Image: Sam Warburton at Seat Unique's launch party; photo by, Callum Welsh

Former Wales and Lions captain talks to Seat Unique about his new online training app, business challenges and staying motivated during lockdown.

This week we caught up with Seat Unique brand ambassador and former Wales & Lions captain, Sam Warburton. He tells us how he's successfully adapted his business during the COVID-19 crisis, is keeping motivated in lockdown and how it's possible to manage your personal and professional life while staying at home.

How are you finding life in lockdown?

"Really good, actually. I don’t want to rub salt in the wounds because I know there are people out there who are finding it really difficult, but I’m someone who’s always really valued family time. When I’m away I always miss my family like crazy. That’s why I bought a house in the same village I’ve lived in my whole life, so I’m really enjoying the time at home.

It’s been challenging for my little one because she really misses going to school and seeing her friends, but as for the situation being at home, I don’t find it difficult whatsoever. I’m a bit of an introvert anyway and quite a private person, so I’m really enjoying the pace of life at the minute."

What are your top Netflix recommendations to watch during lockdown?

"It’s crazy, I’ve been at home for four weeks now and I’ve not watched a single thing on tele. But I can tell you all the characters of ‘Trolls’ because of my little one. I’m not going to lie, the ‘Trolls’ films are brilliant. I love Justin Timberlake’s character - he’s great. The songs are brilliant too. If you’re an 80's kid, it’s got all the songs you grew up with, so the film is good fun for parents too!

The one thing I did watch before [lockdown] was ‘OJ Simpson Versus The People’. That was one of the best documentary series I’ve seen. "

Apart your best selling book, 'Open Side' by Sam Warburton, do you have any book recommendations?

"One book that always stands out to me is Michael Johnson’s ‘Gold Rush’. He’s someone I’ve always admired and grew up watching. I just loved his professional and positive mindset, mainly because it strikes a chord with me. I think there's a lot of similarities.

There’s a couple of quotes he’s put [in the book] which really stick with me. He talks about his personal gains and how he’s reached perfection and I absolutely love that. I don’t read many books - I don’t get past the first few chapters of a lot of them - but that was one I read the whole way through. It was great."

Do you have a routine that allows you to manage both your personal and professional life during lockdown?

"I get up at 7am, have breakfast with my daughter and then I walk the dog. When I get back home I have lunch, go to the gym and get some work bits done around teatime. Normally I’d say no work after 6pm but I find it quite therapeutic. I do a couple of hours’ work in the evenings when I’m not rushed, so I can sit down with my laptop and a nice tub of low calorie ice cream. So that’s my routine at the minute and I really enjoy it.

I think most people are probably missing a routine and leadership. A lot of people are used to going into their day job and being told what they need to do. To have that taken away is probably quite strange.

I similarly experienced that when I retired, so I’m used to that feeling of having two or three months to enjoy a bit of downtime but after a while, I realised I needed a routine. I was making my kit bag the night before going to the gym but my gym is in my garage. It’s not like I need to have a kit bag, I just needed that sense of organisation and routine."

Many people are faced with the challenge of working from home during the coronavirus outbreak. How are you finding it?

"I’m probably a bit more productive because normally I’m going here there and everywhere. I’m scheduled to do quite a lot of travelling with rugby over the next few months - a lot of European matches with BT Sport and I’m meant to be going to Japan and New Zealand with Wales. So I was just getting my head around travelling quite a lot and then all of a sudden, I’m home.

I’ve been able to focus on a couple of other business ventures and interests. Whenever something happens, I think how can I make the best of this situation? So I’ve used it as an opportunity to try and grow and maintain that side of things. I’m trying to be more hands on so that’s keeping me really busy. If I didn’t have that I think I would be pulling my hair out."

Have you got any advice for employees or businesses that are struggling due to COVID-19?

"I guess the two things are: have faith that things will work out and have perspective. I always think that health is the most important thing and hopefully people whose businesses have been hit haven’t suffered poor health.

I remember hearing someone who was dying say, 'it’s not until you’re dying you realise that the three things you want so much are the three things you take for granted, and not one of them is money. The three things are family, health and time.' I know people’s businesses might be struggling but if you’ve got those three things in tact, then you’ve got everything."

Can you tell us about your online training programme SW7 Academy?

"I set up the programme with one of my best mate’s [Josh Davies] who I’ve been friends with since we were twelve. Throughout our school days we trained with each other flat out; we’ve been training partners for ages.

Years back, we had this idea about doing something together regarding the fitness industry. So this summer, I mentioned to him that I was thinking of opening a gym and he said, 'everything’s going online, you need to do it from an online platform.'

There’s a lot of aspiring sportsmen, rugby players and even middle aged people who just want to try a different mode of exercise. So we decided to set up a high level training app that’s accessible and is as cheap as anything else that’s out there.

[SW7 Academy] is probably one of my genuine passions outside of family, fitness and dogs. It’s not a chore. Getting it all off the ground was a lot more work than I thought but when I look back, I’m really proud of what I’ve done."

How does the SW7 Academy online training programme work?

"When people come on board they’ll be doing the same training programme as myself and my business partner. They can sign up for one month, three months or a year. On the app, they get a training programme which is all demonstrated by myself and Josh. There’s lots of other resources on there regarding nutrition and physio.

They will be able to sign up to the Facebook group which me and Josh dive into regularly. We host live Q&As weekly with the members, so if they’ve got any questions they can ask us. We try and make it as interactive and as personal as possible.

We change the workouts every 5-6 weeks. We’ve had to change them completely with COVID-19. Normally, we have one programme that everyone runs off but we’ve had to set up 3 or 4 different ones depending on what people have got at home. It’s been a challenge but we’ve managed to get it done in time and still managed to maintain and grow the business, which is great."

Have you seen a spike in demand since the lockdown?

"I remember somebody saying, in an economic crisis, that’s when people stop all their marketing because they panic about their costs. They said, that’s when you need to market. That’s when you need to get out there because everyone else is stopping. You need to make the loudest noise and still continue to invest in your product.

We’ve still carried on to market, promote and put money into that side of things. We’ve managed to grow another 10% since it all started. So it’s slowed down but considering what’s been going on, I’m really pleased with how we’ve managed to maintain and grow.

We got into a slightly different niche of home workouts which is what a lot of people are craving. We’ve gone from not knowing what Zoom is to hosting webinars in front of a few hundred people. It makes you realise how running a business is forever evolving and changing shape and I really like the challenge of that."

You've mentioned that you host webinars via Zoom, how did you find your first Zoom experience?

"Because I’ve done so much public speaking I found it really easy. The only thing I’m nervous about is using the tech and not trusting that your WiFi connection isn't going to cut out, or your microphone isn't working, all those issues that you can’t control.

I genuinely love giving advice and helping people. I really like passing on information, trying to make people better versions of themselves and giving them 100% honest feedback.

Some people are just chucking stuff up there with no thought. We're putting a shed load of time into deciding what we’re doing and the sessions that we’re giving. We’ve really tried to put a lot of detail into it and I love doing that to develop a good product."

Is nutritional advice a part of the SW7 Academy training programme?

"We don’t give nutritional plans but there’s lots of nutritional documents. We’re actually talking to people now regarding developing the app into nutrition.

We've partnered with BAS which is probably the best sports nutrition brand out there. We've also partnered with Muscle Group who give discounts and offers to our members and guidance regarding nutrition and supplements."

There has been a lot of rugby on TV recently, have you watched any yourself?

"I haven’t watched a single minute of rugby since the Six Nations. I don’t really watch rugby because you live it so much when you’re in it. I love the game but while I’ve got time away from it I’m always quite diligent to making sure I stay away from it.

I’m only in with Wales for 5 months a year but when I’m in, I’m in 100%. Resting is as important as work time so I make sure that when I have got time off, I have my time off. I’ll do research when I have to but when I get back in, I get that hunger again and can fly back into it. I don’t want to live it all the time otherwise I think you get sick of it.

I think it’s great to schedule breaks, whether it’s just a weekend or a week holiday. You need to have that to look forward to and just switch off from what you’re doing. You can’t have the on button on 365 days a year, it’s just not sustainable."

To find out more about Sam's new online training programme, head over to

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