Balancing Act: How One Playground CEO Integrates Fitness into Life

In our latest conversation, Justin Ashley, CEO of One Playground, dives into the principles of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and how these practices shape the culture of his dynamic fitness business. 

Justin shares his personal routine that combines strength training, fitness classes, and the innovative use of technology like the aura ring to monitor stress and sleep, underscoring the importance of mental resilience and viewing stress as a positive force. 

Justin, given your extensive background in fitness, how do you personally maintain a healthy work-life balance, and how does this philosophy influence the culture at One Playground?

Ensuring a healthy work-life balance is key for me. I maintain a consistent routine, making sure that I exercise at least four days a week, using a combination of strength training, fitness classes and a personal trainer. 

Mindset also plays a big role in my work-life balance. I’ve learned to acknowledge that not every week will be easy, there will be good weeks and not-so-good weeks. There’s an amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, ‘Make Stress Your Friend’.  It emphasises viewing stress as a positive thing in our lives as it boosts focus, energy, and awareness. I’ve learned to embrace stress and believe that I’m at my most productive when I’m under pressure. 

I also recently bought an aura ring which monitors my sleep quality and readiness each day. So far, I have found it to be really effective at helping me maintain balance in my busy daily life. If it is telling me that my stress levels are higher than usual, I prioritise spending time with my family and spending time outdoors to unwind and relax.

My team’s health and wellness are top priorities. We provide complimentary gym memberships to all team members and encourage everyone to take an hour-long break to exercise and use the facilities during the day. We also offer flexible working hours so people can work the hours that best suit them and their lifestyle.

Can you walk us through your typical daily routine? How do you integrate wellness and fitness practices into your day, especially with the demands of leading such a dynamic business?

Managing multiple locations and a large team can be quite demanding. I find that waking up really early is the best way to get some focused time to work on the business and my fitness, with minimal distractions.

I usually wake up before 5AM, set my goals for the day and work uninterrupted until I go into the office around 9AM. These four or five hours allow me to get most of my deep work completed. Once I’m in the office, I’ll generally have meetings until 4.30PM. In the evening, my attention shifts to spending quality time with my family and focusing on my health and wellness. 

Wellness and fitness often go beyond just physical activity. What are some key wellness practices or philosophies that you incorporate into the business to support the overall well-being of your clients and staff?

One of our core values is to be better every day. To us, it doesn’t matter if you are super fit and strong or just starting out on your fitness journey, what matters is that you’re improving.

For someone that might mean moving from doing a push-up on their knees to doing a push-up on their toes, whereas for someone else that might be reaching a personal best in a powerlifting competition.

Another of our core values is great humans. From induction, all team members are taught to be a friendly face and say hello to everyone they meet each day. Building those positive relationships with members and team members creates strong connections which is a huge part of health and wellness. 

In today’s fast-paced world, many struggle to find time for fitness. How does One Playground help its members incorporate fitness into their busy schedules, and what advice do you have for people trying to achieve this balance?

We understand the struggle of fitting fitness into a busy schedule which is why we try to keep our classes and coaching sessions to 45 minutes or under. This ensures they are time efficient but remain effective for those on-the-go.

We have an amazing app called the One Coach app, which allows our clients to follow a fitness plan even when they are not in a coaching session. It connects to MyFitnessPal, and resembles having a personal trainer in your pocket. This is a key support for our members with busy lifestyles. As well as this, some of our locations provide 24-hour club access. 

My advice for achieving a balanced lifestyle is to see fitness as an essential, manageable part of your daily routine, rather than an optional extra. We aim to create an experience in each of our facilities so that people love coming in to exercise, rather than dreading it. 

How do you see the role of fitness evolving in people’s pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, especially considering the increased awareness around mental health and work-life balance?

AUSactive, who are the governing body of Australian fitness, recently completed a study which found that 40% of adults in Australia attended a gym at least once in the last year, so we are starting to see a huge increase in people starting a fitness routine.

The fitness industry is also beginning to play a large role in social connection, with the shift coming as more people are working from home or in a hybrid role. We are seeing social connections coming into things like people working out together, walking together and so on, particularly within the younger generation. Fitness and wellness social activities have become a huge trend which is great to see. 

There is more emphasis placed on work-life balance because of the shift to due to a work-from-home culture. I think over the next couple of years, we will find a middle ground where people begin to work in a more hybrid fashion but many companies will push for people to be back in the office. I think in order to do that they’re going to need to give a reason and it will need to highlight the benefits of social connection and what they can offer in terms of health and wellness. 

Could you share any innovative approaches or programs at One Playground that specifically address the balance between physical fitness, mental well-being, and a busy lifestyle?

I think that some of the events that we have done in the past, as well as those planned for this year, support the combination of fitness and mental health. Last year we teamed up with Breathless Expeditions to host breathwork workshops at One Playground. They ran two, three-hour long workshops to highlight the benefits of breathwork and provided our members with practical tools to enhance their everyday life. 

On the flip side, we are hosting two burlesque workshops this month which provide a fun and connected environment. We are working on a lot of wellness elements and new facility launches, but also balancing that with experiential, fun and community events. 

Last year, we moved beyond health and fitness and extended into the lifestyle space when we ran an event called Pilates & Prosecco for Mother’s Day to connect families and remind people that the joy in life comes from finding a healthy balance and having fun.

It was a really beautiful event. Running a combination of these events is a really great way for our members to build relationships and community, which as we know are core pillars of mental health, along with exercise and movement. 

As a fitness industry leader, how do you stay updated and adapt to the changing needs of people seeking a balanced and healthy lifestyle, especially in a suburb like Newtown?

As an avid exerciser myself, I make sure that I am exercising not just in my own gyms but in studios and gyms around the world. I’ve done recent trips to Europe and the US and exercised in over 50 different gyms and studios.

This global exposure allows me to identify emerging trends that inspire fresh ideas. At One Playground we have a focus on innovation, so while it’s great to know what our competitors have already done, we love to think about what hasn’t been done and bring that to the market. 

Over the next twelve to twenty-four months, we’ll be launching a number of new locations as well as fresh new ideas and concepts tailored to meet the needs of our communities. One Playground is a ‘super boutique’, so we cater for all things fitness, health and wellness under one roof but with a boutique feel.

Each of our locations are uniquely designed to cater to the needs of that specific demographic, meaning no two One Playground facilities or studios will ever be the same. By adapting our designs and services to reflect the changing needs of our members, we ensure that One Playground remains at the forefront of providing comprehensive well-being solutions in Newtown and beyond!

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.