PT to the stars and triple Olympian former speed skater Sarah Lindsay on building her global ROAR Fitness gym brand, the jaw-dropping transformations her team of experts achieve in just 12 weeks and why there’s no place for fitness trends on a ROAR gym floor.
Q. Can you share the story behind founding ROAR Fitness and what inspired you to start this venture?
A. After I retired from professional athletics in 2010, I started working in the fitness industry and learned the trade by spending a lot of time on gym floors where I quickly noticed that something was missing. A lot of gyms were not tailored towards females but most notably I observed insufficient service and standards.
As an athlete, I had a team of people looking after me and I wanted that level of expertise to be replicated in a gym, for a team of world class personal trainers, nutritionists, therapists and strength coaches to unite to offer clients the most comprehensive and cutting edge personal training experience imaginable.
In April 2016, alongside my business partner and husband Rich Phillips, we opened the doors of our first ROAR personal training gym in Liverpool Street. We’ve since opened another two in London – in Bank and on Kensington High Street – and at the start of 2023 went global with the launch of ROAR Dubai.
Q. How does ROAR Fitness customise fitness programmes to meet the individual needs and goals of its clients?
A. Clients have an initial consultation where we find out what it is they’ve come to us for, then we do assessments, starting with a movement screening, which checks mobility and strength and establishes whether someone has stiffness, tightness, weakness or if there are any areas where there is potential for injury. With that information we can decide the exercise selection and what’s appropriate for the individual’s body, mechanics, the way they move and the goals.
Every ROAR client also has a comprehensive nutrition consultation to create a totally bespoke nutrition plan because no off-the-shelf eating plan works for anybody.
One the fitness and nutrition plan is underway, we monitor the client every step of the way to see how their body is responding.
Over a 12 week transformation programme, the plan will be tweaked as often as needed to avoid hitting any plateau.
Q. What happens if someone doesn’t have a specific goal but just knows they want to feel better?
A. Most people have a goal, they just don’t know what’s possible. We’ll ask, ‘Why have you walked through the door today? Why do you not feel good?’ They might say they don’t have energy or it’s because they don’t fit in their clothes?’ Once you properly talk to someone to establish the real motivation for their decision to change their lifestyle, you can start to build a plan and understand how to best motivate them.
Q. Nutrition is a crucial aspect of fitness. How does ROAR integrate nutritional guidance into its training programmes?
A. Nutrition supports the training because if you’re not fuelled, you can’t train and if you don’t eat to recover from your training sessions, you’ll be tired before the next workout.
Everybody has a meal plan tailored to them and many things are taken into consideration including their likes and dislikes, food restrictions and gut issues. We calculate all the proteins, fats, carbs and calories so the client doesn’t have to, then we create menus for them to choose from for example a breakfast of two eggs and half an avocado. The eating plan is made as simple and varied as possible because when embarking on big life changes, the easier the process is and the less thought required, the better.
Q. Building a community is essential for fitness success. How does ROAR foster a sense of community among its members?
A. That comes from the team. The people that we employ are super invested. Obviously, the first priority is their qualifications then I’m looking at whether they’re nice people who care about others because otherwise they will have no job satisfaction. If you don’t get a buzz from seeing people arriving at ROAR feeling awful and leaving feeling amazing, you’re probably not going to last. Employing good people also means the team is super friendly, super welcoming and everybody cares about each other’s clients, which might sound cheesy, but is so important because if somebody does well, everybody at ROAR wins. It’s that team mentality that comes from sport. In speed skating, even though it’s an individual sport, if one person won, the whole team got funded, the programme could continue and because we’d all supported each other in training, everyone felt like they’d achieved gold too.
At ROAR, we’re proud of where we work and who we are and we get to say that we’re the best because our results are the best.
Management cares about the staff and I encourage all my trainers to believe it’s their business and their gym where they belong. Naturally, their sense of community filters down to the clients.
Q. Can you share some challenges you’ve faced in the fitness industry?
A. Covid wasn’t great because we had no support financially. During a whole year of being closed down, which cost me £500,000, we had zero income. That was a tough time but we had no choice but to dig our heels in, push hard and bounce back.
Fortunately, we have such a strong ROAR community, people were supportive and the majority of our clients came back because they were desperate to return to training.
ROAR survived when so many gym spaces in The City closed down and I think that was because clients returned after being looked after during that time. During Covid, I did loads to help people continue their training.
Three times a week for an entire year, I did free live workouts on Instagram and I still have people come up to me to say, ‘ROAR Fitness helped me during lockdown’. It’s so cool.
Q. What’s been the most notable success stories since ROAR began?
A. It’s never one big thing but small steps towards progression that add up to a win and keep us moving forward, whether that’s finding a new site, signing up another ten members or receiving a message of thanks from a client following a transformation..
I’m super proud of the way that we do business – delivering the best service, looking after people in the best way possible and consistently getting results. Every few days, somebody else finishes a programme after an amazing transformation and now that’s happening on a global scale because last year we launched our first international site in Dubai.
Q. Talk us through some of your celebrity clients and their success stories…
A. In 2019, after having her children, former alpine ski racer Chemmy Alcott was struggling to get in shape and after committing to a 12 week transformation, she dropped three stone and ended up in better shape than when she was competing professionally.
A year earlier, fashion designer Henry Holland transformed his physique, dropping from 12 stone 11lb to 10 stone 12lb in three months by training three times a week and overhauling his diet.
Celia Waldon is married to another of our clients, Piers Morgan, and at the start of her training, she couldn’t get off the bench without feeling pain in her back, something she’d suffered for years and accepted she would always have. Within six weeks, she was pain-free and that was because everything had become stronger including her legs, which were more able to support her core and her core itself getting stronger.
Q. In the ever-evolving fitness landscape, what trends do you see emerging and how is ROAR adapting to them?
A. Screw trends. Trends are there to keep people interested or to get a hook for a headline but doing the job properly is what works and we do what works, which is weight training, not traditional methods of cardio. It’s not necessary to spend hours and hours on a treadmill, especially in a gym with a trainer. That’s a total waste of money.
We don’t focus on the rest of the industry. We do what we do best and because we don’t stray or get distracted by the feeling of pressure to do something different, we keep getting results.
Q. What advice do you have for individuals who are just starting their fitness journey with ROAR or in general?
A. Everybody feels a little bit nervous when they first join but there’s no need to worry because at ROAR, you’re very well looked and not expected to know anything. You’re coached through every move, every rep and every set.
Everybody has to start somewhere and most gyms have a community so although it might feel intimidating at first, that’s the case with anything that’s new. Remember that it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. Just just get on with your training and if you can’t do something, it doesn’t matter. That’s your level. If you don’t try, you’ll never know and you’ll never make any progress.
Sometimes you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone, embrace the fact that it feels awkward, then give yourself a pat on the back when it’s done!
Q. How does ROAR promote inclusivity and make fitness accessible to individuals with varying fitness levels and abilities?
A. Everybody deserves to train and everybody can. We have clients of all different ages and abilities including people with significant disabilities who have been turned away from other gyms.
With weight training there are always lots of alternative exercises when ability is restricted. Whatever someone finds challenging or difficult, their ROAR trainer is there to find a solution and we work really hard to ensure every client is paired with the right trainer for them to ensure there’s that synergy.
Q. What is the vision for ROAR in the future and what’s in the pipeline for 2024?
A. First, we’re looking at opening another gym in the Middle East. We launched the Dubai site last year and we’re doing really well. Our London clients train in Dubai when they’re over for work or pleasure and our Dubai clients train in London when they’re visiting home. Everybody loves the familiarity of going into a gym in another country where the trainers know your programme and are ready for you.
We’re currently looking at properties in Singapore where there’s a huge expat community and lots of people work between there and London. Lots of people have been asking for ROAR in Singapore so watch this space!
For information on ROAR Fitness transformation and Personal Training programmes head to roar-fitness.com