I’m a male CEO and people make fun of my workout, but here’s why I refuse to give it up

Imagine the collective shock, then, when they learn my favorite exercise isn’t running, cycling, or squash -- but a ballet-like workout.

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Riggs Eckelberry
Riggs Eckelberry

I’ve been an entrepreneur and business leader for decades. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that from investors to employees to family members, every single person has a predefined idea of what being a CEO entails. Imagine the collective shock, then, when they learn my favorite exercise isn’t running, cycling, or squash — but a ballet-like workout.

Born out of ballet practice halls, the Bar Method is based on hundreds of years of dancing calisthenics. It’s a graceful, challenging, and fun exercise routine that’s also extremely effective. Bar Method lessons typically last about an hour and combine ballet moves with yoga, Pilates, core strengthening exercises, and weight training.

The Bar Method sculpts lean, strong muscles and gives me the posture and confidence I need to lead my team and hold my own in board meetings. It’s also one of the best ways I can keep my body in shape to maintain excellence in one of my favorite sports — skiing.

And despite old-fashioned ideas about ballet and outdated gender ideas, the Bar Method is a legitimately challenging workout. It builds your core, taxes your muscles, and increases your flexibility (which keeps you safer from injury than practically anything else). In fact, even NFL players are now taking ballet lessons to get stronger.

The fact is, we care way too much about what other people think. It’s not that perceptions don’t matter, but there’s a big difference between wanting to fit the stereotype of a badass CEO and actually being what you’re trying to portray.

While practicing ballet moves isn’t what people think when they picture a CEO, in the end, the confidence and energy levels they give me are far more important than the surprised looks and friendly banter I get from people. 

The point about energy level is one of the most significant. Running a company is an exhausting job. That’s why for high-level executives, staying healthy becomes a commandment, not a luxury. I’ve seen too many colleagues’ performance go down the drain because they were obsessed with work and neglected their health.

We need regular exercise to keep our bodies strong and sharpen our minds. But through the years I’ve learned that exercise only works for you if you enjoy it. That’s why I’ve ditched my boring weight training sessions for a method that works best for me.

No more long hours in a dark, sweat-filled gym picking up and putting down weights, like a prisoner doing hard labor. Now my workouts include long stretching sessions and small talk with classmates. 

Besides, can anybody deny that pound-for-pound, ballet dancers are the strongest, fittest athletes in the world? I mean, these people make things happen with their bodies that seem impossible for most of us — like lifting a dancer over their heads, or spinning gracefully on one leg without losing their balance (you know how strong your abs have to be for that?). 

Whether you’re an entry-level employee or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the fact is that the Bar Method is a profitable, long-term investment in your own health. After all, you want to be sure you stay on your toes both on and off the dance floor.

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