Former Canadian rugby player Phil Mackenzie has 90 days to whip you into shape
TORONTO — It started when his groomsmen wanted to get in shape for his wedding. So Phil Mackenzie came up with a plan.
Now the retired Canadian rugby international has made a business out of helping others shape up. Mackenzie’s Lean Squad offers customized 90-day exercise and nutrition plans.
“Ultimately you feel way better when you’re exercising and eating right,” Mackenzie said in an interview. “A lot of people just don’t know how to do it.”
During his days as a pro rugby player, the 30-year-old Mackenzie soaked up information from strength and conditioning coaches.
“I loved the fitness aspect,” he said. “Because I always thought it was something you could control, in terms of I could go to the gym and improve every day.”
But in trying to whip his friends into shape ahead of his bachelor party, he realized he had to come up with a plan that fitted into their schedules.
“They were so busy,” he said. “As a rugby player, you have so much time that you don’t really appreciate time, I guess, in terms of you’re done training at 12, you go for coffee, you’ve got all afternoon to do whatever you’ve got to do.
“Whereas my friends were working nine-to-five jobs and they needed short, intense workouts and they needed easy meals to make. So I kind of developed that and they loved it. That kind of led me to where I am now.”
He formalized the Lean Squad — the name comes from a group chat ahead of the bachelor party — into his business some eight months ago. It’s a three-month plan but he says many of his clients — he calls them squadies — continue with the program afterwards.
Mackenzie is on hand for enthusiastic support along the way. His Lean Squad Instagram feed is full of before and after client shots plus exercise and food suggestion.
With an impressive six-pack and not many shirts in his wardrobe judging from his social media feed, Mackenzie is a walking advertisement for his business.
“I’m absolutely loving it,” he said. “I never thought I get to help people change their lives and have such a positive impact.”
Count New York Islanders star John Tavares as a booster after his fiancee became a Lean Squad client and fan. The two have cooked together and Tavares has used his social media to talk up Mackenzie.
Mackenzie is not the first rugby player to offer workout and nutrition help. Former Canadian fullback James Pritchard is a personal trainer and England international backrower James Haskell’s book “Perfect Fit” comes out this week.
Mackenzie, a native of Oakville, Ont., who won 32 caps for Canada, played professionally in England with Coventry and Esher before moving up to the top flight with London Welsh and Sale Sharks.
“It was always my goal to get into the Premiership,” said the former winger.
After excelling with Esher in the second-tier Championship, he got an offer from top-tier club London Irish only to have the coach fired the day he was due to sign his contract. That move never came through but he fulfilled his dream, spending one season with London Welsh and three at Sale.