The business of wellness is really heating up in Hong Kong, but one man way ahead of the curve is Avey Cortes. We sat down to chat balance, goals and Salty Peanut snacks.
You may have read his story about bouncing around on kangaroo feet at XP Fitness Hub, or followed his series on alternative healing. It may be thanks to him that you know where to shop the comfiest (and trendiest) men’s activewear in Hong Kong, either way, we’re sure you are familiar with our wonderful wellness writer Avey Cortes. We sat down with him over turmeric lattes to discuss leaving the corporate world for a career in wellbeing and what’s on his fit agenda for 2019.
Meet Avey Cortes
Born in Hong Kong, Avey went to school here before moving to London at age 18 to study film, TV and theatre at University. He then lived and worked in the States, and in Australia, but always kept coming back to Hong Kong thanks to the many opportunities available. Since he arrived back in 2010, he’s worked in TV, marketing and events, and in 2013, he started working closely with wellness experience provider Chosen. This year, he also joined the crew here at Honeycombers Hong Kong, as our writer and guru for everything fitness and wellness, as well as being named an ambassador for Lululemon.
An interview with Avey Cortes
Hi, Avey! Great to sit down with you today. Obviously fitness plays a huge part in your life, but has it always been this way?
I think I was always relatively fit growing up. But in school, I wasn’t picked a lot for team sports because I wasn’t particularly good at them. So I feel like I shied away from exercise because no one wanted to pick me. I was always really good at running, so when I got older I was able to explore running and going to the gym a bit more and figuring out what my strengths were.
How did you become involved with Chosen?
Back around 2013, I was writing a lifestyle column for another platform, and I thought that going along to one of their experiences in Bali would be an easy way to fill a column, but it ended up being the trip of a lifetime for me.
It helped me address balance in my life, not just with working out, but getting more rest, and eating properly, because in the events role I was doing full-time, it was a regular work day, then you’d go out networking, and then you’d run the events into the evening, and then I’d be waking up at 5am to go the gym, which meant I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep, and I wasn’t eating properly either.
But Chosen really addressed all of that for me, so I kept in touch with the team. I went along to their Guatemala experience, which again was amazing. So, I just started doing some marketing and referral stuff for them on the side, and after a while I really started to feel like I was living two lives. I was still doing my full-time events job, but also finding my journey into wellness, so in 2015, I decided to leave the corporate world and focus all of my energy into wellness, and Chosen, as that’s what I’m passionate about.
And how has that role developed since you started?
So my role has changed a bit since then. Initially, I guess it was more of a sales role, as I have a network in HK, but a year or so into it, I realised that we have a group of people who are excited and passionate about Chosen – so, there’s a community right there. And I’ve been working on growing the community itself and nurturing that. So, other than the experiences that we do overseas, we also offer on the ground events here in Hong Kong: everything from a yoga class to panel discussions or nutritional classes.
And you’ve added Personal Trainer to your CV?
The more that I was reading, the more I wanted to study and learn, and I found that I was super passionate about fitness, so I decided to do my personal training certificate in Hong Kong. And then, friends asked me to train them, so we do that around the city using steps to do stair runs and bear crawls; I just think that green exercise does so much for your endorphins. I mean, just being outside generally makes you a happier person. Now I have quite a number of clients who I train outdoors, and it’s all about putting the fun back in movement.
Read Avey’s picks for top outdoor fitness classes in Hong Kong.
You also teach classes at HIT45, right?
Yeah, well I thought that I wanted some studio experience too. I’d been to HIT45 before, and my favorite kind of workout is an intense HIIT workout. I’m in my element when I’m doing it personally, and I wanted to experience both sides of that, so I just reached out to them.
I love it. I feel like a lot of people get bored with their workouts, but I feel like HIT45 offers a real variety. We’re one of the only studios in town with the green jogger, it’s self-powered, so you’re working all the time, which is a great benefit, and you move from floor to treadmill, so there’s lots of room for creativity. It’s really important to me to make the workouts fun.
You like to keep things interesting, as we can see on your Instagram stories! Have you discovered any new passions of late?
Pilates. I’ve been doing a 30 day pilates challenge at Flex Studio, similar to the 30 Day Yoga Journey that I wrote about for Honeycombers. Actually, this surprised me so much more because I’m seeing the benefits, in terms of my form and posture. It’s had a really profound effect on me. We work on reformers and on towers and the wonder chair. I’d done pilates a few times before, but I don’t think I was doing it properly. I kind of boxed it in with yoga, and considered it more of a relaxing thing, but now I’ve delved in more, I know that it’s an actual workout. It’s all to do with your core, and most movements in life come from your core, so it’s extremely grounding.
Have you noticed a big change in the fitness and wellness scene in Hong Kong since you became involved?
The scene in Hong Kong has changed a lot. It’s moved from global gym chains to more community-based environments. There’s definitely a lot more options out there, and a lot more fun workouts in Hong Kong are available, you know, your BounceLimit and LIGHTS//OUT classes. I think people are getting more passionate about their well-being and self care.
And how do you incorporate whole-body elements like meditation into your routine?
I’ve really started to focus on that in the last six months. I have a journal, and I plan out all my workouts, but I’ll balance them out with my yoga or meditation sessions, and I find that a really good way of tracking, so my weeks are well balanced.
What about the nutrition side of things?
That’s always about balance too, and it’s a work in progress for me. This year, I’ve been eating whatever I wanted to, and I have noticed a difference. Last year, I was pescatarian, trying to eat 90 per cent plant-based, but I felt that, because I was in expansion mode, it was okay for me to eat meat or to eat a cookie now and then. But I do balance it out with eating healthy.
I feel that many people have an unhealthy relationship with food, and I just wanted to personally be okay with what I’m eating and not feel guilty if I wanted to have an ice cream during the day.
Any snacks you always have in your workout bag?
I’m obsessed with Barebells at the moment. The Salty Peanut flavour is so good!
And what’s on the agenda for next year then?
I have wanted to write my own blog for a while, so I feel I’m kind of ready to do that. I’m a bit old school, but I know that people don’t read all the time, so it will probably be some video content too. I want to share my passion for fitness.
My whole ethos is: move, sweat and discover. Obviously, the more you move, the more you sweat and the more chances there are for you to discover things about yourself and about your capabilities.
And I also want to try more classes. I’d really like to get more into animal movement, as that’s more functional training, so I’d like to dip my toes into that.