hg: what does “wellness” mean to you and how do you incorporate that into Philly Phitness + your everyday life?
perry: I think the biggest aspect of wellness is balance. A lot of times in my industry "wellness" is portrayed as aesthetics and how hard you workout. It’’s really way more than that…
"…it’s a balance between physical exertion, nutrition + mindset."
If any one of those pillars is off, or overcompensated for, you lose that balance. For example, if you have a bad mindset and you just run everyday to get through it, you’re eventually going to get hurt and left with a broken foundation. You always need to focus on those three pillars, and if you don’t, at some point you’re not going to be well. We try to help with the training, make sure you recover so you can train more. We have nutritionists to help you eat right, so you feel better, which helps you train better. Mindset coaches help break the bad habits so when you get home after a stressful day, you don’t go to pizza. You eat well and then workout. You don’t use the working out as a vice to fulfill the life that you don’t have. We try to put as much energy in all three of those. We’re not experts at nutrition or mindset, so I found + partnered with the experts. I’ve utilized all of these in my own life. I have a mindset coach, I go back and forth with using nutritionists or I’ll go to the extent of having a chef make my food for me or use the food delivery company…
"…I’m not my best coach, I need others."
hg: who has been the biggest influence in your life when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle?
perry: this is a tough one. I have a tendency to not really look up to other people. That sounds bad, but I don’t have any heroes, or people that I’m trying to be like. I think it clicked in my mind because my father was an alcoholic, so I’ve always been really self-aware of the detrimental habits that can happen. But my grandfather, who was kind of my father figure, died of a heart attack on my 16th birthday. He was in his 70’s and could still beat me at tennis; he was physical, he was active, he ate dessert before dinner, he was the life of the party, and then all of a sudden—boom...
"…that’s when I realized it’s not what you can do, it’s what’s happening on the inside."
So in my later teens I started changing my workouts to be a little more functional—rock climbing, biking, boxing, jump roping, rowing, instead of just lifting things up and putting them down. I tried to eat a little bit healthier, I tried to stay away from alcohol a little bit more, I tried to move in a more well-rounded way. I learned from the bad experiences more than the good.
hg: what inspired you to start Philly Phitness?
perry: I originally moved to Philly for med school, but I had a background in training before I moved from Boston. I just loved the ability to change someone’s life, even on a small scale. It can be a really difficult grind—waking up very early, going to bed very late—clients are always on you, and you’re essentially the worst enemy to everyone because you're telling people what to change in their life. But every once in awhile, you get the client that clicks—especially early on—and that’s what keeps you going. You get this realization that someone is going to live longer because of you. That’s why I got away from engineering and why I started Philly Phitness because I…
"…I saw an opportunity to not only change the life of clients, but the ability to provide a space that could change the life of my trainers as well."
hg: who are some of the consultants you have worked with in the past either inside or outside of Philly Phitness?
perry: Ali Tomilson is a our local mindset coach and owns In-Power Performance. Brian Rutledge is our local massage therapist and owns Refined Being. We work with a local chiropractor, Dr. Casey D’Arcy, who owns Luminous Chiropractic and helps us take moving x-rays of people’s spines so we can really get an idea of how healthy your spine is. The nutritionists we use are from a company called Nomful. They aren’t local, but they own an app that our clients connect to, share all of their nutrition and then get assigned a nutritionist based on their goals with full access to communication 24/7.
hg: you say you like to "transform lives" rather than "train clients." What is one of the most memorable experiences you've had in helping someone transform their life?
perry: about a year after we opened, I wanted to give back to the community. I told people I would train anyone for free for 6 months and I got a ton of applicants. One friend came to me and said you need to work with my wife. She was a former athlete, having sleep apnea, and complications due to her weight. There was a risk she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant; she was depressed, and it was putting pressure on their marriage. I think she gained over 100 pounds and was on a downward spiral. From the day she contacted me until the day we met I think she had lost 20 pounds. After six months with me she lost 70-75 pounds, and she lost another 20-30 on her own after. She went from a 230-240 lb. 28 year-old to a 140 lb. person with confidence who works out, is a member of multiple gyms, leads her husband on hikes + walks, probably has as many kettle bells as I do, and she owns it. That was really the coolest experience because I did it purely to change someone’s life…
"…I poured my heart into a client, everything. I just felt really lucky + wanted to give back, say thanks, put some good karma out there."
hg: “Transforming one’s life”—what aspect of this surprised you in terms of what's most helpful in the transformation process?
perry: I would say 90% of people, maybe even a little higher, know what to do. I think the most interesting part is the stories people tell themselves justifying how things are and how things are going to be. There’s always the excuse of, “I’ll just start next week”, or “the holiday season is coming up, but let’s not start until after the new year.” Why prolong your unhappiness? Modern day society is really good at prolonging our unhappiness because we think when we get somewhere, then we’ll be happy. You can always look better, be more athletic, but these are not tangible things. The biggest + most effective thing that surprised me, is just helping people to become aware of the stories they’re telling themselves, and just change them. Once you change someone’s story, the timeline doesn’t matter. Every day you’re healthier than you were the day before, and that’s all that matters. That’s why I think if there is something everybody should have, it’s a mindset coach…
"…if you know the rollercoaster is eventually going to get back to where it started, you don’t worry about the ups + downs and the scary parts, it’s just part of the ride."
hg: what are some tips, or words of advice, you'd give to someone looking to start living a healthier lifestyle?
perry: the first thing you need to do is meet with some professionals to get a feel for it. Go to a doctor and get your blood work done; talk to a mindset coach to figure out how you ended up here; talk to a trainer who does some type of movement screening and then just let it sit. You need to educate yourself on what your true starting point is, immediate goal and talk to several people to figure out what that’s going to cost, how much you’re willing to invest and leave the rest to the professionals…
"...the biggest thing is accepting. Accepting where you are, what you’ve done to get there and that you have a lot of work ahead."
Accept that it’s going to be tough, and that it’s your fault. You are the one that put yourself there. The trainer, the coach, the nutritionist—they didn’t. They’re job isn’t to screw you over, it’s to help you—and you need to accept that this is the reality.
hg: do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, what are yours this year?
perry: I really don’t. I guess I don’t 'formally.' I’ve always used the New Year as a time of reflection to kind of see what I’ve done in the past, reflect and goal set for the future. I may set goals, but to me a resolution is really based on mistakes. I have goals; I'm very goal-oriented…
"...but I try not to dwell on the failures + the mistakes—they’re done."
I’ll set goals that I’m hoping to focus on, keep myself accountable and I try to make them public. I’ll post on my Facebook or my Instagram or tell my friends or family because I want people to hear it and tell me, “that’s crazy!” One goal is cutting back my training so I can focus on growing my company. I have goals for the amount of travel that I get to do because travel is such a big thing for me. I have goals for where I want to be in terms of overall stress in my life. I try to approach it in the same way—I have my business, I’ve got my personal life, and my health. So I want to focus on those three in terms of balance, because it is really easy not to.
hg: since traveling is so important to you, has there been anywhere in particular that was most memorable or most impactful for you?
perry: I like to travel everywhere, it's just that simple. I don’t think there’s a place that you could ask me to go to that I would say “no” to. I’ve been to Costa Rica for about a month cumulatively. Last time I went there, I stayed at a place where I slept in a hammock above a surf shop on the beach for ten days and it was $10 a night. I woke up to the monkeys howling; I went to bed to the water crashing. It brings you back to the basics. I rode from Oregon to San Francisco on a bicycle, 600 miles (five-six days). I did that with one friend who is a little crazier than I am. But when you're eating peanut butter out of a jar with the back of your tooth brush, and you’ve ridden 140 miles + you’re lost, when you get to a really crappy cot, it’s amazing. It makes you realize all of the extras don’t really matter. I like my travel to take me back and reflect.
hg: if you could interview anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
perry: I would like to interview my father before the craziness happened. I know who I am now, what I’ve experienced, but I don’t necessarily know what my dad was like when he was sixteen. My dad was homeless for 20 years and passed away last year. It’s a difficult thing not necessarily being able to know anything. Unfortunately, he was an abusive alcoholic; he left my family when I was five or six. I met him when I was 21, and again when I was 27 while he was in hospice and dying. We ended up doing a bootcamp to raise money for the homeless through Back On My Feet and the last day when we submitted what we raised was on the one year anniversary of his death—totally accidental. We raised over $13,000, which was the largest grassroots campaign they had ever experienced…it was pretty cool. Ironically, I would just like to sit down, have a beer with him and get a feel for who he was so I can learn a little bit more about myself. I think that would probably check off a lot of boxes for some of the mental roadblocks that I deal with, because it’s such a large unknown in my life.
hg: where do you see yourself in five years?
perry: in five years, I’m hoping my company (or companies under my umbrella) effect hundreds of thousands of people every year. Whether it’s through our direct training + interactions, our social media presence or creating a social impact company focused on giving back to the community. Hopefully, it’s not just me running it—I don’t want to be the smartest in the room, I don’t want to be the most successful in the room. If anything, I like being at the bottom of the spectrum. I like being able to connect myself to all of the right people and share a cause that excites everybody—then everybody can rally behind it and try to do something big. Similar to what Justin did with honeygrow. If you look at it, it’s just a salad. But his approach to it, his care for it, the detail behind it + the impact the company can have because of their salads can change things. That’s what I’m trying to do…
"I’m trying to be more than just training. I want everything to have an impact on the community and society that surrounds us."