Health and Wellness

How Outdoor Voices founder hacks her endorphins to feel more productive

Ty Haney, CEO and founder of Outdoor Voices.
Photographed by Christina Fallara.

As the leader of an activewear brand, Ty Haney says exercise is "a required part of my job," she tells CNBC Make It.

Haney is the 31-year-old CEO and founder of the apparel company Outdoor Voices, which she started in 2013. To date, the company has raised nearly $57 million from investors (including Gwyneth Paltrow) and the company has nine stores across the United States.

Unlike some other major athletic brands that focus on performance and winning, Haney says "the future of athletics isn't about being first, but it's about frequency and consistency." (Haney was inspired by the phrase "activity with moderation, ease, humor and delight," which she stumbled across in a vintage Vogue magazine book.)

To that note, Haney's workouts are not extreme, but more about feeling focused. "I'm best off when I start my day with something that's mind-clearing," she says. "For me, mind-clearing comes from movement."

Every morning at 7:30 a.m., Haney goes to a public pool to squeeze in a swim before she arrives to the Outdoor Voices offices in Austin, Texas, around 8:30 a.m. She grew up working out "on land," mostly running, but switched to swimming when she became pregnant with her first child, due in November. She swims 10 easy laps, she says.

"I think of it as priming myself for the day," she says. "I have to work out in the morning."

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This morning routine is just one of the ways Haney lives Outdoor Voices' operating principle: "Change the chemistry." To Haney, that literally means using exercise and movement to release endorphins and change her brain chemistry.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that relieve pain and make you feel happy. You can get a rush of endorphins from lots of things, including exercise, fear, love, music, chocolate and sex.

Haney often encourages her employees to exercise and do something endorphin-boosting when they're feeling struck on a project at work, because "it completely re-wires how you're thinking about something," she says. (A recent study found that just one moderate workout almost instantaneously alters how the brain functions. Plus, physical activity provides more blood flow to your brain, which in turn amps up your brain performance, among other brain benefits.)

"Get up and move, go hop on a bike ... do some jumping jacks," Haney says. "Create some endorphins to help you physically — and through the chemistry of your body — move through things."

Most people who have experienced a "runner's high" can relate to the feel-good effects of endorphins. Haney says that starting her day with an endorphins rush feels like "this chain of really great energy that you want more of, and so it kind of has this momentum built into it."

In a recent Outdoor Voices all-hands meeting, Haney instructed the team to draw what they imagine an endorphin looks like. ("I think it's like a spark or a chain of stars," Haney says, using the Super Star item in the video game Mario Kart, which turns players invincible, as an analogy.)

The "Super Star" item (far left) featured in Mario Kart 8.
Courtesy of Nintendo.

Now that Haney is pregnant, endorphins have become an important part of managing hormones and other symptoms. Beyond her morning swim, she tries to fit in bite-sized moderate-intensity exercise moments (walking or jogging) throughout her day.

Pregnancy has also given Haney time to think about creating a company culture at Outdoor Voices that's welcoming of kids, daycare and nannies. "The last thing that I want is to be away from my team and community for many months," she says. "What I'm focused on now is, how we create an environment where bringing your kids to work feels integrated."

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