Dina ElShurafa, founder of Reform Athletica expands on how she’s created the luxury boutique fitness studio and where she’s taking it next.

What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?

Emails, getting ready for work and coffee!

How did you know it was the right time to launch Reform Athletica – was there a pivotal moment that served as a catalyst?

It was early 2016 when we decided to take the plunge. The fitness scene was still very young and the options for class-based studios other than traditional gyms were few and far between. We recognised the gap in the market and wanted to share and bring to Dubai a high-end luxury fitness experience for those interested in their wellness catered for all ages and all fitness levels.

What lies at the core of Reform Athletica – what inspired the DNA?

The client – first and foremost. We are in the service industry and the client journey is at the heart of what we do. From the moment they enter, they need to feel valued, welcomed, seen and recognised. We want to empower our clients and take them on a journey that improves not just their physical fitness but their overall mental and holistic health.

The workout experience in the Jumeirah and ICD Brookfield Place studios is exceptional. How do you approach things differently?

Quality control and excellent trainers. Our instructors go through rigorous training but also undergo on-going assessments to ensure they are delivering the best workouts to our clients. We also solicit client feedback at all times at every point of the customer journey to ensure we are delivering our very best to our clients. Taking on that feedback is pivotal to ensuring clients are happy and satisfied with their experience at RA.

How has the brand evolved and scaled and what has the reaction been like?

As a homegrown brand, it is important to ensure our identity is always recognised. We have started off as a single studio to grow into a two-location business in Dubai with expansion plans looming in the horizon in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the wider Middle East. This could not have been possible without the support from our clients and their belief in our brand, our service and our training.

Reformer Pilates stands out as a core offering – tell us more about the various signature classes and its benefits to the body and overall, well-being.

Whilst the Reform Method is our ‘hero’ class using the Lagree Megaformer, many don’t know about (or are hesitant to try) our other classes. My personal favourite is the RA Strength class centred around the TRX. This class made me stronger and elevated my fitness to the next level! We also offer Microform, which is a hybrid HIIT class using the smaller Lagree machine, the Microform, combined with other disciplines like the TRX, weights and kettlebells. Lastly, we have a variety of yoga classes including deep stretch to complement a client’s fitness journey.

Can you define the inspiration behind the design of the studio and how does it appeal to the local culture and market?

When we designed our first space in Jumeirah 1, we wanted to create a homey welcoming place filled with art from both local and international artists. We wanted to elevate the customer experience in all respects and create a luxurious setting in and outside of the workout studio. When we embarked on the launch of ICDBP, we enlisted the help of our friends TR Studio Architects in London to create a really special place for our clients. We also recognised the importance of maintaining that standard and TR Studio has done a fantastic job giving Jumeirah 1 the make-over it needed to bring it in line with our brand and image. Then comes the art, without which, it wouldn’t be the Reform Athletica you know today!


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Sustainability is at the forefront for the brand – what practices within the studio have been implemented to drive this?

As a plastic free studio verified by Oceanic Global, sustainability is at the heart of what we try to do. When we opened our doors in 2018 and decided not to sell any plastic bottled beverages, including water, people thought we were mad! Fast forward, five years and the plastic-free movement in the UAE is thriving. There is a real recognition of the real harm that the use of one-time plastic poses on our environment and we wanted to create a space that doesn’t contribute to such harm. We do not sell anything packaged in plastic and when we launched our juice bar, RAfresh, we made sure we sourced biodegradable packaging in order to align with our environmental standards.

What has been the biggest challenge to date and how did you overcome it?

Juggling two careers has been a personal highlight! But – with the support of my fantastic team on the ground it has been made possible.

Tell us about your fitness journey – what does your fitness routine look like?

I started running 15 years ago and then stumbled upon Reform Pilates whilst on holiday and never looked back since. I try to mix it up, but it really does depend on my schedule with travel, but my non-negotiables are Reformer Pilates (1-2 times a week), strength training (2-3 times a week) and at least one, if not two, runs when I’m not training for a race. I also make sure I hit at least 10k steps a day.

What do you avoid in terms of lifestyle to ensure you have a balanced, healthy body?

I try to incorporate 10k steps a day, eight hours of sleep, healthy balanced meals, weightlifting/Pilates, two liters of water and getting out in the sun!

What’s next for Reform Athletica?

We are working hard behind the scenes to grow our RA family in my home country of Saudi Arabia, maybe another branch in the UAE and considering the wider Middle East.

This is The Body Issue – what are your non-negotiable self and body care practices?

Healthy body for a healthy mind so sleep, eat healthy food, and exercise.

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Images: Supplied