Interview With Shanti Tilling: Sweat Play Live Founder

Have you ever met someone who completely inspires you to want to be like them? I first met Shanti seven years ago at the Bay Club. From the instant I took her kickboxing class I was blown away by her confidence, her skills and her overall badassery.

She’s insanely fit, gorgeous, and a super talented instructor. She now lives the dream life splitting her time between Mexico and the U.S. and leading successful action packed  retreats that include mountain biking, beach bootcamps, surfing, yoga and end with an exotic margarita at the end of the day.

Check her out!

Shanti Tilling Sweating, Playing and Living it up in Nayarit Mexico from Darrin Polischuk on Vimeo.


Shanti Tilling


Punta de Mita (9 months), Park City Utah (3 months)


Fitness Trainer, Fitness Retreat Leader

Favorite Book

Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Favorite Movie

Love Actually

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

Who doesn’t want to fly! Any migrating bird. I would love to be able to cover great distances.. maybe it is the traveler in me. 🙂


Do you have a guilty pleasure you can share?

I have a major sweet tooth – Pie (my favorite), cake, brownies, caramel apples, and gelato… My husband, Mack,  is a gelatiere, so gelato is a food group in our house.

Vegan Banana Pineapple Coconut muffins
Vegan Banana Pineapple Coconut muffins that Shanti made

You are an avid world traveler. What’s your favorite place you’ve travelled to and why?

This is a tuffy… Thailand for the people, culture, and food (and $3 thai massages), but the Daintree Rain Forest in Australia was fascinating for the plants and different wildlife. Diving up there on the Great Barrier Reef was incredible too.

We went to Ladahk, India this summer for the Kalachakra – it is the highest initiation ceremony for buddhist monks (we are not Buddhist monks). It was 7 days of meditation and chanting led by the Dalai Lama. 200,000 beautiful people all gathered to embody compassion and love, surrounded by the majestic Himalayas. WOW.


What sparked your transition from Bay Area,California to part-time Mexico and now Utah?

Honestly, moving to Mexico was a surprise Christmas present from Mack. We were in Bali for the holidays (which I thought was my actual xmas present) and he gives me a card. At the bottom was a Mexican address.

I thought it was another trip – woohoo! He said he had rented us a place in Punta de Mita the following month and was hoping I would want to try living down here! I had a 10 second “oh shit” moment and then got SUPER EXCITED!

We had always talked about living in another country and he knew I loved Punta de Mita because I had already been leading fitness retreats here for 3 years at that time. People thought we were crazy. I gave up all of my personal training clients (some of which I had for over 13 years) and all of my classes, I figured we could always move back to Marin if it didn’t work out.

But we are still here 3 years later! We go to Park City, Utah for the summers to escape the heat and humidity, and also to get our mountain biking fix.

Shanti and her husband Mack

This is a bit more of a practical question, but I always wonder- how have you adjusted to your various transitions in dealing with new communities, new housing, all your belongings?

We meet people through our interests – fitness, surfing, and road and mountain biking. Both communities are very outdoorsy, which in my opinion attracts cool, easy going, down to earth people.

We pack and move a lot. That is not the fun part, but I think it is so worth it. We have downsized quite a bit. I have Mexico clothes and a few bags of Park City clothes …more jeans, jackets, boots, etc. We do not buy nearly as much “stuff” as we used to.

Here in Mexico, especially, you see how little people live with. I keep a give-away bag in the corner of my bedroom, and am constantly adding to it. And, I have a new policy that if I buy an article of clothing, I have to give up two.

What has been your favorite aspect of creating and managing your company Sweat Play Live?

I literally created SPL after looking for a retreat to do all of my favorite things, but could not find one. So every day of my retreat is my favorite day! I LOVE getting people outside and sharing new experiences with them.

When people do things they never thought they were strong enough to – like stand up on a surf board, or climb to a high peak – and you see this new confidence and light in their eyes… that is just the best feeling in the world for me.

Shanti leading a beach group class in Sayulita, Mexico
Shanti leading a beach group class in Sayulita, Mexico

You juggle a lot- fitness, yoga and mountain biking retreats, daily classes, private do you find balance between all those things in your life? Do you have any tips on how to stay productive while still maintaining time for your personal life and relax?

Finding balance is a day to day process. I used to be the trainer who taught 3 classes a day, trained 3 clients and then went for a 2-hour mtn bike ride followed by yoga. I am definitely more balanced since moving down to Mexico.

My husband and I both work from home, so we see each other quite a bit. Since we both enjoy cycling and surfing, we are able to do those together.

I generally like to get my own workouts in early, then have the luxury of planning my computer work and clients around our outdoor adventures. I also started a regular meditation practice this year. Only 10-15minutes most days a week.

After dealing with some pretty serious health issues 10 years ago, I decided to put myself first. I make my marriage, health, and personal time a priority. I keep a written weekly schedule, and scheduling work, meetings, workouts, dates, relax time, etc. keeps my life more balanced. I can open up my organizer and see my whole (balanced) week laid out in front of me.


What is your most vivid memory of any race you’ve competed in?

Fun question! Mountain bike racing, especially stage racing, is incredibly physically demanding and brings up crazy emotions. When we raced TransPortugal I was sick before we even started and got heat stroke the first day – I pulled out after 6 hours of riding. They let me continue “racing” the week and on the last day (day 8), after literally riding across the country, I was 5 miles from the finish when the ocean came into view. I was so physically and emotionally drained that I started sobbing.

I had spent hours and hours everyday with only my thoughts – I learned during that race that I used mountain bike racing as my way to feel that I was “good enough. I couldn’t be a “good, strong” human being without that title of mountain bike racer. I still love mountain biking and have raced since then, but now because I want to, not because I “need” to.

Shanti MTBiking with her husband
Shanti MTBiking with her husband

What is the most challenging experience you’ve had in​ your​
​athletic career? ​

I would say it would be how I started my fitness career teaching Taebo, back in 1997. I was actually painfully shy – like, not-look-you-in-the-eye shy. I moved up to Marin to help my boyfriend open up a Tae Kwon Do studio.. his Grand Master was great friends with Billy Blanks (Taebo creator) and I was going to be teaching the first classes in SF Bay Area.

I had never taught anything and had only taken my first Taebo class months before. I trained for hours and hours everyday learning proper technique and putting together that first class. The day I had to teach, I threw up twice and when I got in front of the class to demonstrate the punches and kicks, my arms and legs were literally shaking out of control.

I wanted to cry. BUT, instead of crying, I raised my voice (to cover up it cracking) and just totally faked it. Spiritual people would call that “Acting as if.” I called it, faking it – and faking it worked. I threw up before every class (2 classes a day) for 6 months. That’s what it took for me to become comfortable teaching, and now over 10,000 fitness classes later, I still can get nervous. That was such a huge learning experience for me. I still try to do things that scare me everyday, because that is how I have grown and will continue to grow throughout my life.


Tell me about your personal​ exercise ​practice. How often do you practice, for how long, where?​

I currently teach beach bootcamps, boxing, and my own athletic flow class, Move Your Asana, that I co-created with my friend Heather McKenzie. Here in Mexico, I ride outside only once a week and get on my spin bike 2 times a week. I have picked up the surfing bug, so we are chasing waves 2-5 times a week depending on the swell.

In Park City, it is all about mountain biking. Almost everyday. I also go to the gym and box on the heavy bags, take kickboxing, and go to yoga twice a week. I love mixing it up – that is how I keep my body feeling balanced.


Check out Shanti’s retreats and more info about her HERE

Find Sweat Play Live on Facebook

and Instagram

2 thoughts on “Interview With Shanti Tilling: Sweat Play Live Founder

  1. Hi, Valentina:

    Another interesting interview!

    I loved learning that she was @sick to her stomach” nervous when she first started teaching but pushed through anyway!

    And tying it to the adage that we all need to do something every day that scares us in order to grow!

    Beautiful photos and inspiring stuff to lead a more healthy and beautiful life.


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