Focus on one thing at a time. We often think that multi-tasking is the key to getting a lot done, but I’ve found it’s better to do one thing at a time and then move on to the next. I tried working from home and dealing with personal responsibilities at work and both sides of life suffered.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Freeman. Amanda Freeman is the Founder of SLT, Co-Founder of Stretch*d, a serial wellness entrepreneur and angel investor in women-founded and wellness-focused businesses. She is a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Business School. Freeman launched SLT in 2011 with one location in New York City. The brand now has over twenty five locations across the US which are owned and operated by Freeman.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Amanda! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
Ibegan my career in trend forecasting, market research and consulting. I studied the emerging trends among Generation X and Millenials. In 2006 I wrote a trend called The Rise of Wellconsciouness. It was my observation that people were shifting in their approach to their wellbeing. They were becoming preventative about their health, rather than treatment-oriented. It was then that I started my first wellness-business, Vital Juice. Vital Juice was a health and wellness focused daily email that delivered the latest information in fitness, nutrition, beauty and wellness into inboxes.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most impactful professional experience I’ve had in my career was actually at business school. I took a class called Women Building Businesses and was struck by how different it really is for a woman to build and run a business than for a man. Each class consisted of a very successful woman running a Fortune 500 company speaking to the group about her career. There was always a Q&A and there was always a work/life balance question. And almost always there were tears. It struck me that each woman had sacrificed so much of her personal life to achieve her professional success. One woman said that she had decided early on in her career that she would do “Less, Better”. She would prioritize her career and be amazing at it. Seeing the tears so consistently among these women led to my decision to do “More, Worse.” I didn’t want to choose one aspect of my life, at the expense of others. But, I realized that if you want to be #1 at something, you have to give it 100% and other areas of your life will suffer. My preference was to have both a fulfilling personal and professional life, so I’d have to settle for less than my best efforts in both areas. More, worse.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
The night before I opened the first SLT location in NYC, I woke up at 2 AM realizing I hadn’t printed out the liability waivers for clients to sign. I had visions of clients falling off the machines and onto the concrete floors and suing me. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night and headed to a FedEx/Kinkos right when it opened to print 100 copies of a liability waiver.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I like to say that I’m an “OG” in the wellness world. I was fortunate enough to identify the movement towards a wellness-mindset at the outset and to have had an idea for a business that didn’t exist yet in the space. I’ve been around it for almost 13 years now with 4 different wellness businesses of my own and investments in a dozen others. I’ve contributed to the wellness media landscape, the fitness world, the recover space and the non-profit arena. I’d say I’m good at identifying wellness trends that will stand the test of time and then creating a solid company around it.
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?
My entrepreneurial inspiration comes from my first and only boss, Jane Buckingham. She was always a hard working, insightful, innovative and witty “girlboss”, before being a “girlboss” was a thing. I’m also eternally grateful to my partners (both via sweat and dollars) in each business including Lisa Blau (Vital Juice) who is now a big investor in both wellness and women, my brother, Heath (my original financial partner in SLT), North Castle Partners (my private equity partners in SLT) and Vanessa Chu (my Stretch*d co-founder).
We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
I believe that three of the main reasons it is so hard to do what we know is good for us are that we are addicted to unhealthy things, we are set in our ways, and we don’t take baby steps. We develop addictions to bad habits (like eating sweets and scrolling through Instagram) and the discipline it takes to get us out of our routines is immense. We become too set in our ways. If we’ve been eating a danish for breakfast for the past three years, it takes a lot of planning and willpower to switch to oatmeal. If our day already feels packed without a midday workout, it seems impossible to figure out how to schedule one in. We often tackle change in extreme ways rather than gradual, small changes in behavior. It often takes time and baby steps to get us to the place we want to be and some of us don’t have the patience for it.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
My five non-intuitive lifestyle tweaks that will dramatically improve ones’s wellbeing are:
– Find your form of meditation, whether it be traditional quiet, seated breathwork or fitness that puts you in the zone. Make sure you take time for yourself each day to breath and be present.
– Stop using technology at least thirty minutes before bedtime. I plug in my phone and turn off my computer at least thirty minutes before I intend to turn off the light. I usually read a few pages of a book to help get me in sleep mode.
– Focus on one thing at a time. We often think that multi-tasking is the key to getting a lot done, but I’ve found it’s better to do one thing at a time and then move on to the next. I tried working from home and dealing with personal responsibilities at work and both sides of life suffered.
– Go fourteen hours a day without eating. I’m a proponent of intermittent fasting, so I advise restricting your eating hours to ten hours a day. There is a lot of data that says it helps with weight loss (or maintenance), improved energy levels and longevity.
– Do something nice for someone else everyday. Helping someone or making them feel good will help make you feel good about yourself.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
Weight loss is the most obvious and superficial (not in a bad way) benefit of regular exercise, but there are many more, including improved happiness, increased energy and better sleep. Thanks to the production of endorphins, exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. Being active can also lead to more energy in people who are both healthy and those with medical conditions. The energy depletion during exercise can lead to a more restful sleep and deeper relaxation afterwards.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
The three essential exercises I would recommend people add to their daily routine are planks, lunges and squats. While planks are a core-focused exercise, they work the whole body (from shoulders to legs). They strengthen your spine, rhomboids, trapezius and abdominal muscles and lead to a flatter appearing stomach. Lunges are also multi-tasking moves that not only work your legs and glutes, but also build core stability, improve balance and increase hip flexibility. Squats are known for building leg muscle (glutes, hamstrings, quads) and helping build muscles and ligament strength that aids in daily functioning from running to lifting heavy objects (like kids).
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
I’m a big believer in stretching to aid in post fitness recovery. Whether it’s self-stretching or one-on-one assisted stretch like we offer at Stretch’d, taking the time to stretch out after a workout is essential to preventing injury and curtailing recovery time.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I try not to give out any diet advice, as I’m not a nutritionist or health coach and I’m not the most disciplined eater. However, I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for the past three months and I’m digging it. I feel like it enables me to eat what I want, I just have to stop eating sooner than I might have and start eating later than I used to. It requires more attention paid to the clock and an earlier dinner time. I’ve seen enough research to believe this is the way we were intended to eat.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I’m currently reading a book that I’m obsessed with called Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell. As you can infer, it’s a leadership book and it’s packed with unique and helpful insights into how best to lead companies and teams. I am also seeking self-improvement in all aspects of my life and being a better leader and manager is one of my top priorities at the moment. One of the principles he espoused was “Work on People, Then The Problem.” His people-focused leadership style is something I’m trying to adopt more in the coming months.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I had co-founded a non-profit 6 years ago called Sweaty Saturday that focused on fighting childhood obesity in the US. It’s a major epidemic and obviously in line with my personal and professional beliefs. Now that I have children of my own, I see how hard it is for parents and caregivers to instill children with good eating habits when there are so many temptations around us and so much crap in our foods. Not to mention the allure of TV and iPads and the lack of activity in many kids’ lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Other than “More, Worse”, I love the Mark Twain quote: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Minimizing regret is a priority in my life, as I have a tendency to get caught up in it. While I believe I am able to make a lot of decisions each day, I also can get some decision making paralysis. So, I often reflect on the quote to help push me towards action in moments of uncertainty.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
My two biggest living heroes are Coach K and Mark Cuban. Coach K is the most inspiring leader I’ve ever seen and the coach of my alma mater’s storied basketball team. Mark Cuban is an entrepreneurial genius and now avid investor in other entrepreneurs. They are also both family men with well-rounded and full lives. I’d love to spend time with both to glean any tips and advice they have.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I’m not as involved in social media as I should be, but Instagram is best, @amandahopefreeman
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!