Fitness goals for life, not just lockdown

06th Jul

Something had to give. Craig Lane was working a 40-hour week topped up with four or five hours of coaching, three hours of volunteering and up to 15 hours of training when the lockdown landed.
The restrictions brought furlough from his main job, the closure of David Lloyd Hull which he uses for sessions with private clients, and a government-imposed maximum of an hour of exercise every day.
Thankfully, a big chunk of Craig’s business was already online, with distance coaching sessions for clients around the world. Now there’s more of that, and Craig has added other remote services for people who want a short-term fitness solution.
It’s easy to imagine a summertime version of the January joggers, flaunting their Christmas box sports kit as people emerge from isolation, determined to work off all that panic-bought pasta, but there are signs of staying power.
Craig said: “I brought my treadmill out of storage and a few other bits and pieces but I just had to get out of the house so I went for a run on the old railway track and it was a hive of activity.
“Then I decided to support my favourite bike shop and buy a few vouchers and they told me they’ve never been so busy with people taking in old bikes and getting bits replaced and repaired. If anything, I believe this whole experience has triggered a fitness frenzy!”
Not that Craig is the sort to condemn the fad fitness brigade. He used to be rather rotund himself and admits he only changed his ways because of illness. But his belief is in taking small steps to success rather than one leap, and it’s this approach that has established him as an international triathlon competitor and helped him build a business that is in demand from major employers.
He said: “I coach very well-paid executives and I found myself managing their lifestyles more than their triathlon training, so that got me thinking more about high-performance humans.”
Craig’s background is one that is becoming all too familiar. His dyslexia was mistaken for incompetence at school and not spotted until he had embarked on his sports coaching and sports science degree studies at the University of Hull. By then he had completed one successful career as a painter and decorator, good enough to work for the Pipe & Glass restaurant and owners of large farmhouses, but not applying the same attention to detail when it came to his own lifestyle.
He said: “Half the problem was working so many hours, eating convenience foods and drinking alcohol. I was 5ft 7in but weighed 15-and-a-half stones. I had zero level of fitness. The only time I ran was to the fish and chip shop when it was raining.”
In 2011 Craig was diagnosed with Barrett’s disease, linked to gastroesophageal reflux disease, and that changed his life. He said: “It’s a lifestyle-related illness. I was obese and I started looking at getting healthier and how I could tackle Barrett’s. I was put on medication which I didn’t like so I started to watch my diet and exercise in the gym.”
Craig lost five stones and progressed to the first stage of his new career, completing his first triathlon in 2012 and becoming a regular in the Great Britain squad for World and European Championships. He’s waiting to hear the rearranged dates for the overseas events but his introduction to international competition in 2013 prompted the launch of Humber Triathletes which, with Craig as director, now has an adult and junior membership of more than 100 operating across Hull and East Yorkshire with a base at David Lloyd Hull and training sessions on and around the Humber Bridge.
Coaching was a logical next step and led to the launch of Coach Craig, which proved attractive to corporate clients particularly with its offer of biometric blood screening, but which also presented the next major obstacle.
Craig said: “I set it up halfway through my university course and it was with the mortgage in mind. It started to take off last year. At first I was doing one-to-one coaching and some distance online coaching, with people coming on board locally by word of mouth and athlete networks, and around the world through social media. There are athletes in South America who I have never met but I still coach them.”
Craig was asked to go to London as a freelance health assessor, working for a well-known health insurance provider and some big banks, but he could sense the work-life balance tipping in the wrong direction and with two young daughters, eight-year-old Mollie and Leilou,12, he shifted the focus of his business closer to home.
He said: “The money was good but the travelling was not for me, so I started pushing the business in the Yorkshire area. I’d been going to London about 16 days a month and some were just single days, getting up at 4am, driving so far to get a train and then getting back at 10pm after a day’s work.”
He’s still busy, but on his own terms. Family fun is planned into his schedule and is at the core of his business model. He said: “Triathlon comes last after family, work, sleep and food. People need to recognise their problems so they can make their lives better. My approach – this is where I am different from other coaches – is to start with a chat and to build triathlon around life rather than life around triathlon. This is where half the people go wrong.
“A consistent and healthy athlete is a successful athlete. We use smart goals, bite-sized goals, because that’s more effective than setting unrealistic goals that are too far out of reach.”
The corporate approach is the same and has led to contracts with some major employers across the Yorkshire and Humber region. Craig said: “It starts with a talk, taking things on a whole, identifying daily stresses, looking at meal planning, breaking the routine to make things easier, then biometric screening and making it a health and fitness event.
“It’s an investment by a company in their employees. It helps to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism and increases productivity, reduces losses and sick pay. I am still coaching the high-performance athletes but the bulk of my work is improving people’s lives in one form or another, whether it’s physical or mental.”
He takes inspiration from his own childhood, his parents and his illness: “I want to provide people with something I didn’t have. I was a typical Star Wars kid and watched cartoons and stuff. We played out and rode our bikes but my parents worked so hard that they didn’t have the time to give me the opportunity of after-school clubs and things like that. That’s why I wasn’t a sporty child but it’s also where I got my morals from. I saw them as grafters.
“My end goal was never to do triathlon, it was solely to lose weight and reverse the illness. I don’t think I would have done this without the illness. That was certainly the catalyst.”
Experienced in overcoming adversity, Craig learned some key lessons from lockdown, using his blog and social media to promote his business more effectively and expanding the services that he can deliver online. He said: “I took on more online work, sustainable coaching with people who are training towards events in 2021. Others only wanted short-term help so I devised dynamic plans for them.
“The experience has given me confidence that the business can survive in such difficult times. A lot of my clients have lost 20% of their income because of furlough but they still see the value in what I’m giving them. They don’t see it as a luxury item but as a necessity which helps their health and wellbeing. The runners on the railway track are evidence of the potential – I’ve struggled all this time to get people up and going and now everybody is trying to get the Duke of Edinburgh Award!”

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