Interview: Andy Luukkonen, BodyFit Health Club [Tips + Experience]
Get the Basics…
Playing multiple sports over specializing in one too early
Movement and awareness as foundations in fitness
Setting realistic goals and developing plans to reach them
Running a successful family-owned business
Achieving longevity in any endeavor, business or otherwise, is a difficult task, isn’t it? Attaining that longevity in an increasingly saturated industry is an even more challenging proposition.
Today, we’re talking to Andy Luukkonen who is his third decade as a fitness entrepreneur. We discuss some of the wisdom he’s gained over the years and the mentality and methodology that have helped him operate his successful fitness practice.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Andy Luukkonen
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, this is Schimri Yoyo, and today we are continuing our interview series with fitness experts. And Today we have Andy Luukkonen, owner of BodyFit Health Club in Uxbridge, Canada. Andy, thank you again for joining us.
Andy Luukkonen: Oh, you’re very welcome. Pleasure to be here.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, we’re just going to jump right into it and get some background information from you. I want to know when and how did you first develop a love for health and fitness.
Andy Luukkonen: I don’t know if I can actually answer when, but I know that it probably developed through sports as a kid. I basically played everything I could and I never really thought about it all that much.
But the health and fitness part probably came, probably, when I was in about grade seven and that was when my coach mandated that a fitness regime for our wrestling team where we had to practice five days a week. And I think that’s probably where it started.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, you said you participated in a lot of sports growing up. Do you have one that you particularly excelled at or was your favorite?
Andy Luukkonen: I think I tried everything. I don’t think there was anything I didn’t want to try. In public school here we have a lot of sports that are available to us, so I played absolutely [everything that] I possibly could. So, soccer and hockey were extracurricular and then track and field was another extracurricular thing that I did.
But I don’t think there was anything I would say was my favorite sport. But the one that I probably excelled at most was track and field. I threw the javelin and excelled quite well in high school and competed internationally. And it’s probably the one I would say is my highlight.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, track and field star, that’s awesome. Now, when you were training, did you personally use a strength and conditioning coach as an athlete growing up?
Andy Luukkonen: You know what? When I was doing javelin in that period of time, that was probably one of the hardest things to come by. So, when I joined the club, it was primarily a hurdler or a short distance club. And there was one coach there, she came in periodically, she was the shot put—she was a shot putter so as far as using a coach, she was she helped me with some strength training and stuff.
But ironically, it’s now been like 35 years later and the one coach I wish I ever had back in high school, that I met him at one of my kid’s javelin competition. And so even though I wasn’t able to use him when I was a kid, my kids actually got to use him as a coach. And his name is Bill Heikkila, he is an Olympic competitor in Canada for javelin, so he’s out there right now and been out there quite a lot.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, that’s pretty good. When you’re not training or running your business, what are some things that you do in your spare time for fun?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, I got three boys, and they all play baseball. So, I coach baseball now for 11 years. I’ve coached from all levels of house league, all the way up to elite ball. And I’m also a beekeeper.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh wow, that’s awesome. I’m a big fan of honey, so I’m going to have to talk to you offline about some honey.
Movement and Awareness
Alright, well, let’s jump into some of your methodology and your practice. If you could describe your training philosophy and methodology in one word what would it be?
Andy Luukkonen: One word for me would be hard. I mean, two words kind of come to mind, and I sort of use them together. The first one is movement. It’s part of my philosophy but awareness is more in line with my methodology, I think.
Movement because it’s where it all starts. We need to move more and movement because it’s the foundation that we do. Everything that I do with my clients. And awareness is because it’s how we cope. We try to bring enough awareness to people in how they move.
So, when clients mention how much more they become aware of their posture, movements, and state, that’s when we know it’s starting to work with us.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, that’s pretty good and that leads to my next question. Can you describe your approach to functional training and movement?
Andy Luukkonen: Sure, as far as functional training for me. It’s more about identifying dysfunction first. Everyone compensates and it’s our job to find it, figure out why, and try to correct it, if possible.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, and in your opinion, what’s the relationship between strength and conditioning, injury prevention and rehabilitation?
Andy Luukkonen: I think that the three of those things are somewhat symbiotic. Proper strength and conditioning help with injury prevention, and in the event of an injury, rehab has generally taken the form of some sort of modified strength and conditioning program. So, that’s kind of what I would consider the relationship, so it all kind of works part and parcel, and it’s all sort of intertwined with the other no matter what.
Schimri Yoyo: How do you help athletes or clients to be proactive in their training and in their recovery in the event of an injury?
Andy Luukkonen: Planning and self-awareness. Keeping logs and tracking. So basically, what we’ll do, we like to do, is we plan the year around their sport or whatever activity and keep that in mind. And then have them keep track of how they feel and modify accordingly, and once you get to know an athlete as a trainer, you can kind of get to know when you can push them and when you kind of have to hold back.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay and then how are speed strength and flexibility related? And which of those should be a priority for the athlete?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, most people come to us looking for speed. Generally speaking, they’re saying that they want to get faster, and that’s usually the goal. So, for me, for a person to get faster basically building strength and wellness is going to help them get faster. But, when we’re addressing flexibility is the word you’d use, I also like to use the world mobility.
So, mobility and flexibility are likely going to be inhibited if all you do is work on strength. So, what you want to make sure is that the mobility and flexibility training has great mechanics. [Or else it] could be potentially limiting the joint range of motion and your mobility, which will eventually result in injury when speed training at competitions.
So, basically for me, it’s more about addressing what that client’s goal is initially before I decide what the relationship is going to be between them.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, that makes a lot of sense and I like how you describe that. You can’t get the cart before the horse, right?
Andy Luukkonen: Right, right.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, how do you incorporate nutrition, if at all, in your personal training?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, for us, it really depends on the clients. We’ve run a lot of challenges in the past where we’ve provided them with complete meal plans, and with others, it comes with just talking with them and reaching their goals and how much effort they want to put into it.
One of the things we always do discuss is water consumption. So it really depends on the clients. As far as our practice goes, or our scope of practice, we’re not nutritionists, we’re not dietitians, so we have to be careful about how we go about that.
But, when it comes to specifics on how it’s going to affect the strength training, what they’re missing, and then we can offer them advice that way.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, makes sense. And in what ways do you motivate your clients and in what ways do you motivate yourself?
Andy Luukkonen: The easiest thing that helps in motivating clients is setting realistic goals that are achievable. Victories on a regular basis are great, and we work with lots of folks over 50, and it’s the strength conditioning that brings to everyday life the little things that motivate them the most. Simple things, for example, we have a client who she worked with us through the wintertime, she likes to golf.
And then the one day she came to us and she said, “You know what? The other day when I was golfing I was able to bend down and I was able to pick the ball up right out of the hole, and I haven’t been able to do that for years.”
So it’s the little things that motivate them the most. And that’s the kind of thing that we try to achieve is the stuff that you wouldn’t notice necessarily, in the gym all the time, but the stuff that comes to them day-to-day.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, and for yourself, how do you find motivation as you’re running your practice?
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Andy Luukkonen: I think the things that motivate me are when my clients actually get success. The results are the biggest thing for me and so long as they’re getting the results, then I’m always motivated to come back. And if I’m not finding results right away, then I’m motivated to try and figure out why and continuously try to keep getting something from a client.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, and then, what are some ways that you measure progress or success for yourself and for your clients?
Andy Luukkonen: It’s always results based on goals. And I’m pretty black and white on that one. I don’t like to sugarcoat or rationalize, so, if you don’t get a result, the idea is to find out why and get it fixed. So, I’m not going to tell a person, “Okay, well you didn’t get your result but you know, too bad. We’ll keep working hard and blah blah blah.”
That’s not the way I do it. If there’s probably a reason for it, and I’ve got to find the reason for it and go from there.
Schimri Yoyo: And in keeping with that, as you’re tweaking and making adjustments, how do you balance helping your clients reach those goals and reach their physical limits without burning them out or without adding increased exposure to injury?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, that goes back to the previous question about strength training, injury prevention, and rehab, I believe. For me, it’s about planning and evaluating and, in my opinion, nobody should ever get injuries in the weight room or suffer from overtraining.
If that happens under the guidance of a trainer, then you should probably find a different trainer. Clients put a lot of trust in us and causing an injury, in my opinion, is unacceptable. And as a trainer, you should know your clients’ limitations and change your scope of practice.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, and that makes sense. Now, judging by the clients who have had the most progress or success under your tutelage, what are some common traits or shared values that they’ve had?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, the one thing that comes to me the most here is consistency. They show up, it’s that simple. And I think Woody Allen says it best, “80% of success in life is to show up.”
[Editor’s note: Woody Allen’s actual quote was: “Showing up is 80 percent of life. Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.”]
Two Decades Plus of Business Experience
Schimri Yoyo: That makes sense. Alright now, onto your business specifically. How do you juggle your time between being a trainer and an entrepreneur?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, over time, I’ve learned to incorporate systems, policies and procedures, and I kind of take it like a franchise mentality. And that’s what helps run the business day-to-day. And we spend a lot of time on training our staff, and we don’t micromanage. And that allows us to take time off or work with clients and to keep our flexible schedule.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, now brag about yourself a little bit. What makes Body Fit Health Club unique?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, gyms have come and gone in our small town. We’re actually a very small town. Under 20,000 people and ours is the only one that seems to remain. And I believe it’s because we care about each other, we care about our members.
And sure we’ve made mistakes and will likely make more. But one thing that separates us from other gyms is the people. We’ve been called “Cheers of gyms”. If you recall, that’s a TV show called Cheers where everybody knows your name?
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, I grew up in Boston, so I know Cheers very well.
Andy Luukkonen: Well, there you go, and yeah we are just as friendly, and we are good at what we do because we only hire the best. That’s kind of how I look at it, we work very, very hard for what we’ve earned. And I believe we’ve earned every little bit of success.
Schimri Yoyo: And now you’ve owned your gym in Uxbridge for over two decades. What do you know now as a business owner that you wish you would’ve known when you first started your practice?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, they say that hindsight’s always 20/20 right? One thing I wish I had done is learned more about marketing early on. You can spend thousands and thousands on education but it’s literally useless if you can’t get people through your door.
Schimri Yoyo: Yes, that’s a great point and a great tip. Now, how do you determine whom you’ll take on as a personal client and whom you’re going to outsource to another trainer?
Andy Luukkonen: For me, it really comes down to the client. A lot of the times it’s going to be a rehab based person, it’s going to be somebody that I’m going to have myself or my lead trainer is going to work with. If it’s a general population client, I’ll try to refer out to my other trainers because it’s also my responsibility to make sure they can earn a living.
And then finally, I also leave it up to the clients themselves. Sometimes they prefer working out with a male, sometimes they prefer working a female. So, it’s really kind of a consultation between me, the other trainers, and the actual clients themselves.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, it’s a collaborative decision.
Andy Luukkonen: Yeah.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, now BodyFit Health Club is a family business. Can you describe what it’s like to work with your wife and your sons on a day-to-day basis?
Andy Luukkonen: Sure, well my wife is my partner, both in my life and in the business. Having her there makes everything a lot easier. She can be very blunt with me when she needs to be, and she basically holds me accountable. We work really well together, and I’m very grateful to have her there.
Now we actually have the three sons, I’ve mentioned before, my eldest is Charlie, he has regular shifts at the gym and when we first hired him, it wasn’t really that well-known that he was my son. And then when people complimented us on him, what a nice boy he was and everything else, it really sort of made us proud. So it’s always been a pleasure to have him.
Now, my middle son, his name is Raymond, he’s a couple of years younger than Charlie, and he’s just starting training as an employee. He is our redheaded, blue-eyed, lefthanded ball of fire. Surprisingly, though, he’s starting to take things seriously. But we’ll see how it goes; however, he’s been fired twice already.
And our youngest guy is Reggie, and he still has a little way to go before he’s going to start working regular shifts, but he’s always trying to keep up with his older brothers so I’m sure he’ll be fine.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome to involve the entire family. How, if at all, do you use technology and social media to promote your business and to do that marketing that you talked about earlier?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, technology and social media a lot of it is used in our marketing communications. Our web presence is composed of our website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. And we nurture all of our leads in the background with FusionSoft, which is our CRM, our Customer Relationship Management. Yeah, so most of it in marketing and communication.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, and what’s the biggest challenge in running your business and what’s the biggest reward in running your own business?
Andy Luukkonen: Part of that question is the same thing. The biggest challenge for us is always staffing. We’re very picky, we don’t hire just anyone. And so when a staff member has to leave to go to another job or career, or to university, it takes time to find a good replacement.
And then, on the contrary, the greatest reward is exactly that: finding a great staff. Great staff generally creates fewer worries for us which allows us to take time off, knowing that the business is in good hands.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome, and thank you again, for your time Andy, you’ve been a great, and just a couple more questions here. And just do you have any resources that you would recommend to our audience. Any books, magazines, or podcasts that you think would be helpful?
Andy Luukkonen: Sure, for trainers and other coaches. I really like the book called Movement by Gray Cook. And depending on how deep a person wants to get into it, I also like Diagnosis and Treatments of Movement Impairment Syndrome by Shirley Sahrmann.
[Editor: Hurray for Exercise.com partners — Dean Somerset and Mike Boyle]
And then for more business-related resources, anything marketing material-wise, I look to Dan Kennedy for a lot that stuff, he’s very insightful and has a different approach of looking at things. And then another really good book for a very unique way of delivering customer service Is called Secret Service by John DiJulius.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, those are great resources. Thank you again, I’m sure our audience will appreciate diving into some of those resources. Lastly, Andy, what’s next for you and your business?
Andy Luukkonen: Well, although our club appeals to a very broad demographic, we’re building on our services for the 50-plus population. And in addition to that, we want to be able to offer more professional services, both by me and referral out. And so, I’m seriously looking into furthering my education in the field in Osteopathy.
Schimri Yoyo: Ah yes, that’s a great goal and good luck with that. So thank you again for your time, it’s been great, and I look forward to hearing back from you down the road. And would love to catch up and see how your continuing education goes.
Andy Luukkonen: Yeah, that’d be fantastic, anytime.
If you are ready to grow and manage your business better, take it to another level by scheduling a demo today.
Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.