Introducing Our Expert Partner: Don Saladino

Don Saladino in a blue tank top with a red backwards trucker hat. he has an apollo wearable in black on his left wrist.

Meet celebrity fitness trainer Don Saladino, Apollo’s newest expert partner. Don has coached actors, athletes, & musicians for over 20 years, including Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Annie Hathaway, Liev Schreiber, and Hugh Jackman. Don opened his first gym in 2005. After operating brick & mortar gyms for 15 years, he expanded to a global online fitness business. Don lives in New York with his wife, Mel, and their two children, Amelia and Donny Jr. - & their pups Rigatoni & Sambuca. 

How did you originally get into fitness and health? 

I think I back it up to about the second grade when I was struggling with a bad stutter and a hearing problem. I had to go in and have surgery. I remember I started with sports then started training later on in my high school days. I realized that the training I was doing was not only going to help my baseball out, but it was going to help my health and wellness. So it was that one thing in my life that I realized that the more emphasis I put into it, the more of a return I would receive out of it. When professional baseball didn't work out, I ended up becoming a coach because that was my way of being able to help people and stay in the gym 24/7. And it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

What is your advice to someone who is just starting a training program? 

Start easy. Consistency trumps intensity. Study the exercise videos, go through motions. Just get good quality reps in. Do not focus on trying to go 100%. If you're new to exercise, I want you to take weeks to a term I like to use is, marinate into the workout, marinate into the session. You will develop the ability to increase intensity. But in the meantime, just show up, get the work in, follow the technique and good things are going to happen. 

What are your words of wisdom for someone who has been training for awhile but isn’t seeing results anymore? 

Take a different approach, hire a coach, join an online community. Find some sort of a filter where you can go in, and you can have someone who's a professional jump into your life a bit and look at the things that you're doing. And I'm sure there's a lot of things you're doing that are great, but I'm sure there are things that you are doing that we can improve. It might even be going easier or working out less. There's all this information and we're trying to pull things offline -that could become very confusing. So I think just streamline it, commit to a coach, commit to some type of an online forum, put your head down, and try to approach it a bit differently.

What is the most common mistake or misconception about fitness prevalent today? 

That every workout has to be this 110% approach. I think you start getting in really good shape. And you start feeling really good about your energy and your body and your movement, when you recognize that certain days you got to go hard. And other days, you got to back off a bit. And how do you know how to do this? Join an online community or you hire a coach, and you start learning how to train. A lot of us go in and just work out. And working out is when you're pulling a workout off the internet and you're just going through the motions. You're not really focusing on executing reps. So I think we always tie in training to this rocky type mentality where we have to be going to the point of collapsing and exhaustion. And it's actually the complete opposite.

I'd rather you be consistent. I'd rather you recognize when there are days where you have high levels of energy, and we could put our foot on the gas. And other days when your body's just worn down and tired from life in general. And when that happens, back off, go through the motions, dog it a bit. Feel good about yourself when you're leaving that session and rinse and repeat the following day. 

Why is improving HRV important when it comes to fitness? 

HRV is a great way for us to be able to individually quantify where we are at. And if we're noticing that our HRV drops, that might be telling us that our readiness isn't where it needs to be that day, and we can adjust our stress levels that day. We can adjust our training intensity, our training volume, maybe even take off and allow our body to recover so the following day we can come back and be successful. So HRV is a great tool that allows us to be able to assess where we are individually day in and day out. 

It's also a great tool to be able to see if we're improving our overall conditioning. And if we are, you might see that number going up. And if we are overdoing things and we have a high level of stress and we're not recovering, you might see that number go down. 

How do you use your Apollo wearable to improve your HRV? 

I use my Apollo wearable to help improve my moments of relaxation, my moments of unwinding, and my moments of sleep. It has been part of my everyday routine when I'm done with work. When I put my Apollo wearable on, that's almost my switch to be able to ignite my ability to recover and unwind. And what I'm finding now is that my sleep quality has improved according to my Oura Ring. I am feeling like I'm waking up the following day with higher levels of energy, which for me is probably my most important focus. I want high levels of energy. When my energy is high, that means that I can work at the level I want to work at. I can train at the level I want to train at, and I have a high level of mental readiness. 

And in meetings, I don't feel like I need that cup of coffee. As long as my energy's always good, I feel like I can accomplish anything. So this has definitely been an incredible tool for me in the sense of actually being able to improve these attributes. Even though most wearables are giving us the data and the information to improve it, this is actually helping us to improve it. 

What are your other favorite ways to use your Apollo? Any favorite Vibes?

My favorite Vibes are Calm, Unwind, and Sleep. Sleep I use most frequently. I'm pretty much always putting sleep on for the minimum of two hours. And if I'm in bed watching TV or I'm with the family, I might even run it while I'm sleeping, and I find nine out of 10 times I'm falling asleep with it on. I'm getting a much more restful night's sleep. I find that when I get out of the shower and my watch is off, that is my switch to put the Apollo on. 

When my Apollo goes on, that means that my evening routine has began. It’s then that I'm trying to do things that are calming, I'm trying to relax myself, trying not to have exposure to so much blue light. I'm putting my phone away. This is really the switch that allows me to start preparing for my recovery time, my sleep time, which is one of the most important times of the day for me. Because then that gives me the ability to be able to bounce back day in and day out with a high level of focus. 

How do you prioritize rest and recovery with your clients?

We could be on the best training program of all time if it ever existed. We could have a chef who's preparing for us the most nutrient-dense meals. If our rest and recovery is off, we're going to be doing ourselves a major injustice. So it's one of the first questions that I ask. It's one of the first things that I want us to start focusing on. 

In doing so, a lot of this does come down to our evening routine and us unwinding and us learning to put the phone down, us not answering emails at 9:00 or 10:00 PM at night. These things are going to really heavily stimulate our mind and it's going to keep us from getting that quality rest that we need. For me throwing on my Apollo wearable, this is definitely that, I keep using the term switch that prepares me for that calming state. Allowing my body to get good quality sleep, rest, recover, rinse, and repeat. 

What is a personal health goal you have for yourself for this year? 

I wouldn't say it's one specific thing. My goals have been the same goals every year. How do I get better quality sleep? How do I lower stress levels? How do I continually try to get more nutrient dense food? How do I allow my mobility to continue to improve? How do I continue to get stronger? I'm going to be 47 this year. So the fact that I'm still getting stronger and I'm still improving physically and mentally, I think for me is a testament to the work that I put into this.

It doesn't get easier in the sense that we can back off. Like we need to find things. We need to find ways to help us improve these areas. And if I find something that's helping me to give myself an extra 15 minutes of sleep at night, even though that doesn't sound like a lot, it's a lot. I'm going to lean on that. So again, it's just all the above. It's just trying to improve all those attributes.