Thanks to my good friend, Laurie, who made me aware of the term “Corporate Athlete.” As a busy executive and dedicated athlete herself, she fully understands the challenges of holding a job that demands so much of her time and focus, while having a desire to maintain her health and wellness. With a young family in this mix, the challenges increase manifold!
Why Corporate Athlete?
A new breed of corporate athletes is growing as the topic of health and wellness has become a central discussion in corporations and with government. Obesity rates are of great concern to more than the developed countries, and lifestyle habits like smoking and lack of activity have been linked to numerous fatal diseases.
The corporate world is slowly evolving. Twenty years ago, many executives working long hours managed to squeeze in workouts early morning or late night. If you got to workout at lunch you were one of the lucky ones! Lunch meetings and travel made eating healthy virtually impossible. These scenarios might still be the case for some executives but thankfully the corporate world is recognizing that a healthy employee is a productive employee.
Companies are embracing fitness, nutrition and wellness as a means for achieving and sustaining high performance. A 2001 article in The Harvard Business Review (HBR) titled, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz outlined how organizations should train executives like elite athletes. They make the point that executives need to learn how to manage their energy to deal with the demands of their work. Our bodies are the primary tools for that energy. By training physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, executives are better able to deal with stress and grow stronger and more effective in performing their jobs.
Since the publishing of that article, Jim Loehr co-created an organization called the Human Performance Institute, which offers a corporate athlete training program for individuals, using science based nutrition and fitness training principles, and psychological testing.
Key Principles to Help You
You don’t need to be an executive to benefit from the lessons learned by training as a corporate athlete. Anyone with a demanding job or busy, multi-tasking life can use the principles. Below are some of the actions you can adopt in your own life.
Understand the importance of fitness and nutrition
Your quality of life depends on your energy level (physical, emotional and mental). Fitness and good nutrition feed your body to create the energy needed for health and stamina.
- Make time to exercise and eat well regardless of how busy you are.
- Consult with a personal fitness trainer for specific exercise routines to help you get started.
- Learn about nutrition so you eat the right things to grow and maintain your energy. Consult with a nutritionist for a more tailored approach to your energy needs. Mary’s contact info.
- Talk to others about their fitness and nutrition habits to get ideas about what might work for you.
Create rituals and routines
Workouts are like brushing my teeth; I don’t think about them, I just do them. The decision has already been made.
Patti Sue Plumer
As suggested by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, rituals can help you go through the motions without hesitating. The biggest complaint we hear from people about exercise and eating well is that they are good for a while and then they fall off the wagon.
- Set up a daily or weekly routine that will make it easier for you to workout and cook nutritious meals.
- Look at your schedule (daily, weekly, monthly) ahead of time and figure out when you will exercise and when you can pre-cook meals for the week. Often on busy days, we will prepare or cook part of the dinner meal in the morning while having breakfast. For example, we’ll marinade chicken or cook rice, which can be heated later on. Then at dinnertime, we’ve cut down on the prep and/or cook time.
- Set specific times for your exercise that become part of your routine. Stick to the time as much as possible!
- If you have a busy week, do you need to shift your exercise to a different time of day? Pre-plan this shift. Can you freeze some extra meals you cook ahead of time or double up on your recipes one night? For example, cook some extra chicken one day and then use it two days later in a different recipe like wraps.
- When traveling be sure to arrange things before you leave:
- Set up your schedule so you can make time to exercise.
- Stay in a hotel with a fitness facility or a gym nearby.
- Have a gym bag with fitness gear pre-packed and ready for every trip.
- Bring healthy food with you.
- Research healthy eateries in the area to which you are traveling. In some cities you may be able to find a chef who will prepare and deliver healthy meals to your hotel.
- If you are meeting with clients for meals, choose restaurants with healthy food options.
- Stay at a condominium or executive rental suite with a kitchen so you can prepare your own meals.
Get the support you need
When we talk about support, we mean both physical and emotional support. Recognize that sometime you physically need help to get things done so you have time to exercise and cook healthy meals. You also need support emotionally to get yourself motivated and committed to a fit and healthy lifestyle.
- In your personal life, either hire someone to do the essentials like cleaning, laundry, yard maintenance, grocery shopping or ask for help from family and friends.
- If you are not a cook, either learn to cook or find a chef prepared meal plan service. More healthy options for meals are now available such as through Passionate Nutrition which is available in the Puget Sound/Seattle Area. Use your take out and grocery budget to fund these healthy meal delivery options.
- At the office if you are an executive or manager with staff, you also have the greatest tool available to you – delegating effectively! Your staff will love the opportunity to take on more responsibility and will appreciate your confidence in them.
- Talk to your manager or supervisor about your needs and negotiate ways to help you fit in the exercise time you need. In return, give back the time you take and deliver high quality work.
- Be flexible with your staff. Measure their performance on outcomes, not the number of hours they spend at work!
- Ask for emotional support from friends, family and coworkers. Tell them that you are committed to maintaining regular exercise and healthy eating habits and ask them to help you remain accountable for following through.
- Spend time with people who share your exercise and nutrition goals.
- Influence your workplace, friends and family through your actions and invite them to join you.
- Find a healthy food catering service that will provide good meals for your office lunch meetings.
- Pack healthy lunches so you are not tempted to eat take out food when busy at work or out on a busy errand day!
We promise you that prioritizing fitness and good nutrition in your life will help you get done that long laundry list of to do’s. When physically energized and well fed, you can think better, have more patience, and perform optimally.
Here’s to your health and performance!