As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for a lot. Whether it is employees, customers, vendors, marketing tasks, sales, strategic planning…
…Need I go on?
Many times the last thing we feel that we can make time for is exercise. Already we are stretched in a number of directions, who can take an hour out of each day to throw in another that, at first glance, doesn’t even improve the bottom line?
The irony of exercise for entrepreneurs is that, even though it takes time out of your day, in the end you actually get more done in the remaining time that you come out ahead.
This article is going to dive into the reasons why entrepreneurs become more successful when they exercise regularly, some simple exercises that you can do during the workday from your office, and a few examples of successful entrepreneurs that share their secrets to keeping fit amidst a hectic workday.
Entrepreneur-specific Reasons for Exercising
Entrepreneurs can work out whenever they want. For the most part, an entrepreneur has control over how they spend their day. Few corporate employees can take a couple hours out for lunch in order to fit a workout in, or leave the office early to work out before heading home.
Exercising is one of the few areas of life you can control. 50% of small businesses fail within their first five years, but 100% of the business owners who exercise regularly improve their health assuming all else remains the same. Use the laws of biology to your advantage, take heart in the fact that every exercise is an improvement in your overall health.
Exercise fuels your creative juices. A 2012 study by the Montreal Heart Institute showed aerobic exercise increased cognitive function. To put it bluntly: exercise makes you smarter. Entrepreneurs often place priority on learning and professional development, regular exercise will help them process and retain more.
“If I were to stop exercising because I felt that being a good business owner was a higher priority, then ironically I would end up a worse business owner than I was when it was a lower priority.”
Josh Steimle, Entrepreneur and TEDx Speaker
Exercise reduces stress. Stress is a prevalent side-effect of running a business (unless your business is super-successful, but even that has its own stress that comes along with it). Regular exercise increases productions of endorphins that give you a natural high and bring about a calmer mindset to get you through the ups and downs of running a business.
Exercise increases energy. You don’t need three cups of coffee each morning with an afternoon Red Bull chaser in order to keep energy high throughout the workday. A 2008 study published in the Journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics concluded that inactive individuals experienced increases in energy of up to 20 percent and decreased fatigue as much as 65 percent by participating in regular, low-intensity physical activity.
Exercise boosts confidence to handle difficult tasks. Confidence and fear avoidance are not constants in our lives. Sometimes we rise to the challenge with gusto while other times we lack the motivation to tackle life’s hurdles. Why is there this discrepancy in our courage? Often times there is a chemical reason in our bodies that boosts or lowers our confidence. Exercise tips that scale in your favor, bringing a capability to be more bold and achieve more.
“On my doctor’s recommendation I started getting regular exercise. Not only did my health improve, but my business did as well. In fact, I’d say at this point that regular exercise is integral to my success as an entrepreneur.”
Michael Hyatt, Entrepreneur & Author
Exercise allows you to enjoy that life you are building for yourself. Most entrepreneurs are working towards financial or lifestyle independence. However, while working hard for years while ignoring your physical health may lead you into these freedoms, your body will no longer be able to enjoy them to their fullest, or worse, your years will be numbered less because of your failing health. If you are going to build a cushy lifestyle for yourself, you might as well have a fit and capable body to enjoy it with.
How to Make the Exercise Habit Even Easier
So we’ve established why exercise is good for the business owner. Now let’s focus on the “How”:
- Make it the Highest Priority- Treat exercise like your most important client. Schedule regular times and don’t allow other interruptions to shift your commitment.
- Ignore How You Feel About It - Once you have established the habit of exercise, this gets easier. However, at the beginning, you aren’t going to feel like doing it. That doesn’t matter. Ignore your feelings and honor your commitment to yourself and your professional success.
- Find Something that You Enjoy - Would you rather hike through the woods or take a bike ride? Would you rather play racquetball or wall climb? There are so many ways to get exercise that you might as well choose one that you enjoy the most.
- Make it Social - We are way more likely to keep our commitments when there is a level of accountability. Find a parter that you can exercise with regularly or join a group class. You are more likely to stick with it when others are involved, and the workout is often more enjoyable.
Exercises You Can Do During the Workday
The CDC recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 times per week as part of a healthy lifestyle. In addition to this regular exercise time, entrepreneurs can benefit from mini-exercises sprinkled throughout their day.
If you use the Pomodoro Technique (working for 25 minute stretches with a 5 minute break), then throwing in one of these quick exercises is a great way to keep the oxygen flowing to your brain and preventing the fatigue caused by sitting for long periods, staring at a screen.
While pushups and sit-ups are great exercises you can do just about anywhere, you might find it awkward to get down on the ground during the middle of the workday. Alternatively, you can work out your legs and gluts, which are bigger muscles anyway, by doing lunges or standing squats. To most people, these just look like you are stretching which is much more socially acceptable in the workplace.
For the arms, you can also do wall-pushups. This involves standing a couple feet away from a wall and falling into it, then pushing yourself back out. This isn’t going to build the biceps that other exercises will do, but it is a great way to get some blood flowing and engage muscles during a break in your afternoon.
One of best exercises to fit into your workday is to take a walk. It is so simple, yet often overlooked due to its simplicity. If you have one-on-one meetings, try to take them on a stroll instead of a meeting room. Steve Jobs was famous for his walking meetings, as is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
If you have to make a phone call that doesn’t require sitting in front of your computer, do it with a headset while strolling.
Jack Dorsey, Cofounder of Square, takes all new hires at Square on a walk during their first Friday with the company. On this walk Dorsey takes the new hire through the streets of San Francisco, explaining the guiding principles behind Square.
Now, if you have your own office or don’t have any qualms about whipping out an exercise in the middle of your workday, then few things can get your heart-rate going faster than a minute of burpees, a total-body exercise:
Let’s be honest, most readers knew that exercise was important before even reading this article. There’s nothing ground-breaking here. However, even though we know this, we still aren’t always motivated to action.
Perhaps a more effective mental picture is to imagine what your future looks like if you don’t make time for exercise:
- Lower energy levels
- Less confidence
- Less creativity
- More stress
- Shorter lifespan
- More health problems as you age
Whenever we say “no” to something, we are saying “yes” to something else. The inverse is also true. Instead of looking at exercise as something you say “yes” to, think of it as saying “no” to the above items.
Making regular time for exercise seems like just one more thing to compete for your time during the day, but in the end, it could be the very thing that frees you up to achieve the success you are striving towards.