Join Brant Secunda and Mark Allen at the Kripalu Center for a weekend of Fit Soul Fit Body

Good Times Article

Fit Soul, Fit Body



Mark Allen, Brant Secunda

If you think 30 minutes on the stair climber is hard, imagine competing in a triathlon. This spectacle of human endurance requires participants to first swim 2.4 miles, then bike 112 miles, and finish with a grueling 26.2-mile run—all in sultry equatorial conditions. Completing the race alone is a feat in itself, but local athlete Mark Allen has actually won the Ironman Triathlon World Championships six times during his prestigious career. Astonishingly, he credits his many wins not to his impeccable physical condition, but to the fitness of his soul. And how does one build a fit soul? Allen seems to owe his spiritual well-being to Brant Secunda, a shaman who studied his craft while apprenticing for 12 years with Don Jose Matsuwa of the Huichol Indian tribe in the remote mountains of northern Mexico. Together, Secunda helped Allen become a world-renowned athlete, and they went on to create an all-encompassing fitness and well-being program called Fit Soul, Fit Body. Their workshops have inspired people all over the world for the past 10 years, and their new book, “Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You” guides readers to attain their physical, mental and spiritual goals. GT caught up with these two locals to find out more about their new book, and to pick their brains about how to keep both body and mind in tiptop condition—no triathlon or tribal apprenticeship required.

GT: How did you two meet each other and decide to collaborate?

Mark Allen: How I came in contact with Brant was one of those things you could never plan or count on, but it was one of the most significant pieces of good luck that I ever came across. I’d been racing the Ironman without success, and I was very intimidated by what I was up against in Hawaii. I couldn’t get past my fear and self-doubt. Two days before the race I was flipping through a magazine and saw an ad for a workshop down in Mexico. I was really taken by the pictures of these great shamans because they looked so peaceful and powerful. Then, during the race when I was neck and neck with my nemesis, the best guy in the world, he started to pull away. Suddenly the image of the shaman came to me and I gained strength from it. I did a 10-day workshop with Brant. It was the most amazing experience and it was a huge turning point in my life.

GT: How do you feel “Fit Soul, Fit Body” differs from other nutritional and fitness self-help books?

MA: There are certainly shelves of self-help books that help people work through life’s challenges, and also shelves of fitness books about exercise, losing weight, and eating well. We feel like what we have done is to span the whole spectrum of all of these topics. Our book shows how all these elements are a part of who we are. We provide simple tools to heighten each of them. We teach people how they can become physically healthy, and, through Brant’s tools, how to have a fit soul. We also discuss ways to feel better about life and get rid of negative emotions.

Brant Secunda: There’s no book like our book. It combines sport and spirit. We talk about letting go of stress, which is relevant in today’s world with the economy. We talk about finding what you want from life. Our book explains how you can do one thing per day to begin the process of finding a fit soul and a fit body.

GT: How can “Fit Soul, Fit Body” help ordinary people in their everyday lives?

BS: I lived with Huichols in Mexico for many years, growing corn, and hauling firewood. Then I came back to living in America where we have so many choices with food, and drive cars to get around. I gained a lot of weight. We started a training program, and I lost 50 pounds myself. We totally believe everything that’s in our book. We believe in each other’s work and have had it touch us.

MA: All of the tools come from things we use personally every day. I ended up being the oldest ever Ironman champion at age 37. Brant helped me spiritually and physically and brought me to a point of hope and trust.

GT: Do you feel that someone who does not consider themselves spiritual would benefit from your book?

MA: We really wrote the book trying to address the commonalities among all of us. We wanted the book to be able to touch everyone from top athletes to someone who’s never worked out before.

BS: Some people were pushing for the book to be more spiritual, and others were pushing it to be geared toward fitness buffs. Our idea was to bring the two worlds together.

GT: What challenges have you faced while writing the book?

BS: We wanted the book to convey laughter and joy. We want to encourage people to be content and joyful and have a peaceful heart, without sounding too spiritual. Really, we wanted it to be perfect and for everyone.

GT: What is the response when you tell people that you are a shaman?

BS: Shaminism is a way for people to become complete or whole. We are all trying to become whole or complete or to find ourselves on mother earth so we don’t feel alone. Sometimes people feel alone and they don’t realize they are a part of something great.

GT: What is your current daily workout routine like?

MA: It’s pretty ordinary. I try to do a run every day. Brant and I go to the gym every day, and I live at Pleasure Point and surf there. A lot of times my brain gets weary from all my time in front of the computer so I walk down the street and look at the ocean for five or 10 minutes and then I’m recharged and refreshed. That’s how simple reconnecting to the natural world can be.

#1 Bestseller in Boulder (non-fiction)

Fit Soul Fit Body, 9 keys to a Healthier, Happier you is now the #1 Bestselling book (non-fiction) in Boulder, according to the Daily Camera. Earlier in February, Mark and Brant gave a lecture at the bookstore. It was the biggest event in the bookstore’s history and they sold out of books.

Saturday Morning Zen – Blog

Fit Soul, Fit Body

February 9, 2009 in Natural selection by lara

Mark Allen is a six-time Ironman champion. Brant Secunda is a shaman. They’ve known each other for many years, and collaborated on a book called “Fit Soul, Fit Body”. The book doesn’t detail how to attain fitness, nor does it detail how to attain enlightenment. Rather, it delves into the aspects that come together to create a murkiness of fitness, enlightenment, health, wellbeing, awareness, and all things in between.

I went to hear the men talk at the Boulder Bookstore two nights ago. The place was packed and people were lined up against the walls. Athletes of all abilities were there, a veritable “who’s who” in the Boulder Triathlete community.

Mark told a story of how he was striving to win his 6th (and last) Ironman title. He got off his bike to learn that someone was ahead of him by thirteen and a half minutes. He considered quitting, of walking back to his hotel and just giving up. The short of it is that he did NOT quit, that he overcame his opponent in mile twenty three of the twenty-six point two mile run, and ended up winning his last Ironman title.

Was he more fit than his opponent? Did he want it more? Neither of these is true. The fact of the matter was that when he dug deep and allowed himself to clear his mind, silence the chatter, and focus on the task at hand, he was able to persevere and ultimately accomplish his goal. Every time he allowed the chatter, the inner monologue, to get too loud, he fell back and doubted his ability. Only with a still mind was he able to win his 6th Ironman at the ancient age of thirty seven.

I was still thinking about this when I woke Saturday morning to head out in the pre-dawn light. Daylight had been breaking earlier now that we’re past the winter solstice, and it’s plenty bright when I pulled into the parking lot. We’re a small group compared to last week; only nine of us are here to run Doudy Draw to Eldorado Canyon. Without Susan, Cherry and Bernadette to set a tempo pace, Greta, Clare and I settled into an easy clip.

Greta is training for a half-Ironman in late May, with several races between now and then. Today’s run is supposed to be an easy two hours. My ears perk up at this; I don’t know if I could do a hard 1:40 tempo run like she was doing last week, but maybe an easy two hours… this is feasible. The pace is easy, the company is lovely, and my mind is calm. I mull the idea of extending my run with her today. I don’t need to be home until 9:30, I could skip coffee with the ladies… hmmm. Possible.

As we climb the hills toward Eldorado Canyon I consider the fact that when my mind is quiet, I can do more than I ever thought possible. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a STILL mind, per se, though I’ve had moments of utter peace and bliss. Many of these moments have occurred on hikes or runs through these very hills when I’m deeply connected to nature and not thinking about the to-do list of the day. Something Brant said the other night resonates with my own deep feelings about this beautiful place where I live; “Boulder is a beautiful place, and many people choose to live here because of their connection with nature.”

Movement and nature. Nature is ever-changing; that is the complexity of nature. On any given day I can go into the mountains and see something that will not be there again the next day, or a week later. Running is the same for me; my energy levels are extremely variable, as are my moods, the distances I can cover, the time at hand, and my state of mind. The state of nature and the state of mind and body when running are both things that are both a part of my being, and separate from my spirit at the same time.

On this particular day, the usual pace-setters are absent. Greta, Clare and I settle into an easy cadence and just… chat. My body knows these movements and I don’t have to think about the physicality of running. I can still the mind and not listen to my inner chatter of “how fast am I going”, or “uh-oh, here comes that huge hill”, or whatever it might be. There’s no hurry, and I am more peaceful.

Greta and I extend our run at the end and head up the Mesa Trail for another few miles. She’s running an easy two hours today, and I’m up for it.

Afterwards, I realized that I made a breakthrough. I found out that I’m capable of running a lot longer and farther than I thought, which also means, in the grand scheme of things, that I am stronger than I thought. This is good for my psyche in so many ways. It brings me contentment and a semblance of inner peace to know that I don’t have to struggle to be something I wish I could be, because I already… AM. Does that make sense? A physical breakthrough created a mental breakthrough. That’s what I like about running. I like where I’m going, literally, and along the way I start to discover that I like the company I keep (me).

Mark Allen - six-time Ironman World Champion

Daily Camera Review of Fit Soul Fit Body

Six-time Hawaii Ironman triathlon winner authors book

By Michael Sandrock
Monday, February 2, 2009

BOULDER, Colo. — Meeting Mark Allen is a bit like chatting with a wise monk, someone who has just come down from the mountains carrying a message for the rest of us.

He is calm and tranquil, carrying himself like the great athlete he was. And at any moment, you expect him to drop some pearl of wisdom.

Six-time Hawaii Ironman triathlon winner Allen does just that in his new book, “Fit Soul, Fit Body,” written with Native American healer Brant Secunda. It is laid out in a way to provide advice that I think will resonate in Boulder because of its emphasis on the mind/body/soul connection.

Many local runners and triathletes will likely be anxious to hear a first-hand account of what has become known in triathloning lore as “Iron War,” the epic 1989 battle between Allen and perennial Ironman winner and Boulder resident Dave Scott. There have been many stirring marathons over the years, and perhaps the best-ever run at the end of a triathlon came in that¤’89 Hawaii Ironman.

That day, Scott and Allen dueled side by side for hours through the swimming and biking portions of the race. Then, after running step for step under the hot Hawaii sun for 24 miles of the marathon, the final leg of the triathlon, Allen finally pulled away to defeat Scott for the first time. His time, 2 hours, 42 seconds, remains the Ironman marathon record.

It is the kind of marathon still talked about on training runs, when runners bring up racing grittiness and toughness. I had heard about the race over the years from fans of Scott and Allen, including local Ted Kennedy, who says, “Most would agree that Allen’s battle with Scott in the lava fields of Hawaii in 1989 was the greatest triathlon race of all time.”

Allen, who lives in California, recounted the story during a visit to Boulder last fall. Allen explained that just as he was getting dropped by Scott halfway through the marathon, he glanced up and saw a large face appear in the lava field to his right.

It was Secunda.

Allen had never met the shaman — who was born in the United States and taken in by the Huichol of central Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains — but had seen his photo in a magazine before the Ironman; and Secunda appeared at just the right time to give Allen the edge to surge away from Scott at the final aid station.

“That day marked the end of a long journey at Kona,” Allen writes. “It also signaled the beginning of another.” It is that new journey that he details in “Fit Soul, Fit Body.”

One lesson we “regular” runners can learn from Allen’s marathon, he told the Camera, is that “great race performances go well beyond the numbers in your logbook. Certainly it is important to do the training to get your body ready. No amount of visualization or positive imagery can overcome a lack of fitness.”

However, he added, “Once the fitness is there, what turns it into the performance of your life is what goes on in your thoughts and in your heart during the race.”

Secunda appears to know Boulder well, as he said his advice for us includes connecting to nature.

“Probably many people who live in Boulder were drawn there because they already have a connection to nature and use that as a tool to motivate them for their life,” he said. “Having this realization makes us more complete people who have positive thoughts and trust in life, and with that trust comes an even stronger ability to connect our body and soul into one cohesive whole.”