CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Raphael Bender, CEO of Breathe Education

Raphael Bender is the CEO of Breathe Education, a Pilates training company that has certified more than 2,750 instructors all over the world.

Learn how the most successful leaders, artists, founders, executives, writers and athletes structure and manage their days. Sign up and stay up to date!

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve had several major career changes. I have been a full-time musician, motor repairer, bouncer and silver-service waiter.

At 35 I opened a yoga and Pilates studio with a group of friends, and at 40 I enrolled in university to do a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science, followed by a Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology (Rehabilitation).

In 2016 I sold my share of the yoga and Pilates studio and started Breathe Education, a business that trains Pilates instructors. In early 2020 we moved our training 100% online, and last year alone we trained and certified 630 students in 8 countries

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

We are a completely distributed workplace, so there is no HQ and everyone works from home. For me, most of my days look like this: 

  • Wake up at 5am, sip a double espresso on the sofa and read or think until 6am
  • Head downstairs to my gym for a 90-minute workout, then a shower & breakfast (usually fruit & yoghurt)
  • We have a morning positive focus Zoom call where everyone on the team shares 1 thing we’re feeling positive about, then I get into work…

Most days ‘work’ involves various phone and Zoom calls with team members throughout the day. I generally manage to schedule breaks every 1-2 hours so I can stay fresh and inspired. Plus when I’m on the phone I’m usually moving – folding the washing or ironing, doing the dishes or any other light housework.

I finish work at 5pm and sit down for dinner with my wife and daughter, then relax on the sofa with a book. I’m in bed with the lights out at 8pm.

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

We all get to choose how we spend our time, and who we spend it with. I have made choices that I hope will lead to the greatest amount of satisfaction and meaning for me, and those I care about.

I think it is important to take breaks, to look after my health by exercising, eating well and sleeping enough, and of course we all need some kind of human connection, which needs to be nurtured.

However, I believe the actual ‘balance’ between all of these elements is going to be different for each of us, and we shouldn’t feel obliged to shoehorn ourselves into an idealised version of life that we have seen on TV, or read about on social media.

I embrace my work, it gives me great satisfaction and it is fun, so I wouldn’t want to do less of it. Working from home also means I get to have my cake and eat it too, the time I save on community or being in the office, I can spend with my family. 

4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Habits and routines are incredibly powerful tools for success. If you can automate behaviours that lead to success, you’re more likely to reach your goals.

My day is already pretty full of habits, so I haven’t started any new habits as such, but I’m always working on improving things. Currently I’m working on making my engagements with colleagues more impactful by being radically candid, keeping the conversation on-topic in meetings, and saying no to almost everything.

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

6) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Absolutely! The Kindle app on my iPhone, my AirPods and of course… my glasses! 

7) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

PayPal founder, Peter Thiel

8) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I have found that for me, simply scheduling things a bit further apart so that you are not rushing can have an astounding impact on my day to day, and my overall happiness.

Rushing around causes stress, which ultimately contributes to that ‘end of day’ exhaustion when you may want to relax and enjoy time with your family or to yourself. Don’t try to cram too much into one day, be kinder and fairer to yourself. 

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.

Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.

Order our Daily Routines ebook today! Featuring first-hand interviews, insights and revelations compiled from 50 of the world’s most successful people.
About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.