Kellen Milad: Milwaukee's Free Mover
So it's been a while since I've posted on this project. I've let a few things get in the way, and my focus got a little off for the past few months (pun totally intended). However, I finally feel like I'm getting back to where I need to be both mentally and physically.
A major catalyst for getting me back on track has been the amazing community of people around me. Doing yoga and meeting the members of Urban Om (their story) for our monthly photo shoots has introduced me to some pretty incredible people in the Milwaukee community. Recently Kelsey, the studio's co-owner, introduced me to Kellen Milad.
Kellen practices what he describes as "free movement". Basically it's a combination of yoga, parcour, gymnastics, running, climbing, lifting and pretty much any natural movement that doesn't require a gym space. He bases the practice around three principals:
- Practical movements like claiming, carrying, jumping, lifting, and balancing.
- Playful practice that sparks creativity and makes these movements enjoyable
- And the Personal journey that is unique to you and your movement.
To showcase these ideas and demonstrate that no gym is required, we decided to photograph and play in a natural environment. Along the way, I had the opportunity to learn what Milwaukee means to Kellen.
Q: Were you born in/when did you move to Milwaukee?...What was it like growing up in Milwaukee?
I was born in and raised in Milwaukee. I definitely didn't appreciate the city like I do now. My childhood time was split between Whitefish Bay and the inner city. I crossed the starkly drawn racial lines on a daily basis. Being biracial presented some unique challenges with Milwaukee being such a segregated city. I return about 2.5 years ago to find that Milwaukee has made a lot of progress since those days.
Q: What is your favorite part about the city?
My favorite part of Milwaukee is how we embrace food as part of the culture. That might sound odd coming from a "fitness guy" but I'm all about good food made with love. When I moved back I was unsure if it would be a good fit. Once I started getting acquainted with the restaurant scene I knew I would be alright calling MKE home again. I am so impressed with the number of restaurants that are sourced locally and continually raise the bar to produce innovative menus without being pretentious.
Q: What makes Milwaukee unique?
I have traveled all over the country and I can say that what makes Milwaukee unique is PRIDE. We know this city isn't perfect but we are so proud to rep MKE. Along with this pride you can tell that people really care about continuing to improve the city. The growth of local businesses, the lakefront festivals, community activism, the park system - I see all this goodness as the result of people having a deep sense of pride and caring for MKE.
Q: How do you feel connected to Milwaukee?
I love so much about this city and I am also in a position to give back now - that mutual bond makes me feel very connected. I want to help Milwaukee improve by helping individuals learn how to cultivate better health through lifestyle balance.
Q: What led you towards your practice?
Whoa, that's a long story. In short, I found a lot of emotional strength and mental energy through the development of my physical practice. I was in graduate school for counseling psychology when I realized that I wanted to help people access this inner strength through fitness. As time passed, it became less about exercise and goals and more about the bigger picture of health. Now I call what I do Free Movement - my practice of moving that is practical, playful, and personal.
Q: How does the community you've created influence/benefit the city?
In terms of health / fitness, the city is in need of an upgrade. The community we're building at CO/MO is dedicated to helping people move like humans again. We aren't about random acts of exercise. We're about making movement playful and meaningful again. We know our bodies can do so much more than biceps curls and ellipticals. And we know our bodies deserve so much better than being constantly abused and beaten down. Basically, we want to see a more balanced Milwaukee. Forget work hard, play hard...I want the new saying to be work hard, recover well, and play often.
The morning I spent photographing and chatting with Kellen really had a lasting effect on me. The idea of "enjoying what you do" really rings true when he describes what its like to train the way he does. He explained to me that its not a completion with anyone but yourself, you just have to push the be the best version of yourself possible. I really feel like that can be said for virtually anything you are passionate about.