About 20 years ago, I decided to try something new. It didn't seem like much at the time. It only took half an hour. Funny thing is, it changed my life. No kidding.
It was Sunday of a long and particularly festive Thanksgiving weekend and I was feeling a lot like a giant slug. No, I wasn't fat. But I lived a fast-paced life with too much stress and too little exercise. And I had some early indicators of what would later kill my father: heart disease.
Fed up with how I felt--literally--and concerned that I would end up just like my dad, I got up, put some sneakers on, walked out the front door and started jogging. I didn't get very far, maybe a mile before I conked out. But after the pain subsided, I couldn't believe how much better I felt.
You know what? I never really stopped. No, I didn't run across the country like Forrest Gump. I just ran a couple of times a week. For a crazy busy executive who travelled a lot, it was the perfect way to manage stress and stay in shape. It takes almost no time, hardly costs anything, you can do it anywhere, and the return on investment is huge.
And get this: When I took off running is exactly, and I mean exactly, when my career started to take off, as well. You see, at that point in my career, the only thing that was stopping me from becoming a happy and successful senior executive was me.
I knew I needed to be calmer, less stressed, and more balanced to handle all the travel, the pressures, the competitive realities of executive life. Running did all that for me and more. And now that I think about it, I can see why it makes so much sense and works so well for career-minded individuals.
No pressure, no guilt. A big reason why people fall off the exercise wagon is they put too much pressure on themselves. They get a club membership which costs money. Then when they don't use it, they feel guilty, and beat themselves up. That's a recipe for a downward spiral. What could be less pressure than putting on a pair of sneakers and running down the street?
It's achievement oriented. If you're the kind of person who thrives on accomplishing things and doing it your own way--a business owner, entrepreneur, or up-and-comer--it's perfect. You're in complete control. You set your own pace, your own goals. And in 30 minutes, you're on top of the world. Look, if you can't commit 60 minutes a week to your health and wellbeing, you'll never be able to make the far larger commitment required of a successful career or running your own business.
It sparks neurons. I don't know what it is but, whenever I run, ideas just come to me and perplexing problems find a way of working themselves out. I'm so relaxed afterwards that I'm more effective at work, inspiration flows more freely, and I make smarter, better decisions. It's not unusual to come up with impactful insights while running or afterwards.
You can do it anywhere. I've flown millions of air miles, over the years. Running is the perfect way to stay in shape and minimize stress on the road. It doesn't take up much room in your suitcase. It's great for jet lag and calming down before important presentations and meetings. And I feel so much more alive and connected running around the neighborhood instead of being sequestered in some sterile hotel room.
It's outdoors. Don't ask me why, but treadmills and stationary bikes don't give you the same thrill as getting out in the weather and running. That's right. I've run in Texas heat and Helsinki cold. Snow, freezing rain, you can run in just about any climate. And for those days when the weather's too much, just do some pushups and sit-ups. Don't forget, you need the occasional upper body workout, too.