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Gavin McKay

Relentless Podcast

Gavin McKay: How to Balance Heart, Muscle, and Mind

It’s time for episode 20 of the Relentless: Real People, Real Results, Real World podcast!

In this episode I welcome in Gavin McKay –  Unite Fitness founder and president, serial entrepreneur, coach, and meditation enthusiast.



  • Drawing inspiration from the Dalai Lama and recommending Shambhala as both a professionally helpful and relaxation resource.
  • Attending Cornell and being surrounded by those with incredible drive: “It made me up my game.”
  • Having roots in the corporate world and its help in understanding what he did not want to do. “It was starting to irk me. I can’t do this. I can’t put on the khakis and a polo…I didn’t have my passion directed yet, but I knew something was not right where I was going.”
  • His environmental passions: “I have a hippie streak.”
  • Experiencing a “quarter life crisis” and leaving behind his business school path for a year of around-the-world travel. “I had to get lost to find myself.”
  • On leaving his life behind: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and then immediately when you do it you want to justify it. There’s this freedom in traveling for a year, and that freedom becomes deeper and deeper. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I felt the best I’ve felt in my entire life because you’re stress free and taking in life’s every moment. I’ve never seen more sunsets. You wake up because you want to go somewhere and you want to see something. You’re in the now all the time.”
  • With the enormity of higher education investment in mind, encouraging others to allocate money to travel and exploration.
  • Growing up in a football town – “It was sort of a Friday Night Lights mentality” – and having that be the roots to his health and fitness interests.
  • Using travel, reflection, and journaling to crystallize his mission in health.
  • Another benefit of his quarter life crisis travels: “Every other risky decision becomes a lot easier.”
  • Writing and having an unreleased book.
  • Visiting a studio in California and witnessing a unique style of group training: “It pulled on all my team sport tendencies. Everyone was at their fittest when they had a coach, a team to do it with, and a program or purpose…That floated in my head for a few years. Then it was ‘How would I do it? How would it combine with bringing in mind/body elements?'”
  • Pioneering a concept in Philadelphia and establishing a market: “I remember thinking we’re going to have to explain to people what this is.”
  • “The scariest thing in the world is not knowing.” His solution: tapping into his personal network and asking questions. “Go to your people.”
  • Reaching out to potential mentors and not being deterred by perceived competition. “Be a human being.”
  • Unite and Relentless teaming up to benefit two causes – MANNA and Steve’s Club.
  • Creating the concept of Run4UrLife with like minded people and organizations to benefit MANNA. “You get the right people in the room and magic happens.”
  • Dividing and conquering labor to produce a well-executed event.
  • Advice on creating your own event: have a concept, differentiate it somehow, and connect with an existing community – “pull on strings that are already there”.
  • Learning from Crossfit’s journey – first building on the backs of their affiliates and later landing a major sponsorship (Reebok) that vaulted them to the next level.
  • Learning from his first few tough years in business: “Hiring is the most important, #1 thing. If you do that right everything will move twice as fast and be twice as enjoyable and be twice as amazing…I did not hire the right people. I did not have my criteria set for hiring.”
  • Establishing and writing out your new-hire criteria.
  • Early hiring woes: “You have to look the part. In the beginning I didn’t want to take that stance…Our focus is on inspiring people. That is done through voice, presence, and knowledge. Not having all of those in your bag is not great.”
  • On trusting yourself: “Sometimes it’s more obvious than you think…if there’s that thought at all in your head [doubt] just don’t go down that road…If there’s any question, it’s a no.”
  • Being unable to get a trademark for the business’s original name – Fusion Crosstraining – and taking a year to re-brand it to Unite Fitness.
  • Using a technique called masking to develop creative images on his Instagram account.
  • On business growth and evolution: “I think this is the biggest struggle that small businesses have. The biggest leap is to create a small business from nothing and it works – and by works I mean it is there in 5 years. It can make enough money to self sustain and to pay you. The next jump is equally as hard, and we’ve been working on that ever since we changed our name…It was very clear with all that extra work that I needed to get out of it…I needed to free myself and start thinking about the bigger picture.”
  • Bringing on partners and figuring out the right mix of money and sweat equity to give away.
  • Being pulled in several different directions and having his services suffer: “I wasn’t great at what I was doing anymore.”
  • Seeing irritation as a red flag to make a change.
  • Serial entrepreneurship and consistently thrusting himself into new things and new processes of creation. “We enjoy creating things.”
  • Establishing studio services, a race, and an online brand, and not knowing which concept would take the lead: “You never know what’s going to hit. You never know what’s going to bring your mission to people.”
  • The balance of marketing and creation: “You create something on the Internet, and people have this idea that something is going to go viral. It doesn’t really happen that way.”
  • Over time having the studios separate themselves as his lead service and exploring ways to expand them locally and nationally.
  • Being told “you have vision in spades”, but understanding that “a development area was how to communicate that to people.”
  • Going inside via meditation to deliver outside in the form of management and leadership.
  • Using Tara Brach’s guided meditation and preferring the morning-time.
  • Understanding when you are stressed and how you can wear it on your body: “Your mental becomes your physical.”
  • Having the philosophy of “heart, muscle, mind” and bringing everything down with a stretching/rolling/relaxation oriented 5-minutes at the close of the workout.
  • Informally defining meditation as: “Anything that gets you to slow down and tap into the senses of what’s going on right now.”


Mind: Manage your own energy and stress levels and become aware of it in the physical sense. “Feel it so that you know then to do something about it.”

Body: Find expertise and help when it comes to your injuries and avoiding imbalances and compensations that occur over time. “Make the decision to take good care of yourself.”

Business: Force yourself out of your bubble and create a network of business people. Be uncomfortable in the moment, and try until you connect with someone.


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