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Industry Insider Interview With Co-Founder and Managing Director of Game Changer Performance and P3RFORM Jake Keeling

Jake Keeling has been following a programme set by one of his very own Performance Coaches at P3RFORM and is testament to what can be achieved through the application of their knowledge and expertise.

He managed to shave 8 minutes of his personal best at the Stafford Half Marathon, clocking in a time of 1:25.40 after focusing on strength, conditioning, power and mobility with his coach.

P3RFORM epitomises the evolution of the fitness industry, the reliance on tech and the convenience of having a ‘coach on the go’.

Born from the team at Game Changer Performance, where Jake also heads up, they aim to bring their world-class performance services to a wider audience.

He’s worked alongside professional athletes and teams in preparation for elite competition such as the FIFA World Cup, the Premier League and for Formula 1 World Championships.

We managed to tie down Keeling down to discuss, both GCP and P3RFORM, on where they came from and where he sees it all going. 

Game Changer Performance (GCP) works with some of the top leagues and sporting associations in the UK – how did this come about, what was your background before GCP and what got you into human performance?

Before GCP my background was in the commercial side of sport, mainly in sales, sponsorship and hospitality. I worked in several roles in the UK and Internationally within the sports industry before founding GCP in 2016.

I started working in the human performance side of the sports industry when I joined Spire Healthcare at St George’s Park, The FA’s National Football Centre.

Having always been fascinated by the performance of professional sportspeople, working within the commercial side of human performance felt like an interesting and growing side of the sports industry to build my career in.

Today the industry is booming and the interest and awareness in human performance is growing exponentially year on year.

– As a keen fitness enthusiast and runner yourself, what motivates you to keep improving?

I am keen now, but it hasn’t always been that way! When I launched GCP in 2016 my health and fitness suffered initially.

Having been made redundant and then deciding to launch GCP, the pressures and stresses of trying to manage family life with three young kids and then begin to build a business from scratch took its toll.

My lifestyle choices and my approach toward health and fitness took a back burner as I found it extremely challenging to manage everything.

I put on weight and was very unmotivated towards making the right changes to improve things.

Fast forward five years, and especially in the last 18 months since developing the P3RFORM concept, I now prioritise my health and fitness.

I train six times a week and ensure I find time every day to do either a run, bike, swim, gym or recovery session. I keep a close eye on my nutrition and love cooking as much healthy food as possible.

I also try to get enough sleep each night and limit the amount of alcohol I drink each month. In committing to these changes and building these habits they have absolutely transformed my mental and physical health.

Having just turned 40 years old I have never been in better shape in my life. I’ve lost over 10kg in weight, stripped fat off my body and built muscle, strength, speed and endurance.

I can’t express enough how these changes have made such a huge impact on the overall quality of my life both personally and professionally.

My motivation comes from myself and from having structure and a plan to follow each week. I want to be in the very best condition I can be so I can continue to enjoy every day to its fullest.

My P3RFORM coach ensures that I have the guidance and support to achieve this every day. I must say that I am fiercely competitive as well which helps! I love setting myself new targets and PB’s to hit.

My most recent one was trying to run a sub 1:30 half marathon, having run my first half marathon at 1:51 just over two years ago.

I ran a 1:26 in March at the Stafford Half Marathon which was an amazing feeling. The goal is now to see if I can get close to 1:20 at my next race in October!

-Now GCP is offering a similar solution for regular people, how did P3RFROM come about and evolve from GCP? How long did it take?

P3RFORM was born out of the work that we do at GCP with athletes. At the highest levels of professional sport, athletes have everything looked after for them. They don’t have to think. Their training is mapped out for them by a multi-disciplinary team of specialists so that they can focus on training and performing to the best of their ability.

Strength and conditioning coaches and sports scientists plan out their gym, pitch and recovery work to ensure that they are as strong and robust as they can be.

Nutritionists map out what they should be eating, how often, in what quantity and when so that they are appropriately fuelled to train and compete.

Psychologists get their mindset right so that they are motivated to achieve their goals. Physiotherapists ensure that their bodies are well maintained and injuries are prevented. All this support is what makes athletes able to perform every day at the level that they do.

When it comes to us mere mortals, we are left to our own devices! It’s an absolute minefield trying to source the right guidance to support your health and fitness as a consumer.

We are bombarded with lots of get-fit quick regimes, fad diets, celebrity trainers pedalling poor advice, programmes and misinformation via all forms of media.

At GCP we felt there was an opportunity to cut out the noise and give people access to the exact same level of expertise and care that we provide to the athletes that we work with. To do this we created P3RFORM.

 The small decisions that we make on a day-to-day basis add up in an obvious way to shape our health outcomes. What we found is that for most people these decisions are completely unmanaged.

Most people at some stage of their life try to invent solutions, try to work things out for themself by searching online and taping together solutions.

It’s often not until someone becomes ill and seeks medical support that solutions get introduced to improve these factors, at this point, it’s often too late as the person is already ill.

Our approach at P3RFORM was therefore to find a way to use our experience to put in place a proactive healthcare solution, a programme of support for people to access at an earlier stage to alleviate some of these risks.

-Did you have any obstacles to overcome? If so, how did you go about tackling them? 

We trialled the concept with friends, family and a select group of initial clients across 2021. We took our time over 12 months to really get under the skin of how we could deliver such a personal service digitally.

The biggest challenge we faced was to convince people that what is normally deemed a physical engagement e.g. working with a coach, physio, nutritionist etc. could all be done digitally via an app.

We really worked on the personalisation of the service that our clients experience with our coaches, so that although they aren’t physically there with them, that same access to expertise, motivation and accountability that working with someone physically often brings to people was delivered via the P3RFORM app.

The second challenge has also been in defining our ideal customer groups. What we have learned over the past 12 months is that P3RFORM works best with people that are typically busy, professional and engaged people.

We have a wide and growing range of customers from all over the world (we already have clients in the US, Canada, UAE & Europe) finding us and generally whether they are simply looking to lose weight or get back into shape all the way through to wanting to compete in races and events, they are engaged and committed to achieving these goals.

What our coaches do is give them expert guidance, coaching and monitoring to ensure that they achieve these goals. 

 -P3RFORM is a unique offering but what makes it stand out for you? What’s different about it compared to other fitness apps?

P3RFORM is unique for a number of reasons. Firstly it’s so much more than just another fitness app. The P3RFORM app is the conduit between clients and our coaches.

All the communication from our initial video call to the digital health profiling that they complete, through to every bit of dialogue and information that we share with clients, it’s all done within the app.

Secondly, the P3RFORM app is able to integrate wearables such as Apple Watch, Apple Health and Fitbit so that our coaches can monitor the intensity of their client’s sessions plus their daily physical activity levels and sleep.

It also integrates with My Fitness Pal so that our coaches can track, monitor and provide nutrition guidance to their clients.

The ability to aggregate data from these sources ensures that the level of feedback our coaches can provide is unique plus it supports their programming to ensure everything is world-class in terms of detail that they provide. Our coaching is as individual as our clients.

Each client has different needs, goals and operates at different levels. Our service is unique as it’s completely personalised.

Finally, I’d say the level of expertise that we provide is unique. We are looking to democratise the access that consumers have to access the same expertise that is only normally available to athletes within professional sports.

Typically, within fitness, the norm for the general population is access to poorly qualified personal trainers, of which the UK has thousands. Our coaches are highly qualified practitioners, with post-graduate qualifications and accreditations from leading awarding bodies.

They are confident and charismatic with many having spent years working in professional sports, so they have interesting backgrounds, experience and knowledge to share. Our coaches typically have 5+ contacts a week with their clients, a normal person might speak to their GP 1 or 2 times a year.

On a like-for-like basis, you will therefore have c250 contacts with your coach over the same time which creates a real closeness of contact.

So, whilst we are focused on fitness the big objective is how do we become a core part of someone’s life and help them with more aspects of their health. 

-Where does the app sit in the fitness tech market?

I’d say we are part of the connected fitness space and that our goal is to be the market leader of digital health and fitness coaching within this space.

What people pay us for is fundamentally our time. We’ve picked a price point (less than £4 per day, which equates to £110 per month) that allows us to deliver an incredible experience with an experienced and qualified team.

We don’t ask our customers to commit to long up-front contracts, we ask them to pay monthly. We want a lot of signals about whether we are being helpful to customers.

We remind our customers each month we are going to take their money and provide a very easy way for people to stop if our service isn’t working well for them.

Whilst our price point may initially seem premium when you consider it against the cost of in-person training per hour it actually provides incredible value.

Fitness apps that carry a low-price tag per month will often major on the personalised nature of what they deliver. However, when people dig deeper and engage, they quickly find that everything is algorithm-based and in fact that there is little or no personalisation at all in what they deliver.

-It is still early days but what’s next for you and the business? Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?

As you say, it’s very early stages for us at the minute having just launched officially back in February. What’s exciting is that in a short space of time we are seeing traction and new clients are finding us every week.

We have an ambitious plan to scale the business in the UK first over the next 12 months and further afield into Europe and beyond over the coming years. The next 6 months are all about getting our messaging right and bringing our story to a wider audience.

The clients that have found us already are telling their friends, family and networks which is creating a really nice organic referral base for gaining new clients.

We’ve also extended major contracts that we have within the professional sports over recent months which is hugely exciting. We also have trials running in the background with one of the UK’s leading private medical insurers and several global employers.

Within the corporate market especially we see P3RFROM coaching becoming a very attractive employee benefit that progressive employers will offer their people to retain and attract the best talent in the market.

In five years’ time having continued to reinvest in our technology and people we see P3RFORM being one of the UK’s leading proactive health and fitness providers.

Whilst initially we are heavily focused on P3RFORM being focused on physical health, we also see an opportunity to look at different verticals such as nutrition, psychology and rehabilitation coaching to add to our current service. 

Whilst doing this with P3RFORM we are also committed to building and maintaining our position as one of the leading specialists within the sports performance market with the work we are doing at GCP within elite sport.