Sandra Dunne was recently named as managing director with Gym Plus, one of Ireland’s foremost gym chains. We chat to her about the reality of the fitness business and her advice for overcoming gymtimidation
We talk to Sandra Dunne, the managing director of Gym Plus, about what she’s learned, how to take the first step on your fitness journey and what she hopes to see happen in the future.
Why is inclusivity in fitness important to you?
Everyone needs the opportunity to improve their mental and physical well being through a fitness programme that works for them. We try our best to dispell any misconceptions around perceived access constraints based on age, ability or any other factor that might make someone worry that they’d not be made welcome and comfortable. This is why we have created a huge programme of options for our members including a vast array of exercise equipment and classes, to ensure that there really is something for everyone to enjoy during their fitness journey.
What would you say to somebody in their 40s who has never been to a gym before and is nervous?
It can be very easy to put off setting foot in a gym based on your own fears that everyone there will be somehow “better” than you. But when you look at our average gym goer you’ll find you have far more in common with them than your subconscious suggests.
In fact, many of our gym clubs we are actually seeing an increase in 40+ gym membership which is a real sign that fitness over 40 is more popular than ever. Be reassured that there are all ages, abilities and backgrounds represented in the membership and that even our fittest members and trainers started their fitness journey at a similar point to where you are at now. They’ll remember it too and be more than happy to offer you a friendly smile or a bit of support should you need it.
What’s the biggest mistake you see people making in the gym?
Probably not taking a sustainable approach to their fitness, starting with too much, too often. Either getting injured or finding the level of effort unsustainable and demotivating. You don’t need to be in the gym two hours a day five times a week to see improvements. And whilst being there should be fun, it’s something that fits into your life rather than taking it over entirely.
Personally, what do you wish you’d known 10 years ago that you know now?
That it’s not all black and white. Being flexible and looking for a win win outcome can give much better results.
What’s the hardest thing about your day job?
There are always a million things that need my attention at any one time. My “to do” list working towards the ideal club is never finished. I have to continually prioritise the things that’ll make the biggest difference.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“There is no such thing as a work / life balance but a “balanced self”. I heard this a few years ago; It’s a great reminder to take personal responsibility for making it all work.
What’s the future plans for Gym Plus?
We’ll continue to work on member experience across our existing clubs. Investing in staff training, improved facilities and anything that members tell us. We’re also starting to plan our expansion into new sites, bringing the Gym Plus magic to new communities in Ireland. So it’s all very exciting!
What’s your favourite thing about working in the fitness industry?
The people; both our members and our teams. It’s great to see people enjoying and getting the benefit from using our clubs.
What do you think people would be surprised to know about your day to day role?
When you say “Managing Director” a lot of people think about someone in a sharp suit sitting behind a big desk in the corner office. Maybe issuing directions from on high. But my role isn’t like that at all. I spend the majority of my time in our clubs. Talking to people as they come in, training our teams and getting involved in every detail of delivering a better experience for our members.
If a member stops me on the floor and asks for help with a new machine, I’ll stop and help them. I really believe that every member of our team, myself included, is here to serve our members in whatever way they need us to.
For more information about Gym Plus visit www.gymplus.ie and follow on @gymplus_ireland for daily motivation from our trainers and members.