March’s – ‘The Wellness Issue’ – Download Now
Dina Elshurafa tells us why Reform Athletica is so much more than just a boutique fitness studio.
Can you talk us through your career?
I am a Palestinian finance lawyer based in London who always had a passion for fitness. As my work necessitates being on the road a lot, I was fortunate enough to visit many studios all over the world to keep up my fitness regime. I grew up in Saudi Arabia and spent some time working in the UAE. Whenever I visited Dubai, I always felt that the fitness landscape lacked the high-quality offering that other world capitals had.
The adventure started with my pitch to an initial investor and then to one of London’s top trainers over a juice in London. From there, the idea of Reform was born and together we worked hard to bring it to life.
For three years, we went on a working holiday world-tour of classes in London, New York, Hong Kong and LA gathering useful experiences and taking the best of each studio in these cities to turn this concept into a reality in the Middle East hub of Dubai. We wanted to create a space in Dubai that is comparable in quality and standard to studios in the fitness capitals of the world.
What inspired you to move into the wellness space?
Having experienced real results from my regular fitness regime and attendance of classes similar to the Reform Method and TRX Athletica (the two signature classes at RA) at a top London studio, I became fascinated with the fitness industry and started exploring the possibility of creating a fitness space where clients could experience the same ‘high’ and results I experienced.
We are almost three years into our journey since launching Reform Athletica and what a journey it has been! We have built a real following from our clients who now share the same passion for our classes as I did before the idea of Reform Athletica came about. It’s rewarding to see that our clients are seeing the benefits and realising the results of their hard work that they have been putting into their fitness journey. We continue to promote our environmental commitment and sustainability promise by reducing the use of one-time plastic, so much so, that we were verified and received the badge of ‘Oceanic Champion” by Oceanic Global. We have added more signature classes to our schedule to compliment the initial offering we had and of course, we continue to grow our art collection which is all on display at the studio!
How has the brand evolved since opening?
The answer to this question can be summarised into three main changes we have witnessed in the fitness industry over the past couple of years. Firstly, the more conscious end-user, the growth of the ‘studio culture’ and the rise of digital fitness. The increased awareness and attention to fitness has turned a vast majority of people (of all ages and fitness levels) to exercise in a quest to take care of their health. Also, the emergence of the ‘studio culture’ or ‘pay as you use’ model means that people are no longer confined to the one ‘super gym and tied to monthly memberships that worked more for the gym-owner rather than the end-user.
What experience do you want your clients to have when visiting Reform Athletica?
We want them to feel at home, happy and pleased to be at the studio. This is why we were extremely focused on design and interiors when we set up the studio. Not only does the space need to offer the best quality training, but it needs to offer it in a setting that is both inviting, clean, high quality and homey. We are also very much focused on customer experience and client satisfaction.
What sets the studio apart from others in Dubai and this region?
I have to say that the studio market in Dubai is flourishing and there are some world-class offerings in Dubai and the region so well done to all our fellow studio owners! The recent flurry of studio openings has raised the bar in terms of quality, offering and general level of training in Dubai. Having said that, we do believe that at Reform Athletica we have a distinguishing edge and a unique selling point compared to our rivals. The first is the size of our being capped at 10 people at full capacity. The second is our plastic-free initiative, being the first studio in Dubai to do so we have successfully managed to create a trend evidenced by other studios following suit. The aim is for us to set a precedent and for these measures to be standardized in the fitness industry to reduce plastic consumption and improve the environmental footprint of gyms and studios worldwide.
Sustainability is a focus for the brand, how does this contribute to global wellness?
The purpose of Reform Athletica’s Sustainability initiative is to stimulate a provocative discussion about how personal wellness is inextricably linked to the social, economic and environmental wellness of our society. We want our clients to understand through adopting their own sustainability efforts, their individual wellbeing can be a source of wellness and is intimately linked to the environment in which they live and contribute to. It is impossible for an individual to be concerned with personal wellness without taking into consideration the wellness of society and the environment.
You’re so much more than just a Pilates studio, tell us about this?
I’m so glad you’ve asked this. Indeed, we are not just a Pilates studio. We offer six signature workouts – TRX Athletica and KettleForm, TRX Sculpt, Microform and the Reform Method and finally Yoga.
On the non-training side, we have our sustainability initiative where we try to host events that promote plastic-free living. We don’t sell or stock or use any single-use plastic at our studio. We have partnered up with Oceanic Global to be verified as an Ocean Champion and often run joint events with Azraq, a homegrown organisation focused on sustainability in the UAE.
We are also turning our attention to mental well-being and mental health by preparing to stock various items to help with our drive to focus on the importance of mental health, especially during the current times.
In short, we would like to be seen as a place to get fit, healthy, happy and enriched.
What have been the hurdles you have experienced in your career?
Having a double-career! I am still a practising ambitious lawyer and I love what I do. I also have a studio that needs to be looked after. Managing this isn’t without its challenges especially as I live in London and travel back and forth to Dubai. There are a lot of similarities in what I do between running a business and being a lawyer. Law, at the heart of it, is also a business that needs to be run just as much as the next business. Understanding the fundamentals of how to build and grow a business has certainly been an immense help in my law career and vice versa.
And what are the largest milestones?
Also having a double-career. I am proud that I am able to do and combine the things I love. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Confucius once said. It is 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year for me, no days off.
What are the future plans for Reform Athletica?
Together with my co-founders, setting up a one studio Reform Athletica in Dubai was never the dream. We wanted to give birth to our brand in Dubai, to set the scene, to build our following and establish the foundations for the future. Now that we have built this platform, we are ready to take the next step. We are already looking into our second and third locations and planting the seeds for expansion. However, with COVID-19 still being very much at the forefront of world events, we will have to tread carefully and choose our timing correctly. However, watch this space!
This is ‘The Wellness Issue’ – what is your philosophy when it comes to wellness?
I am a great believer in the importance of mental well-being as much as physical well-being which goes hand in hand. You cannot be a fit and healthy person if your mind and mental wellness are not in the right place.
March’s – ‘The Wellness Issue’ – Download Now
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