What started as a keen interest and passion, has become a successful online business helping to change the lives of hundreds around the world.
The interview with Phil Mackenzie was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Founder of the The LEANSQUAD.
For over 10 years I was fortunate enough to play professional rugby overseas in one of the best leagues in the world while representing my country in two Rugby World Cups (2011 & 2015).
I had always been passionate about health and fitness for as long as I can remember, but it was during my tenure as a professional athlete that I started to really develop a true understanding and appreciation for really taking care of my body.
As a pro athlete, I was surrounded by the best trainers, nutritionists, and sports psychologists in the World. I would constantly pick their brains about different diet plans, exercise programs, training structures, and mental training trying to give myself the biggest competitive edge possible.
I would also put their suggestions into practice to see how it worked for MY body because I knew that what worked for one person might not work for another. After years of asking questions and doing my own research, I became a qualified personal trainer (while still playing) because I wanted to expand my study of the science behind health and fitness instruction.
As rugby started to come to an end, I realized how much passion I had for the health and fitness industry. Back in 2014, myself and friends were gearing up for my bachelor party in Vegas. They told me they needed to get abs, and they needed to get them FAST. My friends were working 9-to-5 jobs and they needed short, intense workouts and they needed easy meals to make.
So I created what was meant to be a REALISTIC, ENJOYABLE and REWARDING plan that they could sustain forever. In the end, they LOVED it (not just because they got abs for Vegas 😂) but because it really was so sustainable and enjoyable. They all felt better than they had in years.
After that initial success, I knew I wanted to continue to help more people really understand how rewarding and enjoyable a healthy lifestyle could be!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, a typical day looks pretty crazy right now. We have 3 kids under three (we just had twins) and of course we are in quarantine. Therefore, running a business, being self-employed and balancing family is a little hectic but I do my best! I am so lucky I have an incredible wife who helps in everything I do!
But generally, I would wake up at 6am (or may already be up depending on the twins and how they slept/ feeding schedule) with my 3-year-old son.
Then after a coffee, I would play with him for an hour or so. Then I will do my best to dive into some work. Fortunately for me, 90% of my business can be managed from my phone. Whether it’s replying to messages on social media, emails, or our private group chats for our current challenges I can get that done.
Afterwards, Brodie will come down and watch Hudson and I will probably film a bodyweight workout. Soon after lockdowns began due to the global pandemic, I did a 30 DAY QUARANLEAN CHALLENGE which had 100s of people across the world following along with me for 30 days. Each day I’d share a new workout or mobility/recovery session which is no longer than 30 minutes. It exceeded my expectations and was an incredible journey. So up until recently, that took up my mid-morning!
Later on, I will again dive into some messages and of course social media throughout the day. Whether it’s stories on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc I will do my best to create some new content. This is the driving force behind the success of the business.
After that, I put my 3-year-old son to bed at around 1pm. Then it’s back to filming workouts or recipes! The largest part of the day is content creation!
Once nap time is over it’s back to more of the same! Playing with Hudson, working (sometimes we cook together) and really making sure all the Squadies are looked after as well.
Answering any and all questions throughout the day! This continues until bedtime and then it’s a night of feeding the twins! The cycle repeats!
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.
I remember the moment I played my first rugby game at Appleby College (age 14) was the moment I wanted to become a professional rugby player. The camaraderie was really what made me fall in love with rugby. It’s unlike any other sport I’ve ever played. You can beat each other up for 80 minutes but then afterwards have a beer with one another.
After my first couple of years of playing, I then went on tour with my school to South Africa. I was the youngest on tour but again, the tour showed me an entirely new world. It solidified my notion that becoming a professional rugby player was the ultimate dream and I would do anything I could to realize that dream!
I had the opportunity to win 32 caps for Canada, play professionally in England with Coventry and Esher and ultimately moved up to the top flight with London Welsh and Sale Sharks.
It was always my goal to get into the Premiership.
After my tenure with Esher in the second-tier Championship, I got an offer from top-tier club London Irish only to have the coach fired the day I was due to sign my contract. That move ultimately never came through but I still had the opportunity to fulfill my dream, spending one season with London Welsh and three at Sale Sharks.
The Premiership is just amazing, you’re playing with some of the best players in the world week-in and week-out.
After England, I spent a season in San Diego in 2016 in the PRO Rugby league before retiring after suffering a head injury in practice with Canada while on tour in Uruguay for the Americas Pacific Challenge.
I played in two World Cups (NZ 2011/ England 2015). These were both incredible experiences, especially New Zealand!
How did you make the transition from being an athlete to founding your own company?
A lot of people ask me how the LEANSQUAD was started. Back in 2014, I (and 18 of my best friends) were gearing up for my bachelor party in Vegas.
They told me they needed to get abs, and they needed to get them FAST. We started a WhatsApp group chat and I called it the LEANSQUAD.
I wrote workout programs and meal plans for each of the guys in the LEANSQUAD group chat. They LOVED it! Many of my friends were bankers, lawyers, and dads, so I knew the workouts had to be short and efficient, while the meals had to be tasty and easy to make.
Safe to say everyone got LEAN (and a new set of abs haha), but most importantly everyone LOVED their energy levels and newfound confidence! I had multiple guys tell me how much happier they felt each and every day.
Now, as the LEANSQUAD has grown immensely, I love delivering the same personalization to each and every Squadie that I received as a professional athlete!
What started as a keen interest and passion, has become a successful online business helping to change the lives of hundreds around the world. It is an extremely rewarding experience to see a Squadie not only transform their body but also their mood, energy and perception of how to live a healthy life!
What skills and knowledge did you develop as an athlete that you have transferred to your career?
The willingness to fail.
I don’t fear failure because I’ve failed so many times in my rugby career.
Instead, I embrace it. I use failure as a driving motivator to come back stronger. I am also not scared of putting myself out there. You have to fall a few times (or sometimes in my case a lot) before you become successful at something. I think this is my number one factor behind my success.
I noticed you also work in TV Broadcasting as a Rugby Commentator for the CBC. Tell us about this role. How do you find balance between this and The LEANSQUAD?
I love it! I find they go hand in hand. At LEANSQUAD, I’m always behind a screen (just an iPhone screen) so going into the studio is an extension of that.
Although there is definitely a lot more pressure in the studio, I find that they have made me both better at my job and more confident.
I was EXTREMELY nervous the first year or so at CBC but they have helped me develop, learn and really become better at commentary which is great, as I believe again it helps with all things LEANSQUAD.
What special courses and training do you recommend an individual purse to assist in a career in this health & fitness?
Obviously getting certified as a personal trainer is a good place to start. Likewise, understanding the basics of nutrition is extremely helpful as they go hand in hand. You need to eat well as well as stay active to truly be healthy!
What would you say are the top 5 biggest moments or accomplishments in your sports industry career?
2011 World Cup – scoring the winning try in the dying minutes against Tonga
2015 World Cup – making and playing in my second world cup
Playing for the Sale Sharks – Actually playing a sustained career in the premiership was always a dream.
Scoring my first try in the premiership for London Welsh – Was my life long dream.
Scoring a try in the 2011 World Cup against Japan – Was a super intense game and a special moment.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Phil has had plenty of triumphs in his athletic career but one of the most significant came after retiring: founding the LEANSQUAD and building a global brand. It was his willingness to fail that brought him success. Triumphs are not triumphs without failure, and the lessons learned from those failures allowed Phil to make a name for his brand. It’s no surprise the LEANSQAUD is growing larger day by day, the content Phil creates is both motivating and rewarding. From sharing recipes to creating personalized workouts to keeping in touch with his clients, Phil does everything to ensure his clients are happy and ultimately, healthy. Whilst being his own boss, Phil also balances fatherhood which is one of the reasons why I admired his story and willingness to be interviewed despite his hectic schedule! If you’re in need of a new workout regime, I highly suggest checking out Phil’s content for the LEANSQAUD — you can find all his platforms below.