Once a week, I unleash my inner Beyoncé. The setting isn’t a stadium tour, awards show or the red carpet at the Met Gala – my venue is a high intensity indoor cycling class called AMP. It’s like a dance party on a spin bike, complete with killer music, strobe lights and coordinated upper body moves. Planted in the middle of the front row, I like to pretend that the people on bikes behind me are my back-up dancers. Our synchronized formation is fierce. I’m having a blast sweating up a storm, grateful for the energy surge that will power the rest of my day.
That wasn’t always the case. I started working out back in 1992 to lose extra pounds, not realizing that adopting a regular exercise habit would build confidence, transform my career, help me tackle obstacles and improve life overall. If you are serious about being happier and more successful, here are five ways to make exercise a top priority:
1) Link exercise to your career success.
You are willing to work extra hours, volunteer for new assignments and do whatever it takes to climb the career ladder. However, waking up 30 minutes earlier each day to hit the gym before the office or take a Yoga class on the way home seems like an impossible feat. When realizing that working out can help create a competitive career advantage though, people are more apt to make time for it. From reducing stress to improving mental clarity, research has proven that regular exercise makes you more effective at work. “Exercise isn’t just about lifting weights to make your biceps bigger or waist look smaller,” notes Dan FitzSimons, Owner of BodyFitz Personal Training studio, and personal trainer, in Atlanta, Georgia. “It involves your mind and body together. Working out relieves stress, releases good growth hormones and endorphins, promotes cognitive development by increasing blood flow to your brain and increases your metabolism.”
2) Schedule it as a mandatory activity.
Live and die by your calendar? Then book time for exercise before committing to anything else, treating it like a critical business meeting. That approach certainly works for Jennifer Remling, the CHRO/Chief Talent Officer at Essence, a global data and measurement-driven agency in San Francisco, California. After a coach helped Remling understand that she needed to take care of herself first to have energy for others, she now books time with a personal trainer three afternoons a week. Her assistant ensures no one can override that time on her calendar. As a result, Remling feels great and it has inspired her team, and the rest of the C-Suite, to take better care of themselves during the work day as well.
3) Create accountability.
It’s one thing to let yourself down. But if someone else expects you to exercise, like a certified trainer or workout partner, that creates an extra incentive to show up. As FitzSimons notes, “Almost every athlete or big executive has a life coach, mentor or personal trainer. Michael Jordan had a shooting coach. Tiger Woods has a hitting coach. Hire a professional to hold you accountable if you can’t do it yourself.” I only miss sessions with my personal trainer due to illness or travel. Recently, I increased my accountability by joining a private 100 Days of Exercise challenge group on Facebook where we post a daily update about our activity levels. Haven’t met any of these individuals in person but that doesn’t matter; the level of support is fantastic. Who doesn’t want to get a regular “you go, girl!” for completing a good workout?
4) Make it fun.
Choosing physical activities that are enjoyable will keep you coming back for more. Some people hate a treadmill but will happily hike for miles if they are outdoors. I like my spin class dance party and stay motivated when working out on my own by mixing great playlists. Think about what you enjoy – the fun you had on the swim team in high school, love of skating, running or rock climbing – and find the athletic equivalent now.
5) Embrace the social aspects.
Some of my closest friendships have been forged exercising and bonding with an amazing group of women as we got ready for work together in the gym locker room. Even when I didn’t feel like showing up, wanting to hear about Monica’s date the night before or obtaining a much-needed opinion on which jacket to wear for a business presentation would still entice me to exercise. Make friends in your workout environment or invite buddies to catch up with you over a fast-paced cardio walk in the park instead of brunch. It is terrific motivation!
How do you make exercise a top priority? What impact has exercise made on your professional or personal life?