Tommy Trees

Tommy Trees - Running Coach

August 1, 2023
minute read
A competitive coach who believes running is for all, you just have to show up.
Tommy Trees - Running Coach

Issy Striive: Welcome Tommy, and thank you for joining us for The Pro Knows, we're gonna get straight into it. When did you first find a love of running?

Tommy: So it's actually quite an interesting story. My dad was a professional triathlete from the age of 25 to 45 so I grew up watching him and just assumed that every dad trained for four or five hours a day, and that was normal! Despite seeing my Dad train and compete in these endurance events it didn't really excite me back then. When I went into year 7 at school I started cross country, I took part in the school cross country race and came 35th place. I'm not sure where I was expecting to come but the thought struck me that my dad's a Pro Runner and I'm coming in way behind my mates. I'm very competitive so I did not enjoy that at all. It spurred me to make a bet with one of my friends that at the same cross country race in a year's time I would come first. Of course he didn’t think I could do it, going from 35th to 1st in a year sounded ludicrous. But we shook on it.

Issy Striive: It sure does sound ambitious!

Tommy: It was, haha. For the rest of that year I trained so hard, I trained all summer on my own, running every day. I got my 5k time down from 25 minutes to 18 minutes which was quite good at the age of 13. So the race came round the next year and I won by quite a big margin. The funny thing is the friend didn't even remember the bet we had made! Little did he know it had pushed me for the 12 months prior. Then after winning I had a few compliments from mates and it set me off, I became known as the running guy.

Issy Striive: A bit of friendly competition can pull great things out of us!

Tommy: For sure, I'm probably the most competitive person I know. Whether it's who can eat the most Domino's slices or who can run x distance the fastest, I want to win everything. Sometimes a good trait, but has its drawbacks.

Issy Striive: Bit of a double edged sword, but with a very positive outcome here it seems. So when did the love of running turn into coaching?

Tommy: Well it unofficially started at school, when I was around 14-15 years old I would write running programmes for my friends who wanted to finish a park run in a certain time, or maybe a friend that wanted to do their first triathlon. So I always definitely had that love for coaching. However when I went to university I actually studied business, I was doing so much sport that I wanted to try something else.

Issy Striive: That's awesome, shows a genuine passion. The business degree is unexpected but I imagine still useful.

Tommy: As soon as I got to uni I realised I had no interest in studying business. I think I attended about 20 lectures in total across the 4 years, I really didn’t care and I was extremely lazy when it came to studying. Surprisingly, I still finished my degree but did my PT course at the same time. I was pretty much set that I was going to do something within the fitness industry. The funny thing is that a lot of the business course has come in handy now that I have to actually run a business myself!

Issy Striive: Can't ignore a passion! Did you work as a PT when you left Uni?

Tommy: Yeah I was at Virgin Active doing one to one sessions very briefly. Then I joined another gym for a while that was more bootcamp style. It didn't take long to realise that my passion wasn't helping people lose weight or tone up, it was helping people go faster. I wanted to help people train for Marathons, Ironmans and Triathlons. For me, it was more of an exciting journey to take people through.

Issy Striive: When and how did you make the change to that kind of coaching?

Tommy: Lockdown kicked it all off, in May 2020 I set up my fitness Instagram account and was like 'right, I'm giving this a go'. My dad was already very active on Instagram creating content for those doing endurance events, which inspired me to follow on with something similar. It gained a lot of traction very quickly. From that my dad and I decided 'Right, why don't we just start a coaching business together?'. It seemed to make sense, we both had a lot of free time and it didn't seem like the lockdown was going to end anytime soon.

I probably go to about five to eight different clubs a week, I make a real point of meeting everyone in the London community.

Issy Striive: So that was the inception of NRG Coaching, which is a great story by the way. Since then you have started coaching for Puresport, how did that come into your life?

Tommy: Puresport run club was founded in March 2021 by William Goodge and Grayson Hart (the founder of Puresport). They noticed that people were feeling isolated and lonely in lockdown and wanted to do something about it. They decided to put on a free run club every Wednesday. I happened to be at the first one they ever put on, there was only about 15 of us but it grew like wildfire. It went from 15 people, to 50 people, to 100 people and a couple months later there were 200 people coming to Battersea park every Wednesday to run. Will, one of the founders and coaches, went off to do one of his crazy challenges, I think that time he was doing 48 marathons in 30 days. They needed someone to cover him and I was there at the right place and the right time. When Will came back from his challenge he said 'Why don't we just do this together?' so that opportunity arose from just showing up at a community event on a weekly basis. Network as much as you can and opportunities will arise.

Issy Striive: The power of networking and consistency! Keep showing up and something good will come.

Tommy: 100%. I probably go to about five to eight different clubs a week, I make a real point of meeting everyone in the London community. Whether it's Puresport running clubs, cycling clubs, or one of my own clubs. So many opportunities have come through it.

Issy Striive: Coming back to NRG, do you cater to a full spectrum of runners or mostly elite?

Tommy: Anyone and everyone! We coach people that are aiming for 2:25 marathons, we also coach people that are aiming to complete a marathon in 6 hours. Some people train 20 hours a week, some people train half an hour a week. We want to cater for all abilities and provide a highly quality service to everyone.

Issy Striive: Fantastic. Now I know through some investigating that you yourself have a 2:32 marathon, and you have mentioned you're competitive. What's it like to coach in a sport that you also compete in?

Tommy: It's fantastic, it means I get to train and race with my clients. We can enter marathons & ironmans abroad together and go through the whole experience together. I don't see it as a conflicting issue at all. I think the whole reason why my Instagram and coaching business has taken off is because people can see that I'm truly passionate about it. I'm not here to just make money off them, I genuinely love swimming, cycling and running. Hopefully that comes across authentic.

Issy Striive: It does, and I think that's reflected in the success of your business. How about you and your dad, is there much competition between you?

Tommy: When he was 50 and I was 16 it was the perfect crossover, we would have these crazy races where it would come down to a last 100 metre sprint finish. I’ve got to give it to him, he's still in phenomenal shape. In December 2022 he beat me by 10 seconds in an open water swim race, so we still have great battles.

Issy Striive: So as a seasoned runner, and now seasoned coach, what do you believe is a common misconception of running?

Tommy: A common misconception is that you're either born a runner, or you're not. People tend to think 'Oh, I'm not the right size' or 'I’m too short or too tall’'. People have a lot of ideas about runners needing to look a certain way but truly regardless of your size, gender, race, everyone can enjoy running and get to a very good level. It takes practice of course, but most things do.

Issy Striive: I expect a lot of people count themselves out before they've given themselves a fair chance.

Tommy: I think most people count themselves out when they are a kid. They might have finished last at sports day and they're left thinking that running is not for them and it will never be, which is a huge shame.

Issy Striive: Agreed, and agreed on it being a shame. It's never too late to start, you would say?

Tommy: Yes, but I have to be honest here, running does suck for the first few weeks for everyone. You're going to feel unfit and it's going to be uncomfortable. You'll run for one kilometre and feel like you’re dying. But if you trust the process and keep at it, there is a turning point normally two, three months in where you become fit enough to enjoy it! The hard bit is sticking at it until you get to that point.

There are tons of new clubs popping up around the world which are completely free to join. It's more accessible than ever.

Issy Striive: Wise words for novice runners out there. As NRG Coaching is predominantly online, do you have some advice you could give to people considering movingt heir business online?

Tommy: Learn from those who are operating a successful online business. Start going to fitness events and asking people 'What software do you use?', 'How many clients do you have?', 'Do you have any tips for me to save money?', 'What can I put as an expense?'. People are going to share this knowledge with you because most people in the world are nice and want to help each other out!

Secondly, I looked online at all the other online coaching businesses and looked at what they offer. You either need to offer abetter quality service than your competitors or offer the same service at abetter price to succeed.

Then thirdly, and this is very important, if you're an online coach you need to have a good social media presence. I get 90% of my clients from Instagram. This doesn't mean you need 100,000 followers to succeed, if you have 5000 well engaged followers that is plenty, you only need 30-50 clients to make a very good income, right? There will be times where you're like, oh my god, I thought that was a great video and it only got 10 likes, but keep doing it. There's been about 50 times where I've wanted to quit Instagram but I know I need to do this for the business to work.

Issy Striive: Great. So that brings us to our final question, could you tell us something you enjoy about the wider fitness industry, and something you wish was different?

Tommy: What I like about the fitness industry is that there are tons of new clubs popping up around the world which are completely free to join. It's more accessible than ever.

What I don't like about the fitness industry at the moment is there's a lot of businesses trying to make a quick buck. There are so many rubbish or pointless products entering the market, with very good marketing. I want people to research products a bit more before they buy them and not feel like they need to buy every single product out there. For example, these running companies will make you feel like you need 10 different pairs of shoes; for intervals, easy runs, tempo runs, sprints, long runs and trail runs. For most people two solid pairs of shoes is going to be more than enough, don't waste all your money on sport and spend it on your mortgage instead!

Issy Striive: Great advice, it's easy to fall into the marketing traps for these products. So that brings us to the end, Tommy, thank you so much for chatting with us. If people want to make use of NRGs coaching services where can they find you?

Tommy: Thankyou for having me. You can find me at coachtommy.nrg and please send me a DM if you're interested in any sort of coaching. We also sell very affordable training plans from the 1500m distance up to the ultramarathon. You can also reach us on our website https://www.nrg-coaching.com/ .


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