How Are You Staying Business Fit?

Normally, I train at the gym 4 times a week with the dedication like it was a paying job. But last week was a little different…

Last week I only managed 3 sessions. So what happened? Well, on Saturday it was the birthday gathering of an old friend and for the days’ activities we’d booked in to go kart racing…

Now if you know me, you know that racing karts is something I love, and have done ever since the first time I drove as a 9 year old. So on Saturday, relying on a combined 25 years’ experience, I was soon in the lead. Setting fastest laps, pushing it to the limit and doing so without spinning out, crashing or running off onto the boggy grass sections even once.

Strangely, it began to feel less like we were puttering around in hire karts and more like an actual motor race…

Maybe it was the purpose-built, open-air track that allowed us to reach higher speeds? It could’ve been seeing a mate spin out on the main straight, tyres smoking like you’d see at an actual racing event. Or maybe it was the pure physicality of it all? At the end of the days’ racing, chatting with one of the guys he commented how “coming here and driving is like putting in a session at the gym”.

I realised he was right. I’d never given much thought to the physical side of it until recently. Overall, I’d done a total of 56 laps of the 800-metre circuit over the space of 90 minutes, with virtually every lap done at qualifying pace (i.e where you’re pushing the kart to the limits’ of its’ capabilities).

It also got me thinking- if I didn’t have the weekly fitness regime I normally do, could I have managed to complete all 4 sessions driving lap after lap at 10/10ths- or would I have fallen victim to the physical fatigue? One person (not naming names) had such a toll taken on them that they were physically sick in the middle of the second session. An old friend of mine (who also regularly trains and can lift heavier than me) ended up sitting out the third session because “he felt a bit how you going”.

So I began to wonder: if being in good physical state made a difference here, what difference does it make in the daily running of our business? Am I claiming I’ve found “the secret” here?

No, there’s always more work that can be done, and obviously diet matters as well. But what I want to do here is give an insight into a typical weeks’ fitness regime for me and the side-effects I’ve noticed over time:

#1: Gym

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Like I said, I train at a local gym 4 times a week. It’s a 1st class facility and has accommodated several NRL teams in the time I’ve been there. To give you some perspective, I am 6″1 and weigh between 81-83kgs on average. I don’t generally do leg exercises (and I’ll get to that soon enough) but on alternate days I either do floor related exercises or lifting/ squats. On the days where I’m on the floor and use the weight machines, I focus on my chest, back and bicep muscles. I aim to ad as much weight as I can manage and do two sets with 8 reps each. I use equipment like the dumbbells, chest press machines, the vertical lift machine and the seated row. On alternate days I do 3 sets of 8 reps squatting, using the bar and then I do 2 sets of 8 reps as I lift then do vertical dips- as many as I can manage until it feels like my shoulders are going to give out! I finish every session with 10 minutes abdominal exercises, ensuring that I get the full upper-body workout. In addition I drink a protein supplement when I get home.

Benefits:

Besides (obviously) gaining muscle mass and strength, my day always has a “complete” feel to it after I finish a session at the gym. Call it the endorphins or whatever you want, but even if I’ve had a workday that didn’t go completely to my satisfaction, there’s that sense of “at least I had a good workout”. Added to that is just the subtle confidence you get. Taking photos from when you start training and then (over the months/ years) taking new photos of yourself for comparison is great motivation. It’s a physical representation of how much we’re able to transform ourselves, and a reminder that the body is just one area. If we adopt the same attitude to our business, to our thinking- we can similarly go beyond what we expect. To see a photo of me where I don’t recognise myself- in a good way- is an awesome feeling!

#2: Martial Arts Training

I also train goju-kai (literally “hard soft”) karate. This form of karate utilises both open and closed hand techniques and I’ve been training on and off for the last 6 years. When I still lived in Brisbane I was part of a great dojo over at Camp Hill and I trained there 2 nights a week. More recently here on the coast, I could only manage to go along to one of the two weekly training sessions, but it’s just been announced that another night has been added, so watch this space. Besides (obviously) practising punches, blocks and kicks, we also do a lot of work on stances and breathing exercises.

Benefits:

Besides the obvious benefit of learning self-defence, martial arts training is also great for improving your reflexes. To co-ordinate a set pattern of techniques (known as a kata) you need to master not just your stances and your positioning, but also your timing. Combined, all of this serves as a further boost to your inner confidence. Then of course there’s the people you meet along the way!

#3: Walking

I know a lot of people like to go for a walk of, say, 30 minutes or so and with this in mind I might as well preface this: I like long walks. I’m talking walks of two hours or more. Looking at my phone’s health app, that usually means anything between 20-30,000 steps in an afternoon. You don’t need to go for crazy long walks like that (and even if you wanted to, I get that you might not have the time) but if you are able to manage it? I can’t recommend it highly enough from both a physical and mental perspective. Like putting in a solid session at the gym, the feeling when you get back through the door after an afternoon’s hike is both weary and satisfying. When deciding on a walk, I like to find a route that takes me past attractive scenery and (if I can manage) puts me amongst people for at least part of the journey. When you’re in the work scenario that I am, you can spend your day solo, typing out articles like this one with little personal interaction whatsoever. So on my walk I like to get amongst it at some point or another, wherever I might be. If you live near a beach or a major river, there’s a great destination for you. Likewise, if you live within reasonable walking distance or your city or town centre, you can get amongst it here, or even find a great park nearby for a stroll. I don’t go for one of these long walks every week, but it’s something I do at least once a month.

Benefits:

First of all is the strength in your legs and thighs that you build up. Especially so if the route you walk incorporates some uphill sections along the way. Added to this is the physical stamina you develop- you’re able to walk a steadier pace for longer and this develops your endurance. I remember once I ventured off the usual track and I chose to explore a steep grass hill before me. I’d already been walking for an hour, so making it up this grass hill was a slow, steady affair. But then when I reached the top I found myself on a road along a ridge and looking out was the most wonderful view across the ocean.

It occurred to me: if you want to enjoy the view, you’ve got to make the climb first.

And this is the other thing these long walks do: it’s a great workout mentally. Because as you’re walking along, you find yourself thinking of different things- it could be a present problem or a potential scenario that may come to pass. Yet as you toy with it in your mind while getting physical exercise, your mind goes to work, exploring ideas you might not have previously considered. If you love brainstorming new ideas or have problems that you haven’t been able to find a solution for until now, take a hike. And of course, if you’re more of a cyclist, this works just as well- plus you can cover more distance. I know it myself from all the times over the years I’ve taken my mountain bike out for hours and come back weary, but happy- and brimming with revelations previously untouched.

Conclusion:

Here I’ve shared what works for me. But maybe for you, it’s something else- maybe you enjoy kayaking, horse riding, jogging or spending hours out in the surf? Of course, if you have a dog (especially one of the bigger breeds) then they need regular walking too. You find that this doesn’t just have a positive impact on your fitness, but in other areas too- like your ability to come up with new ideas and to think positively.

Walking away from the go-kart track on Saturday afternoon, my arms were heavy, my legs were taut and there were red marks on my knees where they’d banged against the steering wheel. There was a well-earned beer or two somewhere with my name on it. Yet it occurred to me that (without even realising) I’d been regularly training to do what I’d just done: drive at 10/10ths consistently for a total of 56 laps in less than two hours, without losing speed due to fatigue or making myself physically ill. In the same way many of the (seemingly) irrelevant exercises I did while boxing training were preparing us to step in the ring and fight to the end, my usual exercise routine had unwittingly prepared me to drive fast- and do it consistently:

Regular weight training had developed the strength in my arms and shoulders required to control the steering wheel and physically guide a speeding, jolting kart over the bumps and through the corners of the 800 metre circuit, lap after lap…

Karate training had sharpened my reflexes so I could make short, sharp adjustments to correct a slide that would otherwise scrub off speed, or pounce on a gap where I could sneak past another driver without costing me seconds of my lap time…

And those long walks had developed the muscles in my legs and physical stamina, which (ultimately) gave me the ability to drive fast and do it consistently with minimal fatigue, which would not just have a negative impact physically, but also on my ability to focus and make split-second judgements.

To neglect our physical health is to take great risks with our mental well-being and (therefore) our ability to make good decisions that directly impact our business. Like I said, you don’t have to follow what I do to a tee, but I strongly advise you get your own regular fitness routine in place- and start enjoying the benefits- even in those unexpected places!

Remember: quality of health = quality of life AND quality of business.

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