To get fit, just use scheduling, benchmarking, and tracking -- the same tools you use to keep your business in shape.

Too busy or too lazy to exercise? Pat Croce's not buying it.

"You can't miss your Monday-morning meeting if that's what's made your business successful," says Croce, a physical therapist, entrepreneur, and author, and, until last July, the flamboyant president of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team. (He's still a co-owner of the team.) "In the same way, you cannot miss your Tuesday-morning workout. Apply what you already know about setting business goals to your personal fitness goals."

When Croce ran a chain of sports-medicine and physical-therapy centers -- Sports Physical Therapists, which he sold in 1993 for a reported $40 million -- he worked on professional athletes and regular folks alike. Some needed rehab after an injury; some, like Charles Barkley, had packed away too many pizzas. All knew that when you exercise, "you think better, you're more creative, your posture is better, your sex is better -- everything!" says Croce.

Discipline is the hard part. Croce's advice: set goals and track progress. "It's no different from how you measure objectives at work," he says. Three steps get you started:

Benchmark before you bench-press. Weight isn't a good-enough barometer of fitness. Get a thorough physical exam and write down your body's stats; then monitor them the way you would your business's sales receipts and inventory. "Chronologically, you will age, but physiologically you can regress," Croce says. "You can have a lower cholesterol count, a lower percent of body fat, a smaller waistline, a lower heart rate." Have your doctor advise you about what goals to set. "This is really, really important, but most executives neglect it," says Croce.

Commit to the "two-hour rule." Croce's recommendation for the time-pressed executive is to set aside 30 minutes four times a week, alternating aerobics and strengthening work during each session. "Aerobic activity can be brisk walking or jogging or bicycling -- anyone can do any of those anywhere. Elevate your heart rate, get a little glow going," he says. Before you start on your abdomen and lower back, invest in a couple of sessions with a physical trainer "to make sure you do the exercises the right way."

Schedule it. "Use your day planner or your handheld," says Croce. Block out the time. And add elements gradually. "I've treated gazillions of injuries in my past life, and most people go at it too fast, too hard, too intense, and get too hurt," says Croce. "Change your footwear, change your intensity, change your mileage -- you have to go at it slow and steady, or you set yourself up for injury."

The key? Don't commit to what you can't do. But always, always, follow through with what you promise. Especially to yourself.

Reporter's Notebook

Croce's rÉsumÉ: He was president of the 76ers for five years, until last July. He made a run for a larger corporate role, aiming for CEO, and didn't get it. He's now a "consultant and minority owner" with the Sixers, and the team apparently isn't bringing in a replacement president. Has his own Web site at Nice guy to talk to ... In September his book 110%: 110 Strategies for Feeling Great Every Day was published. Croce's 2000 autobiography, I Feel Great and You Will Too, is meatier; it tells of his rise to training guru, company builder, and pro-sports deal maker. Replete with inspirational quips that are enormously appealing, even if you normally can't stand that stuff ... Spent almost 10 years growing Sports Physical Therapists (SPT), a chain of 40 gyms that merged physical therapy with athletic training. Started SPT in 1984, when "the fitness craze was sweeping the country," as he recounts in I Feel Great. "All this sweating and pumping and running and reciting the 'no pain, no gain' mantra guaranteed one thing: injury. You could open your window and hear the twang of hamstrings pulling ... as the Baby Boomers and the Yuppies relentlessly hurt themselves."

Croce on tenacity: "I used to tell people, 'If you're over 30 and you look good, you work at it. If you're over 40 and you're in shape, you damn near kill yourself.' Because gravity and aging work against you every minute of every day of every year."

Croce on measuring: Write down your body stats and track the changes. "Do it in September, when many of us go into a 'new-school-year mode' or in January or on your birthday."

Croce on action: The main thing is to begin. "Do it now. The minute you put down this article, schedule a physical. You can learn all you want, but it adds up to nothing if you keep procrastinating."

Copyright © 2002 Leslie Brokaw

The Inc Life

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