the market for a fitness and wellness space dedicated solely to women. By focusing on this niche and building a club to suit the preferences of women from all walks of life, we not only stood out but also created a strong brand identity. This was ultimately our greatest strength, as it allowed us to build a community of over 8,000 women strong and an environment where women could feel comfortable, empowered, and supported on their fitness and wellness journeys.

Do you enjoy managing the commercial or creative side of the business?

My background is in the commercial side of business, but I would say that over time I have gravitated more towards the creative side. I felt this shift when we were developing the concept of FitnGlam, as I was trying to incorporate my own passion and vision into every aspect of the experience. I wanted to empower women through my own experiences with fitness and wellness but also through our shared experiences as women. This required a lot of creativity and reflection, and it has been really fulfilling to help shape the fitness experience at FitnGlam in this way. However, I also enjoy the commercial aspects of business and it is important to strike the right balance between both sides. So, I make sure to divide my focus and time on the commercial side to make sure we are running a sustainable business but also on the creative side to continue evolving and innovating the brand in ways that resonate with our community.

What piece of advice would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to trust the journey and not to fear taking risks. It’s important to believe in your vision, even if it seems overwhelming or unconventional at first. Also, I would say to never underestimate the power of hard work and even failure. There will always be challenges and setbacks in anything we do, but these are important learning opportunities. Embrace them, learn from them, and use them to become the best version of yourself.

This is The Alignment Issue – what activities help you align yourself in daily life?

For me, alignment comes from staying active and moving my body. I’ve found that this not only boosts my energy levels but also helps in maintaining focus and clarity in other areas of my life. I try to prioritise regular exercise, whether it’s a gym workout, a yoga session, or simply a walk outside. This is a key part of maintaining both my physical and mental health. Also, making time and spending time with my family. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of daily responsibilities, but for me spending time with my family provides a sense of grounding and connection that is so important for my overall alignment.

January’s – The Alignment Issue with FitnGlam  – Download Now

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