Conversation’s With Pro You’s Favourite Local Trainers

We are fortunate to have some serious go-getting, entrepreneurial supporters that help support Pro You through their own channels. Pro You is stocked across New Zealand in leading gyms, training spaces, and health shops, often small businesses and locally owned. We created this space to open a conversation between all of us – chatting about how they got to where they are, what they experienced and learned along the way, and how they are navigating these turbulent times. We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!

This week, we chat with Annette Woodroffe and Annalie Marks from Life Co-Lab, a boutique fitness studio in Parnell, Auckland.

Let’s kick off by telling us a bit about yourself and the business you’re in.
We are Annette and Annalie and we own a training and wellness studio in Parnell. We run small group classes and offer personal training in functional strength and cardio exercise. Because of our small group model, our members participating in our classes still get personalised attention, this means that they can train safer, better and progress faster. Our colleagues in the studio also offer Reformer Pilates training, specialized personal training for youths, massage services (including sports massage) and mindset coaching. The studio also has an infrared sauna for recovery, restoration, or just some time out. Our business is premised on our core values, community, collaboration, confidence and connection.

How did Life Co-Lab start, was it straightforward forward, or did it take time?
Like most businesses, it started with a conversation about what we would really love to do with our lives. We are both passionate about exercising and the benefits that regular exercise has brought to our lives. Not just physically but mentally, challenging ourselves outside of our comfort zone, learning new things and the connections we have made with new people. We actually met each other when our personal trainer decided to get us to start training together. 

We decided over one of the 2020 lockdowns that we were going to go for it. We had quite a bit of time during that lockdown to get very clear about our vision and start planning what needed to be done. As soon as we were out of that lockdown things started moving quite quickly. We found our space and had our lease within a couple of months and had begun working with a great branding and website developer. Other things did not happen so smoothly, our fit-out was a frustrating process, and getting all the equipment we wanted when facing supply shortages and long shipping delays took some logistical planning. There were many spreadsheets. From concept to opening it took about six months and a lot of patience.

What are common issues you see your clients dealing with and how do you help them overcome this?
Gyms can be one of the most intimidating environments. The most common issue we see with new people coming into the studio is a lack of confidence. We really wanted to create a space that eliminates any feelings of judgment and allows our members to feel empowered by their own workout, which is a workout within their own cardio and strength ability. We assure people that we also know what it was like to walk through the gym door on day one, not knowing what you were doing. We have never forgotten our own journeys, so we can relate to those feelings. 

We try and take away some of those obstacles which could knock confidence, we take time to go through movements, and because we have small groups, we can be by your side during class. We put out equipment for our newer members in class, so they don’t have to worry about not knowing what to use. We don’t want anyone standing down the back feeling like they don’t know what to do. We adapt class workouts for individuals so nobody feels like they are “behind.” We are also both, by nature, very supportive and encouraging people. We have found that it doesn’t take long for our members to grow confidence with the movements and equipment or to feel confident to ask when they are unsure.

What are some tips you can give us for how you best navigate these turbulent times of lockdowns and the wider pandemic?
We are like everyone else, some weeks, we take everything in our stride, and other weeks, we feel overwhelmed and anxious about what is next. While we try and keep to a consistent routine as much as possible, it is not always realistic to have set routines at the moment. We have surrendered to that and accepted that best intentions are fluid. So, we know that the best thing for us now is support. That means asking for support if you need it and offering support if you can provide it.  

How does your wider community shape the way Life Co-Lab operates?
We always knew that the people who are meant to train with us will find us, and that is what has happened, our members and our community are exactly how we envisaged it would be. We absolutely love our community. We are still a new business, so it has been really wonderful to see how our members have started to connect with each other and encourage each other in the studio.

We also listen to and observe our members closely and program our workouts accordingly. For example, we noticed that a lot of our members hold tension in their neck and shoulders or are spending a lot of time sitting at desks for work and feeling weak in their hip flexors, so we have added a cycle into our strength classes of movements and exercises to address these issues. Our members also tell us about their personal goals or some movement they want to conquer in class, so we make sure that those opportunities are available for them.

What does your morning routine look like?
Our first class is at 5.45 am, so our mornings start at 4.45 am, very blurry-eyed. We like to go into the studio early and set up for class so that we can get straight into it when our members come in. We try and both go in to take class together as much as possible but depending on what is happening in our week or with our own families, we may give one of us a morning off! We get so much energy from people coming in and training that we are always feeling energized by the time class is finished.

Once we have got our kids off to school, we try, as much as possible, to meet each other in the studio to get our workout done. Like we tell everyone else to do, we make exercising a priority in our day. Last year during lockdown, we also made a commitment to each other (holding each other accountable) that we would have a smoothie a day, it is just such a great way to get lots of “good stuff” into the body. That has now become a key part of our morning.

What’s your favourite way to train at the moment?
Our favourite way to train is always together, as much as we can. Having a training buddy has become so entrenched in our training, we get pretty lonely if we are training alone. 

The way we train has changed a lot over the last year. We still love our long cardio workouts, but we are putting a lot more focus on strength and accessory training. We do the same workouts as what we give our members in class, that is something that is very important to us. We also have recently added a Reformer Pilates session once a week with Emily Moves, in our studio which complements our training and we do gymnastics training with our Crossfit coach once a week. 

When you’re not training or working on the business, what’s your favourite way to spend time?
We both have other jobs, plus with our families and children, things are busy and there is a lot of hard work and long days, so any free moment is really spent relaxing and unwinding (read: Netflix). We know how important it is to just stop sometimes. We have both recently been trying Reiki, which has been a great experience and helps to balance our energy, we love discussing and comparing our Reiki experiences with each other. We started tramping a few years ago and being in nature is very special to us, we are hoping that we can fit in a few more regular walks or tramps this year. People who know us would also say that we are partial to a glass of wine or two.

Can you give one word of advice to someone that is looking to increase their overall health and fitness?
Be clear on what your motivation is. Make sure you have some method of accountability in place.

How has Covid affected your business and what are you doing to get around the current restrictions?
We started our business during the pandemic, so we were lucky to have that insight, especially when negotiating our lease agreement. From the start, we had plans in place for what we would do in various scenarios including a snap lockdown, which ended up happening only 3 months after we had opened. We have just had to be adaptable and creative, which aren’t bad qualities to have. When we were allowed to start training groups outdoors, we ran 8 weeks of free outdoor classes for the community, which was also an opportunity to raise awareness about us, in the community and gave us a sense of purpose during that time. That is now part of our story. 

We are a mandated business and in a close contact industry, which means we have had to follow restrictions and put guidelines in place, in the studio, to keep everyone as safe as possible. That has been our focus, to try and keep the studio operating while people are in and out of isolation (including if we need to isolate) and to do everything we can to keep the people who are coming into our studio, safe. 

And let’s finish on a high, what is something you’re most proud of or your greatest achievement?
We are now planning our first anniversary celebration for us, our members, and those who have supported us, so we have been reflecting on the last year. It is a very vulnerable journey starting a new business, so there is definitely a sense of achievement in simply making it happen. There can be a lot of pressure (not always intentionally) from people who think you should be doing things a certain way, particularly in the fitness industry, but we were very clear about our focus and where we wanted to sit in the market; providing a safe and welcoming space where people could come and train and be themselves. We are really proud that we have stuck to our core values and now have a business working exactly how we intended it to be.

You can find out more about Life Co-Lab on their website here and keep up to date with what is going on at the studio by following them on Instagram here.