Meet Mark Anthony
Mark Anthony, the founder of London’s multi-sensory spinning studio FirstLight, discusses weightlifting; wasps and why he loves exercising.
Tell us your fitness story. Did you come from a fit family?
I grew up in a family of athletes: my grandfather was a circus acrobat; one of my uncles was a champion heavyweight boxer; another uncle was an Olympic gold medallist for power-lifting and my father was a sprinter. My younger brothers and I grew up in Harrow playing cricket and football in the back garden, surrounded by these superhero men. I guess you could say my passion for fitness started at an early age!
Did you go to the gym to be like them?
I started going to the gym because at 15 I was really tall – six foot – and really skinny. I was so skinny that my friends nicknamed me Boney M. That’s funny looking back, but at the time I didn’t like it. So, I took up weightlifting to change my body. I loved the way it made me feel. I was building lean muscle: my chest and legs were getting bigger and my shoulders were getting broader and stronger. I can still remember how good I felt walking out of the gym – better than being handed a thousand pounds!
Does exercise still make you feel that way?
I couldn’t be without exercise. It’s part of me. It shakes off any demons. It makes me feel great. And it gives me balance in my life: it helps to keep me centred. That’s the beauty of having a regular exercise routine.
Have you ever been unable to work out?
Yes! When I was 26, I was working as a personal trainer. I was at home one day and a wasp got into the house. I started chasing it…and suddenly I heard an awful noise. A ripping sound, like cloth tearing. It was my back – the pain was agonising - I’d suffered a prolapsed disc. For months I couldn’t do anything. But I was lucky. An amazing surgeon operated on me and I recovered completely. But ever since, without fail, my post work-out stretches start with me lying down on my back, holding my knees and bringing them to my chest and pushing upwards from my lower back to stretch the muscles on either side of my spine.
So, what advice would you give to people who are new to exercise or who are getting back into exercise?
Exercise should be a pleasure and it should be something you take at your own pace. Make it a regular part of your routine. Build up slowly. Be comfortable when you exercise. Set small goals and celebrate every one. It will become something you love - guaranteed.
FirstLight is transforming indoor cycling. Where did you get the idea?
It all started on a trip to New York. The hotel I was staying in had a reception on the 39th floor, with an enormous window looking out over Manhattan. I arrived early in the morning and as I stood there I saw the sun starting to light up the skyscrapers. It was beyond exhilarating. I can remember thinking, ‘I wish I had my spin bike. I wish I was riding here, feeling like pure energy, with the power of the sun coursing through me.’ That’s what FirstLight is about: using the beauty and power of the sun to inspire and empower our riders.
How do you bring the sun to FirstLight?
We use sun-simulation technology to build the feelings of joy, energy and drive that sunlight gives us. In the studio, you can ride through the beauty of the dawn…or through the energising light of midday…or you can ride through the evening light, watching it slowly fade and helping your body produce the sleep-enhancing hormone, melatonin. The light motivates you, while the sounds and the visuals take you to a parallel universe. You cycle through places that you may only have dreamed about visiting. When people think about FirstLight, I want them to think of happiness. We’re bringing sunshine to the UK!