Asylum Fitness

Caveman Unconventional Gym of the Month: Asylum Fitness

Gym:  Asylum Fitness
AKA: The Ludus
Since: April 2011
Address: 5336 Masonboro Loop Rd. Wilmington, NC 28409
Owner: Mark Smith

Speciality:  We teach people to move better, move creatively, pain free and believe in connecting to the natural environment in our practice.  We also have a great love of strongman training and stones for the purpose of getting crazy strong.

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
Steve Prefontaine



Mark Smith began working in a Gold’s Gym and after a couple years decided he wanted to go out on his own….  Asylum Fitness started off on his parents screened in back porch with a 20lbs and 35lbs kettlebell and a BoSU ball.


I think I might have even had a medicine ball or two.


Eventually he was teaching classes of 6-7 students even though he didn’t have and much equipment.  After a little more than a year he found an old carpentry shed that he was able to rent and convert into an amazing studio.  Through the years he has grown and evolved as a coach and continues to learn more as often as possible.






I started training with Mark Smith in the fall of 2010, before he had a studio, before he had a business, and before he had more than a few kettlebells to his name. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Mark and his business, Asylum Fitness (AF), is evolution – the gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. I think of the evolution of his teaching methodology and fitness philosophy and the evolution of my own fitness training and philosophy. Before I met Mark, I approached “working out” as a necessary evil – a means to an end in order to live the life I wanted to live outside the gym: eating and drinking liberally while still fitting into my jeans. For me it was more about weight maintenance instead of health maintenance. After working with Mark I eventually was able to transform my shortsighted fitness goals from “I want to lose XX lbs by XX time” to lifelong fitness goals focused on longevity of my health and happiness. Mark has taught me that fitness is not necessarily about how you look, but about how you feel – how you feel today, how you will feel tomorrow, three years from now, and thirty years from now. From my three years working with Mark, I have learned that fitness is a lifelong pursuit of skill development, mental and physical awareness, and increased movement, strength, and confidence. In other words: never stop learning and never stop playing! There are plenty of opportunities to practice this philosophy in the supportive and friendly atmosphere of AF, whether at the movement workshops around Wilmington, playing in AF’s Das Woods (all natural outdoor jungle gym), the Saturday morning UNCW track boot camps, or the annual 12 days of Christmas workout. What I respect most about AF Coach Mark is his commitment to learning and teaching new, research-based fitness approaches, techniques, movements, and ideas. As a scientist, I know how much time and dedication it takes to constantly be learning. There is always new fitness and health information being shared through new technologies and to be as knowledgeable about it as Mark is, is truly reMARKable (ha!). And because Mark is always learning, it means his clients are always learning and being challenged both mentally and physically. Even though I will not always be able to train at the AF studio in Wilmington (as I am moving on to Davidson, North Carolina to pursue my teaching career), I know I will always be a welcome member of the AF family and I will carry the AF philosophy with me wherever I go.

– Leigh Anne Harden 9/1/2013


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Asylum Fitness

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