Recently while I was training a member she asked me out of the blue “Why did you set up UR and why do you do what you do?”
I thought this was a bit of a deep, probing question but it turned out she had just started a programme of executive coaching herself and was doing lots of work on her own life in terms of vision, values, mission, goals etc to help her set a course for the next phase of her career. This was a period of self reflection and analysis for her, hence she asked me the question possibly to get some context or perspective for her own ‘homework’.
At the time, I said something like ‘Well, there’s lots of reasons really that go quite deep and probably too much to go into with a quick few second answer’ as we were stretching off towards the end of the session. So, I thought I would put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and share my own journey and that of the origins of UR.
For four reasons:
- You may be reading this thinking about making a change in your own life in terms of your health, fitness, movement etc and by understanding my purpose and reason behind UR you may feel we are a place where you could fit in (or at least may like to visit for a chat and a look around). You may, on the other hand read what I have to say and think to yourself “This guy sounds like an idiot and that definitely doesn’t sound like the kind of place I want to be a member of!” and that is fine as well. We’re not for everyone.
- You may be thinking of setting up your own business and hearing my honest thought processes and reasons behind what I do may help or inspire you in some way.
- You may be a Personal Trainer or exercise teacher and read what I have to say and my journey and ‘WHY” may resonate with you and you may want to connect with me. Who knows, we may even eventually end up working together in the future. Stranger things have happened.
- It will be good for members of the UR team and the wider membership to understand a little bit more about why I am the way I am and how and why our little community came to be.
I never set out to be a business owner or employer. It was never a dream of mine growing up or an ambition from my teens or early twenties. I went into the fitness industry at about 20 years of age (nearly 20 years ago) as a full time Fitness Instructor at Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon. The membership base was fairly mature, as in lots of retired men and women (along with some younger ones) but the majority of the members were certainly over 50 years old.
What I found was that even at 20 years old I naturally gravitated towards the older, less able, less experienced members and those who needed the most help, care and attention. One thing I noticed working there (and every place I have ever worked or trained at in my life) is that people like to hang around with people like them. The way this presents itself in the fitness industry is that most (90% +) Fitness Instructors, Personal Trainers and Coaches like to hang out and spend time with the members who are most like them, eg young, fit, strong, healthy, confident and already pretty able. These are the people who actually need the least help but tend to get the most attention. They are already fit, healthy, trim, competent, confident etc. It’s the shy people in the corner trying not to be noticed and getting on with their workout (despite not having much of a clue what they should be doing) who need the most help! BUT they always get the least attention and care. I found out early on, it was those people I wanted to work with and got the most satisfaction and joy from helping.
These people weren’t all struggling physically or didn’t all have health or mobility problems. In many cases they were very successful in other areas of their lives. The gym, however was not an area of comfort or knowledge for them. Kind of like fish out of water who just needed a bit of an extra helping hand to give them the self believe and confidence that they could get the results they dreamed of and live up to their untapped potential.
It’s only when you reflect back on your life that you can connect the dots and make connections between events, emotions, feelings, decisions and meanings you have taken from experiences you’ve had that you can start to make sense of it all and the direction you choose to take.
I never really fitted in at school. I wasn’t unpopular, I wasn’t popular, I just kind of blended in. I tried to use sports to fit in and feel like I belonged but never really excelled at anything. I played football, cricket, rugby, basketball but was never a key member of the team and in all honesty it didn’t really make too much difference if I was there or not – certainly not a standout or a star. One thing I was fairly good at was art (which wasn’t particularly sexy or cool). Throughout my school years and even at University I was on the end of some low level bullying (sometimes dressed up as casual banter but it hurts all the same).
I didn’t have any close physical or sporty role models growing up. My parents had divorced when I was young. My dad was a heavy smoking and drinking publican and did no exercise and mum was a very hard working single mum to two boys and full time nurse.
There are lots of specific events and challenges I’ve had that I won’t go into here that have led me to become who I am (as with all of us).
I used to love watching Batman on TV when I was a kid (and still do now) the old series with Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin. I also loved watching the Incredible Hulk TV show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno and Wonder Woman with Linda Carter. I’m still a bit fan of all things comic book especially superhero’s and the idea of their origin stories. The alter ego – Peter Parker / Spiderman, Bruce Banner / The Hulk, Clark Kent / Superman, Steve Rogers / Captain America. The weak (or very average) kid who becomes a hero through a government experiment, scientific accident or some other elaborate circumstance.
Thats what I love about training and fitness. The ability to make a conscious decision, to dedicate yourself to consistent effort and the ability to get stronger, faster, more supple, bigger, smaller – BETTER (whatever that means to you).
After leaving Blackwater Leisure Centre I went on to work at two other fitness centres or gyms. Harlow Sports Centre, which was a huge place with thousands of members and then I went onto become the Health and Fitness Manager for Chelmsford Borough (now City) Council based at Riverside Ice & Leisure, which was also a huge place.
I learned so much in my 10 years of work spread over those three places and have a huge amount to be grateful for. I went on numerous excellent training courses which expanded my knowledge, I got to work closely with thousands of people from all walks of life and also met some great colleagues along the way (many of whom I still count as friends). Most of all, I got to hone my craft through tonnes of experience which would stand me in good stead for the future.
Some of my standout memories from what I affectionately call my ’10 year probation’ were working with a gentleman called Bernhard in his 70s to increase his strength and mobility over a period of time. He came in one day and was extremely proud and excited to tell me that the previous evening he had managed to have a bath for the first time in about 5 years as he finally had the strength to lift himself out of the tub at the end. That was life changing for him.
I also loved working with a Hydrotherapy group I used to teach at Riverside every week where I had the pleasure of working with many people who were rehabilitating from knee and hip replacements, strokes and dealing with severe arthritis. That taught me to think on my feet and learn to adapt exercises to both the water and to the huge array of conditions and restrictions present in any one session with up to 12 participants with varying needs.
Also helping numerous people lose life changing amounts of weight, change long standing habits and negative, disempowering behaviours and beliefs and gain self worth and confidence. Essentially helping people to enjoy their lives more.
This is why I do what I do and this is why I still love what I do twenty years on.
Fast forward to August 1st 2007 and I’m opening the doors to Unique Results for the very first time. How did that happen?
Quite simply, I made a decision. I had been saying for months, maybe years, that I wanted to start my own business. Not because I was power hungry and couldn’t wait to be my own boss (I was already in a senior management position with lots of freedom and being paid more money than I would earn for many years running my own business). But because I wanted to do things a different way. I wanted somewhere with a small, capped membership where everyone knew each others name and membership cards weren’t required. Where everyone felt like they belonged. Where everyone was valued. Where everyone was respected. Basically, the type of place I would have loved to have when I was growing up trying to find my place in the world.
A place where normal people could go to become superheroes!
Over the last 10 years I have gained more and more clarity about the business I want to build, the way I want to work and the difference I want to make with my life. It’s still very much a work in progress. I have attended many fitness, business and personal development courses and seminars over the last 11 years and read hundreds of books on psychology, motivation, leadership, positive thinking, business as well as all aspects of health, fitness, nutrition and training.
Over the last decade the Unique Results mission has always remained clear in my mind (although the wording has been tweaked and simplified over the years due to better levels of clarity and understanding). I will finish this piece by sharing the most up to date incarnation of that mission. If you have read up till now, thank you for your time, patience and commitment.
I don’t see Unique Results as a business, I don’t see it as a career or even a community (although it certainly is all of those things). To me UR and the work we do is a calling and a purpose to my life, and one that I feel incredibly privileged to be able to spend my life doing.
The Unique Results Mission:
“Unique Results exists to provide a supportive, passionate community for men and women over 40. We help them unlock their potential and feel healthy, look healthy and be healthy with fun, like minded people.”
Yours in health,
James St Pierre