This week I learned the importance of exercise in my work productivity.
A top business strategist, Tony Jeary, was asked in the August 2017 edition of Success Magazine for some quick leadership tips. The person asking owned a company that had just expanded from a two-person startup to a ten-person operation. He claimed to have “no management experience.” I expected answers like learn everything you can about management, listen to your employees, create a clear mission and vision, and commit to your personal growth. I expected him to warn against errors like the ones I wrote about last week in The 9 Biggest Mistakes a Leader Can Make.
Jeary gave four pieces of advice. And while three of his answers were along the lines I had anticipated, I was surprised that this one made the top four: “Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep enough and exercise regularly.”
The “exercise regularly” part stood out for me in particular. This is great advice for everyone, whether you’re expanding a company from two to ten, or you’re an entry-level employee, a CEO, the owner of a start-up, or somewhere in between.
A Harvard Business Review article went so far as to claim that Regular Exercise is Part of Your Job because of its mental benefits (improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, and lower stress). And exercise is especially important as a job seeker. It will bring structure and energy to your day, which is key to a successful, productive job search. All it takes is a quick Google search to see at least one recruiter’s assertion that exercise is one of the most important parts of the job search.
Excusing vs. Exercising
Most of us know the advantages of regular exercise: It eases stress, increases work productivity, reduces sick days, boosts confidence, improves sleep, gives you energy, and releases positive, mood-enhancing chemicals into your brain that ward off anxiety and depression. Some of these benefits are outlined in an article from Livestrong.com, How Does Exercise Improve Work Productivity?
Who wouldn’t want all those benefits? Yes, we know we could have them, and we want them! But knowing is not doing, and many of us regularly make up excuses rather than take care of our bodies. “I need to sleep!” “I have to work.” “I have to make lunch for the kids.” “I have a cold.” “My back hurts.” Or simply, “I don’t feel like it.”
I grew up with a condition that makes me prone to breaking bones, and I was taught that daily exercise was essential to minimizing fractures. Believe it or not, I internalized that advice, and have exercised daily for as long as I can remember. For the past 20 years or so I have done yoga or gone swimming almost every day, with a few phases of walking or working out when injuries prevented me from my go-to activities.
But here’s the catch: I wasn’t lifting weights almost ever, or doing much walking or jumping – the impact activities that truly increase bone density. My excuse? “I’m in shape.” “I already spend an hour exercising every day.” “I don’t have time to do everything!”
Then, three weeks ago, on an impulse, I started an intensive fitness program that entails weight lifting, ball throwing, tire flipping, jumping in various ways, and other muscle-building, bone-building activities. I have managed to fit in these workouts five days/week, and somehow still to get everything done that I have needed to for my business. I’ve built muscle and lost some extra pounds without changing what I eat.
Plus, I have been in a better mood and made more sales than I did in the weeks before I started this program. Coincidence? Probably not.
What would inspire you to prioritize exercise, if you’re not doing so already?
What motivated me to make this change was that I got a substantial gift certificate for a well-reputed program, and I love a good deal. I was also curious to find out more about my body composition and to see if I could bring it to a more ideal balance. I started the program and liked how I felt in my body so much that I kept going, way more often than I expected. I like the attention and encouragement I get from the trainers, and I look forward to seeing them each day. And my numbers have been going in the right direction, which for me is very motivating.
What is it for you? Is there a type of movement you enjoy? Is it walking, running, biking, dancing, swimming, lifting weights? If you’re a social person, would having a workout buddy help? Maybe even a different buddy each day? What about working out as a family activity?
Would you show up to a group exercise class (Zumba or Water Zumba anyone?) if you put it on your schedule? If not, what if you paid in advance and would lose your fee if you ditched the class?
Maybe the option of multitasking would make the difference for you. If you have work calls to make, can you make them from the treadmill? Maybe you could answer emails while on a stationary bike or elliptical machine. If you love listening to music, exercise time could be your opportunity to get lost in your favorite tunes. Or if there are shows you like to watch, perhaps you could watch them from a home exercise room.
Exercising can also be a form of meditation – swimming plays that role for me, and I know others who walk to clear their minds. So if you’re not making time to meditate, at least make time to exercise!
Some people will get into gear for a competition. There are lots of opportunities for that, whether it’s a marathon, a charity walk, run or ride, or a friendly competition between friends (in person or using a fitness app).
For more ideas, see 29 Ways to Get Motivated to Work Out. I like some of these! Or check out the 25 Best Fitness Apps of 2017 for some technological support on your fitness goals. And please share your experience… Do you notice a difference in your work productivity when you exercise regularly? What’s working for you?