Fitness trainer Dontrell Britton turned his experiences in prison into a thriving business. After finding a love for fitness during a five-year prison sentence, Britton founded 23 & 1, which hires returning citizens to teach classes. Britton talked to us about what inspired him to pursue fitness and how he practices self-care. Note: This interview is a part of our 20 Masters of Mindfulness, Movement + Connection roundup, which ran in our Winter 2021 issue.
Tell me about your journey and how it brought you to your current role.
When I was around 16 years old, my dad was shot dead three blocks from where I lived. I began selling drugs to provide for my family. That didn’t last long at all. By 19 years old, I was indicted on a 33-person drug conspiracy and sentenced to five years in prison, where I began to work out and receive and read men’s health magazines that taught me to properly exercise and diet. I started implementing this knowledge and became ripped. Before you knew it, I had 20 to 30 guys working out with me in prison.
This continued until I was released in 2016. I worked as a bartender for four weeks before I quit to pursue fitness full-time. I met Pusha T through a mutual friend and began training him, and started getting noticed by magazines and news stations. I started my company 23 &1, which is a prison-style boot camp that hires returning citizens as fitness instructors. Then I woke up to a DM from D.C. top rapper Shy Glizzy. I started training him and he took me on a two-month tour around the country. I got more publicity from Fox 5 News and Channel 8 News, and have just been growing ever since.
How are you practicing and prioritizing self-care, especially mid-pandemic?
I’m vegan as of the last three years, so my diet is superb. I’m juicing two days per week [and] taking herbs every day like sea moss, bladderwrack, elderberry, etc. I also work out about four to five times per week. I practice stoicism, which is a philosophy that separates things I can control versus things I can’t, and I focus my energy and efforts on the things I can. This has been pivotal in maintaining a healthy mindset. Also, I’m listening to tons of healthy podcasts.
What does self-compassion mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your practice?
I believe the first step in self-compassion is awareness: being aware and comfortable with not being perfect and accepting flaws, [and] being acceptable to yourself. I practice this every day as well. I notice myself caring less and less about other opinions about myself [and] also, seeking less acceptance from others outside of myself. Lastly, I’ve always loved being the underdog. I love using my shortcomings and turning them into assets and opportunities. I use being a felon as fuel, not sympathy. And I keep a contagious smile.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.