Meet Victoria Wickett, Co-Owner of Bomb Fitness [Interview]

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  • Prioritizing safety and recovery in training
  • Modifying and customizing exercises for accessibility and injury prevention
  • Encouraging clients to have fun and be happy while exercising

Some people are born with an innate sense of their life’s passion and calling and they begin pursuing from the first moment they are able to do so. Others, however, discover their passion after experiencing the trial and error and hardships of life.

Today, we’re talking to Victoria Wickett who falls into the second category, having developed her passion for health and fitness later in life after initially despising the rigors of such a life. She describes how overcoming her own uncomfortable history in physical fitness gave her the determination to start her own fitness business in order to help others avoid enduring similar experiences.

Find out how her love for her clients, her attention to detail, and her resolve to make health and fitness safe and accessible for all have led to her running a popular and successful fitness practice.

BOMB Fitness has been recognized as NOW Magazine‘s Reader’s Choice Best of Toronto Award Winner in the category of “Best Gym/Fitness Club” in 2017 and 2018.

If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.

Meet Victoria Wickett, Co-Owner of BOMB Fitness

victoria-wickett-bomb-fitness-toronto

Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo with Exercise.com, and we are continuing our interview series with fitness experts. And today we have the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Wickett, co-owner of BOMB Fitness in Toronto, Canada. Victoria, thank you for joining us.

Victoria Wickett: Thank you.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Well, let’s just jump into it, get to know you a little bit better. How did you develop a love for fitness and health?

Victoria Wickett: If I can be honest with you, I hated it for the first 25 years of my life. I didn’t start enjoying fitness until long after I was forced into it when I joined the military, and they made us start running at 5:00 in the morning. From there, I truly did hate it for a long time and the tests that we did and whatnot. It wasn’t until I started actually learning way more about fitness that I started to enjoy it a little bit more.

Schimri Yoyo: I appreciate your honesty. Did you play any sports growing up, and if so, which ones?

Victoria Wickett: Absolutely not. I have three sisters, and organized sports weren’t an option for us. I tried to play in school. Got kicked off the volleyball team and the baseball team both when I was super young and never thought of it again.

Schimri Yoyo: You said you didn’t develop a love for fitness until later on in life as an adult, so was that through your working with a personal trainer or a strength conditioning coach? How did that develop?

Victoria Wickett: Yeah. I wish it was. I feel like I would have learned a lot faster if I had had a coach. I learned what I didn’t love before I learned what I started to enjoy. I didn’t start hiring a coach until I started hurting myself. I love to run, and I now love moving weights around, but I’m really long, and I’ve gotten several shoulder and hamstring injuries.

Working with a coach keeps me on track in terms of I like what I’m working with right now. I work with an athletic therapist and a strength and conditioning coach, both not part of my facility at all, but they help keep me motivated and on track.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. When you decided to run your own business and go into this as a profession, did you have any mentors that you sought counsel from?

Victoria Wickett: No. When I first got into the health and fitness industry, I worked as a corporate wellness consultant. Straight out of school, I went to school for fitness and health promotion, I went into the corporate environment, and I truly thought that I could do a better job than my boss, which didn’t end up being the case at all. But my husband and I met, we had a haphazard business plan and just went with the flow from there. So, yeah, no coaching.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Trial by error. That’s good. From the other end though.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright. When you’re not training or running your business, what is it that you do for fun in your spare time?

Victoria Wickett: I’m a musician. That was my first love. I’m a trumpet player, and I play in a ten-piece party band called TRAINWRECK here in Toronto [editor: see video below]. It is more fun than any adult should be able to have.

Fitness That Is Fun & Safe

Schimri Yoyo: That is awesome. I’m definitely going to have to come out to see you play at some point.

Let’s talk about your practice a little bit. If you had to describe your training philosophy and methodology, what one word would best describe that?

Victoria Wickett: I would say either fun or safe, and both for the same reason. If people aren’t enjoying what they’re doing, and they’re not getting better at it, then they’re not going to keep it up.

Schimri Yoyo: That makes sense. Can you describe your approach to functional training and movement? I know you talked about being a runner and injury prevention, so can you just give us a little bit of your approach to functional training?

Victoria Wickett: Well, in my facility or on my own?

Schimri Yoyo: Yes. Either/or.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah, in my facility. What we do well at Bomb Fitness is our group classes, either large group or small. We try and keep the movements pretty functional with a lot of modifications up and down for any fitness level that’s there. So, we try and keep the movement patterns fairly strict throughout the session and really keep an eye on what people are doing well and trying to progress that.

six-movement-patterns-exercise

On the back end, we try and improve the things that they’re not doing super well one-on-one, and just try to really encourage them through any issues and injuries they have. We also have physiotherapy on-site, so we can get them assessed and working to get back to where they want to be.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Through your own experience as both an athlete and as a training coach, what do you see as the relationship between strength conditioning, injury prevention, and rehabilitation? How do they all work together?

Victoria Wickett: That’s a good question. If you’re not moving well, you’re not going to be enjoying your physical activity. If I’m feeling sore or injured, and I can’t run, then my mental health is going to go downhill. I’m not going to want to do anything. I’m going to be stuck on the couch, so I think really it is a whole package. It’s not just co-relating things. It has to be a whole package. You need to be able to move well so that you can enjoy movement.

Schimri Yoyo: How do you help your clients that you train to be proactive in their own recovery and rest?

Victoria Wickett: We talk about it all the time. In our classes, in our newsletters, in everything we try to give people as many tips as possible to keep themselves feeling healthy. How to recognize what an injury should feel like and not push through things that—

People wake up and feel crappy one day, and they can move perfectly well the next, so we want to just make sure that people are recognizing that your body is not going to work the same way every day and to know what that feels like so you can move better.

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Schimri Yoyo: In that movement, flexibility, obviously, is a big part of that movement. How do you guys teach flexibility or movement in conjunction with speed and strength training?

Victoria Wickett: Like I said, we are very much group exercise-oriented, so our boot camp classes tend to include all of those things whether it’s agility, drills, always there’s a flexibility component. Sometimes during, sometimes before, sometimes after the session so that you get it all through, again at the end.

Also, with our facility, we offer the yoga and Pilates as well and really encourage that as a complement to the strength training because, again, if you’re not moving well, if you’re not moving through a full range of motion, you’re not going to get stronger.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. It seems like you guys have a very integrative model there.

Victoria Wickett: We try.

Schimri Yoyo: How, if at all, do you incorporate nutrition as part of your training? How do you have that discussion?

Victoria Wickett: We do it delicately because our clientele tends to be sort of your de-conditioned or newly reconditioned, mid-30s to 40s population. We introduce them to the fitness side as much as we can, and then in terms of nutrition, we do offer meal planning, especially with our Transformation Challenge that we offer five times a year.

We have a really hand-hold-y program where they’ll get a full meal plan, we’ll look at their food logs, and go over any adjustments that need to be made. We have another course called The Mash-Up that runs five times a year as well that is more teaching healthy habits.

Instead of, “This is the meal that you need to make,” it’s “This is how you can recognize a healthy alternative to what you want to be eating.”

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. So, you guys have the opportunity to provide both the habit side, but also the day-to-day meal plan if needed.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah. Exactly.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright. How do you measure progress or success for yourself and for your clients?

Victoria Wickett: Truly, happiness. We have very low turnover at our gyms. A lot of the big reason is that people are happy there and they’re comfortable. Something that we really look for in the way that we train is that people want to make this a part of their lives, so when we see them coming back over and over again, that’s a real measure of success for us as a business and for them as our clients. The more they’re participating, obviously, the healthier they’re going to be, the better choices they’re making throughout their day, and that’s really what we look at.

We have, again, like any gym, like any other training facility, we measure also. We do body stats for the people who want it. We do fitness assessments as well for the folks who want it, but I would say as our main measure of success is: “How compliant are you? Are you coming?”

Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. You may have touched upon this a little bit earlier in your answers about injury prevention, but I just wanted to see if you had any specific methods that you incorporate to help you to balance helping clients to reach their physical peaks without burnout.

Victoria Wickett: I have a hard time with that myself. Like I said before, I love to run, and I sometimes run for sanity more than for physical health. I do tend to get burned out, and I need somebody to help me scale that back, so I do impose it on our clients. We change up our schedule regularly, so people who are coming at certain times of day are going to see different types of programming at that time.

Whether it be more of a conditioning class versus a strength-based class or flexibility and mobility. We do tend to impose those things on people whether or not they want to, but again, biggest thing is to help people recognize what feels good and what progress should look like and how to recognize when things are not going in that direction. Sometimes, taking a step back and actually resting is going to make a way bigger difference in terms of results than trying to push through it and get larger muscles or faster or whatever it is that they’re looking for.

Schimri Yoyo: When you say you change up the schedule a little bit, is that three weeks of ramping up and then maybe one week of ramping down, or how does that work?

Victoria Wickett: We tend to change it quarterly so that our daily schedule is different every day. If you come at 6:00 every day, you’re going to see several different types of classes. For example, you’ll see a Get Strong class that is, really, more of a heavier weights with a barbell class, a lift class that we have where you’re going to do much lower reps at heavier weights.

We have a boot camp class that’s more circuit-style that incorporates a little bit more conditioning and then a strict cardio class as well. So, depending on what they’re looking for and when they can come in, they’ll get a wide variety throughout. If they have more specific goals than what we can necessarily offer within our group fitness classes, then we do offer periodized, semi-private training programs.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Judging by the clients of yours that have had the most success under your tutelage, what are some common traits do they all possess?

Victoria Wickett: They have good shoulders. For real, I mean, if people came in with weight loss goals, and they really put their head down and did it. We’ve seen people over the long-term with insane and sustainable weight loss results, which is what we see a lot of because of our demographic. I think that would be the biggest thing.

Again, compliance for us is a really big deal, and so to have people that are coming in regularly, three to five times a week. The big results that we get are people who have never exercised in their lives who now have this as a daily part of their life. They will come out drinking with us, and just generally just enjoying the vibe of our facilities.

Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. They work hard, and then, they’re able to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah, exactly. It’s a very big deal.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright. How do you juggle your time between being a trainer and an entrepreneur?

Victoria Wickett: That’s pretty cyclical. I’m lucky because my business partner is also my husband, so he’ll take more of the load on certain things when necessary, and then less of the load on others. Right now, as an example, I’m doing a lot more personal training and a lot more group classes and semi-privates than I have in the past, in the last couple of years.

In the eight years, our first two years I taught a lot, I trained a lot. While we were growing, I had to. And then, for three or four years, I really sat back and tried to do the back end stuff, development and really just growing the company.

Now that we’re in a position where I can choose, I’m choosing a more balanced approach where I do train a lot. I’m in front of clients a lot, and I also do the back end that’s necessary to keep the business doing what it’s doing.

Schimri Yoyo: And you mentioned your husband, Kevin Bennett. He is also a co-owner of BOMB Fitness, so you guys are a family business. Can you describe what it’s like to work with your husband on a day-to-day basis?

Victoria Wickett: It is great, and only because he is really—we do very different jobs, and he’s really good at his job, and I really like mine. I don’t know that I’m that good at it. He has to pick up the slack sometimes, but it’s actually great. I think we work really, really well together, and that’s where we lucked out. He does a lot of back end [work], and he does all the content for our website, and any weird administration that needs to be done.

Our course creation and things like that he does [as well], and then, I’m in the front with my staff. I manage all of the programming at the gym. I oversee all of the staff, including our children’s staff. And then, I love to teach and get in front of clients as well.

Schimri Yoyo: You guys have a complementary skill set, it seems.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah, for sure. He’s really good at teaching too. His classes are really well-attended, and people love him, but where he does his best work is at home with our two dogs on his lap just plugging away at his computer.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright. I’m going to give you an opportunity to brag about yourself a little bit. Tell me about what makes you and your staff at BOMB Fitness unique.

Victoria Wickett: I think probably because most of us didn’t come in with this insane love for getting huge muscles. None of us came in as personal trainers who didn’t want to work in a box gym anymore.

We love people, and we wanted to make this community accessible for people like us who maybe didn’t love exercise or aren’t innately attracted to the idea of making themselves sweat for an hour every day in this weird box.

So, I think that that’s why we’ve done really, really well, and the staff that we attract tend to be the same. They really love fitness and love exercise, but really have an appreciation for the community and the people that are involved in this whole process.

Schimri Yoyo: Right. Because your love for fitness was more of an acquired taste.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah, exactly. I know what I like, so I think that we attract that in our staff and in our members as well.

Schimri Yoyo: It seems like that’s enabled you to have some sort of sustainability now because you know exactly what you like and what you don’t like.

Victoria Wickett: For sure.

Schimri Yoyo: You mentioned before that you offered physiotherapy services at BOMB Fitness. What are some of the benefits of that, and how is it incorporated on a day-to-day basis?

Victoria Wickett: It’s been really interesting. We’ve only done that for the past year. We’ve had an athletic therapist for seven of the eight years that we’ve been open, but physiotherapy, to be able to offer that and have it covered under their insurance benefits has been really good. We get a guy that comes in every second week to do assessments, and then our trainers offer the active rehab side. He’ll prescribe specific exercises to do, and then our trainers oversee that people actually get them done.

So, especially people with things that are just only sort of bothering them, it’s a really good opportunity to get in front of that and keep them in the gym instead of just waiting until it hurts so much that they have to be off and then we never see them again. Yeah, it tends to work really, really well. It works in our facility especially well because we’ve got a lot of trainers that are there all day with a lot of really good knowledge that we can fill their time as well. So, it’s good.

Schimri Yoyo: Can you give us a quick summary of BOMB Fit Kids, and why is it important to have kids and young people active and engaged in fitness at an early age?

Victoria Wickett: Again, one of those things, it really was not something that I did as a kid. I think I turned out okay. But of our eight years being open, seven of them we’ve had a children’s program, and it really just came out of requests from our members who really wanted to bring their kids to have something easy to participate in. We get them moving every day, which is not something that tends to happen in our school system as much as it should anymore.

So, we get them learning movement patterns. Some of them—we have a Junior Lifters program, and the kids love to be able to move weights like their parents do. So much research is showing that it’s not any different than carrying backpacks or anything like that around.

They like it; they enjoy it; they want to learn technique, and they’re good at it at that age. It just makes it so much easier to carry on into adulthood. It also gets them better at sports and more interested in that. If they feel good, again, they’re going to want to apply their skills to other aspects of their lives.

Schimri Yoyo: What have you learned that you wish you would have known about business when you first started your own business?

Victoria Wickett: Oh, my god. So many things. Even [something] as easy as “do you need building permits to do certain things?” We really came into it with an open mind, and I think that really helped, but I think if we had had a coach at the beginning, a lot of these little things that we’ve learned along the way would have been so much easier.

I think the biggest thing that I wish that I knew back then that I know now is on the fitness side, people just want to be somewhere where they feel good.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have a functioning shower all the time. That’s a good thing, but we panicked about aesthetics a lot before we opened and about attracting everyone when the reality is we are as busy as we want to be with the clients that we want because we listened to them. I guess that would be another thing that I should have done sooner is just listened to what people actually want, and then give it to them. Things get easier from there.

Schimri Yoyo: You have an attractive atmosphere over aesthetics, so that’s really good. How do you use technology and social media to promote the business?

Victoria Wickett: I am not particularly good at that. That is definitely my husband’s side of things. He uses Facebook ads and Instagram, and our kid’s program is really showcased on our Instagram feed. But aside from that, the technology side, I don’t think we do it as well as we should. I think we could do it better.

Schimri Yoyo: Well, Victoria, it’s been great. I’ve enjoyed our time together. I want to be respectful of your time. I have a couple more questions for you.

What do you think is next for you and your business? Where do you see yourselves in the next five to ten years?

Victoria Wickett: That’s a great question. Again, going back to just listening to our clients, hearing what it is that they want and where we can grow and how we can expand I think is really what we’re going to continue to do. We’re just starting a couple of online courses with our members, yesterday (September 18, 2019) just starting. So, seeing how that goes and if it’s something that we can roll out more frequently than we currently do. I could see that happening. But in terms of physical spaces, we’re keeping it at three I hope. It’s a lot of driving for me.

Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. Maybe that will then open up your online market, and maybe there’s some more online training you can do.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah, maybe. We’ll see.

Schimri Yoyo: Lastly, do you have any resources, whether books, magazines, podcasts that you would recommend to our audience? It doesn’t have to be limited to just fitness.

Victoria Wickett: Book-wise, the book that has impacted me the most in the last year was James Clear’s Atomic Habits. I would recommend that to anyone who wants to give it a listen on Audible or have a read. It’s got so many great nuggets in it that, when applying to the fitness realm, it has just been so easy to apply and yielded such great return. So, that would be the one for me. If you listen, then it’s four hours of your time.

Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Well, thank you again for your time, Victoria. You were a great interview. Thank you, also, for your military service. We look forward to hearing back from you and Kevin down the road.

Victoria Wickett: Yeah. Perfect. Thank you so much.

Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Have a good one.

Victoria Wickett: Okay. Bye.

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