DUKING IT OUT AT SHADOWBOX WITH MSNBC ANCHOR, STEPHANIE RUHLE
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MAGGIE MANN
Stephanie Ruhle is the eponymous host of “MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle,” which airs every weekday morning at 9 am. If you watch MSNBC regularly you will also see this busy newswoman pop up on your TV screens at other points during the day — especially now, when political developments are non-stop and there is never a dull moment in our nation’s news.
Previously a banker at Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, Stephanie got her start in business television as an anchor and managing editor for Bloomberg Television. There she co-hosted “Bloomberg GO,” Bloomberg’s flagship morning show. Among many other industry leaders, she regularly interviewed such financial titans as former Goldman Sachs President, Gary Cohn, now White House Director of the National Economic Council; Wall Street mogul, Wilbur Ross, now Commerce Secretary; famed “corporate raider” and Wall Street activist, Carl Icahn, now special adviser to the president on regulatory overhaul; and billionaire real estate tycoon, Donald Trump, now the 45th President of the United States.
Like many of those she has covered, Stephanie has shifted from business into political news in what has to be one of the most exciting times to be a reporter. It requires a lot physical and mental stamina. “It comes with a great responsibility,” she says, and you have to be “fitter than ever.” Given the time demands of her job; role as a wife and mother of three kids; and active involvement in women’s leadership development, having founded the Corporate Investment Bank Women’s Network and serving on the board of trustees for Girls Inc., how does Stephanie stay in such obviously good shape?
We found out after a class at Shadowbox, one of the hot new boxing studios on the NYC boutique fitness landscape. For this installment of “WOW! Working Out With”, Stephanie and I sat down to chat about staying fit and ready to rumble, and the challenges facing the media covering the uncharted territory of the Trump administration. Taking it all out on a boxing bag definitely seems to help!
THE SHADOWBOX WORKOUT IS DIVIDED INTO BOXING ROUNDS CONSISTING OF DIFFERENT JAB, CROSS, HOOK, UPPERCUT PUNCH COMBINATIONS, COMBINED WITH INTERVALS OF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING.
STYLE OF SPORT: What did you think about the workout?
STEPHANIE RUHLE: I absolutely loved it. Being in this room was an escape. We have so much in our lives. When you think about any of us — man or woman – what plagues us is we’re overwhelmed. When I look at working out as a task I have to do, something I have to fit into my schedule, it only makes me feel more overwhelmed. I love the fact I can just take a class. I love the element of surprise. No matter how many gyms I go to, no matter how many trainers I have, on my own I’m overwhelmed by the machines. It’s sort of like there is no beginning and no end. If I have a trainer, it’s like another person in my life. I have to talk to them, I have to deal with them, I have their issues. I don’t have the capacity for the chit chat between my job and my children and my husband. I have never been able to commit to a program, to a big huge new workout plan, a big huge new diet. Anytime I set these giant goals I always miss them and then I’m defeated. If I walk into a class I will never let myself walk out early. You’ve made a commitment for an hour. You are part of this silent community. You are on this team together.
SOS: What about boxing as opposed to other classes? I noticed you were wailing on that bag. It was swinging to the point I thought it might knock me over!
SR: I was thinking my kids should do this. My husband should do this. I certainly don’t want my kids to throw punches around the house, but my boys especially have got energy, and this a great way to channel it. The thing is if you’ve got frustration and aggression inside of you, it’s got to get out somewhere. Wouldn’t you rather get it out in that room in the dark? I’m a proponent of meditation, and I practice, but here you can get it out and go home. You’re never going to change who you are, but you can soften your edges so you will be that much more positive and pleasant to be around.
SOS: Are there other classes you like?
SR: I love SLT – it’s like super amped up cardio pilates. And I really love AKT — it’s for every girl who wanted to be a dancer. I don’t have the skills or swagger, but in THAT studio (which luckily is dimly lit), I can unlock my inner Beyonce. And even a class like that – filled with choreography and coordination — I just lock into the teacher’s words and release my mind.
SOS: It forces you to be in the present.
SR: Absolutely, I don’t like anything with heavy weights and equipment. I just turned 41 and I don’t want to do anything high impact or hardcore to be jarring my muscles, my body, my brain. AND I love the nightclub element. I miss that! It’s Friday, and I feel like I went to the club. I love the music. I love the darkness. I love the dancing.
SOS: That’s exactly what Kelly Ripa told us. So many of us old ladies feel that way!
SR: When I go to the club, I’m not that cool. When I’m in that room. I’m a hot ticket!
SOS: You look incredibly fit. What’s your secret?
SR: For me I would say fitness is really about health and wellness. Given the intensity of my job and wanting to be the best for my family, my lack of discipline was routinely leaving me exhausted, dehydrated, and even down. I started using the Under Armour Record connected fitness program and it really helped me tune into my habits and tune up my overall health. I use exercise apps like the 7 Minute Workout. My schedule makes it tough to get to the gym, but excuses aside, I can’t claim I don’t have 7 minutes to knock out jumping jacks and planks. Wearing a fitness tracker keeps me out of the elevator and on the stairs. There is nothing more motivating to me than seeing a low step-count or a small percentage of movement right there on my wrist. Even small changes in my activity have made a big difference in my body and mind.
SOS: Something is better than nothing.
SR: You’re in a worse place if you do nothing. I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve been on a workout jag. And then I pull a muscle or I start traveling and then I do nothing. If I know that I did something, and that’s why I wear a step tracker, it makes a difference for me. I just check my number and I know I hit my goal.
SOS: What’s your goal?
SR: 700 steps a day. It isn’t that much but I know when I don’t hit it, then I have to do better. By forcing yourself to do something, it will keep you from getting to a bad place. I’m not always in my best place, but I’m not in a bad one either.
SOS: I get frustrated with people who say they don’t have time. Everybody has time if they want to make the time. You’re the host of a morning TV show. You’ve got 3 kids, a husband, and you’re juggling a lot. If you have time then anyone has time.
SR: I’m sure I could always be a little tighter, lose a couple pounds, but if I stay within the range, then mentally and physically I’m in a good place. I am also currently in the throws of Arianna Huffington’s 28-day Sleep Revolution Challenge. With the goal of getting 7 hours of sleep a night, I cannot say I’m a star performer, but I can already see the difference in how I feel, eat and interact with others when I go without sleep. Working mothers especially have track records of poor sleep habits. Sleep may be silent, but it is essential. If we hope to be our best selves, it’s not possible without respecting our bodies need to recharge.
SOS: I was watching you on The Today Show and you had this great line, “Work hard on yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself.”
SR: Because we are. It’s about knowing who we are, what your capabilities are, and your body type. You have to at some point say, “This is the girl I am and she’s taken me this far. I’m going to be the best version of who I am. I can’t be you and you can’t be me, but I can try to be the best me and not the worst you.”
SOS: So well put!
SR: It’s like when we’re walking to the hair salon with a picture of Jennifer Aniston, and walking out wondering why we don’t look like her… because WE’RE NOT HER.
SOS: Now there are so many options. I just did our 31 Days of Fitness challenge to show people 31 of them. No matter what you like to do, there is workout for you and a community of people who like doing that same workout too. Almost every studio I went to was packed with people who had found their thing and found their tribe. How great!
SR: It becomes people’s church. It becomes their religion. And also, it’s inclusive. I used to think a gym is so expensive, a class is so expensive. It doesn’t have to be, especially with technology. There is an app for most things you want to do.
SOS: I’m going to shift off fitness for a bit. I want to talk about your career. You are “The Media.” You are the “Opposition Party” now. I think it is phenomenal how the media has taken on that role, and been very forthright in their opinions. You interviewed Kellyanne Conway and challenged her about how she faces her kids. To be in your business right now, in the Trump era, just talk to me a little bit about the responsibility, the anger, the joy, the frustration.
SR: More than anything, I would say it is the joy. I’m excited to be on the field. I’m excited to be in the game. It doesn’t mean you’re not getting hit. It doesn’t mean you’re not getting tackled. Some days you lose, but it’s about game on.
SOS: I love a sports metaphor! Would you say this is one of the most exciting times to be a journalist?
SR: It’s one of the most exciting times in my life. I think the responsibility of it is hard. It is easy for all of us, especially in social media, to criticize all day long. But it’s an honor to be a part of the media. I will never disrespect The White House. This is the best country in the world.
SOS: Whether we like it or not, Trump was elected.
SR: President Trump is the President of the United States. I accept that. Whether or not I voted for him doesn’t matter. I root for him. I root for this country. And you’re darn right I’m going to do everything I can to hold him accountable. He’s made a lot of promises and we’ll see if he fulfills them. I would say one of the best things about this administration is they’re forcing me to work harder and be honest. We all make mistakes, but I assure you we are crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s more than ever.
SOS: You’ve got to be fitter than ever!
SR: Regular people say, “Oh, I’m not a fitness person.” But we’re all a wellness person. We all want to be well. How you feel mentally and physically are completely intertwined. When you woke up and knew you needed to go for a run to clear your head, you weren’t going for fitness, you were going for wellness. You say Transcendental Meditation and people’s eyes roll, but for me, mediation, that 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night, it gives me this mental cushion in my day. It’s my nature to shoot from the hip. Something like TM, it almost puts me on a half second delay.
SOS: If I feel the same way after a run as before, then I know what’s bothering me is legit… and usually I don’t feel the same way. I’m not as revved up. It puts it in perspective.
SR: Running… meditation… it turns the volume down on all the things in your life. If you’re coming from a defensive place, everything is worse. If you’re already on edge, it only gets sharper. The business I’m in, on TV, edges are sharp. I’m trying to get through my life with three kids in NYC and commitments. There are sharp edges everywhere.
SOS: And you’re on display.
SR: I’m on television everyday but my biggest mistake would be to try to be perfect or try to be somebody else. If a good person is honest, if a smart person is honest, when they fall down, they can admit it. They can say I’ve fallen and people will help them get up. When a bad person is backed into corner or they fall, they are scratching and clawing to keep anyone else down. I don’t want to fall down alone. Isn’t better to work out together? Isn’t it better to win together? To be on a team? I’d rather win or lose on a team than do any of it alone. Part of being in the “opposition”, as were called right now, I actually feel like we’re all rooting for each other. In business TV I didn’t feel this sense of camaraderie. We were all trying to get the interview, break the news. But now I feel like were all banding together a bit. I do. And I’m definitely rooting for other people.
SOS: Thanks, Stephanie. We are definitely rooting for you.