Ex party girl turned personal trainer Olivia Cooney is the founder of PopUp Fitness, a new bespoke fitness company that offers 7 day long retreats in exclusive venues across Ibiza, Amsterdam, the South of France and Greece. Loved by Millie Mackintosh, Laura Whitmore and Gizzie Erskine, this week we caught up with Olivia to chat all about her entrepreneurial tips, daily routine and what is next in 2016 for PopUp Fitness.
What is the concept behind Pop-Up Fitness?
The Pop-Up Fitness Retreats are set in some of the World’s most elite venues in the most glamorous destinations. Our most well known retreat is our “Tough Love” retreat. It is seven days of a healthy balance of vigorous exercise, deliciously prepared clean eating from award winning chefs, calming yoga and inspiring hikes through the unspoilt countryside of Ibiza. The retreat offers complimentary injury prevention, physiotherapy and relaxation massages sprinkled in to ease the muscles. The retreats have a very casual atmosphere where we have up to 18 guests who each receive personal attention and gentle encouragement, rather than drill-sergeant discipline. Our desire is for all of our clients, male and female, of all ages attending the ‘Pop-Up Fitness Retreats’, to leave feeling fantastic and not feeling beaten up as if they have been at an army style boot camp. The best part of the retreats are that the decision of how much you participate in is completely up to you.
How do you find running your own business? What have been the most challenging and rewarding aspects?
My path to running my own business is probably not what you would expect to hear from a personal trainer. Four years ago I was fully part of the glittering and glamourous party scene of London and now I find myself shouting fitness orders at people to do burpees in Ibiza. Now that I have found my way here, there is no where I would rather be than encouraging and motivating people to feel their best on a daily basis. Of course, launching and getting any business up and running is stressful as you have to work 24 hrs a day trying to control your creative mind (where you can see your business going) with your business mind (actually making it work.) I am particularly bad at this, as I just want to do it all and give it all now. My partner Bart Van Maanen is the best one to bring me back down to earth, he is a model full time but is also a major part in Pop-Up Fitness.
What gave you the idea and motivation to start Pop-Up Fitness?
I found the property we host the retreats at in Ibiza by chance on a family holiday, at this point I had been a person trainer for three years and ready to take my career a step further. The villa has an astro-turf football pitch attached to it, It’s surrounded by hills; which is perfect for hill sprints, It is also a 10 minute walk away from the beach and has enough room to sleep 18 people comfortably. As I was sitting there in this magnificent property I thought to myself “this is how celebrities live; workouts on the football pitch in the morning, a chef to cook whatever you like, great running and hiking paths along the coast lines and the freedom and choice to reward yourself with a luxury lounger at an exclusive beach club. Instantly I knew that this was the lifestyle I wanted to make accessible for everyone. Fabulous fitness, beautiful clean food combined with ultimate luxury for one week.
What is your background in health and fitness?
I have always been sporty ever since I was a child. Sports day were my time to shine, I was never academic but I was good at athletics and netball. I used to play tennis for the Channel Islands with Heather Watson who is still a very close friend of mine. I then joined Millfield school in Somerset, which half of the England Rugby team have come out of! After Millfield I worked for a short period of time at Jimmy Choo in the PR department and continued in the PR industry until my heart told me I was not doing what I enjoyed. I didn’t feel good in myself anymore – so I quit my job, packed my bags and went travelling. I explored Thailand, India & Bali and soon found myself organising my own retreats out there. There was no partying or backpacking for me, instead I spent my time climbing volcanos, working out on beaches and spent a total of three months at a Muay Thai camp. I absolutely fell in love with this feeling of tip top health and fitness.
What is your daily routine?
My daily routine will vary according to how early my first client is, but on a typical day my alarm will sound at 5.30am so I am up and ready for my first client at 6.00am. I absolutely have to make a cup of tea for the short drive in my car playing my latest most motivational tune, which is currently ‘Working For It’ by Skrillex. By 8am I will have made breakfast and made enough green juice to last anybody else a week. I love to have a fresh green juice in the fridge throughout the day. By 9am, I will be at the computer working on the business. It is a constant stream of emails, bookings, interviews and meetings with other new exciting brands and chefs. I will have at least 3 more clients over the day which means I have to have excellent time management skills. Each one of my clients has a bespoke workout plan, so a majority of my day will be spent researching, learning and reading blogs to find out the new weird and wonderful tips for the fitness freaks. I have to be on top of all of it!
What are your favourite supplements?
I love ‘Ibiza Superfoods’ (http://www.ibizasuperfoods.com) who always provide different magical potions at our retreats! I think it is really important to practice what you preach – a teaspoon of either the ‘detox’, ‘sexy’, ‘skinny’ or ‘disco’ mix in my juice/smoothie is the perfect hit of healthy energy.
When is the next pop up retreat, do you have many more planned for next year?
Next year we are back in Ibiza several times. We are also launching new destinations! Which currently include the South of France and Greece. I cannot wait for our fabulous long weekend retreat at the magnificent Ston Easton Park again, It’s a castle in Somerset. Check out the video here of our last one: https://vimeo.com/137116764
Any advice for keeping fit over the Christmas period?
The most important thing is to enjoy your Christmas. Whatever you do, do not go into panic mode. You can still workout when there are Christmas trees up and roast dinners being served even if it is just a plank, a wall sit or 2 minutes with a skipping rope. If you can maintain some fitness over the holidays and remain conscious of how much you’re eating then you won’t fall completely off track. Our motto is “work hard and reward well” – treat yourself, it’s Christmas!
What are you favourite meals to cook? Do you have any favourite cook books or healthy inspirations?
Some of my own recipes are on the Pop-Up Fitness Website. You just can’t beat buckwheat protein pancakes right?! Most of the time I am longing for my Pop-Up Fitness Retreat food so deliciously prepared and tailored especially for the retreats with chef Anne Marie from The Ibiza Kitchen. Together we designed a menu perfect for the active person who loves beautiful tasting food and a lot of it guilt free! All the recipes are super easy and available online. Nothing beats curling up and reading The Naked Diet by Tess Ward and of course Honestly Healthy.
What makes PopUp Fitness different from other retreats available?
When I started Pop-Up Fitness Retreats I realised there was nothing similar to what I wanted to offer out there, thats why I became passionate about getting them up and running and accessible. There was either one end of the scale; very military, stay in bunk beds, 6am roll call, half an egg and compulsory workouts all day long or other end of the scale; uber yoga – hours of yoga everyday and lots of juicing. I wanted both! Combining the high intensity, bootcamp style training with yoga, hiking, pilates and mixing up what kind of workouts you do, incorporating kettle bells, TRX and battleropes into circuit sessions and barrecore with boxing! It keeps in interesting and when you feel like you have exhausted yourself you can do something else like yoga, it means the stretch feels even better!
What celebrities have joined Pop-Up Fitness?
We have had lots of well known faces at the Pop-Up Fitness retreats. Absolutely everybody who has attended a retreat has been amazing and super fit. Earlier this year Millie Mackintosh, Laura Whitmore, Gizzie Erskine all came to the Ibiza retreat together. We’ve also had Zara Martin, Jordan Stephans from Rizzle Kicks and Lettice Robothham stay with us. Kimberly Garner, Oliver Proudlock, Emma Connelly and Amy Willerton have all attended our UK Long weekend and back in London I regularly train Katherine Jenkins, the Little Mix girls and Luke Friend.
We are excited to see who will be attending the next retreat, especially at the launch of South of France. Check out our instagram hashtag #WhosInThePenthouse to see what everyone gets up to!
What is the best way to keep up with your retreats and where PopUp Fitness is heading next?
Our Instagram page is definitely the best way to keep up with what we’re doing. We are ‘popping up’ in different places all the time, from various events around London, to pop-up bootcamps in the parks. We always announce the location 24hrs before to keep the next event exciting. At the moment we’re appearing frequently at the W Amsterdam. Check out @popup_fitness
Interview by Rachel Harrison