The former pro athlete and fitness entrepreneur dishes on why accountability is a major element in fitness and how he is making exercising more accessible with Amazon Alexa.
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Rodrigo Garduno, founder of 54D
Credit: 54D

Finding the motivation for exercising can be somewhat difficult on the best of days—folks everywhere have been guilty of the "it was a good day, let me rest" mentality. And on the worst of days: gym, who?

This is something that former CECAP soccer star and fitness entrepreneur Rodrigo Garduño understands very well.

"People find motivation in stages instead of focusing on being disciplined. I want everything fast, now and that's it," the Mexican-born athlete tells People Chica. "But then they realize that the changes they want don't happen overnight, and they feel deceived and give up."

After the conclusion of his successful soccer career, something he began at the very seasoned age of 12, Garduño wanted to use his fitness and nutrition expertise to help people truly change their lives for the better, which is why he created his fitness brand, 54D.

"I wanted to give them something that was very different from what was already on the market, that was results-based," he affirms. "There wasn't a brand that offered the same thing anywhere in the world because not many people will sign themselves up to work alongside you for a set period of time. That's the promise that I make [to people]."

In an exclusive interview with People Chica, Garduño explains why people "need" people to be truly successful in changing their lives and why his company's collaboration with Amazon Alexa was the next logical step on his quest to create a better, healthier world.

Rodrigo Garduno, founder of 54D
Credit: 54D

What inspired you to create your fitness company? What about fitness really spoke to you as a person?

This was, in big part, is a continuation of what my life was before—I am a former professional athlete. For many years, I was a professional soccer player and I think it would have been a little odd had [I gone a different route with my life]. My intention was to never go out and create a fitness brand like 54D, but to help people with my acquired expertise. During its inception, I began to think about how to create a plan that helped people work on their physical and emotional well-being. I thought that it would be a good idea to try and merge my world of sports with what people were looking for, which was results.

I wanted to give them something that was very different from what was already on the market, that was results-based because the market has a lot of options that offer few results. In my case, I wanted to do the opposite, which might seem a bit more difficult and complicated. There wasn't a brand that offered the same thing anywhere in the world because not many people will sign themselves up to work alongside you for a set period of time. That's the promise that I make [to people].

The only way to get true change is by walking the path with someone, and that takes time. That is my mentality. This is what led me to create a company that was able to build a true strategy on transforming the physical.

As you've mentioned, fitness is communal. A big aspect of building community is oftentimes accessibility. Why did you feel that the next step for your fitness brand was to step into a partnership with Amazon Alexa?

54D started off as a brick-and-mortar fitness brand, and has expanded to have studios across the world. It's been about two years since we moved into the digital space, an aspect of the business that hadn't reached its full potential yet. It quickly became the most successful part of our business because we now have a [digital] presence in 90 countries. We became one of the most profitable fitness brands so many countries because of our bilingual nature of mixing English and Spanish, but also because we provide results. There is also always an online coach, every day, to help people out. A lot of programs only offer classes that you can download and that's it. Here are the videos, go and do them. [With 54D,] there is someone there with you every day.

So, why Amazon? It's very simple: we are the best-kept secret. If you ask me, every person that has used our program has been able to change their lives in a very radical way. COVID has taught us that living healthy is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity. People have told us about how the program has transformed their lives and helped them through things like anxiety and depression. So, when we made the decision to collaborate with Amazon, we wanted people to get to know us through the 54D ON skill on Amazon Alexa. We wanted them to know that we were an option available to them. Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world, with access to families from all around. I felt it was a great idea to integrate our program with them in a way that people would be able to benefit from establishing a healthier life.

Rodrigo Garduno, Rodrigo de Ovando of 54D
Credit: 54D

Technology has seeped into all aspects of life, especially the fitness world thanks to the pandemic. Now that you've made the jump into collaborating with Amazon Alexa, where do you envision the industry going?

If you would have asked me this question a year ago, I would have told you that the industry had been transformed completely and people would no longer be returning to physical spaces [to exercise]. If you ask me today, I'll tell you that people are returning to "normal" and have created a hybrid situation. People now understand that if they can go to the gym today, they go, but if they can't they can just open up their phones and work out from their home, their office, while traveling or at a hotel. They can do that now because technology allows it.

I feel like a Pandora's box has been opened in terms of what companies and brands can offer their clientele. I feel that brands now have the obligation to move with the times, because it is not enough to just provide an experience. In the past, brands were all about creating an experience—a pretty class with music, a class that seems like you're at a club with lights. I sweat, but the next day I'm still kind of the same. I believe that brands have to deliver on two promises: one promise to the client and another as a brand to be professional, results-driven and honest.

Something that's special about the 54D program is that it has a set start and finish date of nine weeks, giving folks a timeline of when to expect to see results.

That's something that's important to the program. Something that happens is that people start to lose motivation when they begin to feel lonely. [They] get bored, feel alone, lose patience and no one is there to help. That's what's great about 54D ON, it's the fact that someone is actually there with you every day holding you accountable.

As a fitness professional and a former pro athlete, what do you think is the biggest mistake people make when they are trying to be healthier?

Setting unrealistic and complicated goals or setting undefined goals. Think, "I want to be healthy." Okay, but where do you start? What is the objective? What is the program? It's like driving a car and [not knowing where you are going]. I may love to travel, but if I get in my car with no destination in mind, I'm never going to get anywhere. I will [lose my patience] and I will get out of the car. So, I believe that one of the greatest errors is that they don't have an adequate guide, adequate game plan [or] adequate objectives because they don't have a program to help them get there.

I would say another thing that does people a disservice is that they base it on temporary motivation. People find motivation in stages instead of focusing on being disciplined. I want everything fast, now and that's it. I want to change today because I'm motivated. Today I got up, and because I saw that the Kardashians are working out, I want to work out, too. I am going to Miami Beach this summer, so I want to look good. But then they realize that the changes they want don't happen overnight, and they feel deceived and give up.

You hear about a lot of people setting unrealistic goals for themselves, leading them to feel defeated after only losing two pounds out of 16 lbs in the two months they've been working out. How do you feel they can be more compassionate to themselves?

Yes, that's such a big [internal] fight that leads us to be very critical of ourselves. I am one of those type of people that reminds others of how they need to acknowledge their achievements and celebrate those achievements. You have to recognize all the steps forward you are making. People often don't recognize their small victories. Like [People Chica] said, if you want to lose 16 lbs and you've only lost two—that's still two pounds [you've lost]. Before [they were at zero,] and instead of saying, "I haven't achieved anything," say, "I've lost two pounds." Acknowledging small wins like this helps keep people on that path as well as not lose that sense of excitement and motivation.

It's also always good to be honest with yourself and analyze why things haven't gone differently. It's like, "I've lost two, but I haven't done anything," or "I've lost two, but I could lose more because whenever it comes time to do something I make an excuse." That's why I think that the best thing someone can do is have a "why." Why am I doing this? Why do I want to change? Would I like to look different? When someone has a "why," they become so much stronger.

You have years of fitness experience under your belt. What is your favorite workout?

Definitely HIIT. I love doing things with a lot of intensity. I am a person who has a lot of energy and I love anything that has a lot of movement. I have to say that my favorite workout is 54D, and not because I created it, but because of the level of energy and intensity that allows me to feel alive. I am not a person that can do slow things.

Fitness-minded people have been known to have small breaks in their diets—cheat days. What is your go-to meal on your cheat day?

Definitely tacos. Tacos with queso. Any kind of taco, but it needs to have cheese. Maybe a ribeye taco? I'm not a junk food guy, and tacos are not so unhealthy [as compared to other things]. It's typically just meat, and the tortilla is only 80 calories. The mix [of elements] may not be the healthiest or best thing in the world, but it's not processed food. I'm not much of a junk food person, I don't gravitate toward pizza or anything like that, but I do love chips. That's my Achilles heel. I love chips with a lot of hot sauce. I could definitely sit down to watch a movie and eat an entire bag of chips with hot sauce and lime by myself.