Recovering from olympic dreams - we talk to former olympian Linda Hedenstrom on life after a crippling injury stopped her from further pursuing her goals as an olympic rower and how she transformed her life and career after darker days during the recovery process.
We face obstacles in every part of our lives and Linda is an inspiring example of embracing new paths when life has different ideas for you…
Hi Linda, please can you introduce yourself and your business?
Hello The Interview (London) and thank you for interviewing me. I am a Swedish former Olympic rower and today I run the company Scandinavian Fitness and Yacht Fitness.
I have been resident in London for over ten years now so I luckily consider this amazing city my home. When I first came over to England I used to work in property before I decided to start up my company, Scandinavian Fitness six and a half years ago.
Scandinavian Fitness is an all female mobile personal training company based in central London with its head office in Notting Hill. We offer a vast selection of fitness, massage and nutrition services available for anyone.
Can you tell us about your time as a former olympic rower?
Being apart of the Olympic team was the most amazing experience of my life and a time I will always cherish. Even though it meant hard work it was always fun in the end - despite rowing in the freezing cold and sometimes falling in the water.
Making the Olympic squad for the 2000 Sydney Olympics was truly a dream come true and visiting Australia is an experience everyone should add to their traveling list. The climate was surprisingly suitable for rowing that summer and we all had a fantastic time. I combined the rowing with my studies so it was a hectic time of my life but it taught me how to be focused and to always strive for the best in life.
What was your injury that caused you to stop rowing?
I had a silly accident while orientating in high school where I tripped and fell on a rock and cracked my patella (kneecap), which later resulted in me having my kneecap replaced.
This was just prior to the Sydney Olympics so when I was supposed to rest on instruction of the doctors I foolishly decided to take a too short break from my training.
My coaches were concerned and told me that if my recovery period was longer than three months I was mostly likely going to miss out on the Olympics. Being a determined young Lady I refused to let the injury stop me so I just cracked on with the training, which in "hindsight" I could see that I should have taken the recommended time off and heal up properly and the knee replacement might never have happened.
I made it though the Olympics in Sydney but when I thought the fracture was all healed up I traumatically found out I was wrong.
I was in the gym doing a heavy squat session one and a half years after my initial injury and I had the surprise of my life. I started by warming up with lighter weights and mobility drills after which I went for a personal best (which meant a 155kg squat). Going down in the squat I didn't feel anything wrong with the knee but when I was about to stand back up I heard a rather loud pop and when I looked down towards my knee I could see my femur which I the thigh bone. That was the last thing I remember.
I then woke up in a hospital bed and was told I was going in for reconstructive knee surgery. This changed my life completely. I then had to undergo a long rehabilitation journey where I had to learn how to walk again with my new knee prosthetic so this involuntarily resulted in my rowing career coming to an end, and another phase of my life started.
It must have been quite tough emotionally to stop rowing after being so committed to it. How did you deal with this?
I suffered with quite a tough time of feeling very low during the rehab period. But my salvation came when I moved abroad to England and found a new passion in life which was to assist others to become fitter and healthier. This showed me I could use the extensive knowledge I gained throughout my Olympic period to educate others how to live healthier and more active lives. This has given me inner peace and I live a happy life doing what I love.
I learnt that no challenge is too great and if we have support around us and find our inner strength we can accomplish anything.
When did you decide to start Scandinavian Fitness? And what were your next steps?
Almost seven years ago now I decided it was time to give my own business a go. I started out working as a personal trainer at an Virgin active in Mayfair after I left the property industry but I soon realized I would much prefer to work for myself.
I have always been very driven and determined to better myself and to try to be successful in everything I do - so I wanted to give my own business a go. It was hard in the beginning and Scandinavian Fitness was essentially only me. But after a year the company started to grow and I could hire other personal trainers and today we are a team of seven and still going strong.
Can you tell us about the services and training that Scandinavian Fitness offer?
We offer anything in terms of fitness services. Personal Training, Group classes, Yoga, Pilates, Boxing, Rehab exercise, pre and postnatal fitness, sports specific training, online training plans and much more. We also offer massage services, physiotherapy and nutrition services. We are an all-round holistic health Company.
How did you first go about approaching clients and marketing Scandinavian Fitness?
My first steps was to ask my then current client base to refer my services and luckily I had an loyal client base so they helped me out a lot to progress. I then created my website that has been updated and changed constantly to keep up with the rapid changeable online market. I have never really used hardcopy marketing material to further my business I always focus on online and referral marketing which seems to work for us.
How do you differentiate yourselves from competitors?
I think my Olympic background was a great selling point at the beginning and today we have a strong USP with our Scandinavian ethos and the fact that we are an all female team. We don't offer fads, or quick fixes our motto is solid long lasting health advice and excellent services so that speaks volumes for us. In anything you do in life I think the best way to be successful is to perfect your skills, educate yourself to the highest standards and to never give up.
I am very fortunate to have an amazing team behind me which is so important and that helps Scandinavian Fitness to be a strong unit and to be successful.
Everyone in our team has experience in the health and fitness industry, so we pride ourselves in being able to offer knowledgeable and excellent services.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in sport and fitness, what do you think you would have done instead?
That's a tricky question as I can't see myself doing anything else really as I can to so many things already with my career. My career allows me to try my hands at so many things which is required to run your own business. I do Online campaigns, marketing, web development, events, coaching and much more. So I would say I already have my dream job.
What are your future plans for Scandinavian Fitness?
The next step for us at Scandinavian Fitness is to further our online presence and we are also in the process of making an app. However this is confidential at this stage so you will just have to keep an watchful eye on our website for more information that will come shortly:)
Have you found the London market a hard one to crack?
Yes it was challenging in the beginning seeing as I am a foreigner in London and I didn't have any local support from family. But I have never been a quitter so I found a way regardless. I used elaborate ways to spread the word about Scandinavian Fitness and I used my connections. I was fortunate that I had a good circle of friends and connections which allowed me to further my business.
But seeing as the competition is vast in London in any field, running your own business is not easy but if you don't give up and have a good idea I believe you will make it in the end.
What advice would you offer to others wanting to start out in the fitness industry?
Never give up! If you have true passion for what you do you will succeed that's something I truly believe in. Find your own niche and connect with fellow fitness entrepreneurs where you can learn a great deal as to how they have created their businesses. And most importantly enjoy the journey!:)