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David “Patch” Patchell-Evans, founder of GoodLifeANTHONY JENKINS/The Globe and Mail

The founder of Canada's largest and best known gym chain – 300 locations and counting – says the principles of fitness are often applicable outside of the gym. To mark yesterday's annual GoodLife Marathon, we spoke with David "Patch" Patchell-Evans about the secrets to his success

Being a good guy is its own reward

When you were a kid, your parents told you to be fearful of strangers. Whenever I meet someone, I assume they're good and I look for what's best about them. Even if someone is bad, if they get treated well they will often respond in kind. Yesterday my airline screwed up and I missed a bunch of flights. Before I even go up to the counter I think, 'How can I be nice to this person?' In the end she put me on a business class flight and gave me a meal voucher. Being kind has to be its own reward. It is about giving, not getting, and yes, there are times when I am disappointed, but the overwhelming majority of the time, it pays off.

Training isn't just for athletes

I encourage people to be athletic in their mindset and by that I mean that an athlete prepares, an athlete trains and trains and they think about their execution. They put a lot of hours in for the small time they actually compete, and people need to realize that this applies outside of sports. You can't just show up and expect to be successful.

Why exercise is like brushing your teeth

One of the main reasons people don't exercise is because they are intimidated. We see these images on the covers of magazines and people think that you either have to be perfect or why bother. I came up with the saying that good enough is good enough. Like, wouldn't it be great if you could just stay the exact same as you are and feel just as good at 70? Exercise can help you do that. All it takes is three times a week. Think of it like brushing your teeth. Imagine if you had to brush harder and better every time – people would probably quit brushing altogether. Like so many things in life, sometimes success is about just showing up.

Know when to turn around

I believe goals should be unreasonable, but not reckless. I used to climb mountains for example – the goal itself is almost insurmountable and you want to go for it, but then you have to have certain rules that are non-negotiable, like, no matter what happens, I'm going to turn around at this time of the day because I know how much daylight I have left. It's about pushing yourself, but not putting yourself in danger, and it's the same with business and finance.

You can't be the king of every castle

Maintaining the GoodLife brand as we expand has been about maintaining focus. For me, that focus is helping people to be fit and healthy. I've had offers to put a restaurant into one of my clubs or to build a housing development with a club in it. In both cases, I've said no because restaurants and development are not my thing.

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