Joe Brigham - Bright Hammer Fitness

Hello, Richard Munn here.  I'm starting off 2015 with a blog series, interviewing and photographing creative entrepreneurs as a way of sharing their vision with the world.  I have to admit, I'm getting pretty inspired myself spending time with them, and hearing their stories. 

We start the first blog in fine form with Joseph Brigham, founder of Bright Hammer Fitness.

RM: What got you involved in fitness?

JB: I had always had an on and off relationship with fitness but I could never really get into it fully due to a heart condition I had that held me back, wasn't until my late twenties that I had a procedure to get rid of the pesky issue and I was let off the leash. After that my involvement in fitness was in fits and starts. I would start a fitness regime, start to look and feel good, get a girlfriend, let myself go, lose the girlfriend, then start a new regime - repeating the cycle. Y'know?

By the time I got to 29 I was really overweight, ill with a chest infection, and heartbroken from a relationship that fell apart. I felt at my lowest and knew I had to change my life otherwise I would have no life. I decided I was going to make getting fit and healthy the main priority, so I started training for myself in the knowledge that this time I was doing it for me and for a life-long sense of well being and health. That was in 2011 and I have not fallen off the wagon since. That was my personal introduction to fitness as a total lifestyle. When I started to get results people started asking how I did it, so I gave some friends some advice. It turned out that I was quite good at explaining my fitness ideas to people and guiding them through the process. One day a friend said I should become a personal trainer and it was like a big light bulb switched on above my head. So I took some courses, qualified as a fitness instructor in 2012 and a personal trainer in 2013, and have been in training people in and out of gyms ever since.

RM: What got you interested in Obstacle Course Racing specifically?

JB: I had run in a few organised races and had really enjoyed the buzz and experience of it. I was pretty proud of my achievements but I had started to itch for a bigger challenge. I had loved the idea of obstacle courses since being little and playing on the one at Knebworth park as a kid, plus I used to get hyped watching the course they had at the end of that show "The Krypton factor." I've always wanted to do it, and the idea also scared me a little so I knew I had to do it - I have a ridiculous fear of heights so the races were a great way of facing that fear. Spartan race was the first OCR I became aware of. Plus being a fan of 300 the branding really spoke to me. The more races I ran, the more in love with the sport I fell. The overcoming of obstacles in both a literal and metaphorical sense, the total fitness, the beautiful places you get to race, the camaraderie with fellow racers, it all factored in me wanting to become all about the OCR.

RM: You founded both Bright Hammer Fit, your personal training business, and Team Bright Hammer, the OCR team. What was the motivation behind these?

JB: I started Bright Hammer Fit as I knew I always wanted to be self-employed and be in charge of the direction of my training and business. I also didn't want to get bogged down with all the petty bullshit I had seen from my time in commercial gyms - the stuff that stifles your creativity, holds you back, and stops you giving you that bit extra for your clients. Plus I believed I did not need to be attached to a gym to be successful, hell - when I started my own fitness journey back in 2011 I lost 50 pounds in 9 months without ever hiring a PT or setting foot in a gym. I did it all under my own steam, direction, and from my own research - so I took that over to my business when I set up Bright Hammer Fit. It was a belief to me that what was conventional in the industry and the industry standard as a whole - was low, and it failed people. Look at the high attrition rate in gyms of clients and all the people who get fed up because they don't get results. I wanted to be an antithesis of that.

As for the Team Bright Hammer OCR team? Well, in the Spring of 2013 I started my own boot camp and had a good crew coming to my sessions to run round in a field throwing tyres about, and getting dirty. I had my eye on doing my first Spartan race and thought I would throw it out there to the boot camp members to see if they wanted to get involved - and they did. We formed a team of 10 and it became our focus for training that summer to be ready for the Cambridge Spartan Sprint. We spent 3 months going on team runs, doing boot camp classes, and even attempted to climb Snowdon in torrential rain as a team building exercise. We did the race, it was awesome, and from there on the crew that was "Bright Hammer Boot Camp" blossomed into "Team Bright Hammer".

Team Bright Hammer has become a place for like minded people to train together, race together, and hangout. I can't even tell you how many races we did between us in 2014, but it was a lot! I knew wanted things to develop from there and decided that in 2015 we would make the team as professional as possible, train harder, train more scientifically, have more fun, go on more road trips, commit to being the best we can be. Our current team are all up for that and all of them have challenges and goals that they want to achieve, and I intend to give my all to help them get there. A couple of guys on the team did amazingly well in Spartan Race UK open category in 2014 (myself included) and we intend to step up into the elite category and see what we can do. It is equal amounts exciting and daunting. Just like a good race!

RM: What's been your biggest business lesson?

JB: My biggest business lesson is two fold actually. Firstly, things fluctuate, especially in the fitness industry! The peaks and troughs are really defined and harsh. The first December I had in business was ridiculous. I had an amazing November and predicted it would carry on into December but things dropped off harshly. Plus I had 2 weeks of holiday in December so it was a shorter month. So that was all really eye opening and stressful, so that first lesson was don't assume and make sure you are prepared by having a little something put by for when times get hard.

Secondly, when starting a new business and being self-employed, it is hard to get going, you will have a lot of people tell you that you cant make it work or that you should have a second stream of income. These are things that can really distract you and stop you from putting your full energy into your business, as well as undermine your confidence. Just blinker yourself to these things, get your head down, and put your all into your product and your work like you literally have no other options. Then one day, if you have done it right, you will find you are actually making a living and having fun doing it. Being your own boss is one of the best feelings you can have in your work-life if you do it right, it is worth the initial stress and hard work it takes to get there.

RM: Thank-you for your time Joe, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys get up to.

To see more of Joe's work check-out

All images by Richard Munn, copyright reserved.