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After suffering a severe neck injury that ended his NRL career, Daniel Conn didn’t know what to do next. Making the most with the cards he’d been dealt, Daniel turned to the one thing he knew best… fitness.   

Early Days

Daniel Conn grew up on a big country farm out near Dubbo in New South Wales. School was a 45-minute drive down a dirt road and, at one stage, it was just Daniel and one other kid in the whole grade. “I came second a lot,” he laughs, reminiscing on his remote Australian upbringing.

Conn’s ticket out of the bush came as an opportunity to attend The King’s School in Sydney and play with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs junior rugby league team. He became the first junior to ever land a contract with the NRL and ARU at the same time.

Over his eight-year football career, Conn came up against some of the best athletes in the game while playing for the Sydney Roosters, the Gold Coast Titans and the Bulldogs. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, with the rising young star occasionally making headlines for all the wrong reasons and eventually opening up about his battle with depression.

In 2011, an ongoing neck injury proved too much for Conn, and scans showed a disc floating up against his spinal cord. “I tried to be the ‘tough guy’ and push through with needles and treatments but in the end it got too much,” he said. Conn retired from professional NRL at just 25 years old and with 59 first-grade games under his belt.

He admits it was a difficult decision to make at the time. “Things were so good for me and I was on the verge of getting a great contract,” explains Conn. “I was staring down a blank road very unfamiliar to me. Where do I go from here? How do I continue to train as an elite athlete and still be part of a team if I’m no longer allowed to play football? I live to train; it’s in my blood. It was a hard reality to face.”

Rather than kicking stones over ‘what could have been’, Conn decided to take a long hard look at himself and think about what he wanted his future to look like. Having learnt so much about training and nutrition during his NRL career, it only seemed natural that he wanted to pass this knowledge on.

“My job now is to do what I’ve done all my life but just to a greater extent and with a different goal – and that is train! My work clothes are gym clothes, so I’m pretty lucky.”

From Football to Functional

With his experience training at a professional level and his strong views on the benefits of functional training, it seems Conn was destined to cross paths with the owners of F45 Training, who not only offered high-intensity group functional training but also offered that team experience and camaraderie that he had been searching for.

“Since I was 18 I knew I wanted to be a trainer. I spent so much time with the best trainers, coaches and physios in the country; I wanted to do what they did from a young age - get the best out of people and stay fit and healthy.”

Now Conn is CEO of F45 Training, a functional team training licence system that operates under the premise of 45-minute circuit-based group programs.

According to Conn, functional training is a classification of exercise which involves training the whole body for the activities performed in daily life and the way the body mechanically works in the safest method and most natural movements.

Put this together with high-intensity circuits based on time, complex movement, add in your friends or like-minded people and some great music and you begin to piece together why functional group training is becoming so popular.

“[Fitness] is no longer about self-motivation,” says Conn, “it’s about doing something that we can all do together as a team, creating a community and have fun changing your life in a positive way.”

While Conn now stays fit by training himself and his clients in the F45 method, he hasn’t forgotten about his professional sporting days, and says that he is still very much into the NRL…

For the full article pick up a copy of issue 8 from your local newsagency or subscribe to Men’s Muscle & Health online today.

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