Ready to reach the summit

Jennifer Maanavi, left, and Tanya Becker founded Physique 57. (Physique 57) Jennifer Maanavi, left, and Tanya Becker founded Physique 57. (Physique 57)

Physical strength can play a role in an executive’s ability to punch through that glass ceiling.

That’s why Jennifer Maanavi and Tanya Becker, founders of the barre-based workout program Physique 57, will be warming up attendees at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington this week. The event also will feature appearances by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.

“Our mission is to show women they’re stronger than they think they are,” says Maanavi, who joined forces with Becker in 2005 to launch Physique 57, which has since become an established fitness business with studios in New York, Los Angeles and Dubai, as well as a book, DVDs and online workouts. (D.C. could be in contention for a future studio; it’s where Maanavi’s in-laws live.)

They know how tough it is for busy women to make time for exercise. Even working in the fitness industry, both of them manage to squeeze in workouts only when they’re scheduled — or sneaked in at any available moment.

Maanavi does pushups before bed and hamstring stretches in the shower, while Becker has found a move she can do even when going through paperwork: She lies on her belly and lifts her upper body like cobra pose in yoga.

“It feels so good after sitting,” Becker says.

It also feels good to be successful in a male-dominated field. Although men own the major gym chains, women have a real opportunity in boutique fitness, Maanavi says.

“We had to prove we had a business and not a hobby,” she says. Now, everyone can see how strong they are.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.

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Marissa Payne · October 15, 2013