Settle into Balance: Article by Nico Secunda

Settle into Balance
A seminar with an Ironman and a Shaman

written by Nico Secunda

Authors note: Being the son of Brant Secunda, I have gown up in his seminars and have witnessed the evolution of Fit Soul Fit Body. From meeting Mark Allen as a small child in those seminars to reading the countless rough drafts of Mark and my dad’s book, I have been immensely fortunate to be a part of this blossoming community. I am honored to be writing about this year’s exciting events taking place across the country and around the world. I hope you enjoy this look into the world of Fit Soul Fit Body.

Outside the window, birds chirped in the budding trees and in the the distance Mt. Rainier sat above the clouds. We were in Seattle, Washington, about to begin the Fit Soul Fit Body seminar taught by Brant Secunda and Mark Allen. These two extraordinary men teamed up over ten years ago to teach the first of these events (originally entitled Sport & Spirit, Connect the Power).

After many years of teaching throughout the United States and Europe, they decided to put their knowledge into a book, which was released this past December. Fit Soul Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You is a manual to life of sorts. Both the book and the seminar strive to bring together the often separate worlds of fitness and spirituality. Just as Brant and Mark came from very different backgrounds, the participants at this 2-day event were a divergent bunch. From an athlete to a technician, a doctor to a real estate agent, everyone came from different walks of life. However, we were all there with a common purpose, a related quest; to find balance of body and soul.

Throughout the seminar Mark and Brant offered guidance and strait forward concrete methods to creating a balanced life. Their 9-Key philosophy (found in detail in the book) was a center point of many of their lectures. The two smoothly transitioned back and forth, with Mark instructing on healthy diet and exercise methods and Brant teaching ancient indigenous exercises for managing stress and relinquishing negativity. Everything about the seminar was built upon a platform of balance, in both the physical and spiritual sense. There was a balance of informative material, personal application and unforgettable stories.

Brant told of his amazing journey as a young man to the Huichol Indians and of his 12-year apprenticeship with his adopted grandfather and renowned shaman Don José Matsuwa. A slideshow of the Huichol people and their land brought these stories to life, as did the various videos that accompanied Mark’s remarkable tale of winning the Ironman Triathlon and his climb to greatness in the sport. The two conducted themselves with a great sense of humbleness, surprising to find among a world famous shaman and triathlon champion. Their unassuming personalities made both Brant and Mark extremely approachable for everyone. This inclusive feeling allowed for strong relationships between all of us at the seminar to form in only a short time.

By the end of the uplifting and empowering program, I think all the participants left with not only more knowledge of how to shed unwanted weight and stress or win a race, but more importantly a greater sense of balance in their life. All of us came away with a toolkit of techniques for finding that balance in both body and spirit. Not only did we have tips on utilizing heart rate during exercise and quieting mindful chatter, but indeed through the teachings a new perspective on life was reached. By being a part of the seminar, you could feel a renewed sense of health and well-being from the inside out.

Nico Secunda
Son of Brant Secunda and part of the Fit Soul Fit Body Team


Welcome to the Fit Soul Fit Body blog! We are happy that you stopped by to check out our posts. The topics we chat about will vary from updates on what is going on in the world of Fit Soul Fit Body to information about upcoming events to thoughts on how you might be able to integrate the 9 Keys of our book into your life.
We hope you enjoy the posts and invite you to be a part of the community and give us your thoughts and experiences from your life of having a Fit Soul and a Fit Body.

Best wishes,
Brant Secunda & Mark Allen

Change: Slowly but Surely

As we enter Springtime, dramatic shifts in the earth can help us wake up the dreams that have been percolating in our hearts since winter. It’s a chance to rededicate ourselves to the things that have purpose in our lives and the dreams of change that we are hoping for.

Most of us strive to change patterns that have held up back from feeling good about our efforts and the outcomes. But how does change come about? Do we just say “I will change” and voila we are a different person without the old habits? Rarely. Changing that which does not work for us is usually like dying a small death. Procrastination, impatience, overeating, undersleeping- whatever it is that you want to change and improve for the year ahead usually takes some very conscious effort. I know this personally, and want to share a short story of a small change that I thought would never come about.

I have a shed where I store some of my most valuable and of course oversized items-my sporting gear. I have enough bikes to outfit a team and a quiver of surfboards that will work in every size wave from small to tall. This treasure trove is guarded by a deadbolt that a few months ago had an internal tumbler that got out of place and caused the lock to be impossible to open. I managed to get the deadbolt unlocked one last time and then it was time for CHANGE! Instead of using the same lock that I had for ten years, I now had to use the lock on the doorknob itself.

This seems like a very simple change right? WRONG. Here is how it went. Every single time I went to unlock my shed I put the key into the deadbolt (old pattern that had not begun to change even though I knew I needed to change it). It was not until I tried to turn the lock that I would immediately realize that, woops, I put the key in the frozen deadbolt rather than the doorknob.

Week Two: things got a little better. I still put the key in the old lock but remembered this was not the right place BEFORE I turn it to no avail.

Week Three: I found myself splitting things between actually putting the key in the correct lock first and then, yes, still putting it into the wrong one. Tough to teach old dogs new tricks I suppose.

Week Four: it was about 75/25 with 75 being the percent of times that I got it right. Close but still no cigar.

Week Five: I only saw the key go into the old lock once, even though I will admit I started to reached for it a couple of times before I caught myself.

Week Six: Finally success! No false starts. I got the right lock first time every time.

It’s now a couple of weeks since then and I have on occasion still reached for the wrong lock, but caught myself before the key came in contact with it. So I pose the question to each of you. If a simple thing like using a different lock on the same door was so tough, how will the big and certainly more important patterns ever get changed?

Well, maybe we need to be more aggressive in helping ourselves avoid the old lock (the old patterns). In my case, I could have put a piece of duct tape across the old lock and the old pattern as a stern reminder. “Don’t go there”. How will you place a piece of “duct tape ” across the pattern that you are trying to change this year? If you don’t, what will remind you that you have once again reached for the old lock rather than opening the door to your future with the new one? My lock didn’t turn, so it was a very quick reminder. “You are in the wrong place, buddy.” What will your reminder be that you have once again used the old pattern rather than changed and used a new one? What can you do to stop your old pattern in its tracks every time you do to insert the key in the wrong place?

I needed to get into that shed just about every day, and with the old lock I had no choice but to change the pattern. I couldn’t give up. It took me six weeks, but I finally succeeded. What will force you to keep working on change until it indeed comes about, until you also reach for the right lock to open your shed of good fortune and joy?

We have a new president whose mantra was Change. Our economy needs change, the world needs change. As Brant has told me thousands of times, “Change starts with you.” May the change you want and need come about, and that it is a joyous year filled with lots of good moments and of course, much health and happiness!

Fit Soul, Fit Body

Soquel, California, March 2009 – Shaman and Healer Brant Secunda and Legendary Ironman athlete Mark Allen have combined their wisdom into Fit Soul, Fit Body, a book they co-authored to help enable readers to live a more fulfilling life emotionally, spiritually and physically.

The book offers 9 keys to achieving a healthier and happier life through strategies and advice on how to: test your wellness; manage stress; overcome emotional barriers; beat boredom; slow down to get faster; choose the right eating and exercise plan; employ the power of nature; quiet your mind and set realistic goals and secure a fit vision for life.

Brant Secunda is a shaman, healer and ceremonial leader in the Huichol Indian tradition of Mexico. He is the director of the Dance of the Deer Foundation Center for Shamanic Studies and a teacher of seminars and retreats worldwide. Mark Allen is a six-time Ironman triathlon world champion. Allen’s final victory in 1995 at 37 makes him the oldest men’s champion in the history of the race. He attributes his success and dominance to ongoing studies with Secunda, who showed him how to find fitness not only in physical strength, but in the power of personal spirit and balanced living.

Fit Soul, Fit Body began as a seminar that has motivated and inspired people for decades. “There is no question Brant and Mark know how to get people into the best shape of their lives – both mentally and physically,” says Michael Besancon, senior global VP of Whole Foods Market. “With this book they bring all their knowledge and insights together in a brilliant, one-of-a-kind volume that if read and applied will change your life.”

“Our backgrounds are totally unique, and from that we integrate two worlds that are rarely united,” says Allen. “There are many books that focus mainly on physical fitness but only touch lightly on the inner person, while others delve deeply into personal growth, yet have very little if anything about how to have good physical health.”

According to the authors, “fitness” needs a makeover. It’s not about the size of your muscles, how fast you can run, or how much you weigh. There are plenty of physically fit people who are unhappy, eternally pessimistic and drained of spirit.

Their book teaches that true fitness starts with emotional and spiritual wellbeing, which provides the foundation for attaining a fit body. When you learn to manage stress successfully, replace negative qualities with positive ones and make a spiritual connection to both your inner and outer environment, you begin to trust in life. You begin to see the power in nature to heal and charge up your life, and within yourself to discover joy, happiness and fulfillment.

“Our philosophy trains the mind alongside the body, which can bring a profound metamorphosis,” says Secunda. “Our connection to nature is a universal way to reduce stress, stave off boredom, find gratitude and gain the energy we need to move through life with grace and power.”

“Reading Fit Soul, Fit Body sent chills up my spine,” says Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and Mother-Daughter Wisdom. “This is it – the missing element in athletics and fitness – bringing the wisdom of the soul into our workouts and our lives. It is a revelation.”

The foreword for Fit Soul, Fit Body is written by well-known author Stephen Covey. “This book could very well be its own habit in my bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” says author Stephen Covey. “Brant and Mark are a living example of what it means to be fit from the inside out, from the depths of the inner spirit to the outer symbols of health and wellness,” adds Covey.

Reposted from

Conversations on Dreaming with Brant Secunda

DN: By way of introduction to Dream Network readers, would you be willing to share a brief autobiography? How did you get from Brooklyn to becoming a Huichol apprentice, to shaman/teacher? That’s quite a number of quantum leaps in a short 40+ years!

Brant: I used to ask Don Jose, my teacher, “Why me?” And we would say “That’s just your good luck!” Really, I grew up on the East Coast in New York and New Jersey and at about age 15 I had many dreams that I would go to Mexico. I was somehow drawn to going there and the day of my 18th birthday, I left New Jersey and hitchhiked to Colorado – where I am right now. I went to a few of the big peaks here in Colorado and kept dreaming of going to Mexico… so I went! To Ixtlan. I was kind of like a young tourist looking for Don Juan.

DN: Don Juan of the Carlos Castaneda books?

Brant: That’s the one! So I went to Ixtlan, where I met a Huichol teacher and he told me that his family village was a five day walk from the town of Ixtlan. He gave me a letter of introduction, because you have to be taken there or somehow invited. It’s private land. So, I left there, came back about a month later and decided to try and go to his family village and on the third day of my journey, I was completely lost! It was wild. I’d wandered down a deer trail – it’s not like here in America, where everything is marked, two miles to the next road. I was completely lost on this trail and started to pass out from sun exposure and dehydration. I became unconscious. The next thing I knew, there Indians were standing over me, sprinkling water on my face, telling me that the old shaman of their village had had a dream about me and hey had been sent down by him two days earlier to look for me. What was interesting is that I was looking for Don Juan and the name of the shaman who had the dream about me, his name was Don Juan. Don Juan is a nice way in Huichol to say Mr. John.

Soon after that, Don Jose, who became my teacher, also had a dream about me… and sent for me. He initiated me and adopted me into the Huichol tribe and put me through an apprenticeship which lasted twelve years. Now, I would go back and forth, I wasn’t there the entire time… but most of it. During the course of the apprenticeship, they took me to many places of power and through many ceremonies and pilgrimages.

In the beginning, he initiated me by taking me to a cave called the Cave of Grandmother Growth. She is the Mother of Creation, according to Huichol mythology. I was taken to this beautiful cave and that was where my initiation took place.

DN: After all this time, more than half of your lifetime – being so deeply involved in their ways, being adopted by them – do you identify yourself as and feel Huichol?

Brant: Yes. Absolutely.

DN: What can you tell us about your practice with personal dreams. In most people’s minds, there is tremendous emphasis put on visionary dreams in shamanic traditions, but I’m asking about the dreams that come every night , as well. Culturally, how do the Huichol integrate dream- sharing into their everyday lives?

Brant: In the Huichol tradition, dreams are the re-emergence of our life. We say that at night, we die. You go to the Great Spirit, to the realm of light and you are on your way to being reborn. And on your way to being reborn is when we dream. The dreams are very important. The Huichols have many mystical dreams, as well as what we would call regular kinds of dreams. Both are considered very important; they are like another reality being revealed through the medium of the dream. So, let’s say someone is having a problem with their neighbor, it will come out in their dream – almost, you know, like therapy – and the problem gets worked out in the dream. So, that by the time you see the neighbor, it’s already worked out… hopefully.

DN: You mean there isn’t any actual verbal sharing of the dream with that person in waking reality?

Brant: Sometimes they share but not so often. Dreaming, for the Huichols, iis a very personal matter, as well.

DN: So, when a problem with someone is worked out in the dreamtime, it’s considered to be taken care of in this reality, as well, and no further discussion is necessary?

Brant: Not really, unless it is something very personal that they want to discuss with the shaman; then they will talk about the dream. But, generally, we do talk to the Fire every morning. We wake up and make a fire and tell our dreams to Grandfather Fire. This is a family fire. Whoever wants to, in each family, can get up in the morning and tell their dreams to the Fire.

DN: Is this practiced daily, today?

Brant: Every morning it is practiced.

DN: Why of the four elements do the Huichol people share their dreams with Fire?

Brant: The fire is helpful in remembering the dream. We say that the fire’s power is wisdom and the fire is our memory. So by telling our dreams to the fire, it helps us remember dreams from the night that we may have forgotten. So, the fire acts like a mirror, helping us. The fire is like our memory and will help us to remember dreams that we may have forgotten. This is one of the techniques that I teach at my seminars.

DN: I suppose anyone wanting to incorporate that ritual in modern society would use a candle.

I understand that Don Jose, your teacher, once told you never to forget that your relatives are the earth, sky, rivers, birds, animals, stones, gems, mountains, caves, springs and lakes. How do you conduct those relationships in your daily life?

Brant: I try to be part of nature, I was taught, when I was involved in my apprenticeship, to develop my relationship with the gods and goddesses, mountains, lakes and springs, by learning to communicate with them. So, we would go out on many different pilgrimages and that’s one of the main tools we used in the art of pilgrimage or going to a place of power. In the beginning, we went in groups. Don Jose would take me along with a small group of Huichol apprentices and we would go together to places in nature and Don Jose would say ” We will learn the language of this cave, we will listen to the cave speaking in the night.” And we would leave offerings in the cave and sleep there and hopefully the cave would talk to you. Or, we would go into the mountains and would talk to the different rock people, the rock formations that are around the Huichol Sierra and we would learn to communicate with them in their language. Also, for instance, we would go to a body of water – the water is seen mostly as goddesses – and again, be offering a prayer arrow or something of that nature and we would try to learn that language, the language of water.

DN: Can you give an example from your own experience of achieving that level of communication?

Brant: In my own initiation, I was put into a cave for five days without food or water. There, Grandmother Growth, the mother of the gods, came to me and spoke to me and told me many different things.

DN: Would you be willing to share what she told you?

Brant: One thing that she told me is that I would live to be old and that I should go through an apprenticeship with Don Jose. And she came in a dream and told me how that cave used to be a gourd bowl that was transformed into a cave. Which, as it turned out is part of the Huichol mythology … but they had not told me that yet!

DN: You were told this before you knew the myth?

Brant: Yes. So, I had to go and dream the myth and then they filled in. There’s many different parts to that, which are a part of the teachings that come later… but I had to dream the first part.

DN: Then, what you were told in the dream in the cave was confirmed by Don Jose and you learned it was a part of their creation mythology?

Brant: Yes.

DN: What an incredible experience! I’d love to do this whole interview on that particular mythology; I expect the Huichol people have many mythologies. That must have been a good part of the confirmation that Don Jose needed in determining to take you on as an apprentice and engage you ever more deeply in their culture.

After ten years of going back and forth, working with Don Jose, you were told by him that you were to go out into the world and teach the Huichol way. I get the impression you were somewhat resistant, simply because of the conflict of being white, from the East Coast… and I know there’s a lot of controversy among the traditional people around this country about people receiving and teaching Native traditions, especially whites. There’s considerable controversy around this issue.

And yet, in addition to Don Jose’s instructions, you had the confirmation in a vision of your own that you were to teach the Huichol traditions? Would you be willing to share that vision, if it can be described in words?

Brant: The dreamed showed that I would be teaching people in the future. It was a whole dream and with that and Don Jose’s inspiration, we started the Dance of the Deer Foundation. Through the foundation, we offer seminars and teachings centered around what I learned over the years of my apprenticeship.

DN: Would you share why?

Brant: Basically, I had a vision where the gods came to me and told me that I would teach. Don Jose had essentially the same vision.

DN: The Huichol people have a unique way of praying by speaking to the ancestors. Teach us how you pray.

Brant: We pray to the four directions, to the ocean, to the sun, to the fire, to the eagle… and we pray to what we call the ancient ones in order that they hear our prayers and will hopefully respond to our prayers. We pray out loud. Most tribal people pray out loud, calling to the spirit so that they can heat our voices. Hopefully, they respond when they hear us pray out loud. The Huichos like to pray like that, especially around the fire. We usually pray in the morning, unless you are at a ceremony and then, it’s anytime. It’s very beautiful, like a symphony.

DN: All the people praying together and saying different prayers? I’ve experienced that.

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the Huichol people for those of us who have had any exposure to their ways at all, is your unrelenting joy and happiness. I hope you have fully adopted that way of being. What is the secret of Huichol happiness?

Brant: Happiness and sadness are the same, only happiness makes you feel better. So, we say, why not be happy! The Huichols just love to joke, from the time they get up to the time they go to bed. I think the secret is that we have self confidence and good self esteem. We, of course, have many problems just like everyone. We also feel that we are helping to keep the earth stay in balance, by making a ceremony for the well-being of the earth, the sky, the sun, the water and the rain. Doing this brings about a sense of well being and when we have this, we can just joke around. We love to joke around. We also believe that it’s healing for the spirit.

DN: That’s been proven in modern medical science, as well.

Brant: When you are happy like that, when you laugh during the day, then you have a good dream at night, according to traditions.

DN: Does dance play a role in your way?

Brant: Yes. the dance that we do, the dance of the Deer, is like trance dance, which produces a feeling of ecstasy and well being. At the same time, we are dancing our thoughts, our prayers, into Mother Earth. We say we are dancing on the altar of Mother Earth.

DN: The Deer is integral to Huichol culture. It is also your totem animal?

Brant: Yes. It’s the totem animal for all the Huichol people. It’s the heart… so, what most would call the heart, the Huichols call the deer; what most would call intuition, the Huichol call the deer. And the deer is also known as the lord of dreams, the one who brings you a dream, an intermediary between people and the ancient ones. So, the deer is like the heart or what we would call our Higher Selves.

DN: And from that heart-space, you have been directing the Dance of the Deer foundation… all around the world? And are dreams an integral part of your teachings?

Brant: Yes, to the first question and yes, we use dreams quite often, doing the dream exercises each morning. We show how to purify and work with the dream around the fire. If anyone is interested in shamanism – they have to be into dreaming. You can’t separate them. Dreaming is an integral part of my work, that is why I was so happy to see the Dream network. Dreams can really help all people. We don;t have to be from any one culture; everybody has dreams, no matter whether we are Indian, African….or whatever. Everybody is dreaming and we can dream these symbols alive, like the symbol of circle or figure eight.

DN: Some of the universal symbols we all share, collective symbols?

Brant: Yes.

DN: May I do something unusual for an interview and share with you a dream I had on New Year Day?

I am in an unfamiliar setting and am being prepared to receive the embryo of a deer. I am being opened to receive the embryo of a deer, I can see it.

That’s the dream.

Brant: Well, my first response is that you are that little deer. That was you. In my experience, the embryo represents new beginnings and so does New Year. Yourself opening up to the spirit heart and intuition.

DN: I have also connected the sweet medicine animal attributes of trust and innocence to the deer I carry. It’s a dream that I treasure. Thank you for allowing me to share.

As we come to closure, are there any other perspectives about dreaming that you would like to share?

Brant: Dreaming is a time where one can really get into contact, because when we’re awake, our rational mind is working. And if we start hearing a stone, most people will freak out! They’ll think “This can’t be true; I can’t be hearing a stone, I must be going crazy!” Most people can’t handle that, even if they’re on the path. When they really get a vision like that or communication with a non-human life form, it’s very difficult for them to accept. Whereas in a dream, we are totally open. That’s the beauty of the dream world. It’s a whole other world where we really are free. In the dream world, we can really come into contact with the stones, the birds, we can fly! In normal life, we can barely walk. We humans can transform into animals and then change back. In that way, the dream world takes on an important objective, really, to let us go into another reality and not worry about it.

DN: Then, on your path, the dream world is as valid as waking reality?

Brant: Yes, it is. We Huichols emphasize that, we say, “We are poor and we have nothing, but we dream! In dreaming, we are as free as the light.”

DN: Gracias, Brant. Hope we’ll go into depth about Huichol mythologies, soon.

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.”