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'There were nights I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about the obstacles in our way'

Twelve months after first floating the idea of opening a new commercial gym in Kilkenny, TJ Reid shows The42 around his state-of-the-art facility.

THERE’S A CERTAIN irony to all this, and TJ Reid is acutely aware of it.

“I didn’t always have a love for the gym,” he says, with a wry smile, as he guides us around his new state-of-the-art 10,000 square foot facility on the approach into Kilkenny city.

TJ Reid Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

For the first five years of his inter-county career, Reid admits he didn’t place much emphasis on his work off the pitch. Gym sessions were seen as a burden rather than a benefit but how things have changed. Nowadays, his life, lifestyle and livelihood revolves around this place.

“It’s a new area I found love for,” he tells The42. “When I started off with Kilkenny I probably wasn’t clued in but I made it a habit and am now passionate about strength and conditioning.”

There’s certainly a passion in the way Reid speaks of his new business, and how his vision for it all came to fruition in early April when the doors of TJ Reid Health and Fitness opened for the first time.

The 2015 Hurler of the Year’s attitude towards the gym may have changed slowly over the last five years but this project has only been 12 months in the pipeline, something made all the remarkable when you discover the vast scale of the gym and business itself.

By his own admission, Reid never dreamt or envisaged owning his own gym. It wasn’t something he ever thought about and with a background in farming and an interest in property, there were other areas he was exploring during his time as a sales representative with Connolly’s Red Mills.

But it just so happened that a few pieces fell into place and the 29-year-old was suddenly presented with an opportunity to enter a market he felt didn’t exist in Kilkenny; above all it made business sense.

“I was in Nowlan Park doing a strength and conditioning session myself and I was just sitting there thinking if Kilkenny had a commercial gym three or four times the size of this how would he do,” he explains.

“It just got me thinking and I began to look into the market here and there was an opening for a facility like this. You have the likes of Ben Dunne and Flyefit in Dublin but not in Kilkenny and I knew if I waited they would be down here taking over before long.”

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

And so began the process; securing the resources to get something like this off the ground, finding the right location to make it work and formulating a business plan which would ensure TJ Reid Health and Fitness would survive in a competitive industry. Or maybe there was a reason why nobody had opened a commercial gym in Kilkenny before?

“It was very hard,” Reid says of the last 12 months. “There were nights when I couldn’t sleep or I going to the gym myself or going to training thinking about this obstacle because it is a big undertaking to have.

“Everything was an obstacle for me because there was no area I was comfortable in. I had no experience in this before.”

At the same time, Reid had continued in his role with Connolly’s Red Mills and, most significantly, was trying to stay focused on training and maintaining his lofty standards as Kilkenny launched their three-in-a-row tilt.

He was juggling it all, and looking back now perhaps the stress associated with setting up his own business and a radical career change did effect Reid’s performances on the pitch but it’s impossible to know.

“I was trying to be at the top of my game but was obviously doing a lot of stuff outside of hurling too,” he says, fully aware that life can’t be put on hold and this was something he had to do now or never.

Reid has done this all his way and you get the sense there have been no compromises along the way — he understand the need to get it exactly right — but he continually uses ‘we’ and ‘us’ as opposed to ‘me’ when speaking about the business.

His name may be above the door, but this is not a one-man show by any means as Reid stresses more than once, most frequently referring to his business partner Richard Connolly who came on board to oversee the development of the facility.

TJ Reid celebrates after the match Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Richard took a lot of pressure off me, he was able to answer the questions I had,” he continues. “I was able to go and train or play a match and Richard would look after whatever needed to be done. It took huge pressure off me.”

Located beside Connolly’s Red Mills on Cillín Hill, TJ Reid Health and Fitness is already boasting encouraging membership numbers and Reid and Connolly employ five full time staff to manage the day-to-day running of an active and vibrant gym environment.

“This is very much a team game and if you surround yourself with the best people and you work together things will get done,” Reid adds.

But what about his own relationship with the gym now that he spends most of his working week in one?

“It’s obviously a huge part of my life now,” he concludes. “Ever since Mick Dempsey, the Kilkenny S&C coach, came on board and I saw how much it helped your performance I bought into it.

“From then on I’ve loved it and loved going to the gym.  If I was having a bad day at work I’d go to the gym to release that pressure off my shoulders and just get that tension off my back.

“There’s no greater feeling than just getting in there, getting it done, showering and going home. I’ve seen it in myself, I’m not the fittest or strongest on the team but I just love going to the gym and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

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