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Health Club Management

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People: Zac Purchase

Olympic rower and owner, Zac Fitness

Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 6
Purchase won gold in Beijing and silver in London
Purchase won gold in Beijing and silver in London
We’re not aiming to produce Olympic athletes, but to support people who are new to, or returning to exercise to get the best out of themselves

How did you get into rowing?
The main reason was because I was useless at everything else like rugby, football or cricket, so the only option for me was getting into a boat.

I enjoyed rowing and won my first race at the age of 14, kept going and then one day found myself on the start line at the Olympics.

Mark Hunter and I took gold at Beijing, in the lightweight men’s double sculls and set the Olympic record, which still stands. We narrowly missed out on gold again at the London Olympics, after which I retired, at the age of 26.

Do you miss the days of being an Olympic athlete?
No, not at all. I really didn’t like the relentless training, it was boring, tedious, monotonous and repetitive. I hated every second of it.

On the other hand I absolutely love racing, and the chance to put myself up against the best in the world. There’s no better feeling then winning!

It was also very restrictive. Being a lightweight athlete, I had to weigh in two hours before the race and if I didn’t make the weight I couldn’t even race, which was a lot of pressure.

I was always hungry – 70kg is quite skinny, bearing in mind I’m 88kg now and much happier. We trained for four or five hours a day and only consumed 1,000-1,500 calories a day during the summer race season. You started training absolutely starving and eventually became numb to it.

Having a severely restricted diet was one of the sacrifices for a gold medal. However, I absolutely loved racing and being on the start line.

How has all that experience helped you as a personal trainer?
I’ve learned the importance of making training fun! At my studio, Zacs, we do varied sessions that are updated all the time, to keep them fresh and exciting.

We’re not aiming to produce Olympic athletes, but to support people who are new to, or returning to exercise to get the best out of themselves. We have a huge variety of clients: aged from 10 to 72 and lots of parents who come with their children to do a class together.

Zacs Fitness launched last October – what’s the concept?
I have a real passion for functional exercise, so we don’t use much equipment and have developed our own slam balls, power bands, stretch mats, kettle bells and suspension trainers.

Classes have a maximum of 10 people, which allows good interaction with the instructor. I think this is a big part of giving people the confidence and knowledge to feel empowered. Although I have some one-to-one clients, the majority go for the small group exercise classes.

It’s a pay as you go model. Fitness classes, yoga and spin are all £10 a session. We’ve got a popular loyalty card scheme, where you pay for nine classes and get the 10th free. We give a lot of support and our clients say the quality of what they get is much more than if they worked out on their own.

No one wants to spend hours in the gym doing the same old thing, so we keep things short, sharp and interesting, with as great a benefit as possible in the shortest time. We’re always interested in finding ways to give our clients the means to make the best use of their time, and DNA tests have proved to be a good way of helping people to get results sooner. It’s a much more targeted approach.

What are your future plans?
We’re constantly evolving, based on what our clients tell us they want. In June we’re launching a full spin programme and now I’m considering introducing a form of live heart rate monitoring.

I’m looking to launch the next couple of studios in Beaconsfield and Henley before rolling the concept out to more towns across the South East.

What is the best part of working in the health and fitness sector?
It’s heartening to witness more people starting to value exercise and realise that being active and healthy will support their life long-term. It’s great to be part of that and try to help people realise that going to the gym doesn’t have to be soulless.

Purchase has a personal passion for functional fitness
Purchase has a personal passion for functional fitness
Zacs Fitness will be launching in Henley and Beaconsfield
Zacs Fitness will be launching in Henley and Beaconsfield
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"We're not aiming to produce Olympic athletes, but to support people to get the best out of themselves" – Olympic rowing champion Zac Purchase on his new gym
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