We often hear about the physical benefits of exercise, but did you know getting enough exercise also might help your business? Exercise improves our alertness and concentration, reduces fatigue and increases our ability to perform cognitive tasks. Getting moving can help you come up with new and unexpected ideas, see an issue from a fresh perspective or generate insights.
Sarai Mitnick, founder of Colette Media, has experienced this exercise-better business connection firsthand.
Exercise also reduces stress, allowing us to literally step away from a problem. Physiologically, exercise improves our body’s response to stressful situations and counteracts the effects of dealing with high levels of uncertainty. More than that, Mitnick points out, moving your body can be a form of self-care. It pulls you away from constantly thinking about your business and reminds you there are other things in life to enjoy besides work. Feeling physically strong can translate into other aspects of your life, boosting your confidence or just making daily tasks easier.
Find Your Sweet Spot
So how can busy craft business owners make time for exercise? There are two options: Create a new routine or attach exercise to a current business activity. Either way, remember that every bit of exercise helps — in fact, a recent Stanford study found that even five minutes of walking boosted study participants’ creativity.
If you want to attach exercise to an existing business routine, consider your daily schedule and what needs tweaking. Do you want regular reflection time? Would you like to get outside regularly? Perhaps you’d like to get up and move around more? If you have a commute, can you walk, bike, get off the bus a couple stops early, take the stairs, park at the far end of the lot?
If you want to start a new routine, begin by identifying your goals. You might want to get more cardiovascular activity, improve your flexibility or target a specific region of your body. Remember the non-physical aspects of exercise as well. Resuming a favorite activity, learning something new, challenging yourself and participating in a team event are all great ideas for getting more exercise into your life. Mitnick has run and practiced yoga for years, but recently added weight training because she wanted to feel strong and thought it would be a fun activity to do with her partner.
Create an Exercise Habit
“The busier I am, the more important exercise is. Physical health is the foundation for everything else,” Mitnick says.
It can be daunting to prioritize exercise when you have a mile long to-do list. Most people find it easiest to treat exercise like any other habit — start small, create a routine and gradually build on that routine. A 10-minute Pilates session done three times a week slowly becomes 15-minute sessions, then 20-minute sessions. You also may want to opt for multiple brief sessions throughout the day. Just as it takes many small steps to build a business, it’s the cumulative exercise effort that counts.
As you think about your plan, excavate your past. What forms of exercise do you like or dislike, and why? Maybe you’re on your feet all day, so walking never worked for you, but swimming or yoga might. What’s killed your exercise routine in the past — inconvenience, boredom, weather? Let your past successes and failures guide your current efforts.
In other words, exercise can function as both the ends and the means. Which approach do you prefer?
Now, let’s get really specific. What exercise will you do, when will it happen (figure out specific days of the week and what time of the day works best for your schedule), how long will you do it? Let’s say you’re aiming for a 20-minute daily walk. When will you walk? Will you sandwich it between answering emails and marketing, using the walk to switch gears or brainstorm? Will you need equipment (like exercise shoes), and where will you store that equipment for maximum accessibility? How will you remind yourself? Some people pencil movement into their calendar like an appointment, others set automatic timers.
Set Yourself up for Success
Most of us benefit from some type of accountability. That could mean signing up for a dance or gym class with a friend, joining a walking group or just recording the days you exercise — as those accountability checkmarks stack up, you’ll be motivated to maintain your momentum. Some runners sign up for races because they provide a goal, target date and external motivation to get in shape. Play around with different ideas to see what works for you.
Finally, life happens. Things like holidays, crunch times and visiting relatives all can throw an exercise routine out of whack. Before those times hit, take a moment to think through your Plan B. You might step down the intensity (go for a brisk walk instead of hitting the gym), or you might step down the duration (pull up a 20-minute yoga routine on YouTube in lieu of a full class). Maintaining the rhythm of your usual routine — even in abbreviated form — makes it easier to pick it up again when things get back to normal. You won’t feel like you fell off the proverbial bandwagon. Also, if you do find yourself on an unintended break, Plan Bs are great ways to ease yourself back into the swing of things.
Growth Through Movement
“I believe there is a tendency for business owners to identify so strongly with their businesses that their self-worth becomes entirely wrapped up in it. I’ve been there, and it’s a precarious position,” Mitnick says.
While working as a health coach, Jessica helped hundreds of clients eat better, exercise more, manage stress and achieve their wellness goals. As a freelance writer and editor, she stays active through a combination of running, walking, swimming, biking around her home in Portland, Oregon, and dabbling in partner dance. Jessica is a columnist and contributing editor at Seamwork Magazine, and can be found online at jessicayen.com.