Lee Mullins, 31, is the founder of Bulgari’s signature fitness method. A big responsibility for such a young man. His duty started at the Bulgari Hotel London, where the first Workshop Gymnasium was created and now his methodology has followed into the hotel branches, starting in Milan and moving in the future to new destinations, such as Bali, Dubai and Beijing, where Bulgari will open it’s new hotels on the next few years.
In a comprehensive conversation, Lee explained how he designed an exercise program to extend the lifestyle approach of one of the world’s greatest luxury brands.
What were your principles to create a Bulgari Hotel signature workout?
Fortunately, my approach to training is in sync with what the hotel needs. We have people from all over the world coming in and our training is not gimmicky. Our base is personalised exercises, using methods that have been around for hundreds of years, such as traditional gymnastic, yoga, boxing, stretching and swimming. Everyone around the world would know this kind of exercises. The difference is it is very personalised. The series of assessments we put people through is what I believe makes our system the most individualised in the world. We do a movement screen, we take clients through food intolerant tests so we are able to get very specific to recommend an exercise routine and dietary recommendations based on our client’s history. The real beauty of that is to teach people about variety in nutrition and sports.
Where is the training industry going?
Training is going back to what it always was. You see the rise of things such as cross fit, gymnastics and yoga being more popular. Those practices have been around for hundreds of years. The difference now is that we are able to find out so much more about the body and about the individuals. There is more technology that allows us to get much more specific about the individual. Training is going back to it’s origins, but people will be much more aware of the body due to technology. I think we had that phase when exercising became gimmicking and we are going back to using real muscles and creating strength. People pay premium to train with us, but they have access to so much information about what is going on with them from a movement perspective, as well as genetics and nutrition. We do a saliva sample that can tell us exactly what kind of genes people have in their bodies and how these information connect to exercise, so we can create the most personalised training for each individual.
Talking about general consumer trends. I think the previous generation was more about clubbing and drinking. Now you look at the kids and they all want to be healthy and ripped, with their protein shakes and green juices. What have changed?
This is not a phase that is going to die out. It can be an obsession, but it’s not crack. I see it as part of the culture these days. On the past few years, I see people increasingly living in workout clothes. They go out in the morning in workout clothes and it’s more socially accepted. Guys go to the office in Nikes and it’s fine.
How did you get started with sports?
I was a soccer player from age 6 to 17. I used to play to good teams in England and then I got injured. During my rehab, I got into training and learning about the body. I didn’t know what to do. It was tough at the time, but it was a huge blessing in disguise. An athlete career can be over in a second. I am very fortunate that I found something that I like. I started training myself. Finished college and got my degree in Exercise Physiology. I got my personal trainer qualification. I started working as a personal trainer and I was lucky I had a client that took me to travel around the world, which gave me a global perspective. This client had hormonal issues and this is why he had to travel with his trainer. So, I started to study in depth about hormonal compositions. I attended conferences and started to understand how people store fat around the stomach and what generates that. Later on, I started working at the Bulgari Hotel in London, before we launched Workshop Gymnasium, since the hotel opened in 2012. In 2014, Bulgari invited me to create a system and take our gym to another level of personalisation.
Do you believe in a single formula that would work for the general population regarding fitness and health? Like a routine?
I think the common thing for all of is that you have to listen to your own body. The hardest thing for people to learn is to self-regulate and this is hard to do, because we usually do things on the go. We should listen when we are actually hungry and stop eating when we are actually full.
This is what I believe many people do. Don’t listen. I, for example, confuse stress with hunger, eating more or less depending on what’s going on in my personal life.
There are different strategies you can use. There are stress management strategies, when those situations come up and if overeating is something you do, just change that habit by doing something different. Some people are genetically gifted and are naturally lean, but anybody can do it.
From personal experience, it is very hard to stay lean when you get there. After you get in shape, what to do you do to keep it?
The goal can’t be a number. It has to be bigger than that. Once the goal is a number, people tend to fall into old habits. First, you must find a training that you enjoy. I don’t do the same thing I was doing five years ago. The needs of your body change and it does get boring. I think people should change when it’s not as much fun. I used to be all weights, then I evolved to yoga, now boxe. The real key thing is to eat real food and move. Your goals must be bigger than a number, because once you hit the number, than what?
What about people who cannot have such a personalized experience?
We are lucky now, because if you don’t have access to personal trainers, there are so many apps and online programmes that can help you. It’s mobile and easy. People should use the information available to find exercises that makes sense for them and they enjoy.
What’s the most desired body today?
The most desired body today is the gymnastic body. It’s lean, strong and mobile. I find the things gymnastics do so impressive.
How do we get committed to a goal?
If you work towards a goal, you should obtain new habits. The real art of what a good trainer does is to teach good habits. From a movement perspective, from a nutritional point of view, recovery, sleep. If there is somebody in great shape, find out what they do when they are stressed. When I’m really stressed, I breath, like yoga breathing. I find myself doing it more and more. It’s inevitable to get stressed, so you have to create an environment to do the things you want to do and be the things you want to be. If you want to be healthy, lean and strong, than you need to create an environment that enables that and your environment is the people you spend time with, your friends, your house. People sometimes take better care of their cars than their bodies. We have now all the tools to take better care of ourselves. Sleeping well is the number one concern, then eating right and always moving, finding things you like to do and, most importantly, listen to your body. Paying attention to what you are feeling is everything.