My City Series | Katie Davies
Katie Davies a former UK national athlete and International trainer. She looks fierce and trust us this woman pulls no punches. But her heart is as mushy as they come. When she’s not saving animals, trying to support the local community and dedicating her knowledge and experience to developing and empowering others. You can find her at Jungle Gym. The worlds first all natural gym on the beach. A space she design and developed with her partner Ali.
Katie’s mindset is one to be respected. Failure is not an option for her and that is something that should be admired. A message she spreads to her ever growing community and clients.
Born and Raised or Expat?
Born and raise in Wales in the UK
What led you to choose your current profession? And, what steps did you take to get there?
It was a friend who actually suggested I train to become a trainer and then work in his studio in the UK. Everything I did revolved around training and competing and I met Dave a personal trainer and kick boxing instructor when I attended one of his kick boxing classes. I loved the sport and took it up, where we became great friends.
I was undertaking a PhD at the time in Criminology and Law and not enjoying life stuck behind a desk with my nose in books. I was very miserable with my career choice and it was he who suggested I make a change. I took Dave’s advice and qualified as a trainer on my weekends away from University. Once qualified I quit my PhD and set up my own personal training business working in the spare room at his studio based in South Wales Swansea. Having all the sporting background, the been there and done that knowledge and working under a number of coaches myself before I found that I had the knowledge to help motivate and train a diverse range of clients from all walks of life. Training is my passion and I think that shows in the way I train clients. I make fitness fun so you still get a great workout but with a smile on your face all the way through. After running my own training studio in the UK for sometime I met Ali who was also a physical instructor in the Airforce, he would travel to Mexico for a few months of the year to work as a Boot Camp Instructor avoiding the UK winter months. We began dating and the next time he left for Mexico I went along working at the Bootcamp alongside him. The rest as they say is history, Ali came up with the idea of making an outdoor gym in wood. We set it up on the beach in Tulum and never returned to the UK.
What does your Day-to-Day routine look like?
Coffee!! Always starts with coffee (black). After my 6am coffee fix I head to the Jungle gym to set up for class. I teach the classes 5 days a week and get to meet amazing people from all over the world. Once the class has finished I usually grab another coffee and then train myself for some hours. After this I head back, cook some lunch and then spend an hour sunbathing or napping. Later in the afternoon I catch up with paper work and online clients before spending the evening with Ali. Which usually involves yoga and Netflix. It’s very rock and roll!
What is your favourite brunch spot, and why?
in Tulum my favourite brunch spot is Sanara. Its all gluten and diary free as am I. Everything is organic and produced on site. I love their peanut butter and Cacao smoothies as well as their pancakes and plantain bread. They have the most idyllic spot on the beach over looking the Caribbean waves.
When you have guests, where in town do you like to take them for dinner?
Oh good question, I don’t eat out much as I prefer to cook my own food. If entertaining guests there are one of two places I would take them. Mezzanine is a majestic Thai restaurant on the beach that serves freshly caught seafood marinated in exotic spices. Alternatively, I do love Burrito amor which can been found in town serving a range of salads and burritos at affordable prices, bursting with flavour and atmosphere.
6. How has your city grown and changed since you’ve known it? Which changes did you like best? Why?
The town is expanding at an alarming rate with construction in every direction. It’s a hot spot for property investors and Airbnb hosts, expats looking to see a quick return on their investment. If I’m being frank, I preferred Tulum when it was smaller and more tranquil. At the rate it’s developing I feel that it’s losing some of its charm and natural beauty which is what attracted us to it in the first place. Now there are Burger Kings and Pizza Huts, billboards and bulldozers. I understand that it’s a good thing for tourism and the locals that live here, but I moved her for the small island life and am fearful its going to become the next Ibiza as there has been an increase in the number of young people coming here to drink and party over the years.
7. What cool festivals/events, if any, happen in your city?
If you're a party person you will love it from mid December to mid January as that’s party season, where international DJs travel from all over the world to come and play at Cenotes. The Cenotes are natural springs found in the ground where a hole opens up showcasing the water below. These cenotes get covered in bamboo, lights and all manner of amazing sculptures (just think Burningman meets Mayan). The events can last days and bring people in from all over the world.
8. Where do you go to escape? How does this space bring you peace?
My escape is the gym, it always has been. It’s my meditation when I train I will just put my headphones on, switch off and solely focus on my training rather than what’s going on around me. Other than that I love yoga at Holistika they have created a unique large space with small huts, dip pools, yoga shells and an organic kitchen. You can hang by one of their many pools, grab a freshly squeezed juice or be taken away in one of they many different types of yoga classes.
9. What’s a local brand in your area that we must know about?
Kibok coffee is the only coffee I drink. They are an American family who moved here and they grind and mix their own unique blend of coffee. Kibok is at the heart of Tulum town and is a hub for locals and tourists to sit back, interact and meet.
10. Where, why and when is your next adventure?
Next summer I will be travelling around Asia. I’ve only ever been to Thailand and I loved the people, the food, history and monuments. Yet I feel there are so many parts of Asia I have yet to see. So I’m looking at traveling when it’s low season here next year and hoping to visit China, as I want to run some of the Great Wall), Vietnam, Cambodia, Tibet finishing off with the climax in Nepal. I have always wanted to see Everest after watching a documentary on the great mountain when I was younger. If I had the time and the money I would love to climb in but I will settle for seeing it in all its glory.
11. Does Travel breed creativity?
You find out who you really are when you travel. You’re out of your comfort zone in a strange place, eating strange food, not being able to communicate and I believe this really tests your strength of character. You see sides to you that you didn’t know you had. For example when I was in Thailand I stayed with a Thai family that spoke no English and learnt Thai massage from a teacher with limited English. It’s strange how you make up sign language for things and both parties know what you are talking about. I had a lot of time to think being unable to communicate and it really made me realise that I am happy with me and my own company. Creativity comes at best when we are alone with our thoughts, it’s when we get to connect with the world around us and our environment. The things you see when you travel, inspire you to create that which you have seen on your travels. For instance the Jungle gym was inspired by Mikes Gym which can be found in Spain. It’s an outdoor natural gym that was created by a guy called Mike, taking what Mike built we were able to be more creative. Ali was able to see what they had done and add a new spin and dimension with his own creative designs, or in his words make it better.
12. As for connecting the mind, body and soul, what do you do to promote self-love?
I tell myself “I am enough for me” and thats all that really matters as long as we are enough for ourselves nothing else matters.
13. A notable figure throughout history that has particularly brought you inspiration, and why?
Nelson Mandela just the thought of being incarnated for that long for standing up for what you believe in brings a shiver down my spine. Then to go on and become President and inspire a nation is an incredible feat. He had courage, was brave and never gave in. These are qualities I believe athletes have. The drive and passion to succeed no matter what obstacles they face.
14. Are there any philanthropic programmes or projects that you’re passionate about or would like to shed some light on?
Here in Tulum theres a group of expats who have set up a charity for the street dogs in Tulum and the surrounding areas. Its called Help Tulum Dogs and the volunteers that work for the group give up countless hours of their time, rescuing stray dogs, providing outreach care, food and shelter for the animals here. I’ve volunteered a few times driving to little villages to deliver dog food to families that can’t afford dog food. Tulum Jungle gym has covered the cost of operations for dogs that have been run over, we’ve fostered puppies that were sick and we even found a dog with her leg all mangled at the trash site. We paid for her to have her leg removed and fell in love with her and she became our beloved dog Tripod. Also the charity organise a spay every year which is free for locals to bring their dogs and cats to be neutered for free. Local vets give up their time and do back to back surgeries on over 200 animals over the weekend. I was fortunate enough to volunteer last year. They needed someone strong to carry the animals from surgery to recovery so I was back and forth all day carrying these sedated dogs and I can’t tell you the respect I had for the vets and volunteers that day. The difference it makes in reducing the number of animals on the street is incredible it really does make an impact and I wholeheartedly respect and admire the work the charity and its organisers do here for the people.
15. Entrepreneurs, Tastemakers and Trailblazers, where do people like you hangout in your city?
Ahau hotel is a great hangout area, on the weekends they have sun beds, cocktails and DJs. Run by a very creative group of expats and designed by David who is a very inspirational entrepreneur in Tulum. He owns many hotels here and is the Founder and organisers of an event held here every year called Art with Me where musicians, academics, artists and designers come for one weekend to show case their works, hold seminars and workshops. The sculptures they create are incredible and money from the event goes to conversion efforts in Tulum and the surrounding towns.
16. What is the importance of global connection to you?
Global connection is really key if your an expat relocating in a new area. We in Tulum have our own expat community page where we can share knowledge, ask questions and find help. Just silly things sometimes like where can I find a good masseuse or carpenter but it’s the sense of community that it brings which is key. Feeling part of something, being connected in the wider scope of things and realising you are not alone and that it’s ok to ask for help sometimes.
17. Give a shout-out to someone in your city that is doing groundbreaking things, and what is it that makes them a trailblazer?
I believe that we at the Jungle gym have accomplished ground breaking things as we have the worlds first all natural gym made of wood bamboo and stone. It all comes down to Ali’s vision and passion for creating a truly unique gym with bespoke customised equipment you won’t find anywhere else in the world. He will spend hours coming up with designs then we will go through quite a few prototypes before the finish article is ready in the gym. Ali provides the creativity, where as I like to say I’m the practical one hence the reason we make a good team. We have an internationally known gym that has already been in many fitness magazines, shoots and TV shows. We’ve only been in business two years and are now known world wide. With Ali’s constant drive to produce new equipment and my passion for clients and training the Jungle gym offers a truly unique experience of training in nature with nature. We are a family that are committed to our clients, our vision and giving back to the local community all led by Ali’s motivation for excellence.
18. Advice for budding entrepreneurs?
It’s not going to be easy, you will fail many times, you will want to give up but remember “ pain may last a minute, a day , a week or a year but quitting lasts for ever” one of my many mantras for getting through life.
19. We’re living in a world where our attention to new innovation doesn’t seem to have longevity, how do you find your inspiration to make new waves with long-term prosperity?
We get older every day, we change ever day, technology changes, the weather changes, change is good it keeps you on your toes and takes you out of your comfort zone. Accept the changes, embrace them and use them to inspire you to be more innovative and find a new way.
20. Tell us about what you are currently working on?
I’m currently finishing off and launching a Fit in 60 online challenge available for people to download. Im organising two fitness retreats here in Tulum next year, one will be fitness based and the other a weightloss retreat. Im filming content for an online mini series with my friend called “trainyin” which will combine body weight training with Yin yoga aimed at athletes improving their mobility. The series will focus on a different body part each week, say for example glutes and hips. We will run through activation exercises for your glutes and hips, a short body weight workout before getting into some deep stretched that will help athletes loosen out the muscle fibres so that they can get greater recovery and range of movement within their training. Im also looking at travelling to local gyms around Mexico and providing free classes and seminars for locals wanting to get the most out of their training. I will be headed to Chetumel first to teach a class and then have a question and answer session later. We are also looking at possibly expanding the gym to different locations within Mexico and internationally and are in talks on a number of prospective land options. Finally we hope to open a Retreat Centre where we can offer unique fitness retreats made of wood and stone, with its very own outdoor gym, accommodation and food.
I am also looking to sponsor a local and international young person who is looking to compete on an international level in their chosen sport. I want to provide them with free online coaching and then one to one sessions with me here at the Jungle Gym. Im on the hunt for someone who is hungry and dedicated but lacking the funds and opportunity to get them to where they want to be.
Another important project I’m working on is with a local community centre which had a small complex inside aimed at giving young people in Tulum sports and sporting activities to do after school. The building and equipment is really run down so we are looking to donate dumbbells, benches and bars for the young people to train with. Also we will be looking to physically support once a week by providing free classes and training to the young people attending.
I was lucky to have great parents who supported me in all my sporting endeavours and I would like to now give back to those less fortunate than myself. Pass on my knowledge and skills and inspire them to be the best version of themselves.
21. People can often look at the end result of success and think that the journey has been easy. In your darkest moments, what was your motivation and inspiration to keep going, despite the obstacles and challenges you faced?
I don’t like to fail thats the bottom line, thats my drive to keep going. Also I want to test and challenge myself, sitting around and being comfortable are never things that I’ve wanted to do, I’m an achiever and I go out and make things happen. If I want something I will take it. There have been many dark times, many set backs but I see these all as learning experiences that drive me forward. When I think of quitting I look back and see how far I have come. I remember those dark times and how it felt to be in them and how I don’t want to feel that way again. That drives me and motivates to go forward and this is what I use to motivate my clients to push then so they can realise their dreams and reach their goals.
22. A book that impacted you?
Tony Robbins I love him and all his work, he is one of the most motivational people ever, he’s so compassionate and caring, I just wish the world were full of genuine people like him.
23. A quote or mantra that you live by?
“Tough times don’t last forever Tough people do” this was my ironman quote. I used to say it over and over on long cycles or big hill climbs when I was getting tired and wanted to quit. I even had it painted on my bike handles so when on race day I looked down I would say it out loud to motivate me to push on.
24. Please share a playlist that embodies your work. What about this particular music brings you inspiration?
This is going to sound weird but I love the soundtrack from the Gladiator movie. I play it when I train or when Im feeling down. I then relate back to the scene in the movie where he gives the epic speech about getting vengeance and that gives me inspiration to fight back too, or to push harder in my training and life. If he can get through having his wife and child murdered being made a slave and losing his freedom I can get through anything that I’m facing in my life, we all can.