People who exercise regularly agree that exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Like many professionals raising a family, I too neglected my exercise time because I was too busy. That was wrong. If you dedicate some personal time for your fitness, even 30 minutes, 3 times per week, you will be able to take on a lot more of life’s stressful moments. I was always active in sports as a teenager: I stopped in my 20s and then rediscovered the virtues of fitness in my late 30s.
Right after a workout, jog, or cycle, I am reminded of that amazing feeling that comes through my mind (it actually lasts only for a few seconds) when I think to myself, “nothing can bother me now.” My fitness session has completely drained me.
When you work out, endorphins and the hormone oxytocin are released into the blood, causing you to experience a feeling of wellbeing, euphoria, and optimism. Runners often talk about a runner’s high after a run[i] or a state of flow. Exercise can help you see life in a more positive light.
Often, I suggest a baby-steps approach to my coaching clients who are challenged or haven’t been consistent with some form of fitness in the past. I suggest they consider taking a brisk 10-minute walk during the day, even just around the office or building. Walking helps to get your blood circulating and gives you a mental break. Combining a slow but gradual fitness regime like walking and addingstretching can help to relieve stiff muscles, which can hold tension and make you feel more stressed. I suggest stretching in the morning when you wake up (ever notice how dogs always stretch after they wake up…? maybe they know something we don’t). After sitting for more than an hour at the computer, get up, stretch, go for a little walk before you come back to your desk.
Exercise should be fun to do. By testing and discovering different kinds of fitness regimes, you’ll eventually connect with something you enjoy doing. This is a great motivator and reduces the chances of backing out.
My expertise and passion for fitness has paid off for some of my clients. Nikos,* the Chief Commercial Officer of a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, gave me an emphatic “No” when I asked in our first meeting if he was involved in some form of fitness. This is part of my routine as I build a profile on a client. Fitness is one of those areas I call an outlet, a great way to forget about work. I replied: “No, as in, not lately?” and he countered with “No, as in never!”
I came back again: “You’ve never done any form of fitness?” “Nope,” except the compulsory ‘Phys Ed’ in high school.” Given that I deal mostly with businesspeople, I’d rarely heard of anyone not involved in at least some form of physical activity, even if they had stopped lately or a long time ago. There was always a trace of walking or jogging or swimming…something. “Oh well,” I said, and proceeded to highlight the obvious benefits of exercising such as freeing the mind, forgetting about work and finding one’s sanctuary, not to mention getting fitter and keeping the doctor at bay! Then I dropped the subject completely, moved on – I had done what I could.
But something had clicked. Nikos’s latest Facebook post was of him riding an electric bicycle. As I saw his post I chuckled briefly while thinking to myself, “Well, at least it’s a start.” Fast forward 6 months. I bumped into Nikos at his office. He had lost about 5 kg. He was never overweight just, well, not in shape. “Hey,” I said, “Did you melt?” while hiding a sarcastic grin.
“Nope” said Nikos. “I’ve been going to the gym.” My jaw dropped. I asked him how often he went. He replied: “2 times a week, and next week I’m planning to start 3 times per week.” Nikos looked great and I told him so, in addition to telling him how happy I was with his new-found habit!
Clearly the endorphin rush or the other neurochemicals that Nikos felt right after a workout was enough for him to take fitness to the next level. Maybe that was the reason for Nikos to simply drop a bad habit (in this case not exercising) and recognize that magic moment right after a workout. In any case, something was triggered, and I was happy to see that maybe, just maybe, our discussions on the topic of fitness had something to do with it. I’ll have to ask him the next time I see him.
Read more in my new book, ‘Demigods, Aliens, & Ordinary People’.