Leading experts in the fitness and wellness space gathered at Heimat Club as part of The XX Project’s Wellness Series. “Breaking Barriers: Personal Growth Through Endurance” featured MMA fighter and Nike personal trainer Salu Gbla and Ultralife Co-founders Mackie Root and Juliet Burgh. It was moderated by Katy Neville, senior creative project manager for Amazon Fashion and Fitness. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
Katy Neville: I’ve learned that it’s not only how to train but how you get that mental payoff.
Juliet Burgh: As a gym owner for over 18 years, I’ve learned that it’s not just about the physical but the mental fortitude you can get with fitness. I’ve delved into the ultra marathon world, and that changed my life and path. It’s not just about the physical journey and endurance training, but it changes you as a person.
Salu Gbla: As a D1 linebacker turned professional fighter, I wanted to give back my own way and my own drive and see someone adopt those things. It doesn’t get better as there’s nothing in this world that gives me greater meaning than helping others reach their potential.
KN: When did you have that switch wanting to take it to the next level—a turning point where you decided to go all in?
SG: Coming from a long line of professional athletes, there came a point of being fed up with how life was coming at me. I was tired of playing a victim. It was about the fortitude of the mind. Whether preaching to clients or myself, I would tell myself, “It’s not that bad.” When I feel like I can’t go anymore, I would tell myself that I am an able mind/body/soul and I’m here.
JB: At 16, I woke up to find my dad had passed away from a heart attack. From that day forward, I was no longer a child. … One day I had a family, and the next day I didn’t—it all happened in the blink of an eye. I turned to moving my body as a way to escape the pain I was going through at the time and to prove to myself that I am strong. I would walk outdoors and run a mile, and I hated running, I was not an athlete as a kid. Running became a healing avenue and soon after I ran my first race to prove to myself that I was really strong after feeling this relationship really broke me. There I was in a new city, new place in life trying to rebuild my life. You think you can’t do something, but so many people can do so many amazing things. I pushed myself a little further each time and in my first race, I placed third.
Mackie Root: I was inspired by the Barkley marathon. … One day I ran 19 miles, which was close to a marathon. It started with five miles, which then lead to 50K. Took 15 years to reach this goal, and it was rooted in a desire to get back to fitness. I was a baseball player in college, and then went right into business and wasn’t having fun. Once you find and identify that goal, you then breakdown what the training looks like and how you prepare. Then it’s just practicing it over and over again.
KN: What tips do you have when it comes to training?
SG: If you’re going to break, break in your gym, not in a crowd. It’s situational, coming from a love of what connects you and makes you feel alive. Mindset is the first thing before any fight camp. Doesn’t matter time of day, my camp is there sweating and pushing me—we train in house so we don’t break outside of the house. It’s everyday life. We train our mindset and deal with things internally, so we can go on living a productive life – It’s about giving and receiving. There’s a commitment you have to go all in on. You are signing up for something that’s going to be hard, but you have to be wiling to put yourself in the fire and know this is going to change you when you come out. Know what your outcome will be and trust the journey.
MR: It all starts with identifying your goals on paper. Look at your goal and build out a plan and different stages of the training cycle. Throughout the process, there will be lots of changes over time—make sure not to burn out too soon. It’s a give and take. Create a plan that you might have to change through the process.
JB: Life is a massive race and we have to rise to the occasion and show up for a new set of miles and elevation gain or training at altitude—every single time there’s a new feat.This is training for life right now. A mantra that helped me was: We can do hard things. … We create imaginary ceilings we can’t break through every time, but knowing “I can do it” becomes addictive.
Michelle Edgar has built a career at the intersection of social impact, entertainment, sports, fashion, and culture. As a connector and founder, she has worked closely with talent, management, brands, and business leaders to ideate, strategize and build impactful marketing campaigns.