elitefts™ Sunday edition

Strengthening Your Core (Values)

With many great things, the precise point of origin is not always obvious. While a towering oak may be the central focus of a landscape, few notice the subtle germination of the seed from which the Goliath tree emerges.

Such is the case of Built by Rowan. Founded by powerlifter/trainer Rowan Neufeld, the original idea for the studio was an almost imperceptible one. While working with a longtime client at a commercial gym, the client (proud of the dramatic improvements he had made) routinely joked that he was built by Rowan.


It is from this muttered phrase that the glimmering concept jumped from cerebral synapse to synapse, growing in scope and clarifying in complexity. If you've worked as a trainer at a commercial gym and wanted to make a career out of it, I'm sure you understand the desire to do things your own way. The ability to choose the equipment you prefer, create the environment that fits your style, and design the programming and experience that will best serve your clients, is part of the growth of a trainer.

After someone leaves the journeyman phase, they must step out on their own as a master. When asked about these early days, Rowan said, “When the idea of starting my own place opened up, due to my popularity at that local gym, I got a strong word-of-mouth boost. I did the math and figured I could do it on my own, and do better. It gave me a chance to customize the programs and personalize everything, from the ground up, and that’s what I did.”



Two years later, Built By Rowan is a thriving enterprise. Situated in Stittsville, Ontario (a suburb in the west side of Ottawa), the company developed a reputation for providing results across a broad range of customers. Most of the clientele is made up of "regular Joe's" that are looking to be more fit and lose body fat. With Rowan Neufeld, they get far more than the typical rep-counting trainer. “I have extensive background in strength training which has a significant impact on my work,” said Rowan. Add in the innate desire to help others that is central to Rowan’s character, and the path to success is laid down for the client to take.

“I prize quality over quantity. My gym is one of the only ones in Ottawa that offers exclusively one-on-one training,” Rowan said. The Built By Rowan business strategy is based on client referrals and the customers eagerly serve as evangelists, quick to share their success stories. “I had three clients lose over a hundred pounds,” said Rowan. “I had clients go from completely sedentary to place well in competitive powerlifting competitions. A female client came in 70 to 80 pounds overweight, and after less than a year of training, we added a hundred pounds to both her squat and deadlift, at least fifty to her the bench, and she came second in a local powerlifting meet. I had clients win local 5k and 10k races. I worked with some university hockey players that saw dramatic improvements in their performance.”


The locals of Stittsville heard about the gym and not just Rowan’s ability to get people into better shape, but the passionate commitment he takes in personally helping them achieve their goals. Rowan said, “I pride myself in taking these people, who aren’t even competitive or had limited training experience, and may even be completely sedentary, and gradually turning them into someone stronger than the average trainer in your local gym. I also pride myself in the fact that most of my clients are more knowledgeable and fit than your average trainer in town, just because of the lengths I’ll go to make them strong, fit and educated about what we are doing.”

A visit to the Built By Rowan website will provide a number of success stories, before-and-afters and videos testimonials documenting some of the extraordinary transformations that occurred there.

For Rowan, continued learning is an important part of his life. In the pursuit of the latest knowledge, he attended our Learn To Train Seminars and recently traveled to Texas to work with popular elitefts™ writer Josh Bryant. “I hired him as my online trainer over the last eight months, and the result has been amazing,” Rowan said. “The guy is a phenomenal coach and super helpful, all the time. I went down to Arlington, Texas to train with Josh and I did a meet in the Arlington Metroflex Gym, with Josh coaching me. It was an amazing experience and I added a lot to my lifts.”


Built By Rowan is equipped with only the finest equipment, almost all of which was purchased from elitefts™. “I've been a long-term customer of you guys so I've purchased a ton of stuff.” This list includes the Collegiate Power Rack, two weightlifting platforms and bumper plates, the Econo Prowler®, solo chain and band set, Fat Gripz, weighted vests, dumbbells up to 75-pounders, chalk bowl, Competition Power Bench, plyometric boxes, battling ropes and a variety of bars (Texas Deadlift bar, Football bar, SS Yoke bar, and some York barbells.)


When asked about the most important piece of equipment, Rowan immediately pointed to the Collegiate Power Rack. “It's the basically the most important piece of equipment in the gym, as everybody squats, everybody overhead presses and does most of their basic compound movements there. The rack accommodates pretty much everything I do.”

“I was directed to elitefts™ by a friend and the equipment was the best equipment out there,” Rowan said. “I was a regular reader of the Q&A and all the articles posted on elitefts™. I was such a committed follower of the website and I was reading it every single day, so I wanted to invest in the company and buy equipment from them. Because it was also just great equipment...and great looking equipment, it was a good fit for my gym.”



The best equipment in the world does little good without a solid business plan. When asked, Rowan was eager to expand on his, “It’s funny you ask that. Yesterday, I sat down and wrote out my business values, which I plan to post on the wall, so that every one of my clients knows exactly why I'm doing what I do and that there is meaning behind everything I do.” To begin, here are Rowan’s personal core values:

  • Protect and love those close to you
  • Do everything with passion and commitment
  • Handle adversity with a Navy Seal mentality. Just deal with it, overcome the problem and move on
  • Learn something new every day
  • Build your weak areas while reinforcing your strong ones

Rowan’s business core values build upon that base and he makes a point of keeping both lists in the forefront of his thoughts while make decisions, both large and small. Some of his business core values include:

  • Persistence is number one. When a challenge presents itself, we move onward. So, there is no challenge that I'm going to be faced with or a client has, that I'm not going to problem solve and analyze and come back. I've always been a deep thinker, so with every client that comes my way, I like them to challenge me and I like to learn something new, so…
  • Personalization. There is nothing generic about built by Rowan. We completely customize our clients' training experience. So, when they come to see me or come to my gym, I realize that they are not just looking for fitness. They want an experience as well, and I make sure that I'm within 4-feet of my client at all times so that they can get my full and constant attention. I make sure that, when they’re there, I'm right behind them, backing them up, supporting them the entire way to give them that kind of experience because most people coming through my door require that kind of support.
  • Passion. That’s something Dave Tate and I would agree with completely. You are not going to succeed at anything, or be very successful in anything, if you don’t have a ton of passion behind it. When I make any business decision, whether I want to grow or not grow, or hire someone or not hire someone, it’s going to be based on whether I feel I'm passionate with making that decision, or if I'm passionate about this person being a part of my team.
  • Commitment. When we start something we’ll finish it, there’s never any quitting. If I take on a task, I have a bulldog mentality where I'm not going to let go until I see it through.
  • Integrity. When no one is looking, these values are all kept.
  • Education. I believe strongly in constant self-education
  • Meaningfulness. Every decision, relationship, program, coaching cue, is all very meaningful. There is nothing that is just random or indecisive. Planning and consideration are put in everything we do here.

“I cannot understate the importance of defining your core values,” Rowan said. “I did this exercise just recently and once you set your core values, it becomes your moral compass. Whenever you make any decision with your job, with your family, your body, or whatever you want to do, you should always refer back to this list. And when you make a list of things, it makes it concrete. It is the foundation that you live off. Your thoughts can always get confused and you may become emotional about certain issues, but if you define and refer back to your core values it gives you a clear path.”

Rowan Neufeld is an excellent example of someone whose success is not only guaranteed, but earned through hard work and providing customers with a life-changing experience. To find out more about Built By Rowan, visit his website at # and look for a series of informative articles from him here on elitefts.com!