We talked to John Greaney of The Hurtlocker Galway about the journey he went on from being a triathlete to running his own thriving fitness business on the West Coast of Ireland and the challenges he faced on his adventure.
“It’s when you are on the limit of breaking down or about to push through the pain barrier,” says John Greaney when explaining the origin of The Hurtlocker, a fitness studio based in Galway Ireland. It was during his days as a triathlete that John first came across the term in the form of a rallying call during particularly hard training camps.
He explains: “We would be doing training in Lanzarote and during the peak of the really tough sessions the coach would be telling us ‘You’re in the hurt locker now lads’ and it’s something that has always stuck with me for years.”
Before setting up his own fitness business, Glofox customer John Greaney spent his nearly a decade competing in one of the toughest sports on the planet – The Triathlon.
It was competing in this combination of cycling running and swimming that gave him the qualities of endurance and dedication that would serve him well in his later adventures in fitness.
Having competed successfully on a national and international level, he then decided to return to college as a mature student to further his skills, and it was during this period that the origins of his present career began.
“At the time I was in college and working four days a week and was looking for a way to make a bit more money while working less so I could put more time into my studies,” he says.
John released he had a unique skill set that he could utilize to help him achieve that. He came around to the idea of doing cycling classes even though its beginnings were in helping him personally he felt he could help others also. For John, the way cycling classes were being taught at the time were not in keeping with the revolutionary new techniques he has experienced as a triathlete.
“Back then it was all very old school the way people were being taught how to cycle with things like cadences (pedaling rate), revolutions per minute and other ideas that maybe weren’t as effective as what was being done professionally,” says John. Having coached at a high level for many years, he thought he could introduce new ideas that at the time would have have been considered cutting edge and hopefully help people improve their technique as well as their fitness
Taking the First Step
His reputation locally as a successful triathlete along with his confidence in the new ideas he was bringing convinced him to give it a go. Despite not really knowing what he was getting himself in for, he knew he has found something special after the very first class
After setting up a Facebook page and creating what he says was “a terrible little logo” he got stuck in and began his journey as a fitness entrepreneur.
“I rented a little hall in my hometown and on the first night almost 20 people for the first night. It was such a feeling to have people come through the door pay you for knowledge you have that could help them, so I was hooked from then on.”
And John in a way is typical of a lot of our Glofox customers. Taking the expertise they’ve crafted in their field, be it cycling, HIIT, boxing, yoga or pilates, they embark on new careers, sharing what they have learned in the hope of igniting that passion for fitness in others.
The popularity of his fitness classes grew and pretty soon John was running the classes in the three different locations across Galway, building up a very healthy membership base. He began introducing different fitness elements into his class such HIIT, and Strength and Conditioning forming the basis. It was then he took on the enormous challenge of building on this initial success and opened up The Hurtlocker.
Two main things stick out for John when thinking about the initial challenges he faced in taking this step.
The first was scaling up from renting a hall and doing a few classes a week to experiencing overheads for the first time. “The pressure was significant at the start, and to jump in from no costs with renting halls to having your own premises and everything that goes along with that, it was daunting. But if you have confidence in what you are selling the business will grow.
The second major thing that John has to overcome was deferring college, a decision that initially made him hesitant but has worked out in the long run.
“You ask yourself ‘Are you doing the right thing?’ But then you go to work, and you come home, and you’re buzzing. People are coming in the door and are leaving happy and the feeling you get from teaching classes, well there is nothing like it.”
Building the Business up
As John built the business, one of the main things he did right was that he hired the right people for the courses he was running. He is the primary trainer in Hurtlocker, but he strives to bring in the best people to teach the courses he runs.
“If I am doing a course I want the best people running them. For example for our Olympic Weightlifting course, we have a guy called Mike Conroy who is part of the Irish Olympic Weightlifting squad which is brilliant” says John.
For him, it’s not about bringing in the cheapest to make the most profit but bringing in the best to give people the most value to his members and give the best results.
Another critical lesson that John learned as he built up Hurtlocker was to delegate sections of the business to those who have expertise in that area.
He explains: “ Things like finances would go totally over my head so it was important to get someone in to handle that so I can to be as focused as I can on other aspects of the business. It is a key piece of advice that I would give. Get your finances in order before begin and have everything set up correctly and you will have an easier time of it.”
Patience Is Key
Finally, if there is one thing John has learned from his journey from triathlete to fitness entrepreneur its patience, something that you feel can be applied to both disciplines.
His advice is simple “You have to start small and build up your name around town and build trust with your members. We started very small, and we just kept going, and we are at the stage now where the business is very developed. What it takes is just time and patience.”