Winston Churchill, the rotund man perpetually with a cigar, reportedly said “I get my exercise being a pallbearer for those of my friends who believed in regular running and calisthenics.”
Siblings John and Brad Mayo, 27 and 25 respectively, would laugh at this dig, since they’re doing well with their online fitness counselling business. Their technique concentrates around calisthenics (gymnastic exercises using one’s own body weight) to improve mobility, strength, flexibility, and stamina, while following proper nutrition, good mental health, and recovery from exercise.
The “bros” from Lake Echo spent almost 10 years as kayaking competitors and then certified coaches with the Orenda Canoe Club, winning national gold medals in the process. Flat water paddling left both with constant aches and pains, particularly with sitting for long periods in their post-secondary school lives. John also suffered a serious back injury.
“We were really messed up,” John remarked in the fitness room across the hall from his Halifax apartment. “It felt like we had prematurely aged ourselves, but now we’re reversing that with our work. I have a lot of empathy for someone who says he’s in chronic pain. Before my injury, I had no idea how someone dealt with this.”
Mayo Brothers Calisthenics started as a business in 2017 with the men offering a video course of various calisthenics movements that had helped them get into much better physical condition themselves.
Joseph Ghosn is a registered physiotherapist at the Dalhousie University Physiotherapy Clinic. “From a physiotherapy perspective, bodyweight training is a great way for anyone to begin exercising for general health and functional strength,” he says. “The advantage of using your own bodyweight promotes great everyday function, since that baseline level of strength of moving our own weight is what we all do countless times daily.”
When the brothers began experimenting with the perceived therapeutic benefits of cold therapy by dipping themselves into a frozen Lake Echo and then posting shock-value short videos on their Instagram account, many noticed, including Vice and Global TV news.
Their Instagram following now stands at 54,300. There seems to be an insatiable demand for their often-humorous exploits in water that threaten hypothermia. But behind every great publicity stunt should be something real and substantial to offer customers, which is where the brothers are currently excelling.
“We try to keep the online training as simple as possible,” Brad explains. “You’re helping someone get from their current state to their desired state. Facebook ads are how we get our leads; this fills up our call calendar with a bunch of calls from everywhere, every day. It’s a sales funnel that starts with the ad, which brings them to a landing page… They answer a short survey so we can see if we’d be a good fit for them.“
Most of the customers are from the U.S. and Canada. “One of our first clients was 81 years old,” John recalls. “Another was 25, and another was the actor from Narcos and Logan, Boyd Holbrook. Another early client for our three-month program was a recent college grad, so the demographics are all over the map.”
John and Brad call their one-on-one online coaching (primarily using Skype for individuals and the Zoom video platform for group sessions) the “7 Star Fitness System” or a “constellation of wellness.” They delve into everything from “mindful movement” to “functional mobility training” to the currently ubiquitous practice of intermittent fasting that aids in weight loss by reducing caloric intake.
Brad went to Nova Scotia Community College to figure out the nuts and bolts of running a business. “Ninety per cent of our content online is free,” he says “which is the best way to get the word out about our work. Some of our YouTube videos may be snippets from our main training video course, and then there are the 985+ Instagram posts….”
John loves being in front of a camera—a natural ham—but “when it gets down to our actual business, I get really serious. How can we make this business sustainable?”
Brad’s the (slightly) more studious one. “I worry sometimes about posting something too silly like John singing the song from Frozen,” he says. “But in total, there’s been about 18 million views of that one clip.”
In the meantime, the Mayo Brothers are continuing to field calls from potential clients, some of whom see them as Instagram rock stars. “We want to talk to people so they can see there’s a face behind the business,” John says. When he calls a social media follower who has left a phone number, “they’re actually shocked that I’m calling them in person. But I’m the product and I genuinely want to help them.”