Alastair Lechler

Alastair LechlerFounder of ‘ReBoot – Exploring Wellbeing’

How to fit an exercise routine into the start-up lifestyle

We’ve all endured presentations from the latest management guru telling us how important exercise is and how a healthy body equals a healthy mind.

But I am sure, like me, you’ve left the business breakfast or staff training thinking how do I possibly find the time for it all?

Having spent many years headhunting in London, working with some of the world’s largest organisations, I can guarantee the concept of ‘death by meeting’; a never-ending inbox, and constant fire-fighting is not lost on many of you.

So when someone is regaling me with the benefits of an active lifestyle, informing me that I need to find time, not just for me, but for my team to exercise while hammering home, rather forcefully, that I need to commit to it – it can be a little hard to swallow.

Sure, I know we need to do it, but would you like to tell me how I find the time? Short of starting everyone’s day at 05:30.

Make it part of your company DNA

Most of my time at ReBoot now involves working with entrepreneurs and inspiring teams through outdoors exercise and activities.

In my experience – the culture of a business is set by the founding team or the leadership team. If you lead your business or are part of the leadership team, advocate wellbeing as key to success. Take responsibility for it becoming part of your business’ DNA.

What is clear from dealing with those leading businesses is that successful entrepreneurs will pull out all the stops to stick to his or her word. They’ll have made dozens of commitments to clients – now it’s time to make the same commitment to their team to inspire that discipline in their own lives.

Achieving success in any area of your life requires discipline. It is a key attribute of high achievers across the globe.  Whether you run a start-up or are part of the corporate machine disciplining your lifestyle through exercise will help you professionally and personally.

A regular work-out routine also enhances your consistency. When you get into a pattern of exercising regularly, you instil habits of follow-through and commitment that will carry over into the workplace.

Commit it to paper

Granted this is advice is a little strange. However, committing your exercise and active lifestyle to paper can help you achieve your goal. There is nothing better than ticking something off a list.

Draw up a fitness routine and diet plan that is achievable for you. In an ideal world – I would suggest that it includes at least three days of cardio activity (increased heart rate) (about 30 to 45 minutes per session), two or three days of weight training, and three balanced meals per day.

Eating well and exercising aren’t just about looking good and improving your physical health. Regular workouts are key to operating at peak mental performance.

In a study conducted by Vitality, Rand Europe and University of Cambridge in 2018, it was estimated that workplace stress cost UK businesses £17.2bn in lost productivity.

When you exercise, and especially high intensity interval training (HIIT), your body assumes it’s under threat. It goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing an endorphin called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor.” This calms the chaos or stress if it is there and promotes a sense of clarity, allowing you to think more clearly and respond better to business challenges.

Set a goal

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs I know compete in a sporting discipline. Pick an event that you would like to enter; consider inviting colleagues or friends to sign up too and build out a training programme.

Having a goal to aim for helps breed consistency and focuses the mind.

Exercise your mind to deal with stress.

Working out is scientifically proven to make you happier. I think we can all agree with that. Exercise can not only play a part in combating depression and anxiety, but it also produces a general sense of well-being. A recent study showed that happy people are about 12 percent more productive.

However, I recently interviewed Gary Young, who founded ‘The Mindful Enterprise’, and we debated the notion that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and investigated a number of solutions  for managing stress.

You can read that blog post here:

While there is no doubt that exercise is a great habit to build – and maintaining a healthy, positive mindset can be effective in reducing stress – Gary highlights some simple mindfulness techniques which could be easily adopted to supplement an exercise routine.

While it is vital to build an active lifestyle, exercising your brain will support and benefit your physical exercise.

Exercise and mental wellbeing

The benefits of exercise and mental wellbeing are key to success in any business – a concept perfectly demonstrated by an old client who works in the NHS.

She will RAG (red / amber / green) rate all the meetings in her weekly schedule and timebox activities (e.g. gym time) before and/or after the red (most testing) meetings. This way she gives herself the best chance of performing optimally and with the most patience when needed – also the space to vent or decompress after these peaks of energy drain.

However, I know that military style discipline is not an easy or palatable concept for every business.  Life is unpredictable and, even with the best will in the world, critical demands will get in the way. The key is to maintain the balance and to not forget the importance of exercise and wellbeing to your own productivity and performance. By skipping that run or gym session you are doing yourself a disservice in the long-run.