Box to the beat of music at Spar Boxing

Box to the beat of music at Spar Boxing

Fitness duo Victoria Courtnall and Hayley Gustavson add to their exercise empire

  • Oct. 18, 2019 7:00 a.m.

– Story by Tess Van Straaten Photography by Don Denton

Stepping into SPAR’s downtown Victoria workout studio for the first time, I feel like I’m in a night club. And that’s exactly the point.

“We’re doing a ‘fight club meets night club’ atmosphere,” explains SPAR co-founder Victoria Courtnall. “You box to the beat of the music.”

“We want to make it as fun an experience for our clients as possible while still giving them a challenging, badass workout that gets the heart rate up and incorporates core and lower body exercises for a full body workout,” adds SPAR co-founder Hayley Gustavson. “It’s also therapy for some people because you can take your aggression out on the bag.”

The boxing-inspired group fitness studio opened in May, after Hayley and Victoria pedalled their way to success with two SPINCO studios. The pair, both Oak Bay High School grads, launched SPINCO Victoria almost three years ago and opened a second studio in Langford in January.

“We both wanted to get into the fitness world and we both had our own ideas about how that would look but we thought we’d be stronger together than apart and that’s definitely been true,” 29-year-old Hayley explains.

Both women played team sports growing up and are clearly passionate about fitness.

“I love going to the boutique fitness studios, which I think Victoria was definitely lacking. My husband (Bruce Courtnall) and I both do road cycling so I always was into cycling and spin as well,” the 32-year-old Victorian says.

“I think fitness just brings well-being to everybody’s life and it’s so enriching and enhancing and such a journey for everybody — and it’s different for everybody,” adds Hayley. “I’ve seen it be such a positive thing in my life, it’s hard not to be passionate about it.”

When they first started talking about going into business together, Hayley and Victoria punched out ideas on the boxing concept but say they settled on spin instead because it was the safer bet for their first foray into the fitness business.

“Boxing was somewhat untouched at the time, even in the US, so we thought let’s get into the market in Victoria with something that’s a proven concept and learn from that,” Hayley explains. “It’s great to be part of a franchise that has such great brand recognition across Canada right now and we got to figure out the nitty-gritty details of what it means to own a fitness studio.”

But even as they built the SPINCO business, they always had a bigger plan in mind.

“It was really important for Hayley and me, from the beginning, to have our own brand,” Victoria says. “We looked at developing spin on our own but I think it worked out really well to have the experience of the franchise and then build on that to branch out on our own.”

For Victoria, who was a mortgage broker, and Hayley, who had her own catering business in Kelowna, the biggest business challenge has been learning how to manage so many people.

“It was a part of the business we really didn’t expect to take up so much time,” Hayley explains. “But it’s been so lovely working with all of our trainers and front desk staff and we’ve brought friends onboard. Balancing those relationships has been a learning curve and you want to make sure everyone stays happy.”

“I think we’ve been able to overcome that by building an incredible team, over time, that embodies our vision and executes it on a daily basis,” Victoria adds, who says they learn something new every day. “The biggest thing we’ve learned through all of this is that there is always more to learn because the moment you stop learning, you stop improving and we constantly want to be improving.”

But the entrepreneurs, both young mothers, say by far the greatest challenge is the work-life balance and trying to grow their families while growing their business.

“In this period of starting the businesses, Hayley’s had two kids and I’ve had a baby and I’m pregnant again,” says Victoria, who is due with her second child in October.

“Literally, one of us has always been pregnant since we started this,” laughs Hayley. “So trying to find the balance between having a really amazing opportunity and career in front of us — being able to do exactly what we love — and being able to spend time with our families and nurture those relationships as well is a big balancing act.”

For Hayley, who’s married to business guru Peter Gustavson’s son, Matthew, having expert advice close at hand has definitely been a big help.

“I get really, really great business advice from my father-in-law,” she laughs. “Sometimes I like to think I might know more than I do, and then I realize he’s always right.”

So what’s the best advice he’s given her?

“To always think about working on the business and not getting tied up working in the business,” Hayley says. “Peter constantly wants us to grow and the only way to do that is to be working on the business and not in the business.”

For both women, marrying into famous families has been positive when it comes to name recognition, but it can also have its drawbacks.

“The Courtnall name brings a reputation of being athletic, so that’s certainly helped us, but people always just assume it’s our husbands’ business,” Victoria says. “They’re very supportive husbands but they’re not involved in the business.”

Giving back to the community is also important for Victoria and Hayley, who grew up here. Both businesses have a weekly charity class, with all the proceeds going to different causes. SPINCO’s is a ‘Spin it Forward’ ride and SPAR has ‘Punch for a Purpose.’

“It’s also a discounted class so people get a chance to try it for half price and they get to feel good about it because they’re helping a charity,” Victoria explains.

As this dynamic duo muscles their way to even greater success, they plan to take SPAR across the country. But they know it won’t be easy.

“A good friend of mine always says: ‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s the only way you learn and grow,’” Victoria says.

Check out Spar Boxing here and Spinco here.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Health and wellnessLifestyleSports

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP respond to break and enter and theft at a Wetaskiwin church

RCMP responded to a break and enter and theft at Jesus Cares Fellowship Church.

file photo
County of Wetaskiwin office to re-open Monday April 19, 2021

County of Wetaskiwin is re-opening their office and public works shops to the public on April 19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Most Read