The honey-coloured sun sets into the Pacific as Luke Burella and a couple of his closest friends stroll up from the beach, surfboards in hand. They are salt-soaked, sun-kissed, and exhausted in the best possible way. Back at the casita, the smell of freshly-caught fish wafts from the kitchen as the rest of the crew discuss the bonfire that evening and whether they will participate in sunrise yoga or run on the beach before breakfast.
Luke smiles. This is what the human experience is all about.
It’s also a glimpse into a typical evening on one of Primitive Patterns’ wellness retreats, hosted in a remote town on the northwest shore of Nicaragua.
Luke, along with brothers Jake and Josh Burella and friends Tate Funston and Cole Martin, founded Primitive Patterns in 2017 with the belief that healthier living comes from creating healthier patterns. The Collingwood-based fitness and lifestyle brand advocates for expanding human potential by fostering a connection between the mind, body, and universe.
“Every one of us is born with innate potential. Realizing that potential and getting the most out of our time on earth is what fuels us to help people,” says Luke. “A healthy body allows you to adventure and be able to take on anything that’s thrown your way, a healthy mind allows you to find daily stillness and be grateful for this amazing life, and a connection with nature has been vital to the health of every generation before us, so why should we be any different?”
Through personal training programs, community events, and Mind Body Universe experiences, Primitive Patterns aims to change the way we look at health as a whole. The guys are young, and they will be the first to tell you they’re not yet experts — but their promise is that they will be someday. And they have the passion to prove it.
While each founder has his own educational background and area of expertise, they all share the same spark in their eye when they explain why they do what they do. Every one of them has put in endless hours of work creating programs for Primitive Patterns; they treat each other as equals and value the role each individual plays in the company as a whole. They are family.
“It’s been fun to watch us grow individually,” says Cole. “We are always trying to challenge why we do what we do and are constantly evolving not only ourselves and our education, but what we are offering to our clients as well.”
It all began in the summer of 2017. The guys witnessed the frustrations of the fitness industry firsthand and were determined to prove there was a better way, so they started hosting community workouts on Saturday mornings at Sunset Point Park. The workouts were free and open to anyone who wanted to attend. Numbers quickly grew, and the following summer, the Saturday sweat session became something of a ritual.
While the workouts were unique in the way that they always incorporated breathwork, meditation, and yoga-based movement, it wasn’t the physical exercise that was making people healthier — it was the community connection.
“It’s irrelevant whether you do a med ball slam or jumping jacks, it’s sharing the moment together,” says Tate. “You learn something in that hour… About yourself or about life. I base the success of a session on whether or not somebody learned something.”
For five guys who are arguably very fit, working out is a very small part of what they preach. As Luke describes it, “The gym is the vehicle they use to help people have a better human experience.”
That being said, their ideal client is anyone who simply wants to live a better life — from the 14-year-old on track for the NHL to the 40-year-old who wants to keep up with his kids. For Primitive Patterns, it’s less about niching a skill set and more about niching the mentality.
“It’s a growth-based mindset,” says Josh.
Luke agrees, “I think we all share similar values and a lot of the clients who come through our door already align with what our values are.”
But don’t be fooled, these guys are beasts. And there’s no denying that all five of them practice what they preach.
Last summer Jake and Josh set out to swim across Georgian Bay to raise money and awareness for mental health. It was a beast of a battle that involved months of both mental and physical training. Then, in March, Luke and Tate completed the David Goggins challenge — running four miles every four hours for 48 hours — doing it in the dead of winter no less.
To strengthen the mind, Cole founded Cole’s Concepts, a written series that offers a refreshing take on the fitness industry as it currently stands.
“I think it’s important for us to embody our philosophy. We talk a lot about doing hard things and expanding potential, so I think it’s important for people to see that we are really out here practicing what we preach,” says Luke.
“I also think on an individual level, testing your character every so often is healthy,” he continues. “To remind yourself you are capable of pain and suffering and you will come through on the other side. It’s an important thing to know.”
At the end of the day, for all of the five guys, it really is about doing their part to better their health and better the health of their community. The Mind Body Universe experiences play a large part in this. From events like the fundraising swim and the community workouts by the water, to taking a group of individuals abroad, it’s about opening our minds up to what’s possible.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that people create limits on what’s possible, but that’s not true,” says Luke. “It’s opening their eyes to experiences they might not have had. We want people who train with us to join us on these experiences because to us, that plays a huge part in their overall health when they come back.”
“And the impact they have on others in their life,” adds Cole.
The guys are always brainstorming new and innovative ways they can continue creating that sense of community both in Collingwood and abroad. Later this year, they will host their first Mind Body Universe experience in Guatemala, and they are planning another fundraising event this summer. Primitive Patterns is also in the midst of opening a new facility in Collingwood that will feature an open-concept gym and lounge space.
If there is anything they’ve learned this past year, it’s reaffirmed the importance of why they do what they do.
“I think it has solidified our principles that human connection is essential,” says Cole.
“It’s what the world needs more than ever,” adds Luke. “I wake up every day with the belief that I am helping people expand their potential and become healthier in mind and body. It’s so meaningful to me, and I get to do it with a team that I love. I couldn’t ask for much more.”
And no matter what, they will always continue to host the free community workouts on Saturday mornings at Sunset Point. Because that’s where the connection happens.
Words by Maddie Johnson
Photos by Jessica Crandlemire