Every overnight success is years in the making. Boxing trainer Leyon Azubuike's first attempt at starting a gym didn't pan out, but he went back to work as a private coach and tried again. Now his gym, Gloveworx, has two LA locations and is soon expanding to New York. We talked to him about his career path, his coffee substitute, and how he still runs private training sessions while managing a growing business.
Location: Los Angeles (and soon, New York!)
Current Gig: Founder and Boxing, Strength & Conditioning Coach at Gloveworx
One word that best describes how you work: Motivation
Current mobile device: iPhone X
Current computer: MacBook Pro
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
My father was a boxer, so I grew up in a boxing family. It's something that has always been a part of me. However, as a kid I focused very seriously on basketball and football, eventually becoming a collegiate football player and captain at Temple University.
In my senior year, I had a devastating knee injury that stopped my football career in its tracks. Boxing once again became a larger part of my life, and I realised I could go pro. I think part of what made me successful was that I was able to pivot at that point rather than feel defeated. There is always another way forward.
Leyon coaching. Photo: Gloveworx
I started training pretty seriously, and quickly became the chief sparring partner of Bermane Stiverne, the former WBC Heavyweight Champion. I then opened my own gym, though it didn't work out, eventually. That was rough. It was a time that really tested me.
I knew that if I kept showing up, kept grinding, something new would come of it, and it did. I became the youngest coach on NBC's Strong, a competition reality show that helped completely transform the bodies of contestants.
I was coaching privately again, and whether I was training a pro athlete or a first timer, I loved helping people break through their personal battles, obstacles and walls that they may not be able to burst through on their own.
This journey has had many ups and downs, but now Gloveworx is a quickly growing company, and it feels good to say that this time it feels like we've really gotten it right.
Take us through a recent workday.
I wake up at 4AM and start my day with an intense lifting session with my coach. Then I shower, eat, and meet students at Gloveworx' original flagship studio in Santa Monica.
I coach a mix of semi-private groups and private clients from 7AM until 2PM. Then I break for a quick meeting with the Gloveworx team on new coach development opportunities we're creating, followed by a photoshoot for new artwork for our World Trade Center location in NYC, slated to open later this year.
Next, I grab a quick bite of protein and greens, then head out for an off-site training session with one of my clients. After that, I head to our Westfield Century City studio, which opened in March, where I see a few more private clients until about 8PM. I finish off the day with a yoga class before heading home.
I am not someone who needs a lot of sleep - I'm lucky in that way. And I'm so passionate about what we're building with Gloveworx that I want to maximise each day.
Gloveworx Santa Monica. Photo: Gloveworx
What apps, gadgets or tools can't you live without?
I keep my hand grip strengthener with me at all times. My grip is what allows me to hold mitts for my clients, so I find myself working on that constantly - in meetings, in downtime between clients, everywhere. I'm a fan of maximising my time.
What's your workspace setup like?
It's a 20 x 20 raised platform with a post at each corner and a mat on it, ha ha! It's a boxing ring, and I love it.
How do you keep a high level of quality at Gloveworx? How do you impart your boxing and fitness skills to your trainers?
We are very selective when it comes to selecting new members to join our team. Our trainers come from extensive athletic backgrounds, and are incredibly knowledgeable about strength and conditioning training.
We host coach development meetings every week, where coaches learn more about movement, nutrition and how the body responds to different fitness techniques.
We look for people who have a "growth mindset". People who are always looking to improve and build their skills, and are passionate about helping our contenders do the same.
Gloveworx coaches Cesar Rocha and Christie Bonacci. Photo: Gloveworx
What's your best shortcut or life hack?
Teamwork. As an entrepreneur I have 500 things on my mind at all times. It's impossible to do everything and still be present with my clients, who are always my first priority. So, I collaborate. I work closely with people around me whom I trust, and we come together to make the bigger vision possible.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I don't drink coffee, so I take very cold showers when I need extra energy. I'm so physically active that if there is a moment to rest I usually take advantage of the opportunity to catch up on sleep. Otherwise, I read articles about successful entrepreneurs who have built businesses from the ground up.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Don't make rash, emotional decisions based on a temporary mood or feeling. Life has many ups and downs. Sometimes things that seem negative can actually prove to be a huge, positive turning point in your life. It's easy to respond quickly, but it's always better to let your emotions settle before coming to a decision.
What's a problem you're still trying to solve?
Gloveworx is growing at an incredibly rapid speed. We are really trying to maintain what made our flagship location so special, the feeling of community and operating like a family. A lot of our contenders have been with me for years, and many of our staff have been with us since we opened. These people are family to me.
Holding onto that as we open additional locations is a challenge, but also a big priority for me. We want to recreate that same feeling at every Gloveworx location across the US.
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.