An Interview with CF London owner Mike Lee…

1) So Mike, tell us a bit about you…

I always dislike this question because it makes me think what would people want to know about me. I started off as a personal trainer in a Fitness First 7 years ago when I first moved to London. My background was a little gymnastics training, some climbing and your standard gym goer routine. I got into it because I knew I could bring a fresh perspective but quickly found that it was quite a dog eat dog atmosphere with people pushing sales courses on you, or business management courses that ultimately told you what you already knew. In my first year I did okay, but I was trying to be what the market wanted not what it needed. I started to focus on being very open with people and if they didn’t want to train with me, it wasn’t a personal dig, I just hadn’t shown them the true value of what I had to offer. I think a lot of people take rejection personally, I don’t find that as long as you believe in what you’re offering. I am now CEO of Crossfit London where I’ve been given the opportunity to build on the foundations of a place that already had a lot of passion. It is my belief that a Crossfit gym should not simply be about intensity and fun. There are thousands of classes in London where you can go for intensity, running down the road as fast as you can is intensity.  People come to Crossfit London now because they want to learn more, they want to acquire a new set of skills, they stay because they realise they are surrounded by like-minded folk, who like to have a good time and just happen to share an interest. Community is an overused word in CrossFit. What Crossfit London has is a family.

2) Two Crossfit gyms? That sounds like a handful to us! What would be your top 3 business running tips?

We have actually recently sold Crossfit SE11. However, this plays well into one of the tips I’d have for people. My number one tip is, if you’re going to do it, do it well. When we moved to our brand new facility, we didn’t want to put half the effort into two gyms and so we tried to juggle it. Too many gyms try to expand because they see expansion as a glorification of success. It basically means double the work, and no gym should really be thinking of expanding until the initial one is working seamlessly.
Business tip no.2) Don’t be a dick. (Can I say that?). The fitness industry is too small and there is already so much bravado. If you genuinely want to help the people in front of you, I want to know you. If you’re set on burning bridges or relying on bad mouthing other people/gyms/studios to build your reputation, that stuff comes back and bites you in the ass. Wherever I have been I have tried to maintain my relationships. I started Crossfit at Crossfit Central London owned by Brian Sharp, I have friends who own Crossfit Shapesmiths who I’ll happily talk to and discuss what might work and what doesn’t. You know there are 7 million people in London alone, the largest Crossfit Gym has 450 people.
Business tip no.3. You cannot please everyone, but don’t take it personally. This is something that I’ve struggled with to be honest. I made a lot of change at Crossfit London and it wasn’t all popular, but it was a balance between making sure the gym didn’t close it’s doors permanently and improving a membership experience. You’ll never satisfy everyone but you can only use complaints and feedback as a way to improve on things you do in the future. If you sit and sulk you get nowhere.

3) And how exactly do you manage to ever get time to do anything other than running the (2) business(es), training clients and training yourself? Do you have any timesaving secrets?

I wake up, the first thing I do is go through the work that my online clients have submitted. Any adjustments to weights, load, volume are made and then messages sent out to them if they need it. Then it’s onto emails. Usually, I’ll try to clear my inbox before I leave the house so that I can tackle any issues that need to be done by the time I get down to the gym. My training load has massively decreased because my priorities have changed. The truth is, to run two businesses is quite demanding time-wise and sacrifices have to be made. In the past I’ve sacrificed the wrong things in my life, time with my girlfriend, eating properly, sleeping, and I realised that at the end of the day these things are the things that keep me going. They’re the reason why. My training, that’s taken a back seat because I do like getting stronger however ultimately I just want to look good, feel good, and not die early. I’m not going to be looking back when I’m 80 years old regretting that I never snatched 120kg.

4) How does FFF help you to find extra time?

I stopped Fresh Fitness Food for a couple of weeks a few weeks back and ended up just spending more money on Deliveroo. Healthy-ish food but still ended up spending more money. The truth is, when I’ve had a long day I don’t really want to spend the little time I have cooking and stressing about getting food in for the next day. Because Fresh fitness food is, as it says on the tin, fresh, I’m still getting quality food in. With my PT and remote clients I always say, can you do this cheaper by prepping your own food – Yes. Do you have the time to do it? Will you stick to doing it? Are you going to be creative enough for you to enjoy your food? Because if any of those answers are no, Fresh Fitness Food is a better alternative for your health and your wallet.

5) How valuable do you think good nutrition is in ensuring you stay on top of the game?

My belief is that food and sleep are the foundation of almost all training programmes and you can train as hard as you want, you can get 40,000 steps in a day and if what you’re putting in your body is too calorie dense, or not enough, depending on your goal, you’re going to struggle. There is so much information out there about what the best diet is to do this and that, at the end of the day, a balanced approach to nutrition is always going to be your best option. If you’re finding that you’re going towards an extreme form of eating be it Keto, paleo, vegan, no grains, whatever it might be you probably are just cutting out the crap food in your diet which is why it works for you. People want to put labels on things and be part of something (I’m Vegan, I’m Keto). My opinion, and we’re each entitled to our own, is unless you have a medical intolerance/allergy, you shouldn’t really be cutting out anything. Big plates of veggies and focus on getting sources of protein in and you’ll be fine.

6) What are your goals for 2019?

Good Question. Haven’t thought too much about this. I’d like to grow the membership base to 400 dedicated members at Crossfit London. We’re starting to iron out all the creases of a new space. I have big plans for my remote training business and may go down the path of mentorship but it all comes down to how much time I have. No point putting 5% of myself into something.

Check out Mikes Instagram here!