An exercise solution that Fitz for everyone

John Fitzgerald speaks to The Echo’s Roisin Burke about his gym Fitz Fitness, and how the business has evolved since it opened
An exercise solution that Fitz for everyone

John Fitzgerald, FITZ FITNESS, Ballincollig, Co Cork with staff (left) Dave Finn, Client Manager, and Trish Dorgan, Gym Manager and (seated) Jill Hennigan.Pic: Larry Cummins: 

The A-Team for exercise is one way to describe the crew at Fitz Fitness in Ballincollig. Run by former HR executive John Fitzgerald, the ‘gym for people who hate gyms’ looks out for its members and gets results ‘or your money back.’

“For us, it’s all about results, it’s not about taking the money. If we don’t get you results in our six or 12-week programme we literally give back the money. It’s something we honour.”

The Fitz Fitness team are all veteran exercise enthusiasts as well as parents with busy lives, so they understand the pressure and demand that exists for ‘free time’ and advocate for the benefits of spending time on you and your health.

 John started up a gym in Ballincollig five years ago and prides himself on running a "gym for people who hate gyms". Pic: Larry Cummins: 
John started up a gym in Ballincollig five years ago and prides himself on running a "gym for people who hate gyms". Pic: Larry Cummins: 

“Most of our clientele would be 30 -35+ so our coaches are able to resonate with them.

“Trish is my gym manager, she is in her 40s, she has 4 kids, then we have Patricia, who is in her late 30s, she has two kids, Gill in her 40s, she has two kids, Alan in his late 40s, and has two kids. We are all at the one stage in life, it allows us to know where people are at.”

Two members of John’s staff started their careers as clients of the gym.

“Gillian Henehan used to be a PT client with me for about a year and a half and she loved it and got great results. She was a secondary school teacher and hated her job, so I said to her why don’t you get qualified and I’ll give you a job. I promised her and she went off and got qualified, started working here and is doing fantastically well.”

Patricia Browne was also a recruit from the ranks.

Patricia Browne. Fitz Fitness, Ballincollig.
Patricia Browne. Fitz Fitness, Ballincollig.

“Patricia was a client, in a career she didn’t really like, and I said to her, you would be perfect for this gym because I had worked with her, trained with her and I knew what she was like.

“She went and got qualified and came back to me and she’s working here.”

Keeping his ear to the ground, John brought an expert out of early retirement to head up his gym team.

“Trisha Dorgan, I had heard about her, she was a mum of four and had left fitness to raise her kids. I got in touch and asked if she had any interest in getting back coaching for 15 – 20 hours a week and she jumped at it.

“She came in and she’s been with me last five years. She’s fantastic, she was born to be a coach, she has four kids and I don’t know how she does it the energy levels are off the walls.”

John said it was important to him that all his staff really believed in the ethos of the gym and the importance of exercise as part of a balanced lifestyle.

Alan McCarthy was hired through an interview process but again managed to shine among the masses to get the nod from John to come on board.

Alan McCarthy, Fitz Fitness, Ballincollig.
Alan McCarthy, Fitz Fitness, Ballincollig.

“I just really liked his back story, no one else was willing to give him a chance because he was in his 40s. I resonated with that, and he turned out to be a great coach.

“He had been to a few interviews and was getting overlooked and to me, his life experience was a massive advantage and he turned out to be fantastic.”

While the gym is inclusive and exceptionally welcoming, every new member is interviewed before joining up, to ensure their goals line up with the ethos of Fitz Fitness.

“We get all our clients at the start to write out why they want to join the gym. We don’t just let anyone join the gym, the environment is very important to us. It’s not really for someone who goes to the gym six days a week.

John Fitzgerald, FITZ FITNESS, Ballincollig, Co Cork with staff (left) Dave Finn, Client Manager, and Trish Dorgan, Gym Manager and Jill Hennigan. (Absent from photo are Alan McCarthy and Patricia Browne). Pic: Larry Cummins: 
John Fitzgerald, FITZ FITNESS, Ballincollig, Co Cork with staff (left) Dave Finn, Client Manager, and Trish Dorgan, Gym Manager and Jill Hennigan. (Absent from photo are Alan McCarthy and Patricia Browne). Pic: Larry Cummins: 

“We make everyone apply for the programme, and they get a phone call, kind of like an interview, and we ask them why is this the right time for you to focus on your health and fitness. We take their answer very seriously, it should mean something to you.”

While Fitz Fitness has become popular in Ballincollig in recent months and years, John said it’s been a long road with a lot of tough decisions to make, including rebranding, relocating and increasing prices to fit with an increased service offering.

“The gym used to be female only and we would have lost a few people who didn’t like the idea of a mixed gym, but we held onto a core membership who stuck with me. Before we started the 6 and 12-week programmes we used to do personal training. Now we do group training, which is a lot more practical and efficient.

John Fitzgerald, FITZ FITNESS, Ballincollig, Co Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins:
John Fitzgerald, FITZ FITNESS, Ballincollig, Co Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins:

“We lost people because some people don’t like change and we increased the prices as well, we were offering a lot more service. We had to do it to value ourselves.”

As the saying goes, behind every good man is an even better woman, and John said the support and encouragement he received from his wife Laura Fitzgerald has been phenomenal.

“I don’t think any of it would have been possible without her. When I was thinking of doing it, I came up with loads of reasons why I shouldn’t do it and she was the one person who said you didn’t come up with reasons why you should.

John Fitzgerald, FITZ FITNESS, Ballincollig, Co Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins
John Fitzgerald, FITZ FITNESS, Ballincollig, Co Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins

“She’s been amazing, she’s had to go through some tough times, I owe her a lot.”

While Laura is good to push John in his professional goals, he said his attempts to assist her fitness goals were not as warmly appreciated.

“I used to do PT sessions with her, but we stopped. I don’t think I’d recommend ever training your wife. We did one or two sessions but we decided it wasn’t a good idea.”

  • Fitz Fitness is located at Exchange House on the Main Street in Ballincollig.

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