The ROI Of Exercise

Time is something that an executive never has enough of. The desk becomes a black hole, a place where time gets sucked into the dark abyss. A lack of time is the number one reason an executive fails to exercise. The executive who thinks they have won because they stayed at work for an extra hour has missed the point. They have failed to see how exercise creates the unwavering commitment that it takes to be a great leader. This is the hidden ROI of exercise.

Exercise is part physical and part mental. When you exercise your body, you exercise your mind as well. The mental side is defeating the little voice inside your head that says, “I’m tired. My lungs are about to burst. I’m hurt. I can’t continue.” This little voice makes you want to quit.

When you learn how to defeat this voice in your training, you’ll not only create a stronger and healthier body, you’ll also train your mind, making it more resilient. In exercise and leadership mental resilience is about defeating the doubt and holding two thoughts in your head at the same time: ‘this might work’ and ‘this might not work’.

Good leaders consult case studies or their peers for advice on what has worked before. But if you aspire for greatness this is not enough. To be one of the greats it will require you to do something new, something that might not work.

The clout to put your own dent in the universe is cultivated in the gym. When you put a weight on your shoulders, a weight you have never lifted before and attempt a new personal best — it might work or it might not work.

When you line up for the City 2 Surf, you have done the training, you know you are ready but nothing guarantees that you will be at the finish line in a personal best time — it might work or it might not work.

In no other aspect of an executive’s life do they get the opportunity to practice controlling their self doubt and focusing on the win. This skill is critical for the leadership of the executive. Self doubt is disastrous for performance and can infect a whole team like a disease.

In the face of a challenge if the team sees any hesitation in the commitment from their leader that is a reason for them to amplify their own thoughts that this might not work. As a leader, if you want your own team to stare at you with unwavering commitment you have to go first. They must see it in you before they give back to you in return. Your commitment will be their inspiration.

You can’t fake it. That is why it has to be a practiced skill. Something that is honed by thousands of efforts in the gym, on the water or on the track. It has to fundamentally become part of who you are.

This is the hidden ROI of Exercise. This is the professional development that you ignore when you miss your opportunity to train. The skills described above can’t be developed by spending more time at the office. Acquiring them may require sacrificing a few hours at work but if you use exercise this way it will fundamentally change how you are defined as a leader. This is a benefit that you can not measure in units of time. It is far, far greater than that.

“It’s a practice thing. It’s part of my physicality now. To face the water, hear the starter’s gun and just commit. The more I practice that in my training, the easier it is to replicate at work. To find that moment where you put aside any self-doubt and just go for it.”— David Heine, Chief Operating Officer, eftpos

David is one of four executives who is profiled in my book The Executive Athlete which will be released later this year.

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