When we sat down with Mark for a story around icebaths we got one of the most powerful and moving responses on an unexpected topic - depression. Recently, Movember has amped up the topic of blokes talking, opening up and expressing themselves and there is also the #ITSOKTOTALK movement helping to break down the traditional masculine stereotype barriers for the modern man. All good stuff. Make sure you watch this Movember clip after reading this story for at the end is an image that literally sent ice chills through our crew. We all should have a mate like Mark.
1. Name, age, location?
Mark Kluwer, 51, Alphington Vic
2. What do you do?
I now run my own building and maintenance company M-Con Kluwer Group. We do all types of building and maintenance work through Melbourne Victoria and some country areas. I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years - I actually started on the Rialto in about 1984 as an apprentice, then got into sanitary plumbing, then my brother and I went on to get our building license 20 years ago.
3. Earliest lesson?
Starting as an apprentice on a big job there was about 80 fellas on site and only a couple of us apprentices and I learned pretty quickly that you’ve gotta stand up for yourself, because in those days they wanted to give apprentices a hard time. Things are really different now, that behaviour was bullshit. You’ve gotta look after young people and nurture them which is not how they used to do it mate.
4. What would you rather be doing?
I would like to work more with people and help motivate them to get out more in nature - I think that’s important, I think the way society seems to be going is that we don’t spend enough time in nature. We’re in a bit of a cotton wool stage at the moment and I reckon we really need to change a few things and help our young people deal with some of the problems they are facing. By getting out into the rawness - it’s real mate and there’s no bullshit - it is what it is. There’s a human instinct to tap into when it comes to survival, the elements are harsh and nature is raw but you gotta embrace it mate - it’ll give you strength - if you don’t embrace it you’ll never get out of your comfort zone.
5. How do you look after yourself?
I go to the gym regularly, I train 5 days a week at 5th Element Wellness down in North Fitzroy. Dave and Matt have got a great team there and I train with them. I am on a macro nutrient plan that I’m pretty strict with it. Good food is one of the most important things you can give your body and the guys there integrate that into what they do. I’m quite fastidious in preparation and it is a pain sometimes at home but I do what I can and I understand the benefits - I’m 51 you know but I feel 30 (laughs hard). I’m leaner now than when I was 24 mate - work that one out! (laughs even harder)
6. Do you think men need to moisturise?
Yes. I know I’m a bit of a hirsute character and I haven’t done it as much as I should but yeah - I think it’s very important.
7. What should men do more often?
Tell each other how they feel. What you see is what you get with me - there’s no bullshit - you know I’m straight down the line. On a building site that’s you have to be. You see someone doing the wrong thing you’ve gotta pull ‘em up. Telling blokes they’ve done a good job is a good thing - even grown men in their 50’s - good feedback is good for team morale.
I’m a strong advocate for empowering men to show their feelings. They need to show their love for one another, it’s not a sign of weakness it’s actually a sign of strength. It’s really important that men don’t bottle things up, that they talk amongst themselves so that they can have the right support. It’s really important - you don’t have to take it all your own, if you’re having some shit going down and need to speak to people about it and open up, shed a tear mate. Coz when you shed a tear it takes a big load of you - it’s really important and that’s what I feel and want other blokes to realise.
8. When was the last time you were wrong?
I make mistakes probably nearly every day - that’s how you learn. I tell my apprentices - if you make a mistake it’s OK - just be upfront and tell me and we’ll learn from that.
9 .What’s the most brutal truth you’ve faced?
I’m lucky in that I’ve had to face anything really brutal. But as a parent your kids go through issues when they’re growing up and at the moment in my life I want to be able to guide them but not step in too much. You can point the arrow for them in the right direction but then it’s up to them.
10. Tell us about your tattoos.
People think that the three rings on my arm mean I’m sponsored by Adidas which isn’t true (laughs). They represent the loves of my life - my wife and two daughters.
The sailing ship is because my background is dutch and my ancestors were sailors and the compass is linked to the sailing and reminds me to focus on direction. The other one is for my birthplace with co-ordinates and the anchor is there that holds me to that place and gives me a bit of luck at the same time.
11.What do you care about?
(Pauses) I deeply care about my family - it’s a good question actually coz there’s a lot of things I care about. I care about the planet and people - I don’t know if we have enough time to go into all things I care about but I’ve learned recently that health, happiness and strength are at the middle of it all and I want to help people see that.
12. We have time, tell us more about that.
An opportunity opened up to go to a retreat that Wim Hof hosted down at Aireys Inlet that went for five days. I got to spend a lot of time with him - he reminded me of one of my Dutch uncles and we got a long like brothers. It was an intensive course on his method (Wim Hof Method) which is about breathing and mind over matter and it incorporates ice baths which was fun. It’s all about facing fear and working through the challenges with the tools you’ve been given.
When you sit in an ice bath the first thing you want to do is tense up and hold your breath and panic, whereas what you need to do is take control of your breathing and use the alkaline balance method to overcome the situation. I ended up belting out a few tunes (like in the shot below) out of pure exhilaration! - (laughs.)
A lot of people have seen him now he is quite famous in relation to what he can do and he holds about 21 world records for all sorts of things like climbing Everest in his shorts and swimming under ice. I had heaps of fun at the retreat and it’s really exhilarating, it’s magnificent and you feel like you have strength of ten men - it’s grouse. (laughs hard)
(Wim Hof emerging from ice - Image © Henny Boogert)
13. Tell us about that message written on the fog of that glass.
That's a whole other story but in basically I have a mate that is suffering from depression. He's doing it pretty tough so every morning when I'm up early I write a different message on my car window and it send it him.
If you need to speak with someone immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.