“At this stage, I’m not focused on trying to get more defined abs or bigger biceps, I’d rather help other people get started instead.” Dave Coast, the Founder of TheHealthyCamper.com talking about his wellness goals for 2019. The sustainability and health advocate also discusses the role of fitness in the queer community, shouting out loud, “I’m gay” and how the patriarchy prevents men from being able to express their emotions.
You’ve mentioned that you remember referring to a boy in your street as “cute” and being reproached for it. Can you recall your earliest cultural encounter with queerness?
So I grew up in Canada, it was the summer time and I was probably 8 or 9 and we went to Paramount Canada Wonderland which would be the equivalent of 6 Flags and I remember going with the family members that were visiting from Montreal and it actually happened to be Gay Days. I remember being at the theme park with all my family members and being in the water park specifically and seeing all these gay couples and it was the first time I remember really seeing that in a big way. By this point I think I had started figuring out what it was. Ellen had just come out on T.V. and I felt a little bit more familiar with the concept. Seeing people who were obviously very open about their sexuality and queerness and seeing it be celebrated and then also seeing how uncomfortable it made my own family members at the time was sort of a memory that is stuck with me, it’s not necessarily a bad one but it’s just one that I certainly remember pretty vividly and seeing guys in denim short shorts, tattoos, piercings and holding each other and literally having my family around us kids. It’s almost like a memory that we think is kind of funny but at the time it kind of caught my parents by surprise – they didn’t plan on that happening.
Which Robyn song best describes your love life?
Let’s say “Hang With Me.” It’s relevant to my life right now.
Can you talk to us about your experience as a former competitive swimmer and what role your queerness played during this period?
Not that much. I was in high school, I was on the swim team and I was very closeted. I didn’t come out till after college so maybe in high school I was in such deep denial about it I wasn’t necessarily overly aware, certainly though there were cute guys and this and that. I remember as a competitive swimmer you shave your legs and it’s something most straight guys wouldn’t do but I had the option to do it and I remember enjoying how my legs felt in my sheets without hair for the first time and being like “it feels so nice.” In little ways like that I think it sort of played out. I didn’t kiss a boy till a long time after that so I wasn’t really thinking about it too much in that way at the time. I was just trying to blend in as much as I could and being on the swim team helped. Going to practice there was certainly a type of language that existed then being called a fag, I didn’t feel directly attacked too much but there was a bit of that in the pool, like don’t look at someone too long. There were certain things that I had trained my brain to do at the time. I guess that’s just like being a closeted boy and I guess people could relate to that.
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What advice would you have for queer athletes overwhelmed by the idea of being seen as queer by their teammates?
I think it’s such a tough questions to answer. I think it really depends on where you are now, how comfortable you are in who you are. The advice that I would give is feel safe whatever you do. That’s really important, don’t let it stop you from pursuing athletics if that’s something you’re passionate about and enjoy because as you get stronger and learn more about yourself it will be a natural evolution.
I wish I had the strength and support to have been out [earlier] but looking back at my life and looking at how things were I don’t think I would change anything and I think I made the best of what I could in terms of how I felt safe and I feeling safe is important. When I realized I was gay I used to think people would spray paint my garage with fag or something, I would make up these crazy fantasies of terrible things that would happen to me if I was out. It took a lot of getting comfortable with myself. Now as an adult I’m in a men’s group in L.A. called Ohana-Kāne Project and basically it’s a group of guys who get together once a month to work out and the money you put towards the project goes to charity.
What does self-care mean to you and can you walk us through any self-care rituals you would recommend?
Sooo many… A self-care ritual I really believe in and share a lot on my instagram is a seven minute breathing practice that I try and do everyday . It’s really easy, sort of like a type of meditation though not too much focus on this notion of clearing your mind, its just seven minutes to yourself raising your arms and bringing them down as you inhale and exhale and it becomes a very enjoyable activity the seven minutes fly by. I sometimes go on my rooftop where I can see the ocean and I do it from there. I’ve gotten a few people onto it too.
Listen it’s something that works for me, anyone can do it anywhere and it’s something that gives you a little time – it just gives you seven minutes to yourself everyday because as soon as we wake up we’re on our phones, responding to someone or going somewhere we just when don’t give ourselves time like that anymore. (To read more about Dave’s Seven Minute Breathing Practice CLICK HERE)
“It’s important to know that we are multidimensional people and we have different emotions at different times, rather than shutting them down it’s important to acknowledge them and learn from them.”
THE HEALTHY CAMPER and SUSTAINABILITY
The Healthy Camper, how did this concept manifest and was there a specific formative moment that inspired you to conceive it?
The notion is that being healthy is one of the gateways to leading a happier life and I say it earnestly because when you’re not feeling good it’s hard to be your best, it’s hard to pursue what you’re passionate about and it’s hard to engage with people in a way that’s meaningful. At the core of it – get healthy so you can be this happy person and I don’t want to make it seem like happy is the only state which we should be, because there’s lots of emotions and we’re multidimensional people and they’re all [emotions] very important to experience but I’m just trying to bring this notion around health as a really important pillar to living a happy and enjoyable life.
On your website, The Healthy Camper you reference community as a core value in wellness. How do you think the queer community can improve on leveraging the working poor who may not have access and the wealth to health and fitness services?
As a gay man who moved from Toronto to Vancouver to L.A. I’ve had the opportunity to network and make friends through fitness, even the Ohana-Kāne Project that I’m apart of is free to join but you can go and contribute to raise money for charities – that’s one of the ways I connect with people is working out with them.
When it comes to the working poor not everything in health and wellness is necessarily expensive, running is free, there’s donation yoga classes and there’s gyms with memberships for $30 a month. I think it’s important having a community around and those kind of activities will encourage you to go and help build you’re own network of people in your life who are helping you become a better person and theses are type of interactions and activities that I think are positive at the end of the day.
Your Go-To track for working out?
Rüfüs Du Sol “No Place.” You can follow Dave’s weekly curation on Spotify HERE.
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Who are three thought leaders contributing to social innovation or the environmental movement that we should have on our radar?
Ashlee Piper. She wrote a book called, “Give A Shit.” She is so pragmatic about it, not an absolutist in terms of how to start living a sustainable life and how you can start making steps to make those changes.
Stevie of Yay For Earth.
Do you have a thotty outdoors tale you can share with us?
I have plenty and I’ll just leave it at that.
Can we talk about the momentous moment of being able to say out loud, “I’m gay” and how important this step is and how something seemingly so simple can be one of the biggest hurdles of coming out?
So every year at Burning Man there’s a camp that gives out something called a “Gay Card,” it’s a joke, you have to pass a test and then you’re a certified gay and you get this card with your name on it and it’s like “here’s your gay card.” The questions are like: “What street is not like the other?” and one will be like Christopher Street, Santa Monica Boulevard, Wall Street and the Castro. One day with a friend it was his first year and he saw this thing in the book called the “Gay Card” and I was like I’ll come with you it’s so fun. So we walked out of the camp with our “Gay Cards” and we had them around our necks and as we were getting on our bikes and he was like “I’m gay” and I was like “I’m gay” and we started getting louder and louder as we were riding our bikes and every person we rode past we were like “I’m gay “ and “no his gay” and then I’m shouting “I’MMMM GAAAYY” and we just kept getting louder and louder and louder and then every time we stopped at an intersection [at Burning Man] we would scream “I’M GAY” as loud we could. There’s something about doing that that is so fun and it felt so freeing and I felt so safe especially in an inclusive environment that I can’t even tell you how it came to be it was very organic and just felt really good to be so open about that and to shout it out.
I think in terms of saying those words now versus me ten years ago it’s crazy the transformation. [back then] I couldn’t even admit it to myself, the very first person that I told I was gay I went on a walk with her and she was a person I knew and I was going to tell and it was after I had graduated from college and we were on a walk for two hours and I still hadn’t said anything and I was trying to talk around it and finally I said it and I started crying. She was like “I thought this is what you were going to tell me and I had my hands in my pockets with my fingers crossed hoping you were going to tell me.” I’ve come along away since.
We’re ingrained to believe that certain emotions have positive or negative connotations. You’ve mentioned that you try not to label emotions and rather embrace the emotion. Why is this important, especially for men’s mental health?
The patriarchy affects men negatively too regardless of whether you’re gay or straight and sometimes we don’t see it that way but it does, it creates a system where men need to suppress their feelings and act a certain way – even men that are straight and white who have all this privilege are still having to live in a way that is hard because they have to suppress so many emotions. I think we, as gay men have the opportunity to express our emotions and feel them and I express them. It’s important to know that we are multidimensional people and we have different emotions at different times, rather than shutting them down it’s important to acknowledge them and learn from them.
“At this stage, I’m not focused on trying to get more defined abs or bigger biceps, I’d rather help other people get started instead.”
What are you currently reading to, listening to and devoted to?
Ashley Piper’s Book, “Give A Shit,” I carry it with me everywhere.
The podcast, “Waking Up.”
Listening to the new Monolink album.
Wellness goals for 2019?
At this stage, I’m not focused on trying to get more defined abs or bigger biceps, I’d rather help people get started instead. To inspire more people to lead a healthier life and to continue to lead Whole Life Challenge programs (Join Dave’s January 2019 Whole Life Challenge Team HERE) where it encourages other people to get onboard with a lifestyle that makes them feel good. That’s where my focus is for next year.
The most important lesson you’re taking away from this year?
I’m going to try and explain this, so I’ve done Aids/LifeCycle in the past and you’re riding your bike from San Francisco to L.A. and let me tell you every minute of that is not fun. You’re like I’m going to do this thing and then when you’re on it you’re like man this sucks, but everyone thinks you’re having a great time. So perspective is important, it goes with my life and certain things that I’m doing now to not necessarily hide those moments of difficulty because there’s probably other people too who feel that way. It’s now when I’m having this conversation with people I think it’s important to be real and try to integrate more of the full picture of feelings, it’s more real and it’s more relatable and people can connect with that which leads to a better connection overall.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
“Start with kindness.” You don’t know what someone’s going through at any given moment so be kind.