The Gym-Free Life

By Myron Mariano / July 26, 2017

Brothers John and Brad Mayo are on a mission: To infuse Canadian humor to the serious business of getting fit. All without having to step foot in a gym.

And for each video of them performing challenging exercise sequences or gleefully jumping into a hole they made from a frozen lake nearby, they are succeeding.

Their Instagram page, which has amassed a 13,000-strong following within six months of its creation, was originally meant to hold the two accountable in their own fitness goals. "[I wasn't into it because] it was one more social media platform that I didn't really care about," remembers John, "the better-looking brother." He was convinced by Brad (the one who is "better at calisthenics and pretty much everything else") to fully commit themselves into it.

The channel grew after they found an audience that appreciated their minimalist approach to fitness—as well as their brand of feel-good vibes. "It's about educating people about various forms of movement like gymnastics, calisthenics, and bodyweight training," says John. "But you can't take yourself or life too seriously. We are being ourselves; which means light-hearted, pale, and goofy."

They are also trying to combat misinformation, a problem in a time when everyone can claim to be an expert at things they do not have the proper qualifications for. "People want to know the miracle diet that is going to give them abs fast, or how to do advanced calisthenics moves in three weeks or less," says John. "The problem is that there are those out there that will give faulty advice just to get paid." Their Instagram page serves as a way to give sensible and sound information to their followers' fitness questions.

Gravity is the best gym

The beauty of calisthenics is that the cost barrier for getting in isn't high. The exercise makes use of your body weight in order to deliver a good burn—think push-ups, pull-ups, planks done in a multitude of ways. The brothers themselves have only spent money on gymnastics rings, parallettes (small parallel bars), a skip rope, a kettlebell, and assistance bands. "We love to travel [and] it's amazing that [we can] stay fit where [we are]," says John. "Free-styling workouts [help us be] as creative as possible and [they] make things fun for ourselves."

Anyone who says that the only way that one can carve a six-pack is by spending hours in the gym need only take a look at John and Brad's physiques.

Bring back the shivers

View the many videos at their Instagram page (@mayo_bros_calisthenics), and make a note of the one that's most memorable to you. If it was one of their frozen lake antics—dunking their head in, solving a Rubix cube while waist-deep in water, or asking people to take a dip—then they have succeeded in getting you to at the very least think of including short-term cold exposure to your routine.

The concept isn't new. "If you look at the research you'll probably be shocked," says Brad. And he's right: It's been long used to aid in a variety of fitness- and health issues. A 2014 Spanish study, for instance, found that cold-water immersion helped decrease the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness. A small study in 2008 showed evidence of an anti-depressive effect brought about by exposure to cold. Another UC Berkeley study looked at the relation between brown fat and weight loss, triggered by the former's function of burning calories to keep the body warm.

"We promote short-term cold exposure. We're not standing out in the snow for hours at a time," clarifies Brad. He offers the following tip you can do at the end of your next shower: Turn the water as cold as it will go for 10 seconds. Let the water hit your face, shoulders, chest, and the back of your neck. Control your breathing and try not to panic. Continue doing this every time you're in the bathroom, building up your tolerance for up to five minutes.

"We've become addicted to cold exposure and we do some form of it everyday, whether it be an ice bath, working out in the cold, or taking a polar dip in our frozen lake," adds John. "Make your showers a challenge. Cause yourself some discomfort. When you beat that cold water and you start seeing the benefits, you'll be hooked, guaranteed."

Clean your palate

John believes that good nutrition is 80 percent of the fitness battle won, and as such, requires more attention. "Eating patterns get deeply ingrained in people, and it can be very difficult to change," says Brad.

The brothers eat a plant-based diet, with 95 percent of their meals vegan. "Free range eggs are really the only exception," says John. Oatmeals, quinoa salads, and brown rice are staples. Whenever they need to up the protein, they add peanut butter, avocado, lentils, and chick peas in the pot.

They were not always like this, however. As former, bemedaled, competitive kayakers, daily training helped keep their weight and physiques in check. "We could eat whatever we wanted without gaining weight," says John. "We [weren't] conscious of what we were consuming. We ate meat with every meal," adds Brad. "We didn't know what cheat days were because everyday [was one]."

When they retired from the sport, so did their carefree eating habits. "We knew we had to [eat] healthy if we wanted to stay in shape," remembers John.

Cutting refined sugars was tricky. Brad carefully reads the ingredient label of every food they buy because food manufacturers find ways to sneak it in. "That stuff can really ruin a diet," he says.


You May Also Like: 

Life is a Journey
The beauty of practicing morning yoga on the beach as you breathe in the fresh sea air and take in[...]
Myron Mariano

Myron Mariano

Myron Mariano is a New York-based men's-lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications such as the international editions of Men's Health and Marie Claire. He enjoys covering fashion, grooming, and fitness.
Myron Mariano

Latest posts by Myron Mariano (see all)