It has been a banner year for women in the workforce, from politics and Hollywood to offices and homes all across America. The change is palpable, yet research suggests that one in three full-time employees say maintaining a healthy work/life balance is harder than ever. So what does it take to strike a perfect balance between career success, good health, and happiness?
To find out, we spoke to eight women who seem to do it all: They've launched some of the world's leading lifestyle brands, managed a thriving team, and still found time to prioritize their own health and fitness. Many have a family or S.O., and some are barely out of college, yet they all share one thing: a genuine passion and excitement to lead their best, healthiest life.
Here, we asked these fierce CEOs of fitness empires how they traverse the delicate work/life balance and what was going through their heads when they decided to strike out on their own. Take a peek inside the minds and inspiring daily habits of women who are doing it all—and succeeding.
Charli Cohen, Founder of Charli Cohen Activewear
Courtesy of Charli Cohen
Charli Cohen started her eponymous activewear label to fuse the two things she loves most: fitness and fashion. The qualified personal trainer launched her business in 2013 and has since had her clothing worn by the likes of Kate Upton and Hannah Bronfman. Here, she shares the wisdom she’s gleaned on her journey to success.
Make Time to Look After Yourself
“A healthy lifestyle doesn’t just happen; time management is so important. Make time for a workout or to prep meals or getting some head space. Even if you’re just scheduling on a day-by-day basis (which is often necessary as a business owner given that things tend to happen or change quite spontaneously), having your time somewhat planned and structured is key.”
Consistency Matters; Perfection Doesn’t
“People tend to get wrapped up in the idea that they need to stick to a really strict meal plan, train a fixed number of days per week, etc. This is great until life gets in the way and you get thrown off your plan, leading to guilt, anxiety, and often a total drop-off in motivation. Rather than adopting this all-or-nothing mentality, figure out what is realistic to stick to right now, be as consistent as possible, and if your circumstances change, make sure your exercise and nutrition plan changes accordingly. And even then, don’t beat yourself up for days that aren't ‘perfect.’”
Don’t Neglect Your Mind
“Health and wellness are as much about your emotional state as they are your physical state, and the two are very much intertwined. Excessive stress causes a whole host of physical issues as well as mental ones. When you have your own business or are focusing hard on your career, it can be extremely difficult to switch off. You need to consciously allocate time to do other things you enjoy or to be okay with doing nothing. It can be difficult to justify not working, but it will have a positive impact on your productivity and creativity when you get back to it.”
Tackle Emails in the Morning
"[The first thing I do is] check emails. I get as much cleared and replied to as possible; then my boyfriend (who also works in the business) and I go out for breakfast and discuss plans for the day ahead. My studio is also my home, so I find it beneficial to separate myself from my work environment to collect my thoughts.”
Set Aside 30 Minutes to Exercise Each Day
“My usual workouts are 30 minutes long. I do a mixture of compound movements with heavy weights and bodyweight movements with minimal rest time.”
Cohen says the best book she’s read lately is Sophia Amoruso's inspiring autobiography and guide to success.
Lara Mead, Founder of Varley
CEO Lara Mead is yet to celebrate her 30th birthday, yet the London local has experienced serious success. Mead is the founder of activewear line Varley, a lifestyle brand inspired by Santa Monica, California. It’s carried in over 300 stores worldwide, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
Start Your Day With Apple Cider Vinegar
“[The first thing I do is] give my baby boy a cuddle and a bottle of milk in bed. As I’m making his milk, I pour myself a pint of filtered water to rehydrate and knock back a shot of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. After cuddles, I make a matcha latte with unsweetened almond milk and start catching up with overnight emails. Some mornings I rush out to an exercise class, either Pilates or boxing, and then I will grab breakfast on the way to the office or will make myself a protein shake to take with me.”
“Whether it’s balancing my time or my diet, I think balance is the key to everything. I try to be super healthy during the week, and then on Friday night, I enjoy a glass of wine and a pizza. I don’t believe in being restrictive.”
Above All Else, Laugh
“Everyone should try to have a good belly laugh at least once a day. It’s great for the soul and for reducing stress levels.”
Healthy Habits Start in the Kitchen
“I personally love to cook. Not only do I think it’s important to understand what goes into the food we put into our bodies, but I think there is also something extremely satisfying about nourishing your family and friends. I love having a house full of people I love to feed. I also find cooking incredibly therapeutic.”
Lara starts each morning with a glass of filtered water to rehydrate her body.
Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, Co-Founders of P.E Nation
For a person known for her distinct relaxed tomboy aesthetic, it seemed like a natural move when former Ksubi designer Pip Edwards announced she was launching a cool-girl activewear line. Combining her creative forces with fellow Australian Claire Tregoning, P.E Nation aims to blend sporty, sexy, and slightly retro style in the fitness arena.
Trade a coffee for matcha for a sustained energy boost.
Treat Food as Fuel
“Eat as healthy as possible without driving yourself crazy,” says Tregoning. “Fueling your body with good, fresh, nutritious food leaves you feeling brighter, stronger, and with more energy.”
Shift Your Fitness Priorities
“Even in the busiest of days, working up a sweat is a great way to get your body and mind back into check,” says Edwards. “Exercise isn’t about being thin; it’s about being fit, strong, healthy, and most of all, it’s about having energy. In today’s fast-paced world, having enough energy to do it all is so important! Being healthy is a way of life, and exercise needs to be integrated into your every day so it becomes part of your natural routine.”
Start the Day With Matcha
“[The first thing I do each day is] wake up when my kids come and get in bed with me, usually around 5:45 a.m., then we all lie there until 6:30,” says Tregoning. “Everyone gets a super smoothie, I make myself a matcha tea in a flask, get the kids dressed and out the door at 8 a.m. for daycare drop-off. After that, I do phone calls and catch up on Pip’s WhatsApp updates on the way to work.”
Soft Sand Running Yield the Best Results
“[If I only have 30 minutes for fitness, I] run on soft sand. It’s the best bang for your buck,” says Edwards. “It’s awesome to train outdoors on the beach, especially at the magic hour of dusk and dawn.”
Denise Lee, Founder of Alala
Denise Lee, founder and CEO of Alala, says her aha moment happened when training for her first triathlon in 2012. Struggling to find contemporary, cool activewear, she vowed to create her own label. Fans of her stylish apparel include Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Alba.
Treat the Gym Like a Meeting
“I schedule my workouts into my calendar like I do any other meeting. Seeing them on the day’s plan and getting the meeting reminders is just more motivation to get me to work out despite my crazy schedule. It also helps me with keeping track and see patterns in how much cardio and strength training I’m doing every week.”
Dress the Part
“Activewear is my business, but I’m a huge believer that loving the way you look in your gear makes your workout so much better. It’s a great motivator and makes me feel more confident and energized, especially when I’m in group classes. It’s all about getting in the right mind-set, and for me, wearing activewear that looks and feels great is a big part of the process.”
Start the Day With Exercise
“[I start each day by] working out before heading to the office. I usually go down to the gym in my building and do a mixture of strength and plyo. I find that working out in the mornings not only gets the blood flowing, but I get a lot of great ideas during my workouts too. After a shower, I typically make myself a smoothie for breakfast. It’s quick and easy and usually pretty filling. I’m obsessed with Daily Harvest, which is a smoothie ingredient delivery service.”
Follow Lee’s lead and schedule gym sessions in your calendar.
Meg He and Nina Faulhaber, Co-Founders of Aday
Courtesy of Aday
Aday might fall into the activewear category, but founders Meg He and Nina Faulhaber created the business for those who like to wear athleisure outside the gym too. The duo recently landed a stop on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for their business prowess and are two fierce female leaders to watch in 2017.
Create a Sleep Routine
“Optimize your sleep as much as possible,” says He. “Use the blackest of blackout curtains, fix the humidity in your bedroom, and figure out what linen and clothing you sleep best it. It makes the difference between 0% and 30% deep sleep.”
Wake Up to Natural Light
“[The first thing I do in the morning is] wake up with the sunrise—no curtains!” says He. “Optional: Work out. I’m easy in the mornings. I either go for a run, do my Kayla [Itsines workout], or go to ConBody. I usually play Audible’s New York Times daily digest while I brush my teeth (I have a separate electronic toothbrush by the sink and in the shower). When I’m ready to leave my apartment, my keys, dog leash, and bag are all stacked together.”
Do What Feels Right for You
“Meaning: Don’t run a marathon if you’d hate every bit of it,” says Faulhaber.
Try Foam Rolling
“Self-massage, or get an actual massage if you can afford it, and always foam roll,” says He. “Stay flexible and happy. Your body will thank you.”
He swears by self-massage and foam rolling.
Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Founder of Lively
Courtesy of Lively
Michelle Cordeiro Grant had an ambitious business plan when she launched Lively. She wanted to establish an entirely new category of lingerie, a movement they call “leisurée.” The label is inspired by “women with wild hearts and boss brains.”
“I think now more than ever, the things that seem impossible are achievable, once you accept advice and support from others. You must take life one step at a time and enjoy the fun of ‘figuring it out.’ I have learned this from not just being a new entrepreneur, but being a new mother. I had no idea how I was going to tackle either, but the journey of learning and ‘figuring it out’ has been the most fulfilling experience of my life.”
Refer to Dreams As Goals
“Having dreams and aspirations is a wonderful thing, but personally, once I mentally change those ‘dreams’ into ‘goals,’ my path becomes much clearer. I had always dreamed of creating my own brand. One where I could inspire women to live life doing what they love, with a team and company that allowed women to find their professional passions. I could see the steps I needed to get there much more clearly once I stopped dreaming and started thinking about it as a goal.”
You’re Only as Good as Your Team
“I learned this incredibly important fact from an executive at one of my first roles. She took the time to truly teach and understand all my career goals. By being thrown into the fire at my first role, I could figure out what I loved and where I could be most successful. These experiences allowed me to grow and showed me how important it is to invest in your team. I truly believe it is not what we can accomplish as individuals, but what we can do together. It is the entire team behind each company, striving off each other’s strengths, talents, and passions that make a company successful.”
Make the Gym a Social Activity
“To me, fitness is the new happy hour and the better way to spend time with family and friends. I also love that fitness is not just about the physical. There is an acknowledgment and awareness now more than ever towards the mental. Amazing places like Mndfl meditation and low-impact workouts which focus on a mental balance are just as important as the calorie-burning workouts.”
Cordeiro Grant says the Sona Connected Bracelet is her top-rated fitness device.