Fitness, Minimalism, and Travel with Dai Manuel

Fitness, Minimalism, and Travel with Dai Manuel

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Dai Manuel has a long list of impressive credits: Not only is he a lifestyle mentor and coach, but a successful blogger and author, father, former COO and partner of Fitness Town Inc, and overall inspiring guy.

Dai Manuel has turned turned his passion for health, fitness, and wellness into a career with a mission to “engage and challenge people in living healthy, more active lifestyles.” What’s more, with the release of his book, Dai Manuel’s Whole Life Fitness Manifesto, Dai, his wife Christie, and their two daughters, pictured, have hit the open road in search of an even more fulfilling life. Now, they are living a life of travel while continuing to promote health and happiness and connect with the communities that they have built online.

Read on to for a peek into Dai Manuel’s journey.

Withings: The first thing you tell your readers on the “about” page of your website is that you were obese as a child. As a lifestyle mentor who has experienced the struggle to maintain a healthy weight firsthand, what is your number one piece of advice for people going through a similar situation?

Dai Manuel: Let’s be honest. When you don’t have your health, typically the only thing you can think about is being healthy—or at least feeling better. When you’re not feeling so well, it can be very debilitating and very discouraging. I know for myself, after being morbidly obese for about five years of my life in my early developmental days, it definitely created a lot of negativity. Also, when you’re living in a state of unhealth, it becomes your new norm. That’s when it’s really challenging because you forget what it feels like to feel good. I try to encourage people that there’s always an opportunity—every single day—to choose to make a different choice. There really is. I’m a big believer in choice.

As a lifestyle mentor, I try to coach and mentor my clients as well as communities through that transformation and make them realize it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it seems. It does start with a decision. The decision is typically simple to make, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute. It takes a little bit of work. You’re changing habits. You’re setting some goals, and you have to change some behaviors. So, behavioral change takes effort, and consistent effort.  

Recently, you and your family decided to drop everything and begin living a more minimalist lifestyle. How did you manage such a huge change, and are you enjoying the results so far?

I give full attribution and credit to my wife Christie on this one, because she is someone with a deep passion for travel. She travelled a lot in her late teens and early twenties, and at that time, she met me. We had a fling initially and dated a bit, and then she went off on her world adventure again, and I was heart-broken. But fortunately for me, the writer and the poet in me wooed her back to Canada, and “c’est la vie!”

Fast forward a number of years as our kids were aging and they got into their pre-teen years, we realized that the path that we were on wasn’t as fulfilling as we wanted it to be. We saw in our kids that time passes very quickly. They’re our reminder. So, I quit my career of 17 years. Christie quit hers about a month after, and then we pulled our kids out of school in the fall. It was all very quick. When we made the decision that we wanted to make some changes, it all happened in less than 12 months. Whatever we could fit in our suitcases and our SUV was what we would take with us on our adventure, and we set out to just live life a bit differently.

We thought it would be a great way to connect with the communities that we’ve been building online—to actually meet some of them in person—and so we just started to reach out to people and let them know. Right now, we’re in Bali. This is our first time overseas. We predominantly travelled for the first 19-20 months in North America, until we realized that the window to go overseas was wide open and we took advantage of it. That’s the advantage when you have a minimalist lifestyle: you have a lot less baggage holding you back from making a decision and trying something new.

We have four people in our family, and we are the decision-makers of our lives. We are the life-enhancers, the life-designers, and it’s very empowering, but also intimidating at times—so I don’t want to pretend that it was an easy process, but we’re learning as we go, and we’re having a lot of fun. We’re being pushed out of our comfort zones all the time, and if you’re not doing that every day in your life, you have to ask yourself, “why not?” Why not push yourself to do something that makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable every single day? That’s when you have to change, you have to grow, and that’s a big underlying message—or teaching—in our programs as mentors.

From weekly digests to the “99 Workouts, No Equipment Required” training guide, your website provides all sorts of free resources for healthy living. What most inspires you to keep moving forward and sharing your knowledge, and how do you juggle your time between family, exercise, and helping so many others to improve their own lifestyles?

The website started as a hobby ten years ago. It was more of an accountability tool, as well as that I was a little lazy. Being in the fitness industry, people tend to gravitate towards you and ask you questions, and it’s a very engaging conversation. I love it because it opens up an opportunity to meet some great new people. But with that, the website was a tool because I would get asked a lot of the same questions. So almost like an FAQ, I started writing blog articles that related back to some of the most common questions I was receiving.

My wife and I volunteered every week for 5 years doing free coaching and group coaching for people. They would come to get the results, but ultimately, it was a community that kept coming back, and it was a lot of fun. We learned a lot, and it was ultimately that seed that we planted which developed into what we’re doing now.

So, what inspires me? It’s the people. It’s honestly those e-mails. I take great fulfillment and pleasure in hearing from people that are getting positive results based on something that I was able to empower them to choose or to do—an action to take or a choice to make. It’s awesome. I love it, and it fuels me even more to just keep on going.

In your interview on #WellnessWednesdays, you talk about the importance of having fifteen minutes of activity each day. Have you found your Steel HR to be a good tool for monitoring or improving your levels of daily activity?

Fifteen minutes is basically the minimum amount of time that people should be invested in moving with purpose. We do qualify that. It’s not just getting up and walking around your kitchen for commercial breaks, it’s getting your heart rate elevated. We love HIIT training, where you’re constantly elevating the heart rate and bringing it down again. We enjoy it a lot, and it helps people get some results. So fifteen minutes is the foundation. Is it enough? Well, it’s a good start. Do I do things outside of that 15 minutes? Absolutely! Do we try to walk 10,000 steps a day? We sure do!

This is where the Steel HR has been invaluable. I’m a big believer in tracking—being able to recognize patterns, especially as a nutrition coach. It’s critical for people to give me a snapshot of what their typical meals look like in a week—even just three days. It’s amazing because it’s an enlightening experience for a lot of people.

Also, the Steel HR is great from a heart rate perspective, when you start to gauge your training. The biggest thing I try to teach people is to recognize intensity levels. For you to constantly move your health forward, you need to be able to push yourself a little bit. You need to shake it up. You need to push your boundaries and your comfort zone, and do it a few times a week.

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What is the best adventure that you’ve taken your Steel HR on so far?

To be honest, we haven’t had a ton of adventures with them yet. We’ve just been living our life—which we like to think of as an adventure—so it’s been a staple for us in that journey. My whole family has one—both my kids and my wife. The neat thing is that we can all link them up and monitor—hold each other accountable—and have some fun with it.

We also gamified it a bit for our kids, meaning that if they meet a certain streak of activity, they can earn a prize. It keeps us engaged and keeps us accountable. It also makes it more fun. Who doesn’t like to play, right?

We do plan to have a lot more adventures. We’re hiking a volcano here in Bali soon. It’s an early sunrise from the volcano, so it will be fun to see how many steps we can amass that day as well as having the Steel HR along on the adventure. Again, living life should be an adventure, so just wearing one and tracking what you’re doing to become more in tune with your body—I think that’s awesome!

When you and your family have ended your stay in Bali, what will your next big adventure be?

We’ll be here in Bali for almost three more months, and then we head back to North America. We have a lot of travel planned. Some is around family, but we’ll also be connecting with different communities. We have a couple of conferences planned as well as a travel summit.

It’s family adventure travel, so we’re connecting with other families that are doing the same sort of stuff that we are doing right now. We’re not alone. It’s a growing community of people out there that are living life a bit differently. They’re “road-schooling” or “life-schooling” their kids as they travel the globe, and it’s pretty neat to see that.

Later in the fall, we plan to go overseas again. Maybe back to Bali, maybe Thailand—we may even go to South America. Then, the next big push for us is our own personal brand. It’s a 90-day program, which we’ll be launching shortly, to really empower people to make a massive shift in their life in all aspects. And we’re fired up!

Annelise Driscoll

Annelise is a graduate of Hamilton College who enjoys writing, reading and roller derby. When she isn't noveling, she can be found doing yoga and watching British baking shows.
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