Money Matters

Sweat Equity: Inside The Daily Fitness Routines Of Branson, Zuckerberg And Other Time-Starved Founders And CEOs


Sam Hodges co-founded online peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle after experiencing first-hand how difficult it was to get a traditional small-business loan for Endurance Fitness, a national gym franchise he helped launch in 2009. But the financier turned fitness franchisor, along with his co-founders, also understood first-hand how equally challenging it can be to stick to a daily workout regimen while building a company — even if that company includes a network of five gyms and two spin studios.

Even his business partner Mike Rabil, who ran the day-to-day operations of the gyms, barely had time to use their own exercise facilities. “My business partners were in and out of the gym, managing leases, building a team, hiring a team, and expanding,” said Hodges. At the time he was overseeing Endurance Fitness and other investment holdings, but he managed to develop an all-encompassing routine that he’s followed for nearly a decade: mountain-bike riding one time a week, playing basketball one time a week, and lifting weights or doing calisthenics twice a week.

San Francisco-based Hodges says two strategies have helped him keep this demanding training schedule for all these years: 1) completing his workouts first thing in the morning and 2) enlisting workout buddies. “Scheduling a workout and mixing in workouts with those I enjoy spending time with makes it more fun and helps you stick to a schedule because I’ll let him down if I don’t go,” he says.

Sam Hodges, co-founder of Funding Circle / Credit: Funding Circle

A recent Funding Circle survey found that lots of entrepreneurs continue to struggle with getting exercise while maintaining an entrepreneur’s schedule.

The fintech company — which launched in London in 2010 before Hodges oversaw its expansion to the U.S. in 2013 – aims to help small business owners access credit via online crowdfunding. Hodges says that, while their mission is to help business owners in the financing arena, they also try to “think about the whole entrepreneur” and what it takes to be successful. A common theme they encountered was that many entrepreneurs simply can’t find time to exercise. Running a business, after all, can be a 24/7 job.

Funding Circle’s October 2016 report surveyed roughly 1,400 business owners who employed no more than 500 workers. It asked participants questions like: How frequently do you skip or cut a workout short because of work commitments? And when is the best time for you to squeeze in an exercise while running a business? Here are some of the findings:

  • More than 25% of small business owners say they don’t have time to do regular exercise.
  • Nearly 45 percent of respondents said they felt less stressed after a workout while 60 percent said that they generally felt better about themselves after exercising.
  • Over a four-week period, only 12.97 percent completed all of their planned workouts.
  • Two-thirds missed some or all of their planned workouts.

“I’m definitely guilty of not sticking to all my planned workouts, but it was surprising to see that a quarter of entrepreneurs simply don’t have the time to invest in regular exercise at all,” says Hodges. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends the average adult complete at least 75 to 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week. While Hodges is quite disciplined about working out for a time-starved entrepreneur, he concedes that travel remains the biggest obstacle. “Travel breaks it up the most,” he says. “I travel 200k miles a year.”

For ongoing “fitspiration” he keeps an eye on how established and emerging entrepreneurs stay in shape. In addition to the small business survey, Funding Circle has compiled information about the workout habits and exercise-preferences of entrepreneurs and CEOs, including yogis like Cinnabon’s Kat Cole and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey; extreme sports fanatics like GoPro’s Nick Woodman and Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson; as well as cardio kings and queens like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey. Funding Circle also estimates how many calories these people would burn on a daily basis if they maintained their exercise schedules.

“It was inspiring to hear how Kara Goldin the CEO of Hint Water tries to hike almost every day with her dogs. I’m an avid mountain climber and my black lab Moose is one of my favorite hiking buddies,” says Hodges.

He was also impressed that Alexa von Tobel, founder of personal finance site LearnVest, finds time to break a sweat with employees at free company gym classes — a perk he also extends to Funding Circle’s U.S. staffers. “In fact, one of our former interns teaches a spin class every Tuesday that’s a big favorite here!” he says.

See below to learn about accomplished Entrepreneurs Who Exercise including the infographic (Note: statistics on calories-burned are an approximation only based on exercise routine).


Founder of Virgin Media Group runs, swims, lifts weights, does yoga and even finds time to kitesurf

600 cals per day / 4200 cals per week

Founder of Oracle often sails but is also in the gym regularly

600 cals per day / 4299 cals per week


Founder and CEO of Holowesko Partners LTD often cycles up to 80 miles a day and swims during lunch

3892 cals per day / 19460 cals per week

Founder and CEO of GoPro, as you would expect, does extreme sports as often as possible

350 cals per day / 1750 cals per week




Chairman of ADAG runs every single morning and is known as ‘Marathon Man’

1215 cals per day / 8500 cals per week


Former CEO of Starwood Hotels and former Coors exec runs 10 miles every day

1350 cals per day / 9450 cals per week

Founder and CEO of Positive Luxury runs to the Gym outside her office every morning

800 cals per day / 4000 cals per week

President and CEO of Travelocity runs 3 times a week and often works out at home

650 cals per day 1950 cals per week


Founder & Chairman of Panera Bread either runs or swims 3 times a week

400 cals per day 1400 cals per week


Former CEO of PepsiCo is now the Dean of Wake Forest University School of Business and runs with students

400 cals per day / 2000 cals per week


Executive Chairman and former CEO of CISCO Wireless runs every single day

400 cals per day 2000 cals per week

CEO and Co-founder of ClassPass runs every morning, enjoys dancing, as well as a core workout and barre

270 cals per day / 1350 cals per week

ClassPass tells Forbes Kadakia's current favorite workout is dancing / Courtesy of ClassPass



Co-founder of Airbnb is a former professional bodybuilder, lifting weights daily

600 cals per day / 3000 cals per week


Founder of runs & lifts weights daily

600 cals per day / 4200 cals per week


Citigroup CEO and former Harvard footballer does the Spartacus workout

600 cals per day / 4200 cals per week



Co-Founder of DANNIJO Jewelry does boxing or pilates every day

391 cals per day / 1986 cals per week

Courtesy of Danielle Snyder

CEO of Square and Co-founder of Twitter runs and meditates every morning

800 cals per day / 4000 cals per week


CEO of Cinnabon does Yoga every day without fail and also goes running

538 cals per day / 2690 cals per week


Founder & CEO of Hootsuite built a small gym and yoga room at the company offices.

435 cals per day / 3045 cals per week


Facebook CEO works out 5 times a week on a specially prepared routine

400 cals per day / 1200 cals per week


CEO of First South Financial has kept the same routine since being overweight as a child, running, push ups and sit ups

550 cals per day / 3300 cals per week


Co-founder of Cushnie et Ochs works out at Equinox Gym using scientific methods

550 cals per day / 2750 cals per week

CEO and investor does an hour of intense cardio 6 times a week

500 cals per day / 3000 cals per week


Editor in Chief of VOGUE plays tennis every day

529 cals per day / 2645 cals per week


OWN Network Founder does cardio 6 times a week along with strength training and meditation

500 cals per day / 3000 cals per week

Founder & CEO of LearnVest does a gym class almost every day with her employees

420 cals per day / 2520 cals per week

CEO of Apple hits the gym early almost every day

400 cals per day / 2000 cals per week

Founder of PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity does various cardio twice a week

400 cals per day / 800 cals per week

Founder and former CEO of Microsoft runs on treadmills at the gym daily

400 cals per day / 2800 cals per week

Xerox CEO does at least an hour of training every morning

400 cals per day / 2800 cals per week

CTO of CISCO works out every morning with no precise routine

400 cals per day / 2400 cals per week


Founder & CEO of the MOBO Awards skips every morning

315 cals per day / 1575 cals per week

CEO of Mediacom UK goes to the gym every morning for various workouts

300 cals per day / 900 cals per week

Works out every morning while watching the stock market

300 cals per day 1500 cals per week

CEO of Hint Water hikes every day with her dogs

273 cals per day / 1365 cals per week

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