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Fitness + Business Executive = Optimal Performance

All right, so you had a brainstorming session with your committee at an all-staff meeting this morning without coffee. Yikes. Lunch was on the run with intermittent bleeping from your Blackberry, and your next meeting is in fifteen minutes. Oh, and how could you forget the shareholders’ meeting sandwiched between two evening commitments in the midst of the final phase of your project, and a large family function coming up that you have to plan for? You get the picture. You’re on a constant roll with limited time on your hands compared to the average business person.

As a business leader you are an ambitious, highly-driven, not to mention highly-motivated and possibly with type-a personality. Well, let’s look at your priorities. How do you rank the follow­ing in terms of importance: leadership position/job, investments, family, friends, partner, fitness and personal health? Where did fitness rank?

With power comes great responsibility and duty. But in order to meet such high expectations and motivate others to perform, it is also important to lead by example.

 What is your personal insurance policy on your life? That is, how much responsibil­ity or ownership do you take over the state of your own health to perform at your best?

Let’s take a look at how President Barack Obama prepared for the electoral race of his life. Observers noticed that the then-presidential candidate stuck to a pretty solid exercise re­gime. “Most of my workouts have to come before my day starts,” he told Men’s Health. “There’s always a trade-off between sleep and working out.

Usually I get in about 45 minutes, six days a week. I’ll lift [weights] one day, do cardio the next. I wish I was getting a 90-minute workout,” he added. But even at his current pace, Obama spent at least another 2,700 minutes in the gym before inauguration day on January 20. That’s quite the determination and self discipline! As many people know, Obama has a love for the game of basketball, which he continues to play with his staff aides. Exercise, Obama says, is the key to remaining fresh and focused in the face of a punishing schedule. “The main reason I do it is just to clear my head and relieve me of stress,” he told Men’s Health. “My blood pressure is pret­ty low and I tend to be a healthy eater.” Evidently, he was training himself to lead!

One important thing to realize before it is too late is that even if you are still relatively young, that doesn’t mean your body will stay that way forever. Fitness is critical in maintain­ing a healthy body and certainly you will benefit in the long-run. The myth of “indestructible youth” is pervasive among many young profes­sionals.

As many seasoned business leaders can tell you, it is easy to run out of steam if you aren’t refueling properly and regularly. Taking good care of your body as if it were a vessel and eating well couldn’t be more important. Sadly, many do not have the luxury of time. But your body is paying the toll, whether you notice it now or not. Each year you can expect to see increas­ing evidence of the price you pay for abusing your body whether it be weight gain, fatigue, loss in motivation and concentration—just to name a few.

It is highly likely that your daily life does not require much physical activity. Unfortunately, the stress that builds up does not get a chance to be released, even with a drink or two. If you take home anything from this, remember that fitness is not just about being “fit” or “cut,” but it involves the feeling of being in shape physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Right now, making time in your busy, over­booked schedule may seem like a crazy idea. Why use extra time to exercise? Well, those who work in a highly stressful environment will see and feel the difference. Although scientists haven’t proven why physical exercise is such a good stress-reliever, they have come up with a few explana­tions. Natural hormones called ‘endorphins’ are released into the bloodstream during exercise, resulting in a “natural high” feeling. In fact, endor­phins have a very similar chemical structure to morphine. Skip the caffeine, or whatever narcotic you are on. This one is healthier for you.

Thanks to those endorphins which are re­leased post-exercise, your body experiences a relaxation effect. You are also more likely to fall asleep faster each night, as well lose those extra few pounds with a regular workout sched­ule. Your risk of high blood pressure is reduced, which in turn lowers the risk of strokes and heart attacks. The “bad” form of cholesterol is also reduced in your system. Calling all the ladies: Weight lifting and land exercises strengthen bone density, preventing the onset of osteoporosis, you’ll also build up a seriously dead-sexy core, upper body and legs.

Okay, so, you get it. But seriously, you have no time? Hmmm…if these major health reasons are not quite convincing enough, consider this: exercise really about taking the time for yourself!

Coming to the realization that working on maintaining your youth—creativity, motivation, pas­sion, sense of humor and joie de vivre—throughout your years takes a commitment to yourself, for yourself, in fitness, proper nutrition, and having fun. Start off by incorporating fitness into your dai­ly routine:

A twenty-minute walk to lunch instead of your car, a thirty-minute jog in between your last meeting and dinner event, or perhaps a few land exercises every night. For instance, try doing two reps of 10 push-ups, 10 ab crunches and 20 leg raises. If you do this routine for two weeks, you will not only see but also feel a difference.

Follow the leader: bust a move

Once you have decided to make exercise a part of your weekly routine, remember to:

1. Check with medical doctor. Before you start any exercise program, check with a medical doctor, especially if you have any medical conditions and/or if it has been a while since you were actively exercising.

2. Set an attainable goal for yourself. Get some help from a buddy or hire a trainer for a session. It is always a good idea to make sure you are doing an exercise or lifting correctly to avoid injuries.

3. Calculate your Target Heart Rate. You can do this by visiting: www.exercise.about.com/library/blank_THR.htm?once=true. For the average 30-year-old who is moderately active, 114-152 bpm (beats per minute) would be an ideal goal. You want to make sure you are hitting your THR (threshold heart rate) when you exercise, otherwise you will not be challenging your heart, lungs, and muscles to their optimal capacity.

4. Check your Body Mass Index. You can calculate your BMI at the same site mentioned above, by indicating your weight, height, and age. There is a healthy range in which ideally, you aim to maintain a certain body weight according to your height and age.

5. No Time? Make Time. Making exercise one of your top priorities now not only will help you in the long run, but also will give you more energy and spunk as a leader now. A refreshed person to work with is way better than a tired, edgy one!

6. Fuel your tank: You can exercise all you want, but eating junk after a workout just won’t cut it. Try refueling with chocolate milk instead. Now, take a look at your overall intake of salt, sugars (including alcohol units) and basically, anything ingredients you can’t pronounce. Ditch the take out and start planning out your weekly meals. Not only will you save money but it will be easier on this new bod. Stock up on your fruits and veggies, and don’t shy away from the carbs…in fact, in order to break down proteins you need complex carbohydrates and build strong muscles to flex.

The key to time-managing exercise is to in­corporate it into your daily routine: For example, walking to meetings or to work, if you can. Try to squeeze in a 20-minute workout in the morning for a natural jumpstart or after work and stretch. Schedule a workout in between lunch hour or after work instead of a coffee, nap or a cigarette.

One thing to remember: The body you have at 20 is mainly due to your genetic makeup; the body you have at 40 is the one you deserve.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get moving!