Rosie (Siman) Yakob is a 29-year-old entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, and nomad (she travels the world running Genius Steals with her husband Faris). Rosie and Faris travel to wherever their clients happen to be — from London to Mexico and everywhere in between! This way of living might seem to be at odds with an active one, but not only is physical activity is a part of her life, it’s a vital component that helps sustain other aspects of her lifestyle. Her approach to work and life is one we can all aspire to.
WB: Tell me a little bit about the activities you do to stay fit and active. I imagine it’s an extra challenge being on the road as much as you are!
RSY: We [my husband Faris and I] have been on the road for a hundred and fifteen weeks this week (Editor’s note: This was as of mid-May). It’s a long time to be on the road. But, I actually feel like l’m healthier now than when I wasn’t traveling all the time. You have to be more intentional, but in some ways it’s easier to be intentional when life is always changing.
After traveling for a while, both Faris & I were having trouble sleeping: multiple time zones, lots of days in/on planes, trains. We actually talked to a therapist about sleep, and she suggested we needed a routine, which felt unrealistic. It’s impossible for us to know what will be doing on a particular day, and I found that if I set a schedule that I couldn’t stick to, I’d beat myself up for having missed the schedule we were supposed to be sticking to.
I figured the problem was in the therapist, but then received the same piece of advice from a different therapist. Except when I rebuffed her, she challenged me to think of the advice with a different articulation. She said “It’s not about a routine, in the sense of a schedule. It’s about finding a ritual,” which really resonated with me. While her suggestion of a ritual wasn’t exercise specifically, she also suggested we’d be able to sleep better if we were exercising on a more regular basis.
When we were in Thailand, we tried yoga and we both really enjoyed it. And it fits well with our lifestyle because we can do it literally do anywhere, without the help of anyone else. We also started doing nightly meditation (with the app Headspace), which helped with our sleep as well.
We have been to yoga classes in Vietnam and Singapore, in Tampa, in Seattle, in LA, in London, in France… and practiced on our own in plenty other places. One of the (many) brilliant things about yoga is that the poses are named in Sanskrit, so even if we’re in a country where we don’t speak the language, we can generally follow along.
We also found this woman online called Erin Motz; she has a 30-Day Yoga Challenge that we did when we first started getting into yoga. I’m a huge fan of her because she has what I consider to be a much more normal (and helpful) perspective on fitness and yoga. On her site, she has a picture of herself sitting cross-legged doing her meditation (“Om”) and there’s another one where she’s biting into a giant hamburger (“Nom.”). She’s a red wine drinking, meat eating girl who just happens to like yoga. Me, too!
She suggests that practicing yoga, even for fifteen minutes a day, is impactful. Her 30-Day Yoga Challenge has videos that are all under 20 minutes — so there’s no excuse for not having the time. So, yoga is probably our most regular activity when it comes to fitness.
And then walking: we walk all the time. We try to always walk whenever we can because that also gives us time to see the cities we are in. Even if we are just in for a meeting and we take forty-five minutes to walk to the meeting instead of taking ten minutes cab, that’s some site-seeing and exercise snuck in.
But for us it’s about variety, too, and because we are in different places we use those opportunities to try new things. We were in Vegas and we heard about an aerial yoga class, so we tried that. In London, we took an acro-yoga partner class. We love scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming if we’re near water. I took burlesque classes in NYC and aerial silks classes in Nashville. We even took a capoeira class in Aix en Provence. The other week I was in Asheville at a girlfriend’s 30th birthday party and woke up with ridiculously sore arms from taking advantage of a rope swing at the lake. I like to have those kinds of interjections of activity because variety is the spice! And if you keep trying new things, you might find something else you like.
WB: Clearly you’re sleeping better. I’m interested to hear more about some of the other physical and mental changes you’ve experienced, and how this has changed your lifestyle more overall.
RSY: Well, now when we get to a city, we plan our yoga classes and then plan meetings around yoga, rather than the other way around. Since we work for ourselves, we get to make our own schedule, and we prioritize our own health. For me, that’s one of the key changes that has hugely impacted my personal sanity.
I know from my own experience that exercising helps me sleep better. We’ve gone from living in one place and having corporate jobs to starting our own company and living all over the world. It’s a lot more responsibility, and since there’s no office, there’s no leaving the office — meaning you have to stop yourself from working all the time. When I sleep better, I feel better about myself; I don’t feel as anxious. But it also means that I have an hour of quietness during the day, which I’m grateful for.
When we were working with Gibson Guitars in Nashville, we went to early morning yoga classes, which meant I was less likely to drink, which also impacted how I felt about my health.
WB: You mentioned that you feel healthier now than at other times in your life — can you tell me more about that, and that contrast?
RSY: Living in New York, there’s an overwhelming amount of attractive, thin people. I was surrounded by beautiful women that always looked amazing. And I could never get my act together to prioritize physical health. I had a trainer but went reluctantly. I never went to the gym on my own. I would stay out late and drink, and really hated getting up earlier than I had to.
Once I got into the habit of doing yoga several times a week, I felt like I approached health differently. In the past, I used to weigh myself and think a lot about the number on the scale — is this going up or down? Now I don’t have a scale, so even if I wanted to weigh myself every single day, I couldn’t do it. Now, it’s more about how I feel about myself and less about a number.
(Not drinking as much helps, too.)
Yoga has started to make me think differently about long term goals. I had always wished I was thinner in the past, but some of that is outside of my control. I’d rather be realistic and appreciate that I have great arms and legs, and I’m pretty flexible. I’m very proud of that.
WB: How do you define the words “healthy” and “fit,” for yourself?
RSY: To me, being healthy has more to do with the mental and physical bits. I factor in a few things — the meditation and sleep especially. I feel like if I don’t get a good night of sleep, or if I’m drinking too much, I’m staying up too late, I feel unhealthy. I’ve realized that being healthy is really about how you feel.
Being fit is more about, to me, strength and flexibility. There’s also an aspect of knowledge to being fit. There’s always something more you can do; there’s always going to be something more you can learn. It’s an ongoing process. You can try to be better — maybe you do yoga every single day for three weeks and you feel great, and then you might be slammed for two weeks and you can only go once a week.
Sometimes it’s not so much about the specificity of it as but the consistency of it. Making sure that something fits into your lifestyle, whatever that chapter of your lifestyle is, if that makes sense.
It is almost like a scale, diet and fitness. If you had a triple scale that would be diet, fitness and mental health. There might be some trade offs you have to make, but you can try to keep them all in balance.
WB: Are there any mantras or pieces of advice you’d pass on to someone looking to adopt a more active and healthy lifestyle?
RSY: My favorite mantra is “This too shall pass.” In times of mental taxation and trouble, or uncomfortableness, I find it comforting, but it’s a good reminder in the positive times as well.
Also, just being realistic with what works for you. Not as catchy as “Just do it,” but perhaps more meaningful. If you can’t do an hour class, that’s fine. You can do 15 minutes of stretching.
So often we see other people’s lifestyles and feel like we have to chase that, and most often, that’s just not going to happen. What makes me happy doesn’t necessarily make you happy — and vice versa. Use what everyone says as inspiration, but not structure.
Finally, having a partner in being healthy also really helps. Whether or not it is your life partner, maybe it’s just a friend or a colleague or even a personal trainer, but I’ve found that having someone who is excited by what you do is super motivating and also holds you accountable.