Sleep. Without a good night’s sleep, I am worthless. Luckily, I have a regular bedtime daughter, who nudges me to get to bed at a decent hour. It’s important to put down the screen, turn your phone to silent, pick up a book or listen to something soothing, and close your eyes early.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heidi Mahoney.
There are some that stay the steady course with a single-faceted career path, and there are others, like Heidi Mahoney who has been down many paths. With each new experience, her list of credentials grows. After graduating from Denison University with a B.A. in English Literature and a short stint in San Francisco working for a venture capital firm, she headed to Maine to learn traditional furniture making. From there, she opened her own furniture shop, which was a key player in the launch of an art gallery and studio space. Her passion for art led her to meet her husband, a sculptor who built life-size animals from metal sheets. The two collaborated on various projects throughout the years, culminating in a life-size Asian elephant made from structural steel, steel plate and chain. During this time, she opened a small health food store in her Vermont town. After raising the capital, Heidi successfully designed, launched and managed more than 15 employees at the store. Over the last five years, prior to joining her sister, Floery Mahoney, at BOARD30, she worked for a real estate development management company, eventually becoming the COO. While working with her sister is her ideal place to land, everything she learned over the years has complemented her new role as COO of BOARD30.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
It is a bit of a zigzag, but every experience has been incredibly valuable in building my professional strengths. After graduating from Denison University, I headed to the west coast to work in finance at a venture capital firm. My gut reacted to the office setting. I knew I was not meant to sit behind a desk, or at least not yet. I moved to Maine to learn traditional furniture making, and then to Vermont to set up my shop and furniture business. Next, I fell in love with my husband, a sculptor who built life-size animals from sheet metal. We collaborated on various projects throughout the years, culminating in a life-size Asian elephant made from structural steel, steel plate and chain. After raising the capital, I successfully designed, launched and managed more than 15 employees at the store. Over the last five years, I worked for a real estate development management company, eventually becoming the COO.
Now, working with my sister, Floery Mahoney, at BOARD30 is an ideal place to land. Finding myself in the fitness industry, though new to my resume, aligns nicely with my goals on a personal level. I believe health should be a goal for everyone.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The small health food store I started in Vermont was a love of mine. I believe in the power of food, and offering organic, local options to my community was a great passion. My store, The Fat Hen, became
popular and successfully operated for five years. Although grocery store margins are small, food is perishable, and customers can be cantankerous, it was working. It typically takes three to five years for this type of business to profit, so you must plan ahead. Unfortunately, I did not prepare for the 2008 recession that hit Vermont in 2009. It came right as the store began to turn a profit. Even with a loyal customer base, people shopped substantially less. They trekked to larger stores like Costco and Walmart for savings. The store could not handle the debt ratio without the profit. It was the hardest decision of my life to close The Fat Hen, and I cried with many customers. I experienced firsthand the struggle of small businesses, including the love, the care, and the everything you pour into it.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The most challenging first and probably the one I handled the worst, in my opinion, was having to fire an employee. I consider myself a team player and tend to form tight bonds with people. When I realized an employee of mine was not working out, and more training would not be a solution, I had decided letting that person go was clearly the next step. I was too emotional, and we both cried, but I do believe it was ultimately the best for both parties. I am still a compassionate employer. I always strive for a team environment, and I try hard to make situations work before letting someone go. Though now, when it does happen, I do it kindly, firmly, and with no tears.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Eben Markowski, my husband, and I have worked well together throughout the years. Our endeavors have been focused on art and furniture. Eben is a talented expert metal shaper and sculptor, and I trained to make furniture using traditional techniques. We built furniture together for the home and commercial market, and I was his assistant for sculpture projects. I had a large order of tables to produce for a local college, and I was cruising through most of it, but the deadline was quickly approaching. I still needed to complete the hard elbow work of sanding and applying the oil finish.
I’m a little OCD, so this phase always pushes me to obtain a mirror finish and nothing less. I was tired, but couldn’t stop, and was going a little off the rails mentally, before Eben suggested a walk. I resisted at first, knowing the deadline, but he said I needed the air. As we walked, I became even more dejected, thinking about whether or not I would meet my deadline. I picked a dandelion that had gone to seed, a nice
beautiful puffball and, at our turn around spot, I asked Eben if he wanted to play a game. Eben later told me I looked a little mad, not angry, but disheveled from not attending to myself. With sawdust all over me and tattered carpenter’s clothing, he said yes because he was afraid what would happen if he said no. I told him to hide a piece of the stem on his body, I wouldn’t look, and then I would find the stem with my magic puffball wand. He looked wary, but did as I asked. As I requested to see his hands, under his armpit, in his pocket, I realized he had never played this childhood game before, and I began to laugh with glee. He looked even more unsettled. Eventually, with my wand poised, I asked to see inside his mouth. When he opened it, I stuck the puffball in without hesitation. With a mouth full of fuzz, he watched me roll around the ground crying with laughter. I couldn’t believe he fell for it. He laughed with me, picked me up, and we walked back to the studio where he started sanding by my side. He always knows what I need, even if I don’t.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Health and wellness are so multidimensional now. Are you exercising, eating well, resting, meditating, sleeping, taking supplements and dealing with injuries? It’s a large swirling pot of additives, and if you get it right, you have health. Except, the list of additives is long and confusing, and we tend to fall off the wagon often. The BOARD30 fitness system is an exciting new approach. It takes the incredible value of the resistance band and refines it with fixed attachment points to ease working through thousands of movements. Plus, the system is based on a 30-minute HIIT workout, so it is effective without taking up too much time. The studio setup is simple, the equipment is affordable, and nothing plugs in, so there are no equipment breakdowns. The recently launched at-home Mini Board is 2′ x 2′, with nothing to plugin, so it can go virtually anywhere. Also, the resistance can be modified for any fitness level, and with low impact movements, it is suitable for almost any age. At the flagship studio in Santa Fe, a known retirement community, our clients’ average age is between 50 to 80. The BOARD30 system has dramatically improved their health, balance, flexibility, posture and strength. In summary, a low profile piece of equipment paired with a unique but effective workout, makes obtaining and maintaining health convenient and simple.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
1. Exercise at your own pace. So many new clients try to muscle through the most challenging moves. Luckily with resistance bands, it is hard to cause significant injury, but it is best to start doing modifications with less resistance. Your form and strength will build quickly if you do not go to battle with the bands. This philosophy applies to all fitness programs. I wish we could create a bubble around every studio client so they could focus more on their effort than comparing themselves to their neighbors. As humans, we are naturally competitive. However, we all have weak areas unique to us or injuries we are working through. I sustained many injuries through my 50 years, and when I first started on BOARD30, it was imperative that I take things slow, let go of my ego and focus on my personal health plan.
2. Eat more plants. I have been vegetarian for over 10 years, and more recently, vegan. Now, I eat a 95% plant-based diet with a little egg or cheese sprinkled in. I cook vegan, but when going out with friends, everyone panics. So in those cases, I loosen my diet to be vegetarian. I am not recommending everyone go vegan. I can wish for it, but I am also a realist. I do believe diet is vital to good health, and eating more plants and whole, organic foods with little sugar is key. Diet is a big nut to crack, and there are limitless versions on the market. I try to keep it simple — stay to the outside of the supermarket, where you can find fresh, whole foods.
3. Spend time with people you care about and care for you. Mental health is massive, and community is a huge health boost. During COVID-19, it is even more critical that you reach out to connect with others. My husband and daughter bring me incredible health, and we work hard to make time for one another. In this busy world, you must fight for it as much as you fight to find time to workout.
4. Nature therapy. Spend time in the great outdoors. I believe the Japanese have a saying, forest bathing. Every Sunday, my husband and I take a three-hour hike with our dog. It is my reset for the week and breathes life into me. Witnessing the changing seasons is a grounding experience.
5. Sleep. Without a good night’s sleep, I am worthless. Luckily, I have a regular bedtime daughter, who nudges me to get to bed at a decent hour. It’s important to put down the screen, turn your phone to silent, pick up a book or listen to something soothing, and close your eyes early.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Access to whole foods for everyone. There are too many food deserts across the globe, yet there is enough whole food to share with everyone. The government’s priorities have been controlled by for-profit companies and not focused on their citizens. This may be a little political, but when I see photos of food-insecure families with access only to frozen food that comes in a bucket, and no leafy greens or fresh fruit, it breaks my heart.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
If you listen too much to others, you may never start. Take it in, filter, grab onto what has meaning for you, and improve your idea.
1. Receive constructive criticism, but do not feel like you have to adopt everything. Remember it is your vision.
2. Do not react quickly. Take your time to absorb an idea whether you like it or not, and then respond. By taking your time, the author of the question may rethink their question. 3. Be open-minded. Allow yourself not to be threatened by ideas, but enable the chance to discover. 4. Do not overwork yourself.
5. Do not be shy about sharing your authentic, heartfelt ideas. They help others do the same in return.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
As mentioned earlier, I strive to be vegan. When I was living in Vermont, we had a small unofficial animal sanctuary that included cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, roosters, turkeys, ducks, turtles, goldfish, and dogs who roamed our little farm. Animals that were on their way to slaughter ended up with us, and they taught me more about myself and the world than I can ever imagine. Every animal has a personality, a family, and a sense of being. When you are on the other end of a considerable cowlick, you want to lick back. However, the journey into animal agriculture doesn’t end at heart. While living in the middle of large dairy operations, witnessing the environmental stress it caused, and watching our Lake Champlain buckle under a load of dairy runoff, I wanted to distance myself even more. In terms of health, mine noticeably improved when I let go of animal products. My gut processed food more easily, my skin glowed and I still feel young at 50 years old. I know the jury is out on diets between the paleo, gluten-free, vegan battle, but it is simple for me. I cook whole foods, use a wide range of ingredients, and take a few supplements. Because of my lifestyle and diet, I don’t require any medications. I can lead a challenging BOARD30 class, hike a mountain, cook dinner, play cards with my family, and have a good night’s sleep. If only the world could lighten up on animal agriculture, I believe the rebound for the environment, animals, and human health would be immense.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Please follow us on Instagram at @board30global and Facebook at Board30 Global. Look for the resistance bands coming at you from all angles!
Thank you for these fantastic insights!