Photo: Courtesy of Equinox
Talk to Sarah Robb O’Hagan for five minutes, and you are definitely inspired to get moving. The President of the popular Equinox fitness chain believes in the links between exercise and confidence, and beauty and strength. Not surprisingly, she’s also a tri-athlete. But O’Hagan wasn’t always so confident and fitness was a part of her journey to get there. Here O’Hagan talks about how she learned to love her strength, why group fitness rocks, and why the latest trend in health is about mindfulness, not exercise.
The importance of loving your body
I am not a small person. I’m not a petite person. I don’t look like the standard that I was exposed to growing up of what was considered beautiful. I was always tall, always athletic. I would always look around, at the other girls around me, and feel like I was a giant. Honestly, I was so self-conscious because of that. I knew I didn’t conform to what the industry would consider beautiful. Now that I’m older and I understand, I always look to teenage girls and wish they could understand what I now appreciate so much. Having a physicality and the ability that a healthy body has, is such a blessing, and so beautiful in so many ways. It isn’t about fitting into size zero skinny jeans. It’s about how at every shape and size, people can be beautiful and that comes from within. If you just get your head around that, then somehow you get very good at blocking out the noise in terms of society’s perspective of what’s beautiful.
Regeneration, what it means, why it matters
The big area in health that is really starting to boom is about mindfulness and meditation. It goes hand in hand with this idea of regeneration. If you keep working out six or seven days a week, and you’re not giving your body the time to recover, you’re not getting the best out of your body. Exercise is only one piece of a healthy life, but you also need regeneration, like sleep and mindfulness. I was one of those classic Type A people, getting by on five to six hours of sleep a night. Once you get informed about sleep and understand that your body needs seven to eight hours, it’s incredible how different you feel. You see how much more productive you can be, how much sharper your mind is. The benefits are so huge.
Why fitness variety is key
I have always been someone who works out every day. I learned what it really takes to maximize the results of my own body. But I was doing the same things over and over. I am a big runner. So I was sort of like Forest Gump, I would run and run and run. One of the things I learned from being at Equinox, was that I needed to change it up. Now that I’m balancing different types of exercise I am noticing incredible results. My body feels different. I get injured less. I have more endurance.
The latest trends in fitness
I see a trend towards teammate training classes that involve people working together as a group. At Equinox we have a really cool class called Shockwave. You’re actually in little groups doing exercises, competing in a time-based format. I also think technology like FitBits are giving so many people basic awareness about their fitness and sleep. You think, OK I only walked so many steps today, I really should walk to the train instead of get in a cab. We just launched a new app to aggregate the data off the device.
Best workout if you’re short on time
The ViPR is a very unique piece of equipment because it is weight bearing, but it also enables you to do exercises that get your heart rate up. It’s basically multidimensional movement. If I only have 30 minutes, I can do a ViPR workout and be sweating like crazy and feeling the burn.
Why do the big stuff like triathlons
I typically try and do 2 or 3 events a year because having a goal keeps me focused. For me, why I do it, is it is a really social experience. I do one half marathon a year with a group of girlfriends. We always pick a different city and it becomes a great, fun, shopping weekend. And somewhere in the middle of it you do a half marathon. The Tough Mudders are my favorite though. They are an incredible team experience. It’s not an event that is timed. You’re not trying to win anything. It is about a team of people working together to overcome obstacles that are sometimes physically hard, and others that are frankly terrifying. It’s a really neat feeling that we are all in this together with men and women in teams working together.
The connection between strength & beauty
When I see women that are strong, confident and self-assured, that’s beautiful. It’s about being in touch with your mind and body, whether it is with mindfulness meditation or the physicality of working out. When I look at what my body can do—going running, skiing or sailing or playing tennis—that’s what gives me confidence. It’s about being good to yourself and being touch with the actual brilliance that your body can deliver for you.