New Zealand native and die-hard surfer Hayden Rhodes is the driving force behind RPM Health Club, Phuket, located in the beautiful Royal Phuket Marina. He has developed his unique life-coaching philosophy over many years as he overcame painful setbacks and strove to live his own life to the fullest. Now he shares his hard-won knowledge with others, to help them to achieve a healthy balance, both physically and mentally, in their own lives.
Hayden, you were born in New Zealand, so how did you end up living in Phuket?
In 2004 I was surfing my way through Indonesia and ended up in Chiang Mai exploring Thailand. At that time, I was asked by SEARA International to help establish a wellness orientated urban health club in Bangkok. Bangkok was not my cup of tea… so I ended up developing a more boutique health club for SEARA in 2008 – the Royal Phuket Marina Health Club here in Phuket.
What are New Zealanders like?
Tree-hugging hippies, running around in rags and living in caves… I’m kidding! It’s a very modern country, high-tech and full of well-educated, fun life-loving Kiwis [a Kiwi is someone from New Zealand]. Most kiwis are pretty down to earth, honest and nature loving people, perhaps stemming from the beautiful culture of the Maori people.
The landscape is diverse and the South Island contains some of the most incredible natural beauty in the world. You might be looking at waves on a deserted beach with snow-covered mountains in the background, and then if you drive for 30-minutes, you can be walking through a rain forest or around the shore of great lake. Nature is appreciated in NZ and most people connect with it regularly. We are an outdoor orientated people… who also love beer, barbecues, beaches, and of course, rugby!
Back home you were a junior-level rugby player and a senior-level surfer. Then, as I understand, your dreams of playing professional rugby were shattered due to serious injuries. Do you miss it?
I missed rugby terribly when I was younger, but the minor brain damage, head trauma and hospitalizations really made me consider what was important in life. As for surfing, it’s now in my blood and whenever even a small swell arrives in Phuket I make the most of it. It’s not great surf here, but the beauty is that you can find some fun waves if you are lucky and understand the weather, the sand banks and the tides.
I’ve read that at following your rugby injuries, you had some difficult times, but eventually you rebuilt your confidence and strength and decided to live healthily and positively. Could you say a few words about that time and what inspired you to change your life?
After suffering minor brain damage from multiple head injuries from rugby, and spending time in and out of hospital, I thought something was wrong with me. I had to stop playing rugby and my parents helped me gain back some of my confidence and channel my energy into swimming and gymnastics. Although I became competent, it just wasn’t the same love that I had for rugby. After years of training I was really good at a few certain gymnastic disciplines and competed at the national championships. But after a nasty fall during my routine, I missed my chance at a medal and ended up placing fourth… that hurt my pride.
I don’t know if I lived ‘unhealthily’ I always aimed to have balance, but sure, I participated in some unhealthy choices along the way. During that time in my early adulthood I had some relationship issues that really led me to ponder on my life. I had pretty much lost everything I thought was most important at that time – money, job, car, friends, fitness and my mental wellbeing. I lived in an emotional and mental nightmare for what seemed like eternity. I was very close to suicide and again, knowing what I know now, I should have been in psychiatric care.
I was in a bad place and I can tell you, sugar, alcohol, drugs, lack of movement and a lack of awareness will draw you down into a heavy mental darkness that encompasses you and drains the very life out of you. This was my most powerful learning life experience – I learned so much about the human psyche and how brains and bodies are interrelated – as well as understanding myself.
The pain during this time was my inspiration – to never feel or look like that again. It took years to get ‘me’ back, using the power of proper nutrition, mind training, spiritual gym workouts and movement as my medicine. People always want quick fixes – well a quick fix is just another drug, just another addiction – it takes time to rebuild and re-shape one’s mindset and body and it’s best to do it with an experienced coach.
You are specialist in nutrition, but more than that, you’re about coaching people to lead a holistically healthy lifestyle. Could you tell us more about your current job?
I am the general manager of RPM Health Club and that position is very varied and unique. One minute I may be writing a marketing article and the next teaching a class – the club is a very dynamic environment. As both the GM and a coach, my job is to be a role model for what true health is all about – being mentally happy and sharp, emotionally peaceful, spiritually content and physically balanced.
I think coaching people about both the physical and mental aspects of their life isn’t something you can learn at university – of course there are some skills which you can learn – but I also think you have to go through some stuff. Coaching is about helping people to help themselves. I am here to guide people to where they want to go; but would possibly struggle for years if they tried to do it on their own – or perhaps never reach their goal without a coach.
Seems like many nutritionists are vegan or at least vegetarian. Do you keep to a vegetarian diet? What is healthy nutrition to you?
No. I do however believe that certified organic vegetables are the best source of minerals and nutritional content out there. I also believe each person is wired with individual biochemical requirements and the study of epigenetics is now proving that our DNA responds very differently to different diets – so the “one size fits all approach” is scientifically very outdated.
Healthy nutrition begins with valuing your relationship with food and learning how your body responds or reacts to all foods. Going on a full vegan diet just because someone told you to try it, especially if you are training hard in X-Fit or Muay Thai… is that spiritual or stupid?
As a person who professionally helps people become happier and healthier what would you say is the key to happiness and good life?
Mindset. Doing what you love and working to have a positive impact on the world. What is the point of living if you do not love what you do regularly? Nurturing your unique gifts and talents – trust them and use them for the benefit of others. Tune in to your intuition. Live, give, laugh and learn. When you do all that you will find your flow.
What is your professional advice to our readers who want to change their lives and become a healthier and happier person?
Work on your mindset. Your dominant daily thoughts make you are who you are. Give yourself QT daily – quality time and quiet time. And give yourself PT daily – play time or a personal trainer who is fun. Learn how to love yourself – we don’t get classes, education, lectures on this… it’s nuts how we educate ourselves. Stop looking for all answers outside – they are inside.