A Life Dedicated to Fitness With Mike Simone
Mike Simone performing the World’s Greatest Stretch. Photography by Matt Paul Catalano
How do you respond when people ask you what you do?
That’s a tough question for me, and I think it would be a bit different depending on who I’m speaking with. Generally, I tell people I write, edit, and produce content that helps others lead a fitter, healthier life. I also advise companies on how to build meaningful relationships with their customers through service journalism and storytelling.
What is HUMANFITPROJECT and what was your inspiration to start your own business focused on health and fitness?
A passion project that, at this point, is over a decade’s worth of credible, no-gimmick fitness and health content, whether it was produced by myself or many of the other experts we’ve worked with over the years. Unfortunately there is so much garbage sold to people in this particular industry that exploits the insecurities we as humans all have. My vision has always been to be a curator of the best.
Photography by Matt Paul Catalano
Photography by Andrew Herchakowski
Mike, I know a large part of your career has included working with leading fitness experts, athletes, and celebrities. Who immediately sticks out as someone who showcases impenetrable grit and determination?
There are so many, but someone that immediately sticks out is Apolo Ohno. He’s an 8x winter Olympic gold medalist. After he finished skating, he did the Kona Ironman. Just hearing him speak about fitness, health, and wellness, you know he’s the real deal. He wasn’t/isn’t just a great athlete, he truly loves the process.
Mike takes flight in the Canary Islands. Photography by Kalen Foley
Staying consistent with a fitness routine isn’t easy. At this point in your career do you still have down periods? If so, how do you overcome them?
Fortunately for me, most of the time I enjoy working out. I actually need to work out to feel good. If I go several days without a workout I feel off. But, that’s not to say I don’t have down days, I do. In those instances I just do something, even if it’s 10 minutes of stretching.
What’s going on in your mind when you work out? Do you try to regulate your intensity to avoid burnout, or do you consistently flow to the tune of Jorge Quintero’s 300 Violin Orchestra?
As far as the mind, I try to be hyper-focused on the task at hand. I’m thinking about every little muscle fiber at work, where I’m feeling discomfort and encouraging myself to push through. The more focused I am, the more effective the workout is. It’s actually quite meditative, even at very high intensities. As far as self-regulating, I want to go full-throttle all the time, but at this point in my life, I acknowledge the value of slower, lower impact days to allow for recovery and staying injury-free.
Having spent years working as an editorial consultant, how has getting inside the minds of your respective peers influenced the path you’ve taken in life?
Oh, so much. I only will work with people I believe in, most importantly, individuals and businesses that truly care about helping others. While I understand businesses need to make money, I think a lot get too caught up in chasing numbers or sales and forget about what’s really important, and that’s giving people true value and building a connection. These days, you can’t just have a pretty product, you need to have a relationship with customers. Ultimately, when you do the right thing, good things come of it. It may take a while, but it comes. And if you do the wrong things, that will eventually catch up to you.
What’s the future of the health and wellness industry? Where is this ship going?
Certainly continued growth. Everyone wants to be healthy. In fact, we need to be healthy, and I think the outbreak of the coronavirus is going to push even more people in that direction. I think you’ll still see the typical rise and fall of fad diets, powders, pills, and gadgets, but consumers are getting smarter. Those get-rich-quick schemes will die a lot faster. What I’m most excited for is how the training and coaching business evolves. Trainers and coaches have the power to dramatically change the trajectory of people’s lives, but for a lot, it’s a tough business. I think with social media and live streaming, things will improve, but there’s still work to be done. I’d also really like to see it being easy for people to get personal training through their health insurance coverage.
People often don’t credit themselves enough for their positive attributes, if you had to pick one, what’s your entrepreneurial superpower?
Tenacity. Hands down. I’ve been in health and fitness for over a decade. It’s hard. I’ve failed a million times and continue to fail, but I always refuse to give up. I do my best to learn, adapt, and evolve.
Who is Mike outside the gym? What else are you passionate about?
Bodyboarding. I can’t live without the ocean. There’s no better feeling than riding waves for a full day. My mind is completely locked in when I’m out there. I’m at peace, and feeling nothing but happiness, even after the day is over. The ocean and surf is fascinating. I can talk for hours about all of the different surf spots around the world.
People are obsessed with finding the secret sauce to a successful life. Do you have a daily ritual or activity that you can’t live without other than exercise?
This doesn’t sound very exciting or revelatory, but I appreciate the daily process of cooking all of my meals. I think the structured system of it is very calming. I know exactly what I’m putting in my body and what’s going to help me feel and perform my best.
If we walked into your gym today, what exercise would you most likely be doing?
World’s Greatest Stretch. This is definitely one of my favorite moves to do before any workout. It literally warms up everything in your body. Other than that, squats and deadlifts. I’m all about the basics.
Is there a specific program, project, or cause you’re working on that everyone in the world should know about?
Well, there’s quite a few things, but at the moment we’re doing Facebook LIVE workouts on Sunday’s at 12PM Eastern Time. I’m looking to continue to build on that. Who knows, maybe one day it will be a full week of programming?!
Here at GrandTaiga, we have an expression that goes, Find Your Wild. What is the wildest place or situation you’ve found yourself in?
I was in the Canary Islands with a bunch of friends on a surf trip. We discovered this spot which we later called, “Goat Coasters” because there was one super long road that went from the mountains down to the coastline. Along the road were goats, everywhere. And the road was so long and steep, you could put the car in neutral almost the whole way down. But, the wild part of this story is our surf session. This was a very desolate area, no one around. We checked it and thought it looked about 4-6 feet from the beach, but a little bit far of a paddle, so decided to get out there via this little estuary. Once we hopped into the water, it was like paddling through a nasty river to get out, so we were gassed. Then, as we were starting to get to the entryway to the ocean, the current shifted and started pulling us towards the impact zone of the surf as set waves were approaching. And these set waves were definitely not 4-6 feet. We grossly underestimated the size from the beach. We all got through no problem, but from the minute of hitting the water til we got out and around, my heart was pounding like crazy. It wasn’t the biggest surf I’d been in, or the scariest wave I’d ridden, but being in such a distant place and with so much going on so quickly, it got the adrenaline pumping for sure. I’ve definitely had similar feelings on trips to Hawaii, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico too. (FYI: The attached photo “Invert 2” is actually from that surf spot that day. I’ve never published it anywhere.)