Michele Mehl is “by no means a fitness guru.”
“I’m more of a weekend warrior,” says the Seattle-based entrepreneur, “who wants to cycle, snowmobile, ride mountain bikes, and hit the trails with my family.”
An active lifestyle has always been in Mehl’s wheelhouse—she was even a two-sport Division 1 athlete in college.
But as her busy life as a mom and business owner (and eventually a broken leg!) began to impede on her time to workout, Mehl and business partner Mike Rector began to design something that could make working out from home more accessible.
The result was Excy, short for Exercise Cycling.
Excy is a total body-cross training system in the form of an exercise cycle. It comes in at 10 pounds dripping wet and is compact, so it’s easy to carry around if needed.
The Excy combines cardio fitness, strength training (up to 30 pounds of resistance!) and interactive mobile health technology. Users can log into the website to watch online video workouts, from beginner on up.
In this interview Michele talks about how her design helps people get those healthy choices in, whether they’re looking for something average or athletic. She’s got some great advice for burgeoning, already-busy business owners, too.
Why start Excy?
The statistics are staggering for how few people get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week (only 20 percent of Americans), even though research shows that small amounts of physical activity trigger dozens of beneficial changes in the body. We crafted Excy to make quality exercise more convenient, fun, and social anywhere and at any time to generate healthier outcomes worldwide and eliminate the obstacles of time and space. For me, this Excy journey is all about believing that quality exercise is medicine for a higher quality of life and to help reduce the risk of injury and preventable diseases.
How would you describe Excy’s approach to health?
It really comes down to giving people more freedom to balance being healthy and busy by connecting quality cardio and strength training to everyday life at home, work, or on the go. Excy weighs just 10 pounds, but folds for easy transport and storage. Our patent-pending approach offers over 100 different workouts with zero to 30 pounds of resistance and easily adapts to users of all levels, making it the perfect tool for physical therapy, home fitness, burning calories, and group training.
Tell me about being a working mother with a broken leg! You sound like wonder woman.
Ha! Not wonder woman, just surrounded by amazing friends and family. As painful and inconvenient as the injury was for me, I think it was even worse for my family and friends who volunteered to do a lot of stepping and fetching while I was laid up on the couch. I’m very independent, so it was hard to rely on people so much, but I also realized that the people who love me the most didn’t mind at all. I did learn something about myself as a mom during this period of time: I was helping my son too much in his everyday life. Picking up his toys, throwing away wrappers left behind, clearing dishes that didn’t get put away, etc. I couldn’t do any of those things with a broken leg and in fact, my son had to help me quite a bit. I hold him to much higher standards now for picking up after himself and having household chores.
What do you hope your customers get out of using Excy?
The ability to integrate exercise into their everyday life. Our hope is that one parent using Excy in the home cascades to the rest of the family realizing the importance of exercise for a higher quality of life and to prevent disease. We want the whole family using Excy.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced when starting Excy and how did you overcome it?
I co-founded and started my first company, the Seattle public relations firm Buzz Builders, when I was pregnant with my son who is now 11. He came into the world with a mom who worked full-time. I often carried a certain level of guilt for having him spend his days with a nanny and, then later, in daycare. So, when I decided to start Excy and transition from servicing startups to running one, I was 110 percent committed to getting my son’s permission and letting him have a say this time. I sat him down for a good talk that included a list of challenges that I would face that would impact him. That included missing sporting events, traveling more frequently, working more hours, working on vacation and being distracted.
But we also talked about other items specific to me that might impact him: People might say mean things about his mom that he’d have to brush off (i.e. not in shape enough, too skinny, too old, selfish to do something that takes me away from our family, etc.). I didn’t know this at the time, but getting the permission and complete buy-in from Jack (and my husband) has ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made to date in bringing Excy to market. Not only have all the warnings become a reality that he was prepared for, but it also gave him a sense of ownership of being part of the journey.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/ small business owners?
If an idea is keeping you awake at night and you can’t let it go in an almost obsessive way, go for it and don’t be afraid to push yourself outside your comfort zone.
How do you balance working out and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with being a business owner, partner and mother?
Staying healthy and balancing a heavy load is not easy to do. Between work, commuting, family commitments and trying to have a social life, I am often hard-pressed for time. When life gets chaotic, the last thing I want to do is spend hours working out, so that’s why I focus on high intensity interval training and short intense bursts or mini workouts. I use our mobile coaching application to do 30-45 seconds of all-out bursts on Excy, where I go as hard as I can, followed by 30-second brief recoveries. These short workouts are highly effective and allow me to quickly get back to being mom/business owner/wife/friend. I personally want to spend as little time working out as possible, so I focus on making my workouts highly efficient and effective. I see these mini workouts as a time saver and time is everything when trying to balance it all.
What has been inspiring you lately?
When we started this Excy journey, we knew in our hearts we could make exercise more accessible to help people who face unique challenges with getting exercise, but the thought never crossed my mind that the size, durability, and versatility of Excy would have so many applications for such a wide variety of people. The journey began because I never felt like there was time to workout and I wanted a better solution to get more active. In my mind, Excy was awesome. I lost almost 20 pounds in the first three months and felt more in charge of my genetic pathway that includes heart disease. We knew Excy could make a big difference in people’s health and I was excited.
Then, I broke my leg and was exposed to months of living with pain and the dreadful process of going through physical therapy. My eyes were open to the possibilities of how Excy could help with rehab, assist in increasing range of motion, and help people stay active with injuries, disabilities, and disease. It’s these scenarios that inspire me the most on a daily basis.
I’m very independent, so it was hard to rely on people so much, but I also realized that the people who love me the most didn’t mind at all.
Why is taking care of your body important to you? What motivates you to work out?
The health benefits of exercising goes on and on, from more energy, to a better night’s sleep, to being more productive, to a healthier lifestyle, and to fight preventable disease. I exercise for those reasons, but also because I think it makes me a better mom and I want to be one feisty, active person my whole life.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Margaret Thatcher—amazing leader, tremendous grit, and it would be interesting to hear her thoughts on women in business and technology today. Thomas Jefferson—we always hear that our founding fathers would turn over in their grave if they experienced today’s modern political culture. Imagine being able to get his perspective and advice. Jesus—because he’s Jesus. Then, I’d bring my son to tag along so he could hear the conversation.