Dr. Dan Reardon has his eyes on the prize.
The onetime competitive runner, personal trainer and emergency room (ER) doctor is no stranger to setting goals and meeting them. So, when he learned about the connection between genetic predisposition and athletics and saw the possible applications to fitness and nutrition, he knew he would make his idea a reality.
Ultimately, he took his unique set of skills and expertise and co-founded FitnessGenes with the counsel and partnership of everyone from PhD geneticists to fitness enthusiasts. The “science-first” company tests individuals’ DNA to determine the most effective methods of exercise and diet plans for reaching their goals. The results can reveal details about how an individual might burn fat or maintain stamina based on genetic code and also includes plans based on the data.
Here, Dr. Reardon explains why his own happiness is predicated on creating value for others:
Live The Process: How did you develop your passion for both healing and fitness?
Dr. Dan Reardon: I've been involved in athletics throughout my entire life. I loved being active as a kid and played soccer and was into running. I competed at a very high level: I ran the 400 meter at university, but got injured, which meant I had to stop running. Rather than get into coaching, I decided to transition into being a personal trainer because I was also really interested in health promotion, given that I was trained as doctor.
I would say that I was raised with that value. My dad was a semi-professional soccer player and came from a family of soccer players. I was interested in sports injuries and sports medicine and, ultimately, I decided to become a doctor. I remember at my medical school interviews, when they asked my why I was interested in being a doctor, I spoke about my interest in sports injuries. In my first year at university, after getting injured in the 400 meters, I trained to become a personal trainer and that’s where the passion for fitness and nutrition started.
LTP: How did your many years as a medical doctor, particularly in the ER, prepare you for launching FitnessGenes?
DDR: The idea for FitnessGenes came about in October 2011 at my best friend’s wedding. Me and Stuart Grice (co-founder and Lead Scientific Advisor) and his fiance at the time (Samantha Decombel, co-founder and CSO) were talking about genes they had found that were prevalent in athletes. I found it interesting: I realized that if I had that kind of detailed DNA information about personal training clients, for example, it would enable me to tell them exactly how they should exercise and eat for their bodies to meet their specific goals.
Being an ER doctor meant learning to live with very little sleep and, in the early stages of any startup, it’s all about the hours you put in. So, in the early years of FitnessGenes, I didn’t sleep very much, which enabled me to get a lot done. I think also being very driven, reactive, impulsive and able to make decisions are all important qualities when you're setting up a business. So is being focused on the end game. This is similar to being in the ER because, when a patient comes through the door, your main focus is ultimately to have them walk out of the hospital, cured. It’s the same when you're in a business: You have to break down the stages to get to that endpoint.
LTP: What differentiates FitnessGenes from other companies that assess wellness through DNA analysis?
DDR: FitnessGenes take a science-first approach. We were founded by a medical director and Phd geneticists. As a result, we've been able to get certain grants due to our science innovation. We also have a number of collaborations and studies with universities as a result of our scientific credibility. In the market, we’re a science-first product.
We offer DNA testing and use the results in congruence with environmental factors to determine how people should eat and work out based on their goals. Whether they’re just starting out, wanting to build muscle, lose fat—whatever the goals are—we can give them specific information about the way their bodies function to help them succeed.
LTP: What, if any, wellness rituals do you practice to keep yourself feeling balanced and healthy?
DDR: I stay very active even though I'm always on-the-go. For example, I always try to walk instead of taking a car or train. I always try to use the stairs instead of the elevators. I always stay in hotels that have gyms. My typical routine includes waking up at 4am and do some sort of exercise, even just stretching if I'm short on time. Then, four to five times a week I get a good quality workout in. I eat based on my activity. If I work out, I'll eat more. If I'm not able to work out, I'll reduce my food consumption. Typically, I work long days and so I stretch my day and eat in a particular way.
I’m predominately vegetarian. I tried to be vegan, but it didn't work out. I have a better knowledge of it now, so I’m going to try and be vegan again. As of now, I have meat once a week. I'm enjoying that change in my diet, and I feel a million times better.
As far as wellness rituals, I have plans to start yoga. With all the flying I do, my back is getting stiff. I love checking out the trails wherever I am. Whether it’s the Santa Monica mountains or Malibu or wherever I land, I go out and hike. In terms of nutrition, I love finding healthy ways to make commercial meals healthy, such as using superfoods to create inventive recipes. I get a lot of my meal inspiration from Darin Olean and incorporate those methods of eating in my life.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
DDR: Happiness, for me, is a balance in life. It’s about creating value for people. The more value I create for people, the happier I feel: FitnessGenes employs people and they earn good salaries and, therefore, lead good lives. So, I feel fantastic value there. For the FitnessGenes customers, obviously creating a good product is great value. For the wider world, there’s scientific research that we’re doing that can make the world, in general, a special place. That makes me very proud. I feel very happy when I’m able to sit down with co-founders of the business and the investors and employees and just talk about all the great things going on in the company.
Having a girlfriend who lives a very similar lifestyle to me makes me happy. It’s great to be very active, to share healthy practices and experiences together. Having a happy and healthy family is very important to me too.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
DDR: If the process is living a healthy life, then I think that’s the goal. I went through a couple phases in life when I didn’t live as healthfully as I would have liked. Certainly, in the old days of FitnessGenes, it was a struggle trying to balance a healthy lifestyle. It took me a long time to learn how to do this. So, living the process is understanding my requirements of the day (work, nutrition, relaxation, socialization) and then ensuring that I deliver them.
I think people can help themselves in many ways: Be honest about what you require each day to keep you going from a motivational, nutritional and satisfaction perspective. And be honest with yourself about how you can achieve those goals. What is the roadmap to follow to reach those targets? If we’re honest with ourselves about our longterm goals, it enables us to live better lives.