1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and your health and wellness journey.
It's certainly been a journey. I was born in Wales, but spent the majority of my childhood in London before a short stint in Houston and even shorter stint in Cape Town. Growing up, soccer was the glue that kept me active and is the reason I'm now in the city. I came to Philly to play at Drexel and was fortunate enough to be a part of a historic team. As I neared the end of my collegiate career, I started teaching group classes at Unite Fitness, which filled the void of no longer training with a team. Even to this day, I struggle with working out by myself and have loved seeing the group fitness scene flourish. There's just something inspiring about putting that work in together that makes group fitness so rewarding. Personally, I've been vegan for almost 4 years now, which has been transformative on a number of levels.
2) The new year is a great time to reflect on the last year and ways you want to continue to invest in yourself or reach goals that you’ve set. Are there ways you make resolutions that frame them positively rather than negatively?
For me it's always important to frame goals positively, otherwise they end up at the bottom of my to-do list. From my experience, if there's a goal I've set that doesn't make me happy when I think about attaining it, it's probably not something I really want. And that's actually one of my goals; better understanding myself. As I've grown older I've realized how many of my early goals were products of my environment & social conditioning, like playing soccer professionally. I wasn't really asking myself the tough questions like, "ya sure?" It's still a work in progress, but as I've shed those notions it's my latest goals that really get me excited.
3) We are always looking for healthy habits that help us feel balanced and centered, what are your wellness routines that you find most helpful?
In no particular order: celery juice, meditation & floating and mind sweeps. Celery juice was introduced to me by my girlfriend Amandah and now we start every morning with it (pre-coffee). It helps reduce inflammation, balance your pH and is loaded with mineral salts. Now it's a refreshing start to the day. I'm sure meditation is a common response to this question, but for me it makes the difference in being able to make quick decisions. I don't do it everyday, but I've found first thing in the morning works best, otherwise at night it sees me right to sleep. Floatation therapy just makes meditation much easier since you strip away any sensory input and can really dive deep. These two go hand in hand and there are some great places to float in Philly, like Flotation on Girard. Finally, mind sweeps are something I've learned about in the past couple of months from GTD (Getting Stuff Done, a time management method coined by David Allen). Basically if you think about your mind like a computer then we only have a limited amount of storage and even the smallest things can start to demand attention and take up headspace. The premise of a mind sweep is downloading all these thoughts by writing them down (essentially moving them to an external hard drive). Personally, this is my go-to when I'm feeling overwhelmed and need to re-center myself.
4) This January, we’re focusing on the positives. What are things that you do for self-care that bring you joy and you find most meaningful and helpful?
Fortunately I love what I do for a living, so I don't find I need a lot of explicit time for self-care. One of the biggest challenges for me is carving out the time to get a workout in myself, which sounds crazy. If I've put in a shift at the gym, it's a good day. Coaching classes is another highlight of my day, but it takes a lot of emotional and physical energy to do right, so self-care time for me is usually quiet and focused on recharging. When it's warmer, that could be taking my bike for a spin around the city. In the winter it usually means being at home and catching a show or documentary on Netflix.
5) During the depths of winter, when it’s colder and darker, how do you continue your momentum and motivation?
Coming from the U.K. I actually love the colder months, especially the rain, but I understand I'm an anomaly on this front. I think one trick is listening to your body and understanding it needs different things in the winter. It makes sense to be inside more, to eat warmer, more satiating foods. Some of us thrive in the warmer times of year and maintain those expectations throughout the colder months, when realistically I think it's important to re-assess your expectations. If I continue setting goals for myself in the winter at the pace and level I do in the summer, it's just demoralizing. Adjust and conquer.
6) What are you most looking forward to this year?
The energy in Philly is just amazing right now. I just feel like we're really trending up as a city. Personally I'm most excited for Unite's next steps as a company. Philly's been home for us for 12 years and we have some really exciting developments on the horizon.
7) What’s your favorite Sip-N-Glo drink and why?
I'm a sucker for a Chocolate PB shake. Pre-packaged, delicious and packing 30g of protein with only 5g of sugar. It's my go-to on-the-go.
Like what you read? Visit Mark at Unite Fitness and follow him at @donnnies.