Strengthening mind, body and business, with Chris Gray

8 Nov, 2021 | Podcast

In this week’s episode, Chris and Katie talk about the mindset for success in both fitness and business. And Chris talks about his experiences of combining real-life networking with online marketing.

They also talk about how their mental health has changed over the past 18 months, how mental health challenges affect marketing activities, and how they make it through the challenging times.

There’s a lot of honest talk about the realities of mental health issues, so if this is something you’ve been struggling with, we’ve included some valuable resources in the relevant section of the show notes.

Today's episode is sponsored by the Instagram MOT. This 20-point checklist and free training are freshly updated, so get stuck in to find out if your profile is fit for purpose or needs some attention! Click on the big yellow button below to get started right away.

Gray Mania Fitness – getting started

Chris started his business journey as a freelance personal trainer and now runs his strength gym, running strength coaching sessions in real life and online. As well as coaching clients, he is a strength coach and athlete – competing in strength competitions.

Like many small business owners, the global pandemic affected his business in many ways, so he’s focusing on building his business back up to support his life and lifestyle.

“When Covid hit, I had to close the gym for a few months. I lost a few clients and normal growing pains of people leaving – it’s the nature of the beast. It affected my business and my personal life, but it’s starting to come back – I’m quite happy with that.” – Chris

The game plan for Gray Mania Fitness – on and offline

Chris wants to grow the gym to run sustainably and support him fully in his goals and ambitions. Part of that is to shift into providing strong-man training, but he’s aware of the need to transition out of his current client offering into something new and is – understandably – cautious after the past 18 months.

His other priority is to split his online coaching service away from the gym to offer a range of training options and online packages, which would allow him to have time away from both ventures to continue to train and compete as an athlete.

The similarities between strength fitness and entrepreneurship

Katie and Chris discuss the many different ways in which training as a strength athlete and running your business cross over. Both business owners agree that there’s an element of trial and error, but the most crucial skill of all is patience.  

“A lot of people don’t understand that it’s essential just to show up and do the work. Not everything is going to be amazing – you get the good and the bad. You do it because you need to do it – keeping it ticking over.” – Chris

Authenticity in business

For Chris, the best part of running his business is choosing the environment and atmosphere he creates in the gym. The space he provides for clients must be inclusive and welcoming. He can make decisions and choices that reflect his own beliefs and values.

Business challenges

Chris can find it tricky balancing the different aspects of his business – the blend of real-life and online training can leave him feeling pulled in different directions. Still, he’s confident he’ll find a way through this as both aspects of the business grow.

Another aspect he finds challenging is the potential fall-out between the clients who attend. He is mindful of creating a positive group dynamic in the gym and is very conscious that personal relationships can cause tension at times.

“I’ve only had to ask one person to leave. Honesty is essential in a space like mine; if you’re feeling a certain way, you have to talk about it.” – Chris

Growing an online community through real-life networking

Chris’ main passion is in the competition side of strength lifting. He attends – and competes – competitions as much as possible and has a strong network of fellow athletes and event organisers. Chris is a chatty, engaging person and enjoys meeting new people, so networking comes easily for him.

And through networking, he focuses on creating positive relationships with everybody he meets, which makes a strong network of inspired, loyal and positive networks on social media and beyond.

Podcasting for business – the highs and lows

Podcasting might feel like a natural next step for business owners and marketing, but Chris has a cautionary tale. His podcast is currently dormant – something he is considering reviving again in the future. Coming from a sound engineering background, he enjoyed much of the podcast process but knew he was losing business to some of his guests.

Bringing on inspiring and motivational guests meant that listeners were choosing to train with them instead of booking training with Chris, and it felt counterproductive for Chris when he was trying to grow his bank of clients.

He also found it very hard to interview guests if they were shy or wooden and is considering working with a co-host to ensure a regular, upbeat atmosphere when the podcast is recorded—something Katie has been considering with The Whin Big podcast.

Marketing and managing mental health

Chris and Katie discuss the difficulties of marketing and promoting your business while grappling with mental health challenges – especially after such a tumultuous year. Chris freely admits he’s had an incredibly tough time, and that’s had a significant impact on his marketing activities – he’d go for long periods without posting anything online.

“Sometimes it’s super hard to put in that extra effort. The phone weighs about 100 kilos to pick up and post something. It’s hard to get over that hump.” – Chris

One of the biggest struggles for Chris is balancing out the need to be and feel authentic without being so honest online that all you talk about is how terrible you’re feeling. When Katie’s in this situation, she freely talks about taking a break on her Instagram feed.

She knows that even in the hardest of times, the team that helps her with Whin Big Podcast will be there to support her with her weekly pod – so, at the very least, she knows something is happening each week, no matter how hard everything else feels.

“What helps me avoid feeling like a failure is to find that one thing I can still do – even when I feel like crap.” – Katie

Resources from this episode of The Whin Big Podcast

Follow Chris & Gray Mania Fitness on Instagram

Breathing Space – helpline for people in Scotland 

Mind – information and support services for people in the UK

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