Nowadays, if you want to start your own fitness business, you have many online and in-person resources from which to draw as you pursue this great undertaking. This is not to say that your road to building a successful exercise business will be easy, but that you have many more examples to follow than those who made the same decision in the early to mid-90s.
Today, we’re talking to Rich Ruffing who entered the world of exercise entrepreneurship nearly three decades ago. He discusses how he has utilized a simple and low-key approach combined with an insatiable thirst to improve his craft has helped him to achieve longevity and sustainability with his successful fitness practice.
And to learn even more about managing your own fitness business, request a demo of our all-in-one fitness business software today.
Meet Rich Ruffing, Founder of Accelerated Fitness
Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo with Exercise.com and we are continuing our series of interviews with fitness experts. And today we have the pleasure of interviewing Rich Ruffing, founder and owner of Accelerated Fitness in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Rich, thanks for joining us.
Rich Ruffing: Thank you for having me.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, give our audience an idea of how you first fell in love with health and fitness.
Rich Ruffing: I guess I’ve always been, growing up as a kid, pretty active in all sports. Whether it was at the youth level, high school level, and then as I started to get into high school, I started to realize the impact of this whole fitness thing—the strength thing, the speed thing, doing some of the offseason work—the impact that it had on whatever sport I was playing at the time. And then getting into college, I went to Springfield College, and it was very health-focused and fitness-focused, so I really fell in love with it there also.
Schimri Yoyo: What other sports did you play growing up?
Rich Ruffing: As a kid, I mean, just about everything that was kind of thrown our way, whether it was soccer, basketball. I didn’t play football until later – I think it was eighth grade – and then football became my thing. Football and track became my things in high school. Then, [only] football in college, at Springfield College.
Schimri Yoyo: Cool. When you decided that you were going to go forward with sports performance as a profession, did you seek out any mentors or trainers in the health and fitness space?
Rich Ruffing: Not really, because it was, I mean, this was back in the mid-90s and it was kind of just an emerging field then. The first one that I heard that ever really talked to us about it, that came to Springfield College and did a little workshop, was Mike Boyle way back in, it was like ’95, ’96. You started to think, “All right, yeah, this can be a thing. This can be a profession kind of, later on.”
[Editor’s Note: Mike Boyle is still conducting seminars on sports performance training and strength and conditioning just like he was in the mid-90s at Springfield College.]
Schimri Yoyo: That’s great. So you’re one of the pioneers, as they say, early on the frontier.
Rich Ruffing: In the early stages, yeah.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s right. So when you’re not coaching and training, what are some other things that you’d like to do for fun?
Rich Ruffing: I’m pretty a low key guy, recreational golfer, focus on that in spring, summer, fall. Just kind of really take in my downtime since I’m working usually five and a half, six days a week. So I just hang with my fiance at home, hang out with my nieces and nephews, or just take the dog around different parks, different beaches. That type of thing. Pretty low key stuff
Schimri Yoyo: I grew up in Brockton, Mass., and we had the Thorney Lea Golf Club out there. What are some of your favorite golf courses in the New England area?
Rich Ruffing: I just moved down to Bridgewater about two years ago. So Brockton’s right next door. What are some of my favorites?
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah.
Rich Ruffing: I don’t know. I play a lot of the public stuff, but up in the Lexington area, Butternut, really nice course. Always in good shape. Stow Acres. Butter Brook is another great course in this area. It’s in really good shape. It’s up this way in the Lexington area.
Down closer to me, there’s a course right down the street I just hop on all the time, Olde Scotland Links, always in good shape. So like I said, just to get out there.
Schimri Yoyo: Well that’s nice. Yeah. Some of our readers like to hit the links too, so it’s good if they’re ever in the New England area, they know where to go now.
Simplify the Process to Maximize the Results
Now, to describe your philosophy of fitness and a methodology of strength training: what one word would best describe your philosophy and practice?
Rich Ruffing: It’s probably simple, more than anything. Sometimes I think we make it really hard. I mean, we make it harder than it has to be. We search for too much information rather than just getting back to the basics, simplifying things, getting good at the basics.
It doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like they always say, simple and easy aren’t the same thing. Just let’s, let’s make it simple and let’s get good at being simple.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. Good at being simple. That’s a great philosophy to have. Now you mentioned you are a certified golf instructor. How do you help your golfers become both physically and mentally tough?
Rich Ruffing: It’s more, I think, just focusing on the strength part carries over to focusing on—it helps with mental strength also, and just seeing the carryover between the two. And then guys [begin] realizing what a difference the strength training can make in their golf game. So it kind of goes hand in hand there.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. A little symbiotic relationship between physical fitness and mental fitness.
Rich Ruffing: Yep. Yep.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, we sometimes hear about athletes having some serious heat-related illness. What are some things that athletes and fitness professionals can do to help prevent this from happening?
Rich Ruffing: I’m lucky enough to work in an air-conditioned facility. We don’t do a lot of training outside. It’s pretty comfortable here. But again, proper hydration. I mean, more than anything, [drink] water. Just start off the day with some water as soon as we get out of bed.
But rather than just taking in too much water, maybe we need some electrolytes, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and those types of things. How do we know we’re there [at that point]? Well, is our performance declining? Are we really dropping off? Maybe dropping off in numbers from set to set or from one sprint to the next, that type of thing there.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. What’s the relationship that you’ve observed between strength and conditioning, injury prevention, and recovery?
Rich Ruffing: All kinds. I mean, they all work together, hand in hand, Being stronger, alright, we have less of a chance of becoming injured. And then, at the other end, in order to recover—if we do happen to have to recover from an injury, If we do happen to get injured—we have to ask ourselves, “What are our recovery methods? What’s our foam rolling look like? What does our breathing look like? What does our aerobic conditioning look like?” Those types of things there.
Schimri Yoyo: How important is the concept of sleep and active rest in your training?
Rich Ruffing: My personal training, or?
Schimri Yoyo: Or as you’re training athletes.
Rich Ruffing: Always harping on [the importance of sleep]. But we tend to want to look towards every other method, every other recovery method. Whether it’s cryotherapy, whether it’s an infrared sauna, whether it’s one of these massage tools. But sleep—I’m always trying to harp on people that sleep is our number one recovery method.
Again, sleep is free. Sleep is our number one recovery tool. Without sleep, we’re not recovering.
Schimri Yoyo: And how do you incorporate the conversation about nutrition within your training?
Rich Ruffing: So, it’s a delicate conversation. Really, it’s what it takes to get someone to that next level, to understand that the training and nutrition are going to go hand in hand. Again, whether it’s in terms of having the proper amount of energy going into a workout, whether it’s recovering from a workout, trying to manage it that way rather than looking at it from a restrictive or negative standpoint. Talking to them about how much positive impact that nutrition can have on their training.
Schimri Yoyo: Makes sense. And how do you measure progress both for your clients and then for yourself as an entrepreneur?
Rich Ruffing: Just numbers. I mean, numbers really don’t lie. I mean, scale. Yeah. We don’t do a whole lot of—if someone wants to hop on the scale, that’s fine, but let’s measure your strength numbers. Let’s measure, every now and then, let’s do a two-minute test on the Airdyne. Let’s do a little test on the skier, those types of things. Just to see if clients know if they’ve been pushing themselves over the course of their training. Let’s take a look at a pushup and see how many pushups they can do. More physical types of challenges there.
Schimri Yoyo: And then for yourself as an entrepreneur, how are you measuring your progress?
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Rich Ruffing: Well, I guess sales numbers again, same thing. It’s taking a look at numbers, whether it’s sales, whether it’s gross revenue numbers, whether it’s client retention numbers or new leads, those types of things. Those are things we’re always looking at from a numbers perspective.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s great. I think client retention is a huge part of it, and it can be often overlooked. But for the longterm sustainability of your business, that’s excellent. And for you, obviously, as an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for ways to get better and better at your craft as both the practitioner and the businessman.
How many professional development seminars or workshops do you attend each year?
Rich Ruffing: We can try and get to one, at least quarterly. Maybe something that’s in the local area. Like I said, being here in the gym, working with clients five, six days a week. I find it a little bit harder now for me. So, I try to get at least one in every quarter, somewhere around there. Trying to keep up with stuff online. There are lots of great programs out there now online, or [other] ways we can learn online through different coaches and mentorship programs, those types of things.
An Accessible Culture and Community Attracts a Diverse Clientele
Schimri Yoyo: Awesome. Alright. Now, how is it that you split your time and energy between being a coach and also being a businessman?
Rich Ruffing: It’s hard. It’s really hard. Being a trainer, we really didn’t get into it, starting out, we didn’t really get into it with a really savvy business background. No, we train because we want to coach because we want to work with people. But at the same time, we want to make a living out of this. We want to stay in business. Yes, there has to be time devoted to the business side of things.
So it’s more about the schedule, like just trying to be on top of schedule management. Every minute of my time can’t, I realize in order for me to be successful, it can’t be spent on just working with clients. There has to be time, a few hours each week or a few hours each day, devoted to the business side of things.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. That’s good knowledge. Now, I’m going to give you an opportunity to brag about yourself and your practice a little bit. What makes you and your team at Accelerated Fitness unique?
Rich Ruffing: I think with just the community that we’ve kind of developed here, especially here in this little local community. We’re not going to send athletes out to the CrossFit games. We’re not going to send athletes out to top tier, division one college football teams. But what we do have is a nice community where people can just blend right in.
And so we have high school athletes in here working with 40-year-old moms. We have those 40-year-old moms in here working with a 50-year-old male corporate executive. That’s a really friendly environment and a place that people can call their second place or their place away from home.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, building that Zbyle community and culture there, that attracts a lot of variety in your clientele is pretty good.
What are some things that you wish you would’ve known about running your own business before you first got started?
Rich Ruffing: Probably all of it. Like the hours. And I understand, hey listen that it’s never been a problem with me putting in the hours, putting in the time, but maybe just devoting more time to the sales part of it, devoting time to the creative marketing side of things.
I’m a very black and white guy, so it’s hard for me to kind of see, to be creative with the marketing or be a little bit flashy with marketing. Maybe reaching out to other business people or marketing people for help earlier on, rather than trying to do it all on my own.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. The important lesson of delegation, right?
Rich Ruffing: Right.
Schimri Yoyo: And outsourcing. That’s something I think all business people go through at some point.
What would you say has been your greatest reward, owning and running your own business?
Rich Ruffing: Reward wise, it’s just—one is the impact that it has working with people and the impact that I can have on them. As far as listening, yeah, I mean, yes it may be from a physical part or physical side of things, but I also like the mental impact you can have on someone.
Whether it’s where you’re just digging them out of the dump, out of a hole and they can come in here feeling pretty lousy and walk out of here just feeling like, “Man, that was just the best 50 or 60 minutes of my day right there.”
So there’s that, the impact that it can have on clients and just a little bit of the freedom that it provides me to keep up with my health, keep up with my physical health and my physical wellbeing also. So it has been a huge part of it. I’m not afraid to take one to two hours out of my day to get my workouts in, to get my recovery methods in, those types of things.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, that’s awesome. And again, Rich, thank you for your time. This has been great to just pick your brain a little bit. One last question for you:
What are some resources, whether they’re books, magazines, podcasts, or anything like that, that you could recommend to our audience; whether it’s business-related or fitness-related, that you think could be a benefit to them?
Rich Ruffing: Sure. I mean, one of the ones that I follow, Joe DeFranco, was a guy I’ve always followed for a while. So, a member of the DeFranco Insider, lots of great information on that membership site there. [Another] website that we frequent, tonygentilcore.com. Lots of great practical information, whether it’s for training, whether it’s for business. It really speaks to people at all levels there.
[Editor’s Note: Joe DeFranco offers sound advice for parents and coaches on how to get children to love training in the video below.]
As I mentioned earlier in the interview, Mike Boyle, always seeking information from him, seeing what’s out there podcast wise. I think again, Joe DeFranco, his Industrial Strength Podcasts. Jeremy Scott and the Jeremy Scott Fitness Podcast was another one that I’ve been turned onto in the last year or so. Lots of great training and just life advice on there. Those are some of the main ones.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, that’s good. That’s a good litany of different resources and guys who have been successful in the industry that I think our audience will benefit from. Thank you again for those suggestions.
Well, thank you again for your time, Rich. It’s been great to see all the success that you’re having there in the Lexington, MA, area. We wish you continued success there with Accelerated Fitness. And we definitely want to hear from you down the road again.
Rich Ruffing: Thank you for your time.
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Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.