3 MIN READ | GEORGIA SMITH 

slow down, breathe, and listen to your body: Q&A with Tier X Coach @ Equinox Harrison Mercado

From “fat kid” to bodybuilder, Harrison shares his wellness journey and explores the ever-evolving path towards self-improvement.

WHAT EXPERIECES SHAPED YOU TO BECOME INVOLVED IN THE FITNESS AND HEALTH INDUSTRY?

When I was young, I was always involved in sports and couldn’t ever get enough. Sports were always my main love in life and I thought I was always going to play in the major leagues one day. In middle school, my weight finally caught up to me. I was always the “fat kid” and was always my own biggest obstacle. After trying every diet from slim fast to weight watchers, I ended up linking up with my sister’s boyfriend at the time and started on a fitness routine. Who would have ever thought that 70 days later, I was 71lbs down and still changing every day. With the sudden weight loss, I thought I would be perceived more positively by my peers, in a way It was better but I still couldn’t win. If it wasn’t a nickname for being too heavy, now it was because I was too skinny. I learned from an early age that you can’t please everybody!

The harder you train, the harder you have to recover!
I started to focus on myself, for me and me only, and started to find my niche! I went to college for marine biology but soon found I couldn’t be confined to the laboratory walls. I transitioned to health and behavioral sciences and wanted to impact individual lives, so I pursued a career as a personal trainer.

Through personal training I gained the courage to finally step on stage in my first bodybuilding show and men’s physique competitions. I have completed the trifecta in spartan races and now feel confident enough to throw myself into any fitness challenge available to me. My love for fitness brought me to Equinox 8 years ago, and I am still very happy to call it home today. I worked my way through Equinox’s Personal Training tiers and earned my spot as a Tier X coach, specializing in nutrition and fitness. My newest endeavor is Variis by Equinox, where I can be found and a group fitness/personal trainer on demand. I want to continue to push my mind and body to see what we can do with the right training. This field is always evolving and there’s always something new around the corner, and that’s why I love it so much.

WHAT DOES WELLNESS MEAN TO YOU AND HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE IT INTO YOUR EVERY DAY?

Wellness to me is a combination between movement, nutrition, and regeneration. It’s a balance between working out, eating a healthy diet, and taking care of my body so it can endure the miles that I want to put on it. I train and live for longevity, I used to strictly focus on a bodybuilding lifestyle but I realized that wasn’t 100% conducive to my lifestyle I wanted to lead. After years of 4am wake up calls and late nights, I took control of my life and started to prioritize my sleep. I started implementing stretching, meditation, and massage to allow my body better time to recover. I also started eating more greens and veggies to help balance my diet. Its about keeping your mind and body right, if one piece is lacking, the whole system will suffer. You have to learn to listen to your body and know when to put the pedal to the metal or when to pump the breaks, when I’m beaten down and tried that’s my body telling me something. The harder you train, the harder you have to recover!

 

AS A FITNESS AND NUTRITION EXPERT, HOW HAS YOUR WELLNESS JOURNEY EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS? & DURING THE PANDEMIC?

I’ve learned over the years that wellness to me continues to change as the needs and wants of my body evolve. I truly believe that moderation is key across the board. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing principle like I used to once think, and protein isn’t the only macronutrient needed for a healthy lifestyle! Compared to when I was training to compete on stage, my training routine and diet has shifted drastically to meet the demands of my life. I used to lift heavy all the time, but my body can’t take the abuse anymore plus I need to be mobile to still play football, softball, and basketball. I use more bodyweight and mobility driven workout styles mixed with heavy lifts to keep it balanced.

Especially during the pandemic, I have had to change the way I train and the way I eat. Since we knew we were going to be home more often and want to treat ourselves at night, I introduced intermittent fasting so that I could quench my sweet tooth and still keep myself physically fit. I also realized that I could survive without lifting heavy weights all the time, and maybe my body could even benefit from more bodyweight training and active recovery days. We built a gym in the garage and were doing home workouts everywhere inside and outside of the house. We also started cooking more meals at home and started to try new recipes. We learned that a new routine didn’t hinder our lifestyle but rather enhanced it and allowed us to spend more time together as a family. Remember, the perfect diet and plan doesn’t work if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle.
Remember, the perfect diet and plan doesn't work if it doesn't fit your lifestyle.

HOW HAS INCORPORATING ZOLT INTO YOUR DAILY REGIMEN HELPED ROUND OUT YOUR WELLNESS ROUTINE?

One of the areas where I could stand to still make improvements was my sleep. With an early wake up call and late nights prior to the pandemic, I was burning the candle at both ends. I was running on fumes and barely getting five hours of sleep a night, which was having a negative impact on both my memory and energy. I knew I needed something to change.

Once the pandemic hit and my work became less demanding of my time, I got the opportunity I needed to finally address my lack of sleep. But soon I found myself lying awake in bed, worrying and stressing about the world around me. I started meditating before bed and it definitely helped, but I still needed help falling asleep.

One of the best parts of Zolt was that there was no groggy feeling in the morning, I feel well rested and alert once I wake up. Now I have a nightly routine that works for me and allows me to be 100% the next day and ready to tackle my daily agenda. 

 

I started to use Zolt Dreamy and within a few days, I started to notice a difference. Coupled with my nightly routine of shutting down technology, meditating, and having my night cap in the form of hot tea, I was finally able to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I was finally getting to sleep and staying asleep after years of disruption in my sleep schedule. One of the best parts of Zolt was that there was no groggy feeling in the morning, I feel well rested and alert once I wake up. Now I have a nightly routine that works for me and allows me to be 100% the next day and ready to tackle my daily agenda. I can’t give my 100% to my clients if I am not fully recovered and practicing what I preach.

WHAT ARE SOME EASY WAYS FOR PEOPLE TO INCORPORATE WELLNESS INTO THEIR BUSY SCHEDULES SO THEY FIND BALANCE AND LIVE THEIR DAY TO THE FULLEST?

Wellness is relative and unique to each individual. But for me, three small tricks really helped to allow me to find balance and live my daily life to the fullest.

 

The first is to block time in your schedule for you to move; whether it be weights or yoga, it’s important to make the time to take care of your body first and then build your day around it. If not, you’ll get stuck with whatever time is left over and more often then not you will find yourself missing workout after workout because you never have enough time.

Some people work to live and others live to work, but too much of one thing is never good. You need balance to create an environment where you and those around you can thrive, not just survive.

 

 

Second, take time to breathe and check in with yourself. Especially in today’s fast-paced world, it’s important to breathe to slow things down and remember that you are in control. It is very easy to get overwhelmed and stressed, but the truth is the answer lies in your breath! Practice belly breathing or breathing exercises, and make stress your ally and not your enemy.

And finally, establish and maintain boundaries that allow you to have a healthy work-life balance. Some people work to live and others live to work, but too much of one thing is never good. You need balance to create an environment where you and those around you can thrive, not just survive.

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