A few weeks ago, I stepped on the scale: 209 pounds. Whoa! Not good! I had not clocked in at that weight for several years. Time to make some adjustments. (And it happens so gradually!)
How about you? Have you tuned in to your physical appearance or condition recently? Any action needed?
The leaders I hang out with are aware of their physical selves and take action to stay in top shape. On average, at least once a week, a leader initiates a conversation with me about their body condition. Here’s a sampling from the past month:
- Two 30-something executives, one a former All-American lacrosse player, have asked me to be an accountability partner on their weight-loss.
- A CEO and a President of the same company, both in their forties, and both already appearing pretty fit to me, told me of a new program that had them re-think their meals, reduce alcohol consumption, and has resulted in them each losing around 20 pounds.
- In separate conversations, a female CEO and a male President, both in their fifties, talked enthusiastically of their new addiction to yoga.
- A 65 year-old CEO becomes my personal trainer once a month when I visit him at his home gym.
Why are these leaders doing this? Because they know their physical condition directly impacts their leadership performance.
How about you? How is your body’s condition helping or hurting with your leadership responsibilities? When you look in the mirror and see what others see, is that a good thing or not? How about your energy level, your ability to endure stress?
It happens slowly. Leaders fall into the trap of prioritizing other things over their physical condition. And the reasons — excuses! — sound like this: “I don’t have a free minute in my calendar,” or “I have to be into the office first thing,” or “My travel schedule makes it impossible.”
But no leader has an excuse that really holds water. Highly effective leaders know that their bodies are as important as their brains. They make the time to take care of themselves physically. Even the busiest ones.
Your physical condition directly impacts
your intellectual and emotional condition.
Earlier this year, Boston University’s School of Medicine published this study that linked cardio fitness to increased brain activity AND better memory. What a surprise. They found you think better when you are physically fit!
And even if you are not aware of your body, those around you are. The Center for Creative Leadership recently surveyed and found that extra weight has a negative effect on leadership performance evaluations — even when these leaders “[self-]report being just as hardworking, energetic, assertive, and sociable as other leaders.” Ouch.
Physical fitness is about a lot of things – muscle strength, flexibility, cardio endurance, stress reduction. But for many of us, a common theme is the need to reduce, or keep off, excess pounds. You can spend a lot of money on diet programs, but I’ll remind you that, absent a medical condition, the math is pretty simple:
- calories consumed > calories burned = weight gain
- calories burned > calories consumed = weight loss
To help you stay on the winning side of this formula, here are three bare minimum, no-excuse steps you can take. The first two are about AWARENESS. The third is about ACTION.
- AWARENESS #1: Weigh yourself. Do it every day, at the same time of day. I weigh in immediately after working out each morning.
- AWARENESS #2: Count calories. There are many apps that simplify this. I use the “MyFitnessPal” app (it’s so good, Under Armour bought it). This app’s features make it easy to log calories consumed, calories burned through exercise, and track your weight.
- ACTION: Get moving. We can all find a minimum of 30 minutes to get in front of a television or computer and move our bodies. It’s that “easy.” I use workouts on my MacBook when I travel — even in space as small as a New York City hotel room!
Of course, if you’ve got the time and inclination, you can be more elaborate: have your meals prepared by a dietician, hire a personal trainer, invest in a home gym, or go crazy at CrossFit. The key is to do something.
Physical fitness may not always be convenient, or “fun,” but it is foundational to your leadership presence and performance. Top leaders don’t make excuses. They make it a priority.
Make it your priority this summer – just in time for the beach!