February 7, 2020

Better Than Ever: CEO was told he might never walk. He's training for a triathlon

Over the course of his life, Jason Von Bank has endured four ankle surgeries, a bout with malaria in Africa and two back surgeries. He was told he might never walk again, but — like a cat with nine lives — Von Bank persevered.

Now, just months out from his latest back surgery, the CEO of virtual fitness class company Wellbeats is setting his intention: “I would like to do a half Ironman,” he said.

Von Bank finds inspiration in a philosophy he once read: “We have a choice each day when we get up,” he said. “We are either dying or growing.”

Von Bank likes to think that most days he chooses to grow. “I try to be very thoughtful on a daily basis.”

Physical fitness has long been a part of that journey.

“I’ve always been an athlete,” he said, adding that his approach to fitness has evolved over the years from a competitive outlet to an opportunity to stay in shape. “It used to be: Get up and go on a 10-mile run. Now, it’s more like yoga, meditate and take a 3-mile walk.”

Today, as the evolution continues post-back surgery, Von Bank is finding that fitness is transitioning to become more about mental health.

“Working out is clearly an outlet for me,” he said. “It’s as effective as taking an antidepressant, and meditation is helping with the healing process.”

Von Bank’s own journey has helped him realize that everyone’s fitness abilities and goals are different and can change drastically over the course of a lifetime. It’s one of the reasons his company continues to look for new and different classes to offer its subscribers. “We call it fitness that fits. We have something for you.”

Wellbeats launched a decade ago to serve the fitness club market with on-demand workout videos. It also works with businesses that want to offer exercise videos to their workers through employee-wellness programs. Its classes range from low-intensity restorative programs and office breaks to weight training and Zumba. Von Bank’s favorites are the yoga and spinning content. There are classes for all ages and stages of life from kids to pregnancy to active older adults.

“I really believe in our mission,” he said. “We want to make it as easy as possible to be active. Fitness has always been and always will be important to me.”

Q&A with Jason Von Bank

How do you typically start your day?

I usually wake up around 5 a.m., have a cup of coffee, spend time in reflective silence and prayer (typically in the sauna), stretch and roll, and then work out. What I do changes with the seasons or based on events if I’m training for something, but you can usually find me on a bike, at the club doing resistance training and Pilates, or doing a Weallbeats yoga or spin class at home.

How do you typically end your day?

We try to make eating together as a family a priority, so each evening usually starts with a family dinner together. After dinner, I am either at a sporting event, watching a game on TV, or just unwinding with a good book or Netflix show with my wife. I also try to carve out solo time to do something meaningful and unique with each of my children. Currently my nights are spent re-learning German with Annika, breaking in a first baseman’s mitt with Nick or helping Will launch his YouTube channel.

Where can people find you on weekends?

Either on a sports field or court (football, baseball, basketball), at the Horse and Hunt Club, at our cabin in Bemidji, or riding my bike out in the West metro.

What’s the most stressful or challenging part of your job?

Trying to control the uncontrollable

How do you cope with those demanding aspects of your career?

Faith, family and fitness. Although my career is critically important to me, it’s important to keep it in perspective, especially relative to those areas in your life where you don’t get a second chance.

Are you involved in the community?

I am a volunteer staffer for a men’s ministry called Marked Men for Christ. I am also on the board for the Orono Baseball Association. I coach youth baseball and football in Orono, and I recently came off the Special Olympics board where I served a six-year term, most recently as chairman. I will continue to work with Special Olympics Minnesota and its board as we continue to try to unify communities and eradicate the “R” word from our schools.

How do you balance it all?

Faith, fitness and family. If these aren’t in equilibrium, nothing else matters.

What advice would you give other business leaders and young executives working to advance their careers about staying healthy or finding work/life balance?

Balance doesn’t always mean 50/50. There are times when you need to prioritize work over your personal life and there are times when you need to prioritize your family, faith or fitness over work. I don’t think work/life balance means life always comes first. I think this perspective catches people off guard a bit.

Is there a podcast, blog, magazine or website, you regularly check for tips on health, wellness or nutrition?

I like The Doctor’s Farmacy; Rob Dial — The Mindset Mentor; Dr. Eric Berg; Savvy Psychologist; and Christian Questions.

Read the full article in the MSP-St. Paul Business Journal here.