Playing professional rugby isn’t normally associated with free time, let alone running your own personal training business. But three current Wasps players, Tom Varndell, Will Taylor and Ben Jacobs are looking to buck the trend after joining forces earlier this year to form Fitness Burners.
With this in mind we recently spoke to one of the more experienced members of the trio, Tom Varndell to hear exactly how the business came about.
Firstly Tom, can you describe what ‘Fitness Burners’ actually does?
Well during a period last season when Will Taylor, Ben Jacobs and I were all injured at the same time at Wasps, we talked through several potential courses to undertake. Our RPA Player Development Manager, Ben McGregor, was fantastic through the whole process and set up a personal training course for the three of us to take together. We all passed and used our qualification to start our own personal training business, Fitness Burners. From there we had our own website designed, we ordered bespoke kit to wear and we bought our own equipment to use. We are still in the early stages, but we have a strong client base who we train throughout the week and provide the very best nutritional advice.
What classes and programmes does the business offer?
It’s circuit based training, therefore we provide boxing, cardiovascular, anaerobic, aerobic, body weight and TRX exercises. We also do personal training with one to one classes which is all tailored for the individual and their own personal fitness aims in terms of weight loss or muscle gain. We also work closely with our clients to provide in-depth nutrition advice, with our very own meal plans styled for each client’s needs.
You set up the business with Will Taylor and Ben Jacobs, how important have they been in the whole process?
It’s always good when you’re starting a new business to have guys who you can bounce ideas off and hear different approaches to different topics. We have all been in professional sport for quite some time, therefore we have a really good knowledge of fitness, training and nutrition. It’s also nice to have other guys to work with who make the whole experience more enjoyable and rather than absorbing all the pressure, you can share some.
How has Fitness Burners performed so far?
Business has been really good in our earlier stages but I think we were a couple months too late in terms of the weather. We obviously do a lot of our training outdoors, which does make it difficult in the cold and wet months. While we have recently managed to organise an indoor location for the winter, it would have been ideal if we started earlier in the summer, where we could of attracted far more clients. Playing and training does make it difficult as well, but we do try and commit a couple days during the week and a couple evening sessions to run our classes and deliver our personal training appointments. By next summer we definitely hope to build the business and significantly increase our client base.
Where is the business based?
At the moment our group sessions are based in West London around the Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford area and we also have a couple of indoor gyms which we will be using in Central London for our business and corporate clients.
You mentioned the personal training course earlier, what exactly did it entail?
Well the three of us completed our Level 2 and 3 Gym Instruction Courses earlier this year and we have our nutrition course starting in a couple months’ time. The courses were taken over a four month period, with a couple sessions each month, training in all areas of personal fitness. The theory involved learning every aspect of the human body, with an emphasis on each different muscle and energy group. While the next stage included a physical examination in the gym where we were tested on our level of communication with the clients and how well we demonstrated each exercise.
Has fitness and personal training always been something that has caught your interest?
Yes it’s definitely been a really big interest of mine for quite some time. I have always enjoyed the science of sport and what goes into making a human body function at its peak and to the optimum levels. I also love the nutrition side of things and I’ve always paid close attention to what I eat and what my family eats. In many ways, starting Fitness Burners is the perfect thing for me because it’s something that I have a massive passion for and something that I will always enjoy.
You touched on your RPA Player Development Manager at Wasps, Ben McGregor, can you explain how important he’s been in helping get Fitness Burners off the ground?
Ben has been a massive throughout the whole process! He was the one that helped the three of us get our foot in the door in terms of courses and also allowed us to explore the different opportunities out there. Without Ben and the RPA none of this would have been possible and we would all be fiddling with our thumbs rather than preparing for what lies ahead after rugby.
How do the three of you juggle being professional player’s while also running a business?
That’s been the toughest part to be honest. Setting up a business is obviously quite hard and then to throw on top all the marketing and advertising that comes with it, does make it very difficult. But having the three of us has helped to develop a system where we all juggle the workload and we all commit ourselves to the sessions and classes as much as we can. Both Will and Ben are really motivated and driven guys, who are determined to make this business very successful and I’m confident the three of us will succeed.
What tools and techniques do you use to market and advertise the business?
Well now we have our website up and running, it’s been really beneficial to have an online base where people can go and check what we offer. Social media has also been a massive tool, using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share our business with the wider public and to alert our clients on upcoming sessions, events etc. It obviously means spending some time behind a computer sending tweets and posts out, but I think with the way technology has grown these tools are vital to our success.
Did you find it difficult at first to draw publicity to Fitness Burners?
Again that’s been one of the hardest things we’ve encountered with starting this business. It’s such a saturated market and there’s so many personal training companies out there who offer several more sessions a week than we do. Therefore I think from our perspective we definitely need to be different and provide a stronger range of group classes and personal sessions, while at the same time working towards a significant rise in clientele.
With the formation of this business, does your future after rugby feel more secure?
I would say so, even if it’s not going to be a business that we’re able to sustain after rugby, it’s definitely enhanced our future and also provided a focus away from the game. I think if potential employers can read through our CV’s and see we’ve started this business from scratch and overcome all the various obstacles, then that can only mean positive things for the three of us.
And finally, what has been the best thing about running a personal training business?
Just seeing 20 people turn up wanting to learn from you and wanting to engage with the programme, improve their fitness, chase their goals and beat their ambitions. That’s been the most rewarding feeling so far.