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How to successfully run a fitness business in isolation, according to Sam Wood

Isolation for many means working from home: hunched over a laptop with nothing but a bag of chips and a few pot plants on life support to converse with. Not for ex-Bachelor star Sam Wood, who continues to run his own online fitness and nutrition business through the pandemic.

Sam Wood

The last time most would have seen Sam Wood was on Australian television screens five years ago where he was the leading man in the third season of The Bachelor Australia. Fast forward to today and Wood is now married to his on-screen rose magnet and living the quintessential family life.

With many struggling to balance their health, work, lifestyle and diet choices alongside the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, Wood has continued to forge ahead with his online fitness and nutrition business, 28 by Sam Wood.

It hasn’t come without its challenges and that’s why we decided to drop in on Wood (from a distance) to find out how the pandemic has affected his personal and professional life while collecting his expert advice on how to stay mentally and physically fit when running a business.

Life in Melbourne during a pandemic

Wood’s home base is in Melbourne, Australia, and although the country has seen more than 6,000 virus cases to date, the personal trainer and business owner isn’t complaining about the city’s strict restrictions, which have starved the fitness industry.

“I definitely think we are quite fortunate being in Australia, and in Melbourne. I am very grateful to be with my family, and that we have a small backyard so we are able to get outside and stretch our legs throughout the day,” he says.

“Looking at some of the footage from places around the world, in particular, places like New York, we feel lucky, as it must be a really hard time right now for so many.”

For someone who spends most of his professional career interacting with others, Wood is adjusting to the lockdown well, even as the days drag on. Under his new lifestyle adjustments, he’s needed to limit his outdoor activities to getting fresh air, vitamin D and exercise. Despite this, he says that he still has a fairly positive association with the limited choices.

How fast COVID-19 affected business

Like with other gyms across the country, Wood was given less than 24 hours’ notice to shut up shop when the pandemic was officially announced in Australia. This left him with a huge amount of work to do in a very little amount of time. His saving grace from the mass closures to date? Adaptation.

“I feel very grateful that I have an online business during this time and I’m also just trying to do as many free live work-outs as I can to help as many people as possible when they need it the most.”

How to stay mentally and physically fit

If there was anything that is helping Wood through his own trials at the moment, it’s self-discipline.

“From a mental perspective, I’m a big believer in maintaining structure and routine and getting as much exercise as you can,” he says. “I’m trying to stay strong with those things every day. It’s definitely challenging trying to homeschool your kids or keep two little ones entertained. It may be early days but, so far, so good.”

Pivoting a fitness business

Being able to continue working is a privilege for many. For business owners like Wood, it’s the most ideal time to get flexible, agile and creative.

“The first thing I did was give out all my gym equipment to my 30 trainers, allowing them to maintain as much income as possible by training clients safely and remotely.

“I then switched my focus as an online at-home fitness provider and looked at how we could help as many people as possible when they truly need it most – while still maintaining commercial viability and integrity.”

Currently, Wood and his CEO are working in their headquarters in separate offices. The rest of the team are working remotely from home, with Slack being their main communication channel.

“We all are working hard to support each other and keep in regular contact to ensure everyone’s mental and physical health is being looked after, and that, from a business perspective, nothing slips through the cracks.”

Embracing a new daily work life

Home is the new office for many and for those with a young family and a business to run, the feat seems even more impossible. For Wood, mixing work and family commitments in this case has worked to his advantage.

“A month ago, I announced that I would do live work-outs at 9am from my lounge room every day and that they would be kid-friendly so that children at home could utilise them as their PE class. Turning our house upside down and streaming these live work-outs is a bit of a circus, but I’m really enjoying it and the feedback I have received has been incredible.”

How to stay productive at home

Multitasking is one thing but, even for Wood, there are factors outside of a business owner’s control. The key here is to maximise your flexibility.

“I find it really difficult if I’m working at home and my kids can see me. They’re just not old enough to understand that technically, I’m ‘at work’.”

This is why Wood says finding a personal space is vital during this testing time in the market.

“I either try to find a quiet place at home or I go to my office and work for four or five consolidated, productive hours before going home to support Snez with the kids as much as I can. When I’m at home, I also need to make sure that I’m still available for all essential questions for work purposes.

“You also have to ensure that appointments and schedules are kept as best as possible so that virtual meetings and deadlines can happen on time and still be met. It’s definitely a juggling act at the moment.”

Biggest challenge to date

Sam Wood Workout

He may appear optimistic and in charge of his professional affairs at the moment, but Wood isn’t oblivious to the devastating blows his industry has taken from the pandemic. For the first time ever in a decade, Wood has had to close his gym.

“As someone who likes to plan ahead, not knowing how long this is going to last for has been really tough,” he says.

“You also realise how many things you take for granted. From a business perspective, the simplest things like face-to-face communication with your staff, and how powerful and perhaps how often overlooked it is. Personally, the ability to do little things like take your kids to the park is something I’ll definitely never take for granted again.”

This story is part of our Life in Isolation series. Find out how the world’s most prominent figures are working smarter in today’s pandemic.

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