Tote Stopwatches and Chase Dreams with Rachel Flanagan

Rachel Flanagan Blogger/Stopwatch Enforcer

Rachel Flanagan says she’s “Just your average stopwatch-toting suburban mom, looking to make some locals sweat and curse my name”. That’s hilarious but accurate enough to make me a fan! Let’s get to know her!

Rachel Flanagan is a mobile personal trainerRachel, let’s start with the fact that you and I have a common passion for helping awesome people tell their stories.  Sometimes the hardest thing for me is convincing people that their story is worth telling. What’s the most challenging part about blogging for you?

I think it’s finding topics that will help people and not just be a narcissistic platform for me to go on my soap box. I like to think of my blog as a mix of online magazine and journal.

I think the online magazine format is the best; makes information accessible in a familiar format. Who was your favorite person to interview so far?

Oooh, so hard to choose. I love interviewing people – I think everyone has an interesting story to tell. But two of my favorite interviews are up on my old (pre-RFF) blog,, which I started a couple of years ago. One is an interview with an old friend from New York, who had always struggled with her weight until she found Weight Watchers, and then running. She’s now working for the New York Road Runners Club, managing their online training programs. She amazes me.

The other interview I loved was with Danielle Cemprola, who runs a popular blog called the T Rex Runner. I admire her a lot–she has had so many personal struggles (an eating disorder, a bad marriage and then divorce, back surgeries, and on and on) and yet her blog is funny, inspirational, and helpful. She was very open in her interview with me, and it’s always been one of my favorites.

Switching gears, you’re fairly awesome yourself. I know you have a pretty rich athletic background including rugby, skiing and gymnastics but how long have you been exercising? Were you exercising as a little girl?

Why, thank you! I’ve always been doing some sort of activity or sport for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I gravitated toward individual sports–gymnastics, running, skiing, etc–but then I found rugby in college and loved it. I’d never had that camaraderie before. It sounds cliche but it was life changing.

But in general, exercise has always been a big part of my life and has helped me through a lot of things. Running has always been a place for me to clear my head, and has been a good outlet for stress. But the gym, and learning how to lift heavy, has not only gotten me strong, but boosted my self esteem and self worth.

How has your exercise choice selection changed as you’ve gained experience?

It’s gotten a lot more specific to my goals, which tend to change a few times during the year, vacillating from pure strength, to hypertrophy, to a mix of both. When I was lifting on my own, I tended to overtrain and was always exhausted. But last year I met a fellow trainer, Jenna Damron of Devoted Fitness, through a mentoring group of women in fitness and ended up hiring her as my own trainer. She’s awesome.

You enjoy running, (in the rain no less!) is that your primary sport now?

I do love running, and it will always be a big part of my life. I’ve always been a runner for as long as I can remember, and then after my kids were born I started doing endurance races. I ran my first half marathon almost a year after my daughter was born, and then started full marathons. But once I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2013, I decided to back off the running a bit. That’s when I started lifting more. Now lifting is my primary focus, and I run a couple of times a week for fun.

What’s your fastest marathon time so far? Do you enjoy triathlons and obstacle course races?

My fastest was the New York Marathon, which I ran in 4:28 in 2014. It was insanely windy that day but the race was so amazing (especially as a former New Yorker) that it didn’t bother me.

But no triathlons or obstacle races. I’m a terra firma kinda gal – I’ve never been a big swimmer or biker. And I stay away from obstacle races because I’ve seen a lot of people get injured, which is the last thing I need. I’ve had three knee surgeries during my rugby years so I get worried about re-injuring them.

Let’s talk about your gym. Did you begin your fitness journey in a home gym? Rachel Flanagan keeps her workouts simple but effective

I was a fitness junkie long before I built out the home gym. I used to belong to a big commercial gym, which I really enjoyed. My husband and I built out the garage gym so I could train clients there, and so we could work out when we wanted without having to worry about childcare.

What did you start your home gym with?

I had a set of TRX straps and a few dumbbells, and my husband had some old plates before we opened up the garage gym.

What was the first thing you added to the gym?

The power rack. I love that thing.

What do you have now?

Once we knew we wanted to outfit the garage, we sat down and did our wish list, and then went out and bought almost all of it at once at a place that sells used fitness equipment. We bought a treadmill (which we haven’t used that much), a big rack of dumbbells, a power rack with a nice barbell, a deadlift jack, a and a lot of resistance bands. Over the past year, I’ve added more resistance bands.

You recently discovered Crossfit which has its own ever changing programming requirements. What do you plan to purchase next as far as equipment?

I’d love to get a rower and definitely a second barbell.

You do one on one, small group and outdoor boot camps.  Obviously you’ve got equipment in your garage to handle training clients; do you have a “go bag” of fitness equipment for your boot camp sessions or do clients have to bring their own dumbbells and TRX suspension trainers?

I bring a LOT of dumbbells, my TRX straps, resistance bands, and cones over to a local park when I train my boot camp. Tuesdays and Thursdays are dumbbell training and Fridays are for sprints and stairs. But I always have my trusty tote bag, which has a few bands, my clipboard, dry erase boards and pens, and headlamp. I call myself the Mary Poppins of fitness.

Do you train mixed groups or only women?

My boot camp is only women, and I really like the all-women vibe for that group. But I do have two male clients who I train in my gym.

A lot of people are okay with meeting up at a park to train, but going to someone’s home requires a different level of trust. How do you weed out potential problem clients?

I’ll usually go back and forth in email a few times to get a sense of the person and then invite them over for coffee to see if we’re a good fit.

Were there any legal hurdles to establishing a business in your home?

No – just an increase in insurance.

Rachel Flanagan takes a selfieWhat is the hardest part about being a home based/outdoor fitness professional and how have you overcome it?

The hardest part so far is the weather! My outdoor class group is not a fan of weather below 35 degrees, so it was tricky over the winter. The other hard part is the lack of daylight in the winter–I tend to move the group around based on where I can get the best light. The weather also affects my garage gym clients — I had to buy a space heater for the winter and a good air conditioner for the summer.

How would you describe your training style for yourself and how does it compare to how you train others? For example, are there any allowances you’ve made due to your knee injuries that you wouldn’t necessarily include in a typical small group session?

The way I train clients isn’t too different from how I do my own training. The main difference is that my own training sessions tend to be longer, since I’m doing a lot of big lifts that require time between sets. The main thing that I tell my clients–and always remind myself–that focus and intensity can be the difference between getting so so results and getting the results they really want.

What advice do you have for someone planning on starting their first home gym?

Sit down and write out your wish list and then set your budget. Buy the things you know you’ll use first, and then add things as you go along. Also, if you’re going to do it in your garage, ask your neighbor to tell you if the music is too loud. The last thing you need is the neighbors calling the cops.

Where can people connect with you to hire you for your services or just follow your fitness journey?

Lots of places! I have information on my services on my website,; they can email me at, or follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

Last question and this is the most important: how many Garage Gym Life shirts would it take to get you to start cross posting with

My tank top is enough! I love it!

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on




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