These 10 men break the tech-guy stereotype. Here’s how they do it (and you can, too.)
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Tech guys aren’t known for their bodies—unless you’re thinking about pasty skin and nonexistent muscle mass. But in the new sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, Oscar Isaac plays a billionaire tech genius who is as physical as he is intellectual. Isaac says his inspiration for the role was Bobby Fischer, the 1980s chess champion who worked with an Olympic trainer to up his physical grit prior to competition.
The “strong body, strong mind” idea is apparently catching on with much of the tech world. Here, the fittest men in tech share their workouts, biggest exercise accomplishments, and how fitness fuels their Silicon-valley success.
He launched and led SinglePlatform, which helps companies manage their online listings, as CEO until it was acquired in 2012. Now, he works as a venture partner at the company that originally funded it: First Round.
At work, every hour on the hour, he cranks out pushups and situps. It’s a habit he started four years ago, trying to perform as many reps as he could muster during every exercise break. Within a few months, he was doing hundreds of pushups and situps per day. Completing the challenge with colleagues, he has gotten hundreds of people picking up their heart rate at their desk jobs.
“I’m more fit now than when I used to run eight miles several times a week,” he says. “Everything is tighter, and I have so much more energy. Getting my blood pumping throughout the day helps me come back to work refreshed so that I stay more focused and productive at work.”
Cerilli supplements his at-work exercise with swimming four days a week and lots of league football. “I like to focus on really natural exercise movements. The idea of bench-pressing hundreds of pounds just doesn’t seem natural or appealing to me,” he says.
Marc Laveson, Head of Supply Chain and Operations at Sano
“Working in tech, specifically in the startup environment, requires long hours and intense mindshare. I could easily find myself spending every waking moment working, but that would lead to burn out. So running in effect becomes a way to balance myself. It mentally recharges me so that I can be focused at work, whether I’m negotiating with a supplier or choosing the right type of beer for our weekly post-run happy hours. I make sure I carve out time every day for it,” says Laveson, who develops manufacturing and logistics strategy for Sano, a biometric sensor and software company. In the past, he has worked with other health tech companies including Hampton Creek and Fitbit.
But he’s not just carving out 20 minutes each day. He’s often carving out hours, days, and weekends at a time. “During my work week I am typically doing shorter runs at higher intensities, say 7- to 14-mile runs, using specific speed workouts like fartleks, hill repeats, tempo runs, and intervals to focus on power and efficiency.” (Do you like his interpretation of “shorter” runs?) On the weekends, he might run two back-to-back 25-mile runs on Saturday and Sunday, or it could be heading into the Sierras for the weekend to explore the trails. While most of his runs are for the pure joy of getting out into nature and putting one foot in front of the other, his mileage ramps up even further—to about 100 miles per week—when training for ultras.
“It feels good to win a race. And it feels even better to set a course record. But nothing comes close to the time I finished my first 100-mile race, the Western States 100. It felt impossible when the gun went off in Squaw Valley and we started running up, and up, and up. But with the support of friends, family, and an amazing community of runners, I was able to complete something that I thought was not humanly possible,” he says. “It was another moment in my life where I learned that barriers are not so black and white and that most are self-imposed.”
Max Levchin, Co-founder and CEO of Affirm
Founder and CEO of financial tech services company Affirm, Levchin got his “start” helping to launch PayPal, Yelp, and, in 2002, being named Innovator of the Year and as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35. He serves on the boards for Yahoo! and Evernote.
You’d think making it to the gym would be a challenge. “Fitting in exercise is actually easy, the default is to exercise, so when it doesn’t happen for some reason, I don’t get off the rails, I just go harder the next day,” Levchin says. “Every day, I wake up at 5am, deal with emails for 90 minutes, work out for 90 minutes, and then head for the office.”
His workout of choice: Cycling. “It clears my brain, forcing me to step away, unplug, and reset away from work thought. But training with numbers, pushing yourself to the next level, watching those marginal gains accumulate creates a cadence of confidence: if you work at something for a long time, hard enough, eventually the small victories add up,” he says.
He often watches those victories add up on spreadsheets he creates, plugging in info on power, speed, air temperature, altitude, and heart rate. His training has even earned him the right to race one of the Tour de France stages.
Lucas Pattan, Mobile Account Manager at Twitter
The 26-year-old Twitter exec can regularly be spotted at New York’s hottest fitness spots. He hangs out with friends at SoulCycle, strength trains at Crunch, and takes on everything from gymnastics to Olympic weightlifting at Brick CrossFit, his home base. “My workouts pretty much depend on what the coaches throw at us. It’s always a hodgepodge,” he says. His proudest fitness moment: Doing his first CrossFit workout with his dad, who had fought bad knees and back pain for years. “He killed it.”
For Antin, working at Gociety, a social network that connects outdoor adventure lovers, is the perfect gig. It allows him to somehow fit in working as a mountain guide, coaching mountain athletes at The Alpine Training Center in Boulder, completing two-a-day workouts and full-day mountain endurance excursions. He runs an average of 2,500 miles a year—obviously going through many pairs of shoes.
Right now, he’s training to race the Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run, an ultramarathon that winds through the mountains from Utah to Idaho.
Jimmy Pino, Digital Director at Creative on Demand
The Columbia native is, first and foremost, an athlete, having ran the 200 meters in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Now, as a software developer, working at Creative on Demand advertising agency in Miami, he squeezes in workouts when he can. “As my previous boss once told me, ‘This is not a 9-5 job.’ It takes a lot of time, so my options to exercise are limited,” he says.
Luckily, as a sprinter, he jokes that his “long runs” are 5ks. He usually goes on two per week, and then runs sprint workouts—repeating 300 to 500 meters multiple times over—twice a week, and completes a weekly plyometricworkout, jumping chairs and other obstacles. Mornings are best for beating the heat and smog.
"For me, going out running allows me to clear my mind and helps me solve some of the challenges I may encounter during the day. Exercise has also helped me to be disciplined and dedicated to my job. On the track, my goal was always a certain meet or championship. In my career, my goal is to keep our clients happy with efficient and innovative ideas that serve to bring attention to consumers. Exercise has also helped set realistic goals for my career and personal life," he says.
Andy Johns, Vice President of Growth at Wealthfront
“I fit exercise in by not sacrificing it in favor of other options. For me, physical health and mental health are things I'm unwilling to sacrifice. So if that means I get up at 5:30am during weekdays to exercise before work or go to bed early on a Saturday night so that I can get a good training session in on Sunday, then that's what I do,” says Johns, vice president at Wealthfront, an automated investment service. In the past, he’s worked with Greylock Partners, Facebook, and Twitter. “I just really enjoy living an active lifestyle and try to blend that with adventure travel so that I can experience the world while remaining active.”
And, funnily enough, the athlete—among his accomplishments are trekking to the Everest basecamp, summiting Kala Patthar, completing a 50-mile mountain trail ultra marathon, and training at Tiger Muay Thai kickboxing camp in Phuket, Thailand—eschews all fitness tech. “I prefer to not listen to music when I run or go on long treks. Having the time to myself to think, in the absence of music or fancy fitness trackers, is what I really cherish. I don't exercise in order to incrementally measure the gains I've made. I exercise for the joy of it,” he says.
Ben McCormick, Head of Support at Trello
“My personal journey of getting into fitness and getting into the tech industry started at almost exactly the same time. I joined a CrossFit gym the same week I started at Fog Creek Software because of the company’s generous gym reimbursement program,” says McCormick, 31, who is now head of support at Trello, an online project management system that spun off from Fog Creek. “I signed up for a CrossFit foundations class my first week at Fog Creek. That first class wiped me out to the point where I almost passed out and my coach had to give me a ride home. But I kept coming back. I had to scale everything in the beginning, but over time I found myself getting fitter and healthier. I can't imagine going back to a life without fitness.”
Now, McCormick goes to bed every night before 9pm and wakes up before 5am, either going on a 6am run or putting in a few hours of work before heading to the CrossFit gym at 9:30am. “I'm training for a half marathon right now, so I spend three days of the week running and three days of the week doing CrossFit. I'm using a running training program from a book called Unbreakable Runner, which was written for CrossFit athletes who also want to do endurance running,” he says.
Josh March, Founder and CEO of Conversocial
Having launched his career in London, March helped create the UK’s first preferred Facebook Development company back in 2008. Now, the New York transplant heads up Conversocial, a cloud solution that helps businesses manage customer service via social media.
For the past three years, his workout routine has centered on CrossFit; he can now deadlift 400-plus pounds. He hits up 7am CrossFit classes four days during the workweek. Over the weekend, he goes on one long six- to nine-mile run through New York, and takes a vinyasa flow yoga class to keep things balanced. He also blocks out 20 minutes every day to meditate.
“Working out is about more than just fitness for me—it's a central part of how I stay focused, calm, and happy at work no matter what's going on,” March says. “Usually I get up early and train before work, but if I miss that for any reason, I'll shuffle things about to make sure I can train at lunch time or in the evening, even if that means changing my schedule.”
Jason Shen, Product Manager at Etsy
While studying at Stanford University, Shen led the men's gymnastics team to win gold at the NCAA national championships. Now, as Etsy's product manager, building features and streamlining the online marketplace's user interface, he performs gymnastic-inspired workouts, runs, lifts weights, and bikes to work.
"I'm a big fan of short, intense workouts. If you are willing to push yourself, you can get a great workout in under 15 minutes," Shen says. For example, he likes to get in sub-15-minutes at the track near his house in Brooklyn. "I'll run one lap, do 25 burpees, and then repeat that four times over. So I run a mile and do 100 burpees. After that, you're wiped and can call it a day."
Meanwhile, Etsy's nap and meditation room (when unoccupied) is a great place for him to sneak in some kettlebell swings and handstand pushups. By the way, he has set a Guinness World Record in Aztec Push-Ups.