WITH SHAUN STAFFORD
GOING DEEPER presents leading fitness athlete, trainer, coach, business man, husband and dad...Shaun Stafford.
He started his sporting career in Athletics and Rugby, representing Oxford University in five Varsity Matches, before a series of injuries led him to redirect his focus and energy to the gym. His career as a physique athlete started with National and European Titles as an amateur before turning Pro and winning two World Championships with The WBFF.
In this exclusive interview, we get the opportunity to learn what it’s like to retire from a sport you love at a young age and how to turn it into a positive. We talk about Shauns biggest achievements as an athlete and a businessman and find out what the key is to staying relevant in your field.
Shaun, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. Before we begin to ‘go deeper’... You’re a busy guy and seem to be involved in lots of different projects - how would you best describe yourself and what you do to anyone who’s meeting you for the first time?
I think first and foremost I am a trainer and business owner, whether that is physically in the flesh at one of my gyms or virtually in the online space and on social media. Everything I do is geared towards helping people with their fitness or lifestyle to try and be the healthiest, best versions of themselves.
Talk to us about your early rugby career and your move into being a physique athlete. We know you started your ‘fitness’ journey with Oxford University before moving into other ventures, was that a hard decision to make at the time?
My “career” in rugby was fairly short-lived: it was a sport that I loved (and still do) but I wasn’t as physically robust as a lot of the other guys I was playing with and I always found myself on the physio’s table… One too many injuries led to me hanging up my boots and I needed something else to focus on and train for. This coincided with when physique sport was just starting out so I entered a show and the rest is history. It was a sport that I almost instantly took to. Within 18months of starting I’d won every show I had entered, improving each time, and clocked up British, European and Pro World Championships on the way. That made the decision to stick with it a bit easier...
We know you’re a big believer that each hour should be used wisely to achieve your goals. With this in mind, how do you make sure you manage your time efficiently each day?
I think viewing the day in hour slots is way too long. I usually do 15-30 minute slots… I may have to chunk several together to get larger jobs done, but usually things can be done in shorter periods of time if you have absolute focus. I am also a big believer in brain-dumps and to-do-lists at the start of every day. This helps me fill in the gaps in my schedule and gives me clear objectives for each day… I find time management a key skill and something that all entrepreneurs should try to master.
We can imagine working in the fitness industry can be really competitive - how have you managed to stay relevant and successful for so long? What’s your secret?
I think the fitness industry is incredibly competitive, as with all vibrant sectors right now… As for staying relevant, I’m not sure I have if I’m completely honest! I look around and see what I do and how I do it as less and less popular: I am not a YouTuber or Tik-Tokker and my slightly dryer, less obvious sense of humour doesn’t always translate across some of the newer platforms!
One thing I have always done is stay true to who I am and what I’m about. I obviously evolve with time as everyone does, but I think my core message and values stay the same throughout… I think if you are kind, work-hard and do your best to be well received, you’ll be successful at whatever you turn your hand to.
Have you ever experienced any major setback in your life and how have you overcome them?
Set-backs are part and parcel of life and I think the key is to not dwell on them and add unnecessary meaning where it might not exist. Everything happens for a reason and with every bit of bad luck an opportunity to move in a different direction presents itself.
I think surrounding yourself with good people helps keep you grounded and gives you energy to keep moving in the right direction. Having a positive mindset and sense of perspective makes all the difference and having some people you can trust to keep you on the right path really helps.
If you had to pick one person from your personal life and one person from your professional life that inspires you the most, who would they be and why?
From my personal life, it would have to be my wife… firstly she puts up with me so deserves a huge credit for that, plus she is the most supportive and caring person I know. She does an amazing job with our son and we balance each other out really well!
From my professional life, I have a few mates who are incredibly inspiring entrepreneurs and just really good people: Dave Finlay, Ed Press and Callum Wild are all incredibly smart and dynamic business men, who are also incredibly generous with both their time and experiences. From fitness, I am always inspired by my good mate Ryan Terry: humble, authentic and the pinnacle of dedication and commitment. He hasn’t really changed in 10 years and that is a credit to him as a bloke. I can’t wait to see him as a new dad as I know he will be great at that too.
You’re the proud owner of City Athletic gyms now, how has being a professional athlete helped you in your business journey? Are the two relatable in any way?
I think the mindset of a professional athlete can definitely help. The ability to work in a team, to push towards a common goal and to not accept defeat certainly helps drive a business forward. I think there absolutely needs to be an objective look at what skills gaps exist and then the proper recruitment needs to take place.
We are always open minded as a business and take a lot of coaching to help us grow and improve, I think that is probably a good parallel to sport too.
"One thing I have always done is stay true to who I am and what I’m about. I obviously evolve with time as everyone does, but I think my core message and values stay the same throughout… I think if you are kind, work-hard and do your best to be well received, you’ll be successful at whatever you turn your hand to."
Looking back on your career to date, what advice would you give your 18 year old self knowing what you know now?
Spend more time on flexibility, mobility and training your rotator cuffs. I wish I had been less of a gym monkey and actually learned to use my body more functionally when I was younger… You pay the price of that when you tip nearer to the big 4-0…
From securing the WBFF European & Fitness Championship in 2012, leading a successful career as an international cover model to fitness writing and owning your own group of gyms you’ve achieved a lot. What’s been your proudest achievement in your career?
I think winning my second World Championship title in Las Vegas in 2014 was a highlight from the stage for sure. It was my one and only “perfect preps” in 5 years competing as a pro-physique athlete and was the best shape I have ever been in… It was a great place to leave that chapter of my life behind and move on to new challenges. Raising $20,000 for an orphanage in Nepal by running a marathon up Mt.Everest was right up there too. It was a journey that was completely out of my comfort zone and was a process that has bullet-proofed my mind… If I could do that in 3 months, I can do anything I put my mind to!
And finally, what’s next for you? Have you any exclusives to tell us about future projects?
At the moment, we are in a massive transition with lock-down and the closure of gyms and fitness centres. We are investing a lot of time into developing online concepts for both the gym community and my social media community and these will be launching in the upcoming weeks. Other than that I am just looking forward to seeing what happens in the fitness space in the next few months and to be in a position to help as many people as I can get through a very tough and challenging period.