“Exercise is well documented for its capacity to add quantity and quality to life. I shan’t dwell on the physiological aspects, rather, encapsulate the holistic values that I see as important to being active.”
Setting aside the group of athletic men and women who do solo sports, i.e. train for a marathon on their own, there are seven values to executive exercise. Solo athletes may still get all seven if they socialise directly with people who do their sport or physical activity. Here they are:
1. Make it home without dying (Risk Management)
The first requirement for any executive is to be active and make it home without dying! Quite a vital issue, and so we recommend that they be checked first by a doctor or medical practitioner before embarking on activity of any level, and be checked further, if thinking of ramping up to zealous levels.
Being zealous over 45 years of age was not that common in the 1960s and 70s, however with the growth in VOMIT or VOWIL sports (very old men in tights and very old women in leotards) and adventure travel, the percentage of executives taking on zealous activity is increasing, which I am very pleased to see.
2. Finessing (Competency)
Those active on a consistent basis will come to understand, repetition brings with it competency to finesse style and understanding of what the sport/ activity entails. To be confident when you change through the gears on your road bike, turn the blade efficiently with your inside hand, return the tennis backhand smoothly, or strike the golf ball in its sweet spot more times than not, does develop a sense of being competent in a new area of life.
3. Competition (Capacity)
During the improvement phase beyond those first months of feeling exhausted after each work out, comes an awakening of competitive intent. If you have exercised as a youth and lost it in the hurly burly of making a living, then to rebuild the competitive juice from sport becomes essential to the idea of one’s continuous improvement.
If you have never been Arnie Schwarzenegger or a Tomb Raider, don’t despair, we have seen many sedentary lifers, take up physical activity only to be liberated by confidently becoming sporty in older age when some of their school gym jock antitheses are now languishing in decay! To measure yourself against the clock, your PB or the group is great fun and leads to the thrill of self-satisfaction in a new area of life.
4. Endorphins and Endocannabinoids (Reward)
Recently Dr Michel Mosely, commented on new research that reveals that maybe endorphins once thought to be the happy hormone we get from physical activity might in fact be supplemented by a natural endocannabinoid (similar in structure to the main chemical in cannabis) which is generated during physical activity.
Whatever source of hormone it is, it has long been seen as the cheapest and greatest form of mental benefit from exercise. Try stopping physical activity for a week and see what your family thinks of your mood, let alone how you feel without the benefit to your performance.
5. Meditation (In the moment)
For years many Anglo-Saxon Westerners, have grappled with the esoteric nature of meditation. Too few executives, sadly meditate or practice mindfulness. Most instead, are engaged in being anxious predicting the future (what will happen if I action something versus what will happen if I action nothing) or depressed ruminating about the past (what happened versus what I hoped had happened).
Base entry meditation goes something like this:
He or she who can silence their mind has a wonderful servant, he or she who can’t, has an awful master.
Sport/physical activity is a practical gateway to focusing on being in the moment. Acknowledging our progress when we are active with consistent focus on repetitive tasking at the exclusion of all other distractions will move us into the present and lock out our future or past attentiveness. Some examples I would give are focusing on the rhythm of rowing, the black line in the pool, the road in front of our feet.
“Improving one’s finesse of an activity, may introduce a new phenomenon, being mindfulness, to know all of what is around you and resonate with its impact.”
6. Anonymity (Growth)
One of the great things I have come to enjoy and relish is to be rowing up the river in a boat with colleagues, enmeshed in the common goal of continuous improvement (Kaizen) and the group is resonating as a crew (Karma). The real essence is anonymity which occurs when one is freed from the tangles and chains of “our home post code and title at work”, to be judged by others for only how well you pull on the oar and work hard in precision.
“The person in front and behind is not remotely interested the price of your home or job income which usually pigeon holes us into who is better or less than them.“
Rather it’s how well you are committed to the boat and the moment. For many executives cramped with money expectations, job goals and KPIs, they matter little when pulling on the oar and the freedom to experiment and expressing your energy becomes your partner for the time in the boat.
7. Belonging (Vulnerability and Sharing)
Lastly, the full flavor of adult sport is embedded in the sense of belonging and sharing. Competitive Isolation (which I’ve written about a previously), is the bug bare of all effective men and women today. To perform in all facets of life we must compete and to compete efficiently, it is best not to let too many people know too much about your inner thoughts and vulnerabilities. If they know them, then alas they might exploit this knowledge when we least want them to do so.
In sport /physical activity, when we have completed our session with others, a reward comes from sharing the pursuit of common goals, the effort or even hardship.
“This is the ingredient which permeates into conversation with others who have shared the quest and now through its permission share freely other topics. “
It enables each participant to incorporate such experimentation with boundaries and feelings into the rest of our lives, giving new perspective on what really matters.
So, if you are thinking of finding a way to feel better, perform better, cope well and learn new life skills then sport/ physical activity preferably in groups where feasible, could be opportunity for low entry investment of your time, energy and money.