I used to be a runner. I had some knee issues and had to have a partial replacement over a years ago, which has kept me from running as I normally would. Since then, I have tried to substitute the time with other workouts. I learned a few things about myself during this process of healing and rediscovering new ways to exercise.
I have always encouraged leaders to have a regular exercise routine. I think it’s a necessary discipline for a healthy leader. If you aren’t currently an active exerciser, I have even more practical, first hand experience to encourage you to begin.
I would even be bold enough to say, if you are leading, you need some form of exercise.
Here are 7 reasons I need to exercise:
Forced down time – I discovered that my running time, or any time I exercise, is one of the few times each day where I am not answering emails, taking phone calls, or doing something that requires mental power. Exercise forces my mind to be still. My mind is cleared to pray more and to think more. Granted, I’ve learned to answer emails and even write blog posts from the elliptical, but it’s a different kind of activity when I’m exercising. It’s my time.
Physical health – I am better able to maintain my weight when I am exercising. I feel better. I sleep better. My blood pressure tests lower. The doctor’s office loves taking my vitals when I am in a regular exercise routine. (Due to a heavier than normal travel schedule I am actually up a few pounds, just to be transparent, but thankfully it’s a few pounds not 15 or 20.)
Mental stimulation – My best ideas come while I am exercising. I suppose because my body is energized and I’m free from other distractions, I’m so creative while exercising. Some of my deepest, most intimate times with God came when I was on a long run. Even now though, God seems to work in my mind during those times I’m in the gym — possibly because I’ve given Him better access to my mind.
Longevity – Long days are nothing for me when I am in a healthy exercise discipline. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have more energy in the day — not less — when I’m exercising regularly.
Maximum effectiveness – Exercise, while it seems to take time out of my day, actually ends up being the most effective use of my time. It increases my productivity and gives me a better overall attitude towards my work (and life). It’s powerful enough, I’ve learned from experience, that on my busiest days I try to break away and exercise in the middle of the day. The fastest way for me to get out of a productivity slump is to step away from the “work” and hit the gym.
Eat with less worry – I enjoy food. A lot. People will often make a comment I must not enjoy food as much as they do because I seem to maintain my weight. The reality is they’ve never seen me eat. I don’t think you can totally ignore your diet regardless of how much you exercise. I try to be healthier in most of my choices, and I do discipline what I eat (wish I was better at how much), but I pretty much eat what I want. I’m certainly never hungry long. Exercise affords me less guilt in my diet and the occasional splurges I enjoy.
Stress reduction – I find if I’m especially stressed a good sweat gives me a calmer perspective. It’s an excellent way to decompress. It was crazy how much not running, before I found exercise which could substitute, added to me being more tense. My family noticed it. I’m certain the people who work with me did also. I know I did. I’m a nicer person to be around when I’m exercising regularly. It took me a while to associate the cause of additional stress on the lack of exercise, but the return to healthy routines made it clear.
A daily disciplined routine of exercise has been proven valuable to me.
If you are not regularly exercising — especially if you’re a leader — answer this question:
Considering the stress in your life, and how productive you hope to be with your life, could beginning the discipline of exercise be one of the missing ingredients?
Let me be a voice of encouragement to you. Find the exercise routine which works best for you, discipline yourself for 30-40 days, then enjoy the lifetime of benefits.