This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 14: Hacking Brain & Body
Given that this month’s theme is “hacking brain and body”, it couldn’t be more fitting that we’re talking to Marcey Rader, a Lifestyle Trainer who excels at doing both! Marcey’s expertise in both physical and mental self-improvement is a real inspiration, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s a fantastic writer to boot.
If you’re interested in hacking your own health and wellbeing, read on!
Marcey, for those who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?
I’m a Lifestyle Trainer in health and productivity who specializes in both business travelers and high achievers who want to climb the ladder without sacrificing their health. Often those people fit into both categories. My degrees are in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and I hold multiple certifications in personal training and nutrition. I spent 13 years in the Clinical Research Industry in Pharma, Biotech, and Medical Device monitoring and managing clinical trials and then became a Corporate Trainer for processes and technologies. This is where I got into systems and later became a Certified Productive Environment Specialist.
I created the Jetsetter Gym Kit and wrote a book – Hack the Mobile Lifestyle: 6 Steps to Work Well and Play More! My main gigs are private virtual coaching in 3- and 6-month packages, corporate workshops on health and productivity (Hack My Email! is my most popular) and set small businesses up with the right systems and behaviors for them to get out of the gate successful.
Can you explain what a “lifestyle trainer” is, and how it’s different from a personal trainer?
Deciding on what to call myself has been one of the toughest things I’ve had to do and to be frank, I still don’t know if the meaning conveys itself. While I am a Certified Personal Trainer, I don’t do traditional training and consider it a supplement to what I teach. The reason I chose the term “Lifestyle Trainer” is because I coach my private clients on many aspects of health and productivity in my Power Plan, which includes nutrition, fitness, stress management, sleep management, how to outsource or shortcut at home, as well as inbox management, task, time and even receipt management. I sometimes give specific exercise plans but most of the time it’s the general behaviors that are important, not that they are doing 3 sets of 12 reps of the newest exercise.
What made you decide to get into coaching?
I’ve always had a client or two on the side from the time I graduated with my degree in Exercise Science, however, most of my adult life has been spent in Clinical Research. When I became a Corporate Trainer at the global company I worked for, I realized I also loved teaching people how to learn systems and work more efficiently. One of the modules was at the end of a four-week course which had new business travelers. I spent half a day training them on how to travel and work in a healthy and productive way. This was a rogue training I created myself and was told by the class it was the best part of the four weeks. A few years ago I realized I had gone up as high as I wanted to go in my industry; I had the knowledge to train individuals and companies, as well as the passion to learn that made me want to dive into the business aspect of it.
You’re clearly passionate about how health and productivity affect each other. How do you approach this?
I really don’t believe that you can be one without the other. Your stress levels at work, your fear of the inbox, the endless meetings and never-ending task list; they all keep you awake at night, promote bad food choices, postpone or eliminate exercise and so on. For companies, I perform workshops weaving in both, however, sometimes they just want to get out of email jail. I have three private coaching plans, The Productivity Plan, The Energy Plan and The Power Plan. I meet with clients virtually over Google Hangout so we can share desktops and I can really see into their lives and their issues. We spend half of each session working on nutrition, exercise, sleep or stress behaviors and the other half working on their inbox to teach them how to properly process (since most people just react), find opportunities within their calendar or ways to make their meetings more efficient and how to properly prioritize the tasks they are facing. It works really well virtually and is more productive because neither party is driving, the schedule can be more flexible and I can see their expressions.
We spend half of each session working on nutrition, exercise, sleep or stress behaviors and the other half working on their inbox.
Looking at the long list of your personal achievements 12 marathons, 30 triathlons…) you’re a pretty formidable figure! Do people find you intimidating?
Funny enough, I have only been told that by men! One thing I emphasize is that even though I have competed in over 75 endurance and ultra-endurance races in the last decade, that I don’t expect my clients to have the desire to do that. My point in showcasing that is all of it occurred during a decade of traveling on an almost-weekly basis, sometimes internationally. It gives me some credibility that I worked in a corporate job, was a true road warrior, did Ironman Triathlons and 24+hour adventure races and still managed to have a date with my husband every week. All that and I’ve shut down almost every night in five years with Inbox Zero! Many of my clients are just trying to get into the habit of 5-10 minutes of exercise a day and that’s where we start.
In my experience of the productivity world, in particular, the field seems dominated by males (including Bojan and myself!)…is this a fair observation, and if so why do you think this is the case?
I agree with you that most productivity experts that are well known are men and I’m not exactly sure why that is. Locally, I know five productivity consultants and they are all women. Thankfully, until you asked the question, the gender difference never occurred to me. My community and my clients have been a steady 50/50 male/female ratio. I don’t see poor health behaviors or lack of productivity as a problem that only one gender has, especially when you work in the corporate environment.
I’m a fairly typical example of a soft-in-the-middle office type, with two young boys, and I often find my fitness routines are the first to get sacrificed when the pressure is on. What advice can you offer about finding time to be healthy?
I love this question! The first thing to do is reframe and stop saying that you need to exercise. Instead, try to find opportunities to move. When my clients get to the point where they are saying “I found three opportunities today!” it makes me want to fist-bump because they are typically people who never did anything at all. Those opportunities may be one minute of squats while the coffee is brewing or 5 minutes in between clients. I have one client who sees several clients in a day and thought of ‘exercise’ or ‘workout’ as something that meant she had to change clothes, get sweaty and redo her makeup. Instead, I gave her five 5-minute routines she could do in a skirt without getting too sweaty. I would check in with her and she would get 1-5 opportunities in a day between clients. By the end of three months, she said: “you know, I think my butt’s getting higher!” Now that is something with just five-minute opportunities and she never even broke a sweat. This is someone who didn’t like to exercise before and now after almost a year of working together, she actually does exercise in addition to opportunities because she loves how it makes her feel and she was able to reframe it to something positive.
The first thing to do is reframe and stop saying that you need to exercise. Instead try to find opportunities to move.
What would you say is the most important “hack” people should be applying to their wellbeing and productivity?
It’s hard to state one specific hack but if I’m threatened with thumbscrews, I’ll say ‘breath’. I used to be a very high-strung high achiever who used to need things a specific way, my way. I’m still a high-achiever but have changed a lot in the last couple of years, partly due to meditation. I tried for about five years to get into the habit and I just couldn’t get it to stick. I thought it just wasn’t possible for someone like me whose brain seems to never stop. Then I started with just two minutes using the app calm.com. Starting with two minutes took the pressure away to sit for 15-20 minutes thinking about all the things I could be doing. It also wasn’t woo-woo and had different guided meditations for different feelings. I tracked it using coach.me and can see my streak (470 days and counting!) to keep me accountable. I worked my way to five minutes and now meditate religiously for at least ten minutes first thing in the morning while also doing my heart rate variability using the SweetBeat app. Sometimes I’ll do shorter meditations later throughout the day, even if only for two minutes. I use a breath I call 4-6-8 where I breathe in for four counts, hold for 6 counts and blow out for 8. That I can do anywhere. It’s changed my ability to adapt and I stay calmer in general. I feel it makes me more productive, especially in between clients, so I can get ‘reset’ for my next session.
You kicked the corporate habit and started your own business. What inspired you to do this, and how did you find the experience?
I’ve had small businesses off and on since I was 30 and knew that my interest, desire, and determination would help me to succeed. I admit it was very hard, in the beginning, to let go of the golden handcuffs. My husband is a professional musician and drum teacher. Our joke has always been ‘I’m the money. He’s the talent.” Living off of my husband’s salary and what I had saved, which I referred to as my Freedom Fund, was difficult the first year but we made it okay. I’ve always been smart with my money and haven’t had any debt except for my house for the last ten years. I also made a point not to borrow any money for my business. I’ve invested wisely in business coaching, a mentorship, courses to help me in my business, networking, and outsourcing. Outsourcing is actually something I help my clients learn how to do, whether it’s to clean their house, deliver their meals or perform their mundane tasks using a virtual assistant service.
We always ask our guests to walk us through their home screen. Can you share yours with us, and explain your most useful apps?
I’m someone who typically sticks with what works. I don’t try the app of the day or the moment. I think sometimes people have an issue with being productive because they don’t give whatever system, app or program they are trying a chance. Or, they think that because it works for someone else, it should work for them. I believe in ‘minimal effective dose’ and the same thing goes for systems. I don’t need a million bells and whistles if I’m not going to use them.
The apps I use on a daily basis are:
– My Fitness Pal – I don’t track calories but I do track my nutrient composition. I like this the best and can see what my clients are eating as well if they choose to share it with me. Then I can provide suggestions to them on how they could make better food choices.
– GoTasks – you might be surprised to learn that I use the native Gmail Tasking for my tasks. I like that I can task straight from the email and it shows up on my calendar too. With GoTasks I can prioritize by dragging and dropping, assign dates and have different lists. It syncs with my Gmail list immediately.
– Evernote is my go-to. I keep client info, recipes, books, copies of important family documents, and some ebooks in here. I also keep my travel packing list, which I’ve shared on my site.
– Stylebook is a fun app to help you pick out your outfits and organize your virtual closet. It takes some time to set up because you have to take photos of your clothes first, but then it’s super easy to create outfits and assign them to different days. I used to spend way too much time in the morning trying to decide what to wear. After working with The Technicolor Priestess, a kick-ass Style Coach, I made this process more streamlined and now use Stylebook to help me.
– Coach.me keeps me on track with my meditation streak. This is also where I house my own 10 by 10® and 25 in 25® exercise programs. Exercise for 10 minutes by 10 am in the morning and 25 minutes of exercise every day from December 1-25.
– Sweetbeat App to check my heart rate variability every morning.
– Calm.com for meditation
– Fooducate to see the grade of foods and if there are healthier choices
– Find Me Gluten Free which helps me find gluten-free restaurants wherever I am and see the ratings from other people who suffer from autoimmune or intolerance.
– Shoeboxed tracks my receipts and mileage
– Downcast for my podcast addiction
Do you think technology is a positive force, or is it distracting us from what’s important?
I think both. We’re able to do things we couldn’t even comprehend before. From my perspective, being able to coach people not just in other states, but even other countries, would not be an option without technology. The phone can work in some cases, but being able to see facial expressions through the use of video conferencing is a necessity. On the other hand, I think that feeling true anxiety because you forgot your phone, or the inability to use the bathroom without simultaneously playing on your iPad (I know someone like this and they can’t be the only one!) isn’t healthy.
I have to ask…what do you think of the Apple Watch? Or wearables more generally?
I want it! We are a Mac household and I love all things Apple. Right now, I’m waiting until Generation 2 or 3 comes out so they can work out any kinks. My husband and I tend to be early adopters but some things I give time. I think the potential for doctors and coaches to be able to see their patients/clients data allows for accountability and tracking that self-recall doesn’t.
I used to be addicted to a wearable called Bodymedia. I loved the feedback it gave me but it was ugly and had to be worn on the tricep which will completely ruin an outfit 😉 . I think the current wearables are more tasteful and actually look cool. I had the first edition of the Jawbone, which ended up being terrible and recalled. I loved the look of it and think it changed the market when it came to the form and function. I know they are better now and rated highly in wearables.
Currently I don’t have a wearable and am looking at the FitBit Surge as a gift to myself when I reach one of my goals. I like when my clients have wearables because it helps them to see how little they actually move and incentivizing when they have more activity. Where I think it can become an issue is when people look at it as perfection. If you are laying on the couch for an hour watching TV it shows you in sleep mode. If you are rocking in a chair, you may have burned calories because it thinks you are taking steps! I think they are a useful tool but be aware of the limitations. I use a traditional chest strap heart rate monitor in the mornings to check my variability but that’s about it. I go through waves of high tech and waves of reduced tech. My last two 100 mile mountain bike races I only had a Timex watch. I didn’t even use a bike computer!
I’m sure you’ve coached people from all walks of life. Do you have any particularly memorable experiences?
Twice I have coached clients that came to me hating their job. They were overwhelmed, felt terrible and were ready to throw in the towel. By the end of a program with me, both had received promotions, didn’t have plans of going anywhere else and felt like they were able to cruise at a reasonable pace. This was all due to productivity improvement to decrease the overwhelm and incorporating relaxation techniques and health behaviors to give them more energy. If companies knew what could happen to their employees with coaching, they would realize a 3 or 6-month program is much cheaper than hiring and training someone new. Six of my last eight clients have received promotions or better jobs and 80% of all my clients were able to reduce medication or come off of it completely if they were on it at the beginning of our program. I also had a very interesting experience training a software engineer in Pakistan for 90 days. Even on the other side of the world, the pressures and demands of work and the health struggles we face are all the same.
What big goals have you set for yourself? Any projects in the pipeline you can share with us?
By the time this issue comes out, I will be a featured spokesperson and health and productivity expert for a national U.S. hotel chain, but unfortunately, that hasn’t been revealed yet! I’ll be updating my book, Hack the Mobile Lifestyle: Work Well and Play More! and partnering with two major companies (contracts in negotiation) to get the message out on a broader scale. Thanks for the interview and for having such an interesting and insightful magazine.
Thanks for talking to Alpha Efficiency magazine!