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The Renegade Team - NZ's Best Online Athlete Programming

These three rockstars are arguably New Zealand's best performance programming team - Renegade Performance. They work with individual athletes and gyms across New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Islands to improve their abilities, strength and conditioning using the CrossFit methodology.

The proof is always in the pudding and with Renegade there is a long list of success stories on both the local and international platforms. This includes over 40 appearances of Renegade athletes at the CrossFit Games & Regional competitions.

You need a good training program to reach your full potential and if you are a determined athlete that needs more support to reach your goals then Renegade will have you sussed. 

There are so many online training programs out there that it can be hard to sift through the junk whilst also asking yourself 101 questions like - 

Will an online training program help me reach my goals?

Am I getting the most out of my training without a tailored program?

Can a Games athlete actually write programming for others?

We caught up with Megan Gifford who gave us a bit of an insight into her and her husband Callum's success story. These two make up two of the three founders of Renegade Performance. Check it out below!

What got you into the fitness industry - have you done anything prior or did you know early on that it was what you wanted to do?

Callum has been in the fitness industry for close to 15 years, studying sport and exercise science. Prior to that he spent his time riding elite BMX and playing rugby with his passion for strength and conditioning stemming way back. Callum continues to spend hours a day listening and learning more about strength and conditioning - his absolute passion. 

Source: CrossFit East Tamaki website. 

Megs: Just 8 years ago Callum Introduced me to training in a corporate gym where I was working. I started training with him and found it hard not to fall in love with the training being around someone so passionate and competitive. I was a designer and buyer in the Fashion industry at the time and in 2017 I had a bit of an epiphany that I was just no longer doing what I loved.

Thankfully Zak and Callum supported my transition to the Fitness industry, mentoring me and giving me a tonne of opportunity, have not looked back since.

Source: Photo supplied for Stuff article.

Did you play any sports through your school / earlier years?

Callum raced internationally for NZ in BMX, starting at the age of 8. He was short listed for the Olympics the first year they announced BMX racing an Olympic sport. After that he played under 85 rugby making the NZ Barbarians side before hanging up his boots and starting CrossFit.

Source: CrossFit East Tamaki website.

My background is less impressive, I dabbled in kickboxing at the age of 15 for 8 months, played a couple of seasons of social Netball but was never really interested in sport until I found CrossFit and Weightlifting in 2013.

Megs has certainly made up for being less involved in sports in her earlier years. She is now an Olympic Weight Lifter, New Zealand Record holder and Medallist and a CrossFit Games Athlete.

Source: Photo supplied for Stuff article

What lead you to starting Renegade Performance?

Zak and Callum both worked for Zaks Mum in a globo style gym (the building we are still in) call Bodybusiness. When they personally changed their training style to more Functional Fitness/CrossFit they decided to bring it to a section of the gym and Affiliate as CrossFit East Tamaki (now Functional Fit East Tamaki) basically to have a place for them and friends to train.

Back in 2013 Callum would spearhead the writing up of their workouts and eventually these two took over the gym from Zak's Mum Lynne under ‘Renegade Strength and Conditioning’ which became an umbrella of multiple things that were happening within the space. One of which was the evolution of Callum's programming brain. He’d found an outlet for his education in strength and conditioning in something he enjoyed, leading it to where it is today.

As we began competing and becoming successful in competitions within the Pacific Region Callum became a more of a household name for CrossFit programming.

He’s one of the most humble people I know when it comes to his work he just wants to make people better and do the work with no fuss and no fluff which is why 90% of the business he has is from word of mouth, very little advertising has happened to build the community he has of people following the program.

It has been a pretty cool thing for me to be a part of which is why I left the fashion industry when I did.

Source: Renegade Performance Facebook page. 

Was this a tiered approach? Eg, Did you start with Affiliate programming then progress into competitor programming?

The Competitor Program came first, within the gym to start. Initially it was just a group of people wanting to do constantly varied functional fitness, so there was no real ‘class programming’ so to speak.
Callum's first athlete to request remote programming was Leehane Stowers (who is still very involved with Renegade). From there it was just word of mouth and more and more athletes were wanting competitors programming.
The gym itself attracted friends who were competitors and by coming out and training WITH Callum and Zak, they wanted to then follow Callum’s program remotely at their own gyms.
Following that more and more Affiliates were popping up many of which were friends and knowing the gap in the market after having a couple of requests, Affiliate/Class programming was then offered. 
The last 2 years has been the biggest growth in the program and we would say that is due to Callum and Zak switching gears from being competitors themselves to putting more and more energy into evolving the business.

If you could describe your ultimate Renegade Performance athlete, what would they be like?

I know this is exactly how Callum would answer..

Someone who doesn’t complain and just does the work, trusts the process, works hard but communicates what they are feeling especially if they are getting niggles so we can help

We have a LOT of these athletes on the program and we are very blessed to work with the people we work with.

We know how important it is to be a self aware athlete, all the best are, it doesn’t matter if you are Masters, Elite, Teens, Competitors or Class Goers, the best individuals are self aware.

Therefore we try to guide and educate as a coaching style as opposed to giving all the answers, all the individual strategies, and tell individuals what to do because at the end of the day we can’t be there on the floor, or in the workout they are doing in their ear.

What are three things an athlete can do to supplement their training to reach their goals?

  1. Sleep a minimum of 7 hours a night
  2. Educate themselves on performance nutrition
  3. Make sure they take rest/recovery days

Do you face any challenges working together to programme for your athletes or do you each specialise in different skills/areas?

We 100% work together. We said recently if we both weren’t so busy we would sit down together and write the initial program as a team.

Callum is the brains behind the science of the programming he does ALL the hard work when it comes to ensuring individuals are getting everything they need, evolving with the change of the seasons and competition structure, even ensuring the members of our Affiliates/Gyms are all looked after and there is no bias to just competitors.

I do a little specialising in Weightlifting Programs but mainly my role is to make sure the program is received in an easy format, that on-boarding is easy, individuals/gyms are doing ok and getting guidance from our team, arranging training days and camps so Callum can do what he does best.

Along side of that Zak and I are a constant sound board, we give feedback daily and Callum asks for critique often.

We’re like a tripod haha, when you take one of the legs out we don’t operate as well so are lucky to be the team as we are and have been for almost 10 years now.

What is one of the biggest things you’ve learnt since starting your own business?

Knowing your values and making sure what you are choosing to do in your business aligns with what is important to you.

Something so simple can give you the most clarity in difficult decision making which happens often. Covid was a good example, we were distraught at closing our doors, scared and unsure if we or our gym community on the program would be able to re-open.

One thing we were certain of is that we had to look after our people just like we would if we were in the gym and it became the busiest 8 weeks of the year so far doing everything we could to look after members, athletes and gym owners.. in turn that way of thinking saved our business and taught us a lot. 

Where do you see Renegade Performance in 5 years? 

We have big goals for the next 5 years, we work and operate Functional Fit East Tamaki, Renegade Performance, Renegade Nutrition and our events as one big unit.

Essentially in 5 years time we want to see this unit evolve with Functional Fitness at ALL levels. A big part of that will be, being able to expand our team and support a team of coaches that will grow our community.

We don’t know what the realm of Fitness will look like exactly in 5 years, we just know we want to be a big part of it through training, coaching, and nutrition.

How do you find managing the balance between your personal and work life?

Difficult at times, it's an ongoing work-on!

2019 was a challenge of business, travelling the world for Olympic Qualifiers, competing, coaching and making sure we had time for ourselves and our family.

2019 taught us a lot and the biggest learning and ongoing work-on for us is to be present wherever we are.

It's incredibly hard, work comes home with you, personal life comes to the office and to the gym but we know its a WIP and were definitely getting better. Deep breaths help a lot haha. 

What gives you the biggest kick out of running RP?

Seeing all people from all walks of life at all different fitness levels training together. That gives us all the feel’s and the biggest sense of pride.

Don’t get me wrong seeing athletes on podiums is UNREAL, we have had the most incredible celebrations when athletes and teams do well in competition. But we do believe the magic is when you see your games level athletes training along side someone who has been doing CrossFit for 3 months and just LOVING being a part of something.

That sense of humility and enjoyment in a training breeds GOOD performance. 

As athletes we all love food, what would be your ultimate meal?

Callum's ultimate treat meal is burgers.. without a doubt, his ultimate ‘eat every day without fail’ would be protein pancakes or chicken and rice.
My ultimate meal would be any kind of seafood in an ‘all you can eat’ sort of scenario.

What would your advice be to someone wondering whether a personalised program was for them or something they needed?

Just to have a conversation with a Coach, we offer multiple options of programming for a reason because we believe no two individuals are the same.
Some people will get better enjoyment and performance from a personalised program, some from being able to train in a group environment, others having a mix of the two. Just being able to talk to a Coach and work out what is best for them is really beneficial.
Thanks Megs for your time! What an awesome interview! 
Make sure to check out Renegade Performance and support the phenomenal community that these guys have built locally. 
Source: Renegade Performance Facebook page. 


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