Fit Soul, Fit Body
WRITTEN BY LESLIE PATRICK
WEDNESDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2009
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.