Here at The Essential Cyclist, we get very excited about athletes who make the transition from elite sport into business. These athletes not only excel in their chosen sporting career, but they also see a future where their sport won’t keep them in their shiny Nikes forever. A contingency plan some may call it, or just common sense; either way we doff our caps to these athletes.
Looking into those who have made or making the transition into business from sport, we have the fantastic opportunity to speak with Kate Haywood. Kate is currently the British Record Holder for the 100m Breaststroke, has her own training company called Straight-Line Fitness and is an ambassador for the Register of Exercise Professionals.
Hi Kate, thank you for your time away from your busy schedule to chat to us at The Essential Cyclist. So, firstly, how did you get into competing?
I started at a local swimming club; people around me realised that I had a talent and a passion and I progressed into competitive sport that way.
What is your ideal breakfast before training and why?
Just a couple of Weetabix – I like to keep it simple.
What were some of your best memories and achievements and why?
So many great memories for my career! The Commonwealth Games in 2002 were amazing, especially since I was only 15years old. Being named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year was such a huge achievement.
Tell us about Beijing?
It was great to get to Beijing – I had missed out on the Athens Olympics in 2004 because of a bout of tonsillitis. The Olympic Village is such a strange place. You’re constantly walking past so many amazing athletes, I met Rafael Nadal! Did you know they have McDonalds in there? It’s crazy! You could eat Big Macs for free all day if you really wanted.
I wonder if anyone did take up that McDonalds challenge. How did you cope with sitting out of the 2009 season with a hip injury?
It was really difficult; my injury was only diagnosed a few days before the team were fly out for the season. I’d worked so hard and the chance to compete was taken away from me at the last minute.
You then went onto an amazing comeback, how did you do this?
Hard work! I knew I didn’t want to have only competed in one Olympics – I needed to make it to a second! Especially given that it was in London, nothing beats a home crowd, I couldn’t miss that experience.
What advice would you give people looking to get into competitive professional sport?
Just enjoy yourself! Local clubs are a great way to get involved in competition. If you want to make it you need to be prepared to move elsewhere – my local facilities weren’t good enough as I got older, I had to move away. That can be a difficult decision to make, leaving friends and family behind, but if you’re determined you have to take that leap and be bold.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
I’m looking forward to growing my business, Straight-line Fitness, I work with a lot of clients one-to-one and we’re growing the ‘boot camp’ side of the business too.
That’s really exciting! How did you get involved with the Register for Exercise Professionals (REPs)?
Through my personal training qualification, I became REPs qualified. This led to giving the keynote speech at the REPs South East Convention, which was such a great opportunity. It’s so important to network and always be meeting new people – you never know what might come from it.
How do you keep your fitness up?
With my clients! I’m not the kind of personal trainer who just stands and watches. I like to be involved. Workout out with my clients in sessions throughout the day keeps my fitness levels high!
How important do you think it is to have a backup plan when competing as a professional athlete?
It is important – although as a professional athlete it can be difficult to think about anything else but your training. You have a sole focus for so long, you often don’t have time to consider what you’ll do next until your retirement. I didn’t come to what I wanted to do until I’d experience what I definitely didn’t want to do – which was having a 9-5 desk job!
What advice would you give to others who would like to do something similar to you?
If you haven’t set up a business before, get someone involved who has that experience. I’m really lucky to work with my partner, Kevin.
How do you find the transition from sport to education?
Not as difficult as you might expect actually! I was ready to start giving back. When you’re the athlete, the focus is so heavily on you. It’s all about you for so long, as a trainer, it’s great to be able to take that step back and focus on others and give back a little of the attention that you had for so long.
Where did the idea come from in regard to forming your own training company, Straight-line Fitness?
After my retirement, I had on office job for a while for a sports marketing and events firm. I hated it! I knew I couldn’t spend my days at a desk for hours on end – I had to stay active. That’s when I decided to form Straight-line Fitness.
How do you motivate, train and teach people?
I train others in the same way that I would want to be trained. That means no standing on the sidelines shouting for more press ups! I like to form real relationships with my clients – to form true friendships with them.
What is the best and worst parts about being in the spotlight and why?
The worst parts are those moments when a race hasn’t gone the way you thought it would and then you’re immediately thrown in front of a camera to be interviewed, often live on TV. Competing is such an emotional experience, it’s fantastic to share those emotions when you’re happy with your performance, but when you’re not it’s a really difficult position to be in.
Tell us something interesting about yourself!
I don’t know what to say…! The name of my company is interesting… I named Straight-line fitness after the black lines that line the bottom of the pool. I’ve spent a lot of hours looking at those lines, they represent the discipline and drive that’s needed to be a professional athlete, so I wanted to instil a part of that in my business.
And my great grandfather is Warneford Cresswell, a former Everton and England footballer who won seven caps for England!
Thank you so much to Kate for some great answers and also for showing that the transition from sport to business isn’t always as daunting or scary as some may think.