Arthur Interviews John Gilligan of JG Elite

 Interview with John Gilligan of JG Elite


Arthur: John, delighted you agreed to do this interview with me. I’ve known you for a good few years now but for any readers who aren’t familiar with you (or who haven’t seen you on the Sunday Game) could you fill those people as to who you are, your sporting background, education etc.?

John: Hi Arthur, great to be asked to do the interview with yourself.

Well we completed our undergrad in Sport and Exercise Science in UL together, graduating In 2014 I think.

I’m from a small village in Westmeath called Ballymore. I play hurling and football and have represented my county at senior level in both codes. As you can tell I have always had a keen interest in sport and not only GAA. My interest in sport led me to UL to study Sport Science. That’s where I developed my ‘science behind the sport’ I suppose you could say and gained a greater understanding of training concepts.


Arthur: Talk to me about JG Elite, what is it? When was it established? What is your gym’s training philosophy?

John: I opened JG Elite in January 2015 and I’m delighted to say we are still going strong and building each and every day. JG Elite is a gym in Athlone facilitating everybody whether it’s your typical GAA head, somebody trying to lose a few pounds or someone like yourself Arthur who is competing in powerlifting.

Our philosophy is very simple Arthur; Energy, Exercise, Empowerment . We create an energy and atmosphere to encourage exercise at whatever level which in turn gives back to the individual empowerment. Everybody is known in the gym and we have created a great community ethos driving each other on every single day. We pride ourselves on merging ‘Science and ‘Sweat’, where every person that comes through our door whether an elite athlete or a new to exercise novice is treated with the same Sports Science applied approach; ensuring technique, safety and development are achieved!

 Arthur: What difficulties and challenges did you face when setting up JG Elite? Any advice you might give to other young entrepreneurs keen on setting up a gym?

John: How long have you got? I won’t lie and say that I was bombarded with incentives to open my own business. It was very tough! After numerous meetings with the local enterprise board and council I decided that the best option was to kind of ‘go it alone’ I guess! What they wanted me to do to be eligible for a grant did not really fit into my plans and if I am being honest my own personal work ethic. I really believed that if I put the work in I would get the facility I had envisioned.

 The long and short of it is I saved, got a loan, and got a massive amount of help from my family who took a leap of faith in me. I got help from my family, friends and my girlfriend. We worked long hours into the night for months to get the facility ready. Those couple of months before we opened were tough but in truth I found that the most enjoyable part. We could see that the graft we were putting in ourselves was getting somewhere.

For the first 6 months I put in 80 hours a week just to get JG Elite off the ground. But that was what I knew was needed for it to be successful. We have a long road left in front of us yes; but the ground work has paid off I think!

Have I any advice for someone thinking about their own business or gym? Yes I have some advice, go DO IT YOURSELF and don’t wait for someone else to do it! It will be ridiculously tough and there are lots of days when you say to yourself‘why the hell did I do this?’ but it’s worth it!

Oh and if it is a Gym you want to open just don’t open it in Athlone against me! HA!.

 Arthur: Who exactly is JG Elite for/not for?

John: Simple answer JG Elite is for absolutely everyone!

We actually have a new Senior Fitness class on a Monday and Wednesday which aims to increase strength for functional movement in people over 65 as well as increase independence.  Our gym offers equipment for all and we have varied levels of classes and programs designed for different levels of ability.

JG Elite stands for the elite service we provide and not that you have to be Elite to be there; although I like to think everyone that leaves after a workout in here feels a little elite!

 Arthur: My goal for CityGym is to make it the home of Powerlifting for IPF and IDFPA lifters in Limerick within the next 3 years. What are your medium to long term goals for JG Elite?

John: Easy- My medium goal is to make JG Elite a household name in the Athlone and surrounding area for all your fitness goals and athletic needs. 

My long term goal is for JG Elite to be the strength and conditioning hub for all GAA teams in the midlands, including training, physiological testing and monitoring within the next 3 years.

 Arthur: How do you find managing a business whilst trying to fit in time for yourself to train, is it difficult for you to find time or how do you manage it?

John: I found it very hard last year Arthur as I was working 80 hours a week while training with Westmeath and training myself. We had a great year reaching the Leinster final last year; however this year I had to make a very difficult decision.  I could not continue to play Senior football and make JGElite the successful business that I want it to be, so I have opted out of playing with Westmeath. I wracked my brain for a long time trying to figure out if I could do both but I knew I needed to give my business the best shot I had. It has been tough on the heart as I miss it terribly but the choice had to be made!

Training myself is okay! Although, you cannot plan a full big session while you are working as you always have something to do in the gym. I find myself doing 20 minutes here and there and then doing another 20 mins a few hours later. My body seems to have responded well to it as well which is good. I had to alter my training to fit into my work schedule; it’s what everyone has to do. I suppose people think because I am in the gym full-time I must be working out every minute of the day. It doesn’t work like that. You take the 20-30 mins you have free and you use them the best you can. I think sometimes it’s harder because you feel guilty if you are training yourself in the work place because you feel like there is a million and one other things you could be doing. But it is important to take that time I think!

That is something else I would tell any young person building their business! Take time for yourself! At the beginning you have to put in the work and sacrifice things in your personal life. There will be a time though that you can fit in a life around running a business! You need that time for your own sanity and you need to be able to switch off or you will drive yourself and the people around you crazy talking about and doing work! My family and girlfriend will you tell you that is true!!!


Arthur Interviews Rory Girvan of Hench

Arthur Interviews Rory

1. Arthur: For those of who aren’t familiar with you Rory, could you give a brief synopsis of you, your background and how you got to where you are today please?

Rory: At the moment I find myself in the bizarre position of being a ‘Multi-Hyphenate’ – with interests in business, performance, health and wellness.I am a 30 year old owner of several businesses in the Fitness and Wellness Industry, a Strength Coach and an Athlete from Belfast. I also do work with a local charity to help raise awareness for mental health, particularly in males.

The story of how I got to where I am today is complicated but on reflection it feels like each juncture, twist and turn lead towards my current position.I studied Biomedical Science, Sport and Exercise Science and worked in S & C and Applied Exercise Physiology in amateur and professional sport. It sounds quite convenient that I’m now Head Coach at HENCH after doing all this but the path to getting here was fairly convoluted.

In reality I've worked in over 20 jobs since I was 14, from earning £2 per hour in Jungle Jims, to making cold calls for 8 hours a day,to holding down 3 jobs to put myself though University.


2. Arthur: You run a semi-private gym in Belfast called Hench (a very similar model to CityGym). Tell me more about it and the philosophy you and the other coaches there follow?

Rory: The model we use at the moment has evolved in response to seeing what worked over the years to help normal people and athletes actually achieve their goals. We’ve tried the open gym model but found curating the culture of the gym was challenging – it takes a different type of person who puts their hand up to ask for coaching VS those the average gym member who feels they don’t require help.

 We now ‘vet’ all members and this has been one of the best decisions we’ve made. It helps to create the special atmosphere we now have; positive, motivating and fun.

 Our philosophy (copied and pasted from our site!): ‘Real fitness cannot exist without a solid foundation of raw strength, built on good health and well being.’.

 At the time of starting HENCH, Upper Body Transformations and quick fixes were the industry standard in Belfast and around the island. It is hard to believe now, but we took a bold step being the first dedicated strength focused gym on the island - but it felt right.

 Delighted to see places like CityGym thrive – the industry CANNOT have enough good quality, intelligent and compassionate coaches. The days of the Spice Boy PT spoofing his way through his ‘career’ are numbered.


3. Arthur: When you opened Hench, what was your target for 3 years down the line (i.e.approximately now), what challenges did you face in order to get Hench to where it is today?


Rory: My team and I have now exceeded all of even the loftiest goals I initially had for HENCH. Challenges are almost too innumerable to list (understatement) but with each one it strengthened us.

 The biggest challenge was risking everything to pursue our mission, whilst growing the business. Being commercially successful in the fitness industry whilst not compromising your integrity is no joke. The layman doesn’t know how to differentiate between the charlatan and those who are the authentic, so learning how to communicate this to our customers has been instrumental.


4. Arthur: You recently hit a whopping 707.5kg Powerlifting total in the Irish Powerlifting Federation’s All-Ireland Championships in the 93kg class. Firstly congratulations on that, particularly when you consider you were nursing a knee injury at the time! How do you manage to consistently keep adding to your total whilst running a business?


Rory: Thanks man! Appreciate it.

 I had set out at the start of the year to seek out the highest level of drug free competition nationally in raw powerlifting, and was fortunate enough to win the Overall Best Lifter Trophy at both the NIPF and All-Ireland Championships.

 I intend on doing the same in 2016, but will also have a crack at at my first international competition in the IPF – the Worlds in Texas. I was honoured to be selected to represent Ireland last month and can’t convey how excited I am to be a part of the team. Ireland is beyond an after thought in elite drug free powerlifting, but this will change from next year. We have a number of excellent male and females coming through – very exciting time to be competing for anyone form the island.

 As for improving despite running the businesses? I’m quite thorough when it comes to all aspects of recovery, but it’s difficult at times – especially dealing with emotional stress. Having said that, I consider it a privilege to compete- I’ve been involved in strength training for 16 years now and love having the opportunity to test myself but still feel like I’m only getting started, really feel there’s load left in the tank. I have ambitious goals for this year, and will be competing in the 83kg category for Ireland internationally.


5. Arthur: Are there any mistakes you have made in the past (in training, coaching or business) that if you could go back in time and rectify what would they be?


Rory: Good question. The answer to all three is to avoid spending time with people with self limiting beliefs. Being ambitious, positive and driven solves most things.

 Also, if you want to improve in any of those areas, seek knowledge from those who are the real deal. This will involve lots of reading, but passion will make this a breeze!


6. Arthur: What does the future hold for Rory Girvan and Hench?


Rory: For HENCH, we are continuing to improve the way we do things and the quality of the coaching we provide to our members. For me, some new ventures and new sports and hopefully more adventures!


7. Arthur: If you could give the average gym-goer 1 piece of advice, what would it be?


Rory: Make friends with people who have surmounted similar challenges to the ones you’re trying to over come. Your friends are your future.