As a player, Phil Mackenzie never took a day off.
In retirement, nothing has changed. In fact, he might be even more intense.
Officially walking away from a career as a rugby player this fall, Mackenzie has transitioned into an off-field career with the same tenacity and zest that made him a successful and ever-energetic winger on the pitch.
The product of Oakville, Ont. made a name for himself as a rugby player in Canada when he scored the game-winning try against Tonga in the Rugby World Cup 2011. Picking the ball off the back of a ruck, Mackenzie, with his bleached blonde hair, ran in what would be the final score in a 25-20 victory for Canada. The win launched Canada up to an all-time high No. 11 in the World Rugby rankings.
“No one thought we were going to win,” Mackenzie, 30, says. “I was lucky enough to score that try. That World Cup was such a good tournament for us and we were legitimate threat. It was a crazy experience.”
Mackenzie went on to an eight-year professional career in England, starting with Coventry RFC in 2009 and ending with Sale Sharks in 2016. Following his time with Sale, he returned to North America, where he captained the San Diego Breakers of PRO Rugby in 2016 in what would be the league’s only season.
Along the way, he remained a regular with the national team, collecting 32 caps, and in 2015 made his second appearance with Canada at the World Cup.
And it’s in large part to all of those experiences, coupled with the passion for fitness that was a constant in his life throughout his playing days, that Mackenzie found his way to a go-go retirement life that has him leading “squadies” to their fitness goals.
As he started to close the final chapter of his playing career, Mackenzie was already writing the first few pages of his retirement plan. While still playing, the first iterations of Leansquad – a fitness and meal plan program he has worked to develop – began. The idea behind Leansquad is to help the average jill or joe achieve their fitness goals.
“It’s really enjoyable because I get to see people change and really make a difference in their lives,” Mackenzie says. “It’s a really different lifestyle compared to playing, but it’s a good type of different.”
At the same time, it’s a type of different that suits the personable Mackenzie, with his eight-year professional career perfectly preparing him to work with the “anyone and everyone” who he welcomes into the Leansquad.
“I think the team camaraderie and the respect part of rugby is what really translated to my career,” says Mackenzie, who lives back where he grew up in Ontario. “In rugby, you’re thrown into an environment with 30 or 40 guys that you have to work with and trust. You have to learn how to interact with all the guys and different coaches and be in these different environments. That’s been massive for me in helping me get the best out of each person.
“Everyone is different, so I don’t treat them all the same, which is why it’s working and people are enjoying it a lot.”
Starting with a group of friends who wanted to get lean for Mackenzie’s bachelor party in Las Vegas, the former rugby star started creating personalized 90-day fitness programs. As the story goes, Mackenzie’s original “leansquad” made it to Las Vegas in the best shape of their lives.
“They ended up all getting lean and getting the six-pack and they still do it to this day,” Mackenzie says. “That’s where it originated from and they fell in love with it.”
Since then, Leansquad has gone to another level. Amongst his clients, on one end of the spectrum is Debbie Moonlight, who is the mother of Canadian sevens star John Moonlight. “Debbie has done amazing. She looks about 20 years younger and is so fit,” Mackenzie says. On the other end is NHL superstar and fellow “squadie” John Tavares, who recently joined Mackenzie to film a few cooking classes for Leansquad.
“I have people like Debbie doing it and then I have young guys doing it and it’s everyone in between.”
And, not surprisingly, neither Mackenzie nor his “squadies” are taking a day off.