Former Olympic heptathlete, Louise Hazel, was an integral part of Team GB and won Commonwealth gold before retiring in 2013. Louise now lives and works in LA, training Hollywood clients through her female-focused gym, Slay, on Hollywood Boulevard.
When she’s not training or putting high profile clients through their paces, Louise is also a podcast host, TV presenter, and racial equality advocate. This summer she published an open letter to the fitness industry, signed by 120 professional women of colour who work within it, to address racial inequality and representation within the industry. As part of this, Louise put together The Playbook, featuring guidance and solutions as to how inequality can be addressed in all areas of the industry, from working environment to hiring.
You were a successful Team GB athlete and Commonwealth Gold winner. What was the catalyst for your retirement from heptathlon?
It was simple really. I remember feeling 3 things after the London 2012 Olympic Games:
- I’d fallen out of love with the sport and I understood [that] the politics behind competing for your country are never in the interests of the athlete.
- I felt like I’d reached my potential – sure, I could have put down a better score but that wouldn’t have been life-changing. I’d already won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and the chances of me winning a gold, silver or bronze in Rio 2016 were slim.
- London was calling. I grew tired of Birmingham and longed to be amidst the bright lights and energy that came from London. I wanted to meet new people and have new conversations, above all else I wanted to grow on a personal level.
You started competing at the age of 10. Was there a period of adjustment or identity-questioning after you retired?
Never, it was quite remarkable actually. I handed in notice on my two-bedroom apartment, moved most of my stuff into a storage unit and within a month I started leasing a room from Jeanette Kwakye, one of my Team GB teammates in London.
Seven years on, has your competitive drive stayed with you?
They say, “Once an Olympian always an Olympian” and yes, I’m still extremely competitive. Often to a fault. I like deadlines, challenges, progress and environments that push me to perform. Even with simple things like going bowling, I struggle to switch off the “winner” mentality. It’s a blessing and a curse!
You live in LA now. Tell us what life is like for you and what it involves?
When I first arrived in Los Angeles in 2017, my days were filled with castings, meeting producers and television networks. And it still is to some extent but this time I am much more in the driving seat as a female gym owner. I created SLAY as a safe space for personal training Hollywood’s rich and famous but it’s also a purpose-built content studio allowing me to create, pitch and sell content and TV ideas to networks. It’s an exciting place to be!
You’re CEO of Slay. Can you tell us more about your vision for Slay?
My purpose with Slay is to ignite and elevate sustainable training for women worldwide. This is done in a multitude of ways:
Equipment and merchandise
Television show (in development)
My vision is to create the largest female-owned fitness community in the world.
What is the focus of your own training now?
Nowadays my focus is general maintenance, which typically means I’ll weight train 2-3 times weekly and I try to get out and run or hike twice weekly. Weekends are strictly for me, no exercise unless it’s for my mental wellbeing.
Can you share what a typical week of training looks like for you?
Here is an example of a perfect week of training for me. I rarely get the opportunity to do this as other responsibilities normally reduce the amount of time I spend training. At a minimum at least 2 days a week will get done.
Monday – Resistance training (60 minutes). Exercises include back squats, bench press, and weighted flutterkicks.
Tuesday – Cardio training (20 minutes). Speed Endurance Intervals; 1-minute stride, 1-minute recovery.
Wednesday – Resistance training (60 minutes). Exercises include; SL split squat, dumbbell push press, weighted Russian twists.
Thursday – Cardio training (30 minutes). Speed training: 6 x 60m sprints (full recovery).
Friday – HIIT training (30 minutes).
Saturday – Hike (2-4 hours).
Sunday – Rest.
As an ex-Olympic athlete do you use any sport psychology strategies in your training today?
Absolutely, but as an athlete, I don’t think you even think about sports psychology, it’s not a conscious effort, it’s just something that you do. It’s what makes you different and it’s a mindset that you embody that enables you to perform at a high level. For me, these things present themselves in the following ways: positive self-talk and visualization. They’re not just restricted to training either – I use them throughout the day before meetings and even with my personal relationships.
You recently put together The Playbook. Please can you tell us about this?
The Playbook came about this summer when a group of 120 women of color signed my “Open Letter To The Fitness Industry”. Many of us suffered immense pain watching the violence of [the] George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery murders and hearing of the injustice served in Breonna Taylor’s killing that we rallied our voices to make it clear that we will be a part of ending racism in our workplaces.
The health and fitness industry has done an excellent job of ignoring women of color for the longest time and so I devised a new set of rules to play by. One that promotes equality, not inclusion, and one that provides solutions not just lists our endless grievances.
I truly believe that most people want to do better when it comes to equality and so the Playbook is a great guide for anybody wanting to help us achieve that.
How has The Playbook been received so far?
The support I received from The Playbook has been immense. It was published in Forbes Online and I recently chatted to the Global Director for Sports Marketing at Lululemon, so brands are starting to take notice.
What are your observations regarding racism within athletics and the fitness industry?
It’s 2020, and we’ve only just started. I mean, sport has always lead the narrative on racism because it depends so largely on the backs of elite black athletes, but other industries are way behind. It’s time for those industries to catch up and expand their vision beyond profit to purpose!
What are your favourite items of kit for training?
Footwear! I’m a purist so I’m not going to wear any old junk on my feet. Our feet are the first thing that comes into contact with the ground every day. We should take so much care of them just like they take care of us. My favourite running shoe is the Nike Flyknit Racer – it’s super-light, travel friendly and makes me feel fast!
Are you sponsored by anyone right now?
Not yet – I’m not an influencer. I’m a creative and I’ll work with a brand that respects my knowledge, expertise and passion for performance products. Most brands want me to wear an outfit that somebody in some office somewhere (a person who knows nothing about me) has chosen as “the look” of the season. Let’s make it very clear… I’m good on that! I take pride in my taste and my own style.
Find out more about Slay by visiting www.theslaygym.com