HAYLEY White was a chronic asthmatic as a child, which meant she would often have to miss PE lessons or come last in sports day races.

Fast forward to 2023 and the medical exercise specialist, PT and running coach is based at Puregym in Northwich helping clients achieve their own fitness goals.

Here, in our latest Business of the Week feature, Hayley tells her journey to owning a successful fitness business and what her personal and professional goals are for 2024.

If you would like to appear in one of our business features, email heid.summerfield@newsquest.co.uk

What’s the name of the business?

Hayley White Medical Exercise Specialist, PT and Running Coach.

What’s the address?

I'm based at Puregym Northwich and live in Davenham.

Are you the owner/manager?

Yes, I have been independent and self-employed for almost 20 years.

When did you open the business?

I started practising as a PT (personal trainer) in 2005, but back then, it took just over 18 months to qualify. I did most of my initial basic PT training with NASM and at Leicester University. It was about three years later that I decided PT wasn't enough nor as satisfying to me as wanting to work with those who had serious injuries or illness. So, not long afterwards, I started various courses and qualifications to become specialised. To be honest, in my field, you never stop learning. Medicine and surgical procedures and rehabilitation have changed and are always evolving, so I’m always studying and attending lectures and courses to keep up to date. That's just one of the aspects I love so much about my work and role within the industry.

Has it always been in the same location?

Yes, prior to the building being owned by Puregym it was LA Fitness and an independent gym before that. There have been so many changes in that very building. What is now a weights pit with squat racks and dumb bells, was once a pool where my son learned to swim and took his first paddle at 18 months. He's now 14 and I'm reminded of some fabulous memories each day when I’m at work.

Hayley does marathons and ultra marathons in her spare time

Hayley does marathons and ultra marathons in her spare time

Are you local to the area? Did you grow up here?

I have lived in Davenham for almost 13 years. Before this, I lived near Darnhall in Winsford. I was born and bred in Winsford. My immediate family live in the Highlands of Scotland, although none of us are Scottish. I'd love to move closer to them one day. My breathing space is in the mountains.

Tell me a bit about your business. What do you do?

On a typical day, my clients can have or need rehabilitation - specifically designed exercise programmes to accommodate and/or improve an illness, serious disease or injury. On the flip side, they can be professsional and could be having issues with a niggle that needs rectifying, so they can continue with their training. Postural assessments - carefully watching and observing their biomechanics - enables me to create their programmes. Since Covid, I have also embarked on online PT, especially as an online running coaching, which is growing all the time. I work with people who may have just embarked on their fitness, health and well-being journey to those who stand on a podium and have been keeping fit for the last 40 years. Everyone is different and individual and therefore needs to be treated this way. It's called personal training for a reason.

Why did you decide to open your own business?

Long story short, I had reached a very privileged position as a PA in the Channel Islands, having worked for a family and their businesses. I couldn't really top that when I returned to mainland UK. I had taken up running and general fitness at the beginning of the 90s and having completed marathons, I could still run the distance. When I had left the UK for the Channel Islands I lost some fitness - it's tricky running a decent distance on a small island. When I came back to the UK, just before turning 30, I wanted a complete change of career and here we are!

What’s your business background?

None! I’ve worked as an estate agent and worked my way up to senior negotiator and then started as a secretary with an independent company, working up to being the CEO PA before being a PA in the Channel Islands. I’ve always worked hard in whatever job I’ve had.

Why this type of business?

I always had a keen interest in medicine - I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger but missed a lot of school due to chronic asthma. I had a real desire to make a business of my own and use the experience and good fortune of working with a family who had turned nothing into millions. My own interest in becoming fitter enabled me to handle my asthma - I could never run as a kid and always came last often missing PE. By the time I turned 30, I had completed more than 30 marathons and dabbled in a few sprint triathlons and wanted to spread the word that even if you are dealt a curveball with an illness or disability it could, with knowledge and determination, be overcome and you can be greater than that illness. Qualifying as a PT and then as a medical exercise specialist fulfilled my itch and I have built up some incredible relationships with my clients - many have now been training for more than 15 years – and they’re not clients anymore, they are very good friends. It means so much to see them gain and attain fitness and health benefits that they didn't think were possible.

Were you open before/during/after the Covid-19 pandemic? How did this affect your business?

I certainly was open before the pandemic, and while initially I did think “well what now?” when the gym closed in March 2020 I had to find a way. Never in my mind did I think I would be doing a zoom session or Whatsapp group sessions but just like many others, you have to adapt to the circumstances. It worked and while I definitely prefer 1:1 PT sessions, the experience of being an online PT, does help people who live overseas. I have clients in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA and Europe. The time differences can bring about some challenges especially when I have done a full day at Puregym!

What makes your business different to others in the same area/field?

It’s only different in the sense it’s an extension of fitness, health and wellbeing that’s already available. There are so many excellent PTs and gym facilities in Cheshire. As a medical exercise specialist PT and running coach with my own medical issue, I am determined to not let it stop me. I can relate to the frustrations so many of my clients feel and I enjoy showing them that if they feel they can, then they should.

Hayley is based at Puregym in Northwich

Hayley is based at Puregym in Northwich

What sets your business apart from your competitors?

Back in the early 2000s, having a PT was a little bit like a status symbol. Celebrities such as Davina McCall encouraged that and there weren’t many of us about. For a while being a PT was fun but it just wasn’t as fulfilling or challenging after a while. I needed further studies and qualifications in the field of medical exercise. There is now a vast array of PTs and we all have our specialised areas. Medical exercise is still quite unique with many still on NHS waiting lists or having to see physios or chiropractors. I feel incredibly lucky to see a real change in clients’ health, fitness and well-being, because rehabilitation in its many forms, when practised correctly can bring positive change very quickly - far quicker generally than a fat loss, weight loss or aesthetic change.

Why do loyal customers return to your business?

I make my clients feel they are the most important person to me. If they haven’t been heard or are becoming disengaged, uninspired, scared or lacking the motivation to actually turn their health, wellbeing and fitness around because of something in their lives, then I can help. When they appoint me, I take them under my wing and teach them, build their knowledge, trust, capability and self-esteem to make their health and fitness dreams become a reality.

What’s next? What do the next few months hold for you and your business?

Personally, having trained intensively since December last year for my last Adventure Ultra Race - The Dragons Back at beginning of September – I’ve enjoyed a few weeks of downtime. I’m cranking it back up now as I have the Winter Spine Challenge in January. I think I have the balance right in business. I'm blessed to have a thriving business post-Covid and it’s something that I continue to work hard for. Juggling being a mum, a wife, an ultra runner and running my full-time business brings about many challenges, but those who truly know me, know I love a challenge! After almost 20 years in the industry, I still turn up each day with the same desire, passion and commitment to my work with every client as I did on day one. That’s a very lucky position to be in - loving your work is crucial to a happy, healthy life.