Phil MacKenzie - Bring on the Lean Squad
Written By: Chris Perotte
If there was an autobiography novel on the current life of Phil Mackenzie, it would probably be titled “Hard Work Pays Off”.
MacKenzie is a 30 year-old retired rugby player. He is also married and has an eight month-old son. He came to a point in his life where he felt that he could no longer play the game he loves. It was time to start a new chapter in his life. That new chapter was the creation of The Lean Squad.
Where the Love Began
For Phil MacKenzie, his journey into the world of rugby started when he fell in love with the sport while attending Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario. MacKenzie had dreams of becoming a tennis player. However, his friends convinced him to join their rugby team. He had no idea what rugby was all about but decided to give it a try.
“I ended up playing for the semester and loved it,” MacKenzie says. He was in grade eight at the time. “I started playing with the Ontario [Blues] that same summer. The comradery with the team and the touring which I love – getting to travel was something I didn’t know you could do with sports. That was kind of the beginning of rugby for me.”
MacKenzie continued to play rugby with the team at Appleby College, and was given the opportunity to travel with them to South Africa. He also travelled to Australia on an exchange program through rugby. As a result of these experiences, MacKenzie knew he wanted to play the game of rugby as a career.
Every new chapter in life always brings new challenges. MacKenzie increased his knowledge and experience of the game. He faced many challenges as he continued to learn more about the sport of rugby.
“In hindsight, the biggest challenge for myself was that I didn’t understand how to play the game when I got to a higher level,” he reflects. “There is way more to rugby than running through people. There are all these skills and decision making.
“That’s probably the biggest challenge Canadians face, because we have tons of good ball runners and tacklers. But it’s understanding all the different rules and the shape of the game; how to react, how to read the sport, and all that kind of stuff. It’s probably something I struggled with and still do to this day.”
If MacKenzie was to use one word to sum up the experiences he encountered as a rugby player, it would be "amazing!" From the very moment he started playing in Grade 8, until 2017 when he retired, rugby was always first and foremost in his mind. He loves rugby. This love for the game is something he hopes to share with newborn son, Hudson, one day. Perhaps his son will create a new chapter, and continue the legacy of the MacKenzie’s in rugby.
When his son is old enough and turns the pages in the chapters of Canadian rugby history, he will see that his dad Phil played as well as his uncle Jamie. In fact, he will one day read how the brothers made history at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, when Team Canada played against Italy. It was during that match that Phil and Jamie became the first set of Canadian brothers to start together in a World Cup rugby match.
Both Phil and Jamie regard that moment as their favourite memory in their rugby careers.
“That was definitely really special. It was pretty cool because our family was there to watch as well,” says Phil's younger brother Jamie. “Just being able to line up beside him, sing the national anthem, and play that level of a game was pretty special.”
The MacKenzie brothers also had the opportunity to play on the same team for the University of Victoria in British Columbia, and for the professional rugby team Esher RFC (Rugby Football Club) based out of Hersham, Surrey, England in the National League. Phil and Jamie played together for two years for Esher. Jamie has learned a lot from his older brother while watching him play rugby.
“He was always very motivated growing up, and I was a little bit less so. So just having him push me into new things, like he pushed me into rugby, which obviously had a big impact on my life,” says Jamie. “Just having him around to motivate me and kind of help me out along the way has been pretty cool.”
Phil represented Canada in both the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups. He played rugby professionally for the following teams in England: Coventry RFC, Esher RFC, London Welsh and the Sale Sharks in the Premiership. He was a popular addition to the Sale team, and collected a following of Canadian ex-pats in the Manchester area.
After playing seven years in England, MacKenzie joined the San Diego Breakers of the PRO Rugby League in the US, where he was named the team captain. He enjoyed his time with the Breakers.
“Amazing facilities, the best I have trained at. We played at the amazing San Diego University [Torero Stadium]. Everything was perfect,” says MacKenzie. “We had great support. It was honestly a great experience and guys were getting paid to play rugby in North America. So it was huge [for the sport].”
MacKenzie’s time with the squad was brief, as the league disbanded at the end of its debut season. Faced with the question of what his next chapter in life would be, MacKenzie decided to retire from the game of rugby altogether and continue to focus full-time as an entrepreneur, building his Lean Squad brand.
Formation of the Lean Squad
MacKenzie returned to Oakville, Ontario from San Diego, California after the Pro Rugby league ended, where he continues to train clients, mostly friends or friends-of-friends interested in his Lean Squad program.
MacKenzie is the owner of the Lean Squad Fitness Program. It is a business where he develops an individualized meal plan and customized workout program for each client. He constantly stays in touch with his clients, encouraging their fitness progress every step of the way.
The idea for the Lean Squad Fitness Program was formed during the time he played for the Sale Sharks in England. At his bachelor party in 2014, his friends approached him with the idea that they wanted to get lean and fit, and that they wanted his help. MacKenzie prepared a fitness program for them to help achieve their fitness goals. However, these first "clients" felt that his hour and half program of lifting weights, bench presses and other weight room exercises were crazy (too long). With their busy 9-5 work schedule, they wanted a program that they could complete in 30 minutes that would give them healthy, fit, lean and muscular bodies.
So Phil went back to the drawing board, creating a meal plan for his friends and shortening the workouts to create a 30-minute high-intensity program.
“They ended up loving it (the workout program),” says MacKenzie, proudly. “This was three years ago and they’re all still doing it now.”
The name Lean Squad originated from a group chat MacKenzie and his friends created while he was helping them through their workouts, and it has stuck with him.
Becoming an entrepreneur is something Phil MacKenzie has always wanted to do. He was inspired by his father Jim MacKenzie, Chairman and C.E.O of Molly Maid professional cleaning services in Canada.
Focusing on his business full-time, the word of his fitness program started to spread and his clientele increased. MacKenzie then converted his parent’s garage into a gym in order to accommodate the growing interest. He advertised his business and created an Instagram account which helped him reach clients both locally and internationally. He currently has over 4800 followers on Instagram. Thanks to his @leansquad, he has gained new clients across Canada from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. He also has clients in the United States and overseas in the Netherlands.
Word of mouth advertising also increased MacKenzie's clientele. One of his clients in Toronto is 60 year-old Debbie Moonlight. She heard about the program through her son John who played with MacKenzie on the Canadian National Rugby Team. She absolutely loves the 90-Day Lean Plan and what it has done for her. It has increased her self-esteem and self-confidence. Before starting the program, she did not consider going to the gym and working out in front of people, but now she does and the results are noticeable.
“At first I was like 'whew this is going to be hard' and I was nervous starting it but ever since I did I have never looked back. It’s been great,” enthuses Moonlight. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s exceeded my expectations incredibly.”
“Definitely get to the Lean Squad because the results are incredible. They [potential clients] wouldn’t be sorry, that’s for sure [for signing up],” says Moonlight.
Phil feels his rugby career has taught him to enjoy what he does and that if he works hard, he will get the rewards that he deserves, a philosophy he utilizes through his Lean Squad brand and often shares with his clients.
“Honestly, I attribute who I am today to rugby. The way you interact with people. The rules and the respect the game promotes carries through after rugby,” says MacKenzie. “It opens your whole world up to a different way of approaching sports. I really do think there is no other sport like it.”
Check out his Instagram account @LeanSquad and see for yourself how MacKenzie’s love for rugby and fitness can help you start your own new chapter of fitness and fun.