Lauren Clapp – Roll With The Punches
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye
Photos by Nick Hook
In the current political and economic climate, it is impressive enough when someone starts their own business and makes a success of it. In fact, according to the latest available stats, only 37% of companies formed in 2015 are still around today. Statistically, the main ‘causes of death’ are one of a small handful of things; cashflow issues, leadership failure, poor customer service, lack of marketing and unappealing products/services.
In the case of the inspiring Lauren Clapp, twenty-four-year-old founder of LC Fitness in Sidmouth, add on top of those pressures her journey battling some significant physical and mental health issues and it is truly impressive that both she and her business are still going strong today.
I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Lauren to Grow HQ to talk about her journey in business, how she keeps her mind and body in good shape and how she combats the ever-intensifying pressures on young people to achieve a particular body shape or have certain physical features, even at the detriment of their health.
Born and brought up in Sidmouth, Lauren has always been sporty and was a competitive Heptathlete during secondary school, before a back injury at the age of fifteen halted her progress and altered her trajectory towards the higher echelons of competitive athletics. Sport and exercise had been coping mechanisms for Lauren during these tough teenage years and, suddenly, unable to train and find that ‘endorphin release’ that comes with exercise, she found herself feeling very low.
It is well-documented that there is a direct correlation between physical exercise and improved physical and mental health so, when this injury hit, it hit hard. It was around this time that she was first diagnosed with anxiety, depression and auditory processing disorder, conditions which she still battles with today.
This meant that, post-education, Lauren had to re-think her goals and objectives, starting a short-lived career in Estate Agency before starting up her own baking business in 2012, making cookies and cakes. A strangely ironic choice of industry bearing in mind what she does now!
Running her own business had been a dream of Lauren’s since she was a young girl and she genuinely enjoyed running her bakery business. However, there lay within her a dormant desire, birthed in her as a youngster; that she wanted to run a fitness business. She had qualified as a Fitness Instructor in 2011 and, despite life’s best efforts at extinguishing that dream, it was still alive and starting to bubble up to the surface.
And so, in 2016, Lauren took a job with Thomson Tui, working and living in Cyprus as a hotel-based fitness instructor. The change of scenery, the marked increase in exposure to the sun and her first full-time job applying her love for fitness professionally all added up to an enjoyable experience which impacted her physical and mental health in a positive way. After moving to a similar role in Egypt, Lauren was starting to build a career for herself and was loving every minute of it.
Unfortunately, things were to take a turn for the worse when the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that she had been diagnosed with in 2015, reared its head and, on top of her auditory processing disorder and mental health diagnoses, this all felt too much to handle living alone overseas. So, she made the difficult decision to move back to Sidmouth to live closer to her support network of family and friends.
After reacclimatising to life in the UK, Laurens thoughts turned to what she was going to do with her life, particularly with arrange of conditions which were changeable and incurable. This rebuilding project started as all building projects do, at the foundations. So Lauren went about researching and working out how to manage her varying conditions as well as she could. She realised quickly that exercising in any way, no matter how small, positively affected her mental health. She also found out that, for her personally, meat seemed to increase her chances of feeling lethargic and low on energy, so she embraced a vegan diet and hasn’t looked back since.
Furthermore, following a stressful episode in 2017, Lauren then found she was struggling to hear and subsequently found she had lost the majority of hearing in her left ear. At this stage, she was only twenty-three-years-old and this development had a dramatic impact on her. She was fitted with a hearing aid for her left ear, which transformed her ability to hear and understand people more clearly. One by one, the things that she had felt restricted and limited by were becoming more manageable on a daily basis. She was starting to feel empowered, energised and focused; all things that had felt out of reach for much of her life.
This momentum and improved quality of health meant that, in April 2017, Lauren decided to take the plunge and set up her own fitness business, LC Fitness. Based in a unit on Alexandria Industrial Estate, Sidmouth, she hares a studio with Sidmouth Bike Studio, which she runs classes of all sorts from. She also operates as a mobile Personal Trainer (PT), offering individual training sessions to either focus on specific client needs or improve overall fitness for her clients.
When I asked Lauren how her improved state of health felt, she said,
“Of course, it felt amazing. However, even now, I have ‘off days’ and I have to manage my time, diet and energy closely to reduce the chances of having relapses. I have learned to listen to my body and recognise when I am overdoing it or letting my boundaries slip. As an example, I have been really busy recently and have been feeling for weeks like I’m on the edge of physical and mental exhaustion. So, I’ve booked two weeks away with a close friend of mine to Thailand, where I plan to rest, relax and recharge. As nice as that sounds, it means leaving my business for a fortnight which, whether I like it or not, will have an impact. However, I know that if I don’t look after myself then my business will suffer significantly more in the long term. In order to look after my clients, I need to look after myself”.
Talking of her clients, I was surprised to hear that her clientele are a varied bunch. With a real mix of men and women, young and old, her classes are equally as varied. And, if you think about the different fitness goals of an eleven-year-old boy and a seventy-year-old woman, you can see why they would need to be.
Lauren is fully qualified as a Boxercise instructor, so runs Boxercise classes, an 11 to 16-year-old TeenFit Class, circuit training, indoor cycling, LC Flow (a creation of her own mixing Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates to the beat of gentle music) and also LC BeatBox (another creation of her own, based on high-intensity shadow boxing to the beat of much more energetic music).
It was clear to me throughout our interview that, in an industry which sometimes feels full of empty promises and shallow principles, Lauren values so much more than the superficial physical gains that exercise brings. For example, she shared how, particularly with many of her teenage clients, there is as much of a need for advice, support and being a role model to them as there is simply being a fitness instructor. One of her teenage clients wants to improve their physique because of being bullied at school. Another of her teenage clients has an eating disorder and sees Lauren as her Personal Trainer as part of her recovery.
“I’m open with my clients about all of my conditions; both physical and mental. That enables me to give them sound advice and for them to realise that overcoming some of those issues (and similar ones in their own lives) is possible. I represent a listening ear and an objective opinion to many of my clients and I really enjoy being able to offer my professional fitness services as well as a more personal connection with some of my clients. It makes more real and much healthier client relationships. Also, having gone through counselling and therapy myself, I know the importance of having support during tough times. If I can now pass that on to clients, on top of physical benefits too, then I’m simply giving away to others what has already been given to me.”
This need for support and advice to her clients has never been more important. With the rising popularity of filter-heavy platforms like Instagram and the sometimes-unrealistic aesthetics which they spawn, there is a desperate need for people to have more balanced, realistic and healthy voices to listen to. Sometimes the voices that shout the loudest in our lives aren’t the ones that we should be listening to, but it can be hard when we frequently see seemingly perfect bodies displayed to us from our mobile phone screens. The pressure to compare yourself with others and the unhealthy trends which are so pervasive in today’s fitness industry can cause people to over-train to dangerous and harmful extents.
“For example, a lot of women think that if they lift weights, then they’ll get bulky. That’s simply not true. If you’re doing it sensibly and get a trainer onboard who can advise you and make sure you are doing it correctly, you won’t get bulky unless you want to. It can actually be a key to trimming your figure and becoming leaner and more toned. Another misleading trend which has become widely embraced in recent years is avoiding carbohydrates in your diet. TOWIE didn’t help with their catchphrase ‘no carbs before Marbs’. It’s simply untrue. You absolutely need carbs in your diet and, as with most things, it is about balance, combinations and moderation”.
For Lauren, she manages to achieve balance in her diet despite limitation to what she can eat due to her choice to be a vegan. Long term dietary solutions are key to achieve sustainable long-term health goals and Lauren very much sees food as fuel, as well as something to enjoy. For her, getting enough protein in her diet is a challenge due to being vegan so she eats a lot of Tofu, pulses and also has a protein shake on most days. Apparently, her choice to become vegan hasn’t been without its controversies in her family, particularly because, growing up, her Dad was a butcher!
In summary, Lauren stated,
“Health and fitness is actually really about getting to know yourself. Whether it is getting to know your body or your mental habits and tendencies, honesty is the first step towards becoming healthier all round. If you have things that you want to change, admit it, accept it and start working on building a more solid foundation for your future”.
And, what does that future hold for Lauren and LC Fitness? Well, she loves living in Sidmouth and being by the sea. In the best possible way, she is a small-town girl and finds it a peaceful place to live. She does long for the sunshine though and, one day, may think about moving back abroad. For now though, she is happy, healthier than ever and looking forward to building a bright future for her clients and her business.
Lauren, thank you for your honesty, openness and transparency. I wish you the best and hope that 2019 is your happiest and healthiest yet.
You can follow Lauren’s journey @LCFITNESS_UK on Twitter.