Spencer Davey: Starting Storm Fitness

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Spending time in the gym is an integral part of a professional rugby player’s routine and for many you either love it or hate it. Former Bath and Newcastle Falcons’ centre, Spencer Davey, was one of those who loved it.

Following his retirement from rugby in 2010 he went on to set-up Storm Fitness, an incredibly successful personal training business based in Newcastle, here he joins the RPA to talk about life after rugby and being your own boss.

Where did your interest in personal training come from?

To be honest when I was playing rugby I never knew what I wanted to do until I found personal training. Looking back I was always very interested in what the guys in the gym were teaching us and I was always asking all kinds of questions, which probably drove them mad. I picked up an injury during my second season at Newcastle and decided it was the right time to retire. During my time off I’d started doing some personal training and it was then that I realised it could be a potential career.

Is this where the idea for Storm Fitness came from?

As well as the personal training I was also running boot camps in the park, but to be honest this wasn’t really for me. I always wanted to focus on one-to-one training and give clients a tailored strength training programme. When I was injured I approached the club about the idea of using the gym to help supplement my income and the club were really supportive and things started to grow and it wasn’t long before Storm Fitness was born.

What is it that makes Storm Fitness to other personal training companies?

We focus on the process of change rather than specific things. For instance a lot of the work we do with individuals is based around their own vision for the future and we work backwards once we’ve developed what that vision is. Each of our trainers specialises in certain areas of health and fitness, for example we have a young athlete development specialist, I specialise in mobility and power for performance, we have someone who focuses on fat loss and another who focuses on physic preparation.

How successful has the business been?

It all depends on how you measure success. Personally I measure it in two ways; firstly as we are a business I look at turnover, which has increased 100% year-on-year since we opened. Secondly I look at the success of our athletes and what individuals achieve during their time with us and I think on this side we’ve been even more successful. I’d have to say we’re definitely going in the right direction and things are going well.

Was life after rugby something you thought about during your playing career?

Absolutely, as rugby players a lot of people tell you that retirement is all doom and gloom, but for me it’s been quite the opposite. I really enjoy my work and my lifestyle is more in my control, I know where I’m going to be for the next ten years and I know that I’ve got the weekend off. I think a lot of players are put off talking about retirement because they think they’ll earn less and have to work longer hours. One of those is definitely true, you will have to work longer hours, but not many jobs finish at 2pm, what some don’t realise is there are a lot positive things about retirement.

Would you say you were prepared for retirement?

As best as I could be. I worked my heart out in the gym and on the pitch, but I always had a very ‘manana’ attitude to life after rugby. If I’m honest I only started getting my head down about six months before I retired. It became clear I’d either have to drop down a division or get serious about launching my own business, which obviously provoked a change in my attitude. If I’d known what opportunities were available to me I think I would have started building my CV and preparing for retirement a lot sooner.

Part of Storm Fitness is running training camps abroad in Turkey, how did you set those up?

It’s a funny story to be fair. At the time I was the sole director of Storm Fitness and I was invited over to a 5-star Turkish resort by the hotelier, he invited me and my three other company directors, which I of course didn’t have. I must admit I didn’t take it very seriously at first but after a few days I had meeting in a very plush office with the hotel owner and he made it very clear that he wanted me to start bringing people there on training breaks. At first I said I couldn’t do it because the gym wasn’t up to scratch but he responded by saying whatever you need to do we’ll do it. So I began overseeing the refurbishment and designing the best possible gym I could. Since then we’ve ran 11 training camps and had football teams from Russia, Northern Ireland and France stay with us.

How important do you think it is for player’s to be thinking about life after rugby?

The key thing is when you are a rugby player, you’re a rugby player, and you need to give your profession the proper attention. I think you should always be thinking about the future otherwise when you’re career comes to an end you can’t expect to find the transition easy. My approach to every project is to imagine what I want to achieve by the end of it and work backwards and I’d say the same about approaching life after rugby.

What advice would you give to other players who are thinking about setting up their own business?

I would certainly say make sure you surround yourself with people who share the same values as you. The vast majority of people you work with as players are hardworking and honest and you don’t always get that with people outside of the rugby environment. Some people I’ve worked with in the past are not team players and being a team player is such an important part of running a business. It’s vital to have people who are competent in their profession, whether that’s an accountant, good business partner or good staff members they all contribute to what makes a good business.