October 20, 2009

C-Suite Fitness: A Crisis-Combating Routine

Hectic schedules and world travel are no excuse for today’s executive to miss a workout.  At least that’s what Tanya Mohn’s New York Times article reveals.  Mohn explores a subculture of on-the-go business leaders who are also diehard cyclists, and have managed to take their passion for fitness on the road.  Whether it’s on bikes that disassemble into suitcases for easy transport or on hotel rentals, these executives “‘don’t want to miss a day in the saddle if they can help it.’” 

One in particular, Jim Langley (“an author and cycling expert”), explains why:

It [cycling] helps me feel more centered and sharper in meetings. And the fastest way to get over jet lag quickly is a one-hour bike ride. It just brings you back to life

Unfortunately executives often overlook the benefits of exercise to work life.  A weekly routine can help leaders remain balanced and clear-headed, leading to greater patience, creativity, decision-making, and humor (all of which are important).

This particularly true in times of crisis when extreme stress builds and hours grow long.  As I explore in 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis, a fitness routine was a key factor in helping me develop the resilience and fortitude that leaders need to weather industry storms:

 To perform at your best throughout the crisis, you need a high level of resilience – the   combination of hardiness, toughness, and buoyancy of spirit.  These are challenging qualities to maintain during the rigors of a crisis, but they will sustain you through difficult times… To cope with the pressure, I developed a set of practices over the years to maintain my resilience:

 Keeping my Body in Shape. Regular workouts at least 3-4 times per week are essential. I like to jog for 20-30 minutes, which builds physical resilience and helps me clear my head.  I engage regularly in longer, more vigorous activities, such as skiing, playing tennis, riding, hiking and climbing. 

Of course, I’m not the only one.  President Obama was notorious for his early morning workouts and pick-up basketball games during his campaign, both of which he’s admitted helped him maintain an even keel during a stressful time.  He’s continued that trend in the White House, as well. 

Warren Buffett may have begun exercise with less enthusiasm, but nonetheless acknowledges the benefits – he famously recounted to CNBC that his doctor presented him with two choices: “Either you eat better or you exercise.”  Buffett chose exercise, according to him the “lesser of two evils.”

Exercise is difficult to squeeze into a schedule, but the benefits are worth the time, particularly in a crisis when resilience is key.