The Healthy Executive – Making Time to Stay Fit


When the story broke about ESPN Executive John Skipper’s resignation over either a cocaine addiction or an extortion plot made against him, I had to take some time to offer my thoughts on how busy executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners must find time to maintain a consistent fitness regimen. Illegal drugs are never the answer to handling high-level stress. I don’t have all the answers to your specific stress, but I know most of us deal with stressors in many ways, including eliminating them using relaxation techniques, getting assistance from others when needed, and my favorite and knowledge base, exercise. Exercise will help you achieve optimal health and thus be able to handle daily stress and even unexpected stress.

We all know physical and mental wellness are essential for great leadership in any setting, yet we often tell ourselves we don’t have time to get fit. We allow other tasks and responsibilities to take priority, which they often do. That’s why it is crucial to be disciplined and get creative with your schedule and the ways in which you work out.

Here are five ways to help fit exercise into your busy schedule:

  1. Get up early or stay up late. Pick your poison, I mean to say… pick your opportunity. You’re busy, so you need to fit in your workout so that you can maintain your schedule. If you’re a night owl, then by all means add workouts to the end of your day. Although it is tempting to rely on ending the day with a workout and maybe a stretch routine to relax, I know many of us will continue with our daily work until we reach the point of having to rest instead of working out; thus, the workout gets put off until the next day. I have found that my productivity increases substantially when I start the day with 30 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise, which for me is running or indoor biking. That said, this often means a really early wakeup call. The temptation to hit snooze and tell yourself you will work out later in the day can be overwhelming, but that’s where discipline needs to kick in. Don’t try to initially accomplish this for five days a week but start off with an early workout two to three days a week and build from there. You’ll find keeping your commitment to yourself gets easier after a few weeks and the habit has set in.
  2. Partner. Partnering your workout with someone, whether it be a friend or co-worker, is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Peer pressure can be a powerful tool. Maybe create a lunchtime or afternoon workout schedule that both can keep. The partnership will provide a structure of accountability, a boost of energy during the day or a much needed break to an extremely busy day. There are several apps which summarize your daily activities which you can use for virtual partners.
  3. Challenge yourself. Here is where the well-known, goal-setting activity comes in play. Setting milestones, or goals, is the best way to stay committed and maybe add fun to your day. I have found that signing up for a race or having work competition gets people engaged and gives everyone something to work toward. If I know I have a marathon or triathlon in the weeks or months ahead, I am much more likely to be dedicated to a fitness/training routing regardless of a busy schedule. Similarly, when your employees are involved in friendly competition like a weight-loss contest or training for a local charity run, everyone stays more involved and excited.
  4. Train. Consider investing in a professional trainer. It’s another tool to use in helping stay focused and being held accountable. Making this investment is certainly a great incentive, but it can also be a scheduling nightmare for busy professionals. New products and technologies are emerging to help with these issues. With a little research, you can find online gyms for both trainers and participants. People can search for trainers and workouts that may suit them based on several different parameters, as well as popularity and user feedback. I doubt this will ever replace the in-person training experience, but it offers a great opportunity to train, a real experience for users and infinite scalability.
  5. Be disciplined. If you’ve made it into an executive role, then you know that your disciplined approach to all things often determines the level of success you reach. Whether you have trainers or technology help, you still need a personal commitment to fitness for your personal wellness. You must truly want it. Physical and mental toughness are great strengths in overcoming daily stress, and the more you become habitual about fitness, the better off you will be personally and professionally.

Your employees, clients, and loved ones are all taking their ques from you. Don’t make excuses and get fit and stay fit. You’ll have more energy, excel professionally and be happier.