“A Day in the Life” allows you to step into the shoes of a UAE resident to experience a typical 24 hours in their work and home life
Martial arts fan Dr Dmitri Koutsoubakis had youthful visions of becoming a scientist but is now chief executive of the UAE’s emerging gym brand, Wellfit.
You are reading: Day in the Life: How Wellfit gym CEO aims to get the nation fitter
The Greek citizen spent his early years in Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, after his family fled military rule before unrest prompted a return to Athens.
Dr Dmitri, 56, served in the Greek military service between university degrees in the UK, before a doctorate and academic posts in London and American University in Dubai.
Jobs with Chinese computer giant Lenovo and Microsoft in the US and Dubai led to him co-founding FitRepublik in Sports City.
In 2020, he left and returned to Athens but became a visiting professor at Dubai’s Hult International Business School before property developers Arada recruited him to establish and grow Wellfit.
Here, the father-of-three shares his active work day with The National.
6am: Dawn disrupter
The boss’s alarm is permanently set at 6am in Jumeirah Village Circle, where he lives only five minutes from Circle Mall, the location of Wellfit’s first venue, which opened in November 2021.
“I don’t eat anything. I do morning ablutions, jump in the car and drive to work,” says Dr Dmitri.
“I’m spending most of my time at Wellfit Meydan now, where our office headquarters are going to be.”
7am: Feet first
Every morning, seven days a week, Dr Dmitri walks outdoors for one hour.
“I don’t care if it’s raining or shining, I do 6km in Meydan because we’ve got a beautiful little park, like a country club.”
Dr Dmitri says Arada is building new communities, of which healthy, fit lifestyles are integral.
“I fantasise about us growing. I’m looking for places in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m lucky to have an organisation behind me with an incredibly entrepreneurial and ethical mindset.”
8am: Martial law
During his free time, Dr Dmitri enjoys jiu-jitsu, CrossFit and weightlifting.
“Now, I will do some form of martial arts class,” he says.
“I rotate between different instructors, even between different clubs, because I make a point to have trained with every coach we hire, especially in martial arts, which are close to my heart.”
Wellfit has just passed the 250-employee mark. So far, there are 44 nationalities in the workforce, including three Greeks.
9am: Meeting of minds
Work begins with scheduled sessions with heads of marketing, sales, HR and operations.
“I get six different reports and a direct look at what they are working on,” he says. “Later on, my finance guy is going to tell me how we’re doing. Thursday is my profile and loss budgetary meeting.”
Dr Dmitri describes himself as “an academic guy” and a “gym rat”.
“I’m the numbers guy but at the same time, I live and breathe gyms. I’m a martial artist/gym aficionado. I know what one needs to smell and look like.
“Wellfit is not a job. I feel like the most blessed guy in the world because I live and breathe this stuff.”
10am: Praise or grumble
Between now and 2pm, general managers visit with their crew.
“If everything is nice and ‘green’, I high-five and send them on their way. If everything is not green, and they’re behind somewhere, I ask what the plan is.
“I recruited the ‘A team’, as I call them – the best people available in this part of the world.
“I need to be hands-on, to know if they are feeling happy or unhappy, and I like to allow people to make their mistakes. You can’t stifle creativity.”
Wellfit currently has five venues open, or about to open, including in Sharjah’s Nasma and Al Jada community.
Dr Dmitri calls the Meydan and JVC branches “monster gyms” because the 65,000 sq ft clubs include a children’s gym, as well as the activities offered, from Thai boxing and judo to powerlifting and boxing.
“My elevator pitch is we disaggregate the main Olympic sports, and we commercialise them.
“When people hear about fitness facilities, they’re often thinking about yoga, Pilates and Zumba, so we offer studio classes, as well as provide spaces for bodybuilders and cross-fitters doing functional training movements.
Dr Dmitri adds that whether you’re a coach potato looking to become fitter or a beach-body guy, semi-professional or enthusiastic amateur, Wellfit is an inclusive gym.
“I want to help people get fitter and feel better about themselves.”
Noon-1pm: Supply lines
The boss eats whenever there’s a “window of opportunity”.
“There’s no fixed lunch. I’m having something containing protein at random points; six protein shakes throughout the day, and I might have something like an omelette or steak.”
He’ll also find time to meet suppliers or discuss the next branch layout.
“Because we’re constantly growing, there’s a meeting with a real estate guy looking for new facilities or contractors and wondering what the next Wellfit is going to look like.”
2pm: Wander and wonder
Since Dr Dmitri is restless, he tries not to sit for more than 60 minutes.
“I’ll walk around the club and speak to people, particularly personal trainers or coaches.
“I’ll do that throughout the day. I need to be like a shark; if I stop swimming, I’m going to sink. Number crunching and data planning I reserve for weekends.”
Wellfit currently has 10,000 members across its venues.
“My youngest is two and a half years old, my oldest 74,” says Dr Dmitri.
“We sell individual memberships, dual memberships – not just for romantic couples, it’s you and your workout buddy – then family memberships.
“You see kids, adults, families, you see monsters [bodybuilders], and ordinary human beings … all doing their thing together.”
3pm-5pm: The sweat spot
Dr Dmitri uses this time to work on a slide presentation or the Wellfit road map for the next decade, ahead of a second daily workout.
“It’s important that staff at club level see me in the gym and for me to see them.
“I’m not incognito so I also want members to be able to walk up and say, ‘we like this’ or ‘we don’t like that’.
“We’re going to have up to 10 clubs in the UAE and I want to circulate.”
7.30pm-10.30pm: Strings in the tale
Home and dinner.
“Something super healthy picked up from Spinneys; chicken and salad of some sort,” says Dr Dmitri, whose evenings can feature reading or one episode of a Netflix drama.
“I’m a disciplined person,” he says. “I’ve been playing guitar for 30 years so I practice my scales with a metronome for one hour every day.
“Then, if I don’t hit the sack at 10.30pm, I’m not waking up at six.”