The Best Leadership Exercise Just Might Be Exercise

You might not think that this post has much to do with leadership. I would argue that it has everything to do with your ability to lead yourself and others well. It’s a personal issue that is made public every time you interact with others. I want you to take a hard look at your physical fitness.

I’ve got one question: Are you in shape?

If you’re anything like me, you’re never really satisfied with where you’re at physically. I knew it was a problem in my life when my kids would walk up to me and poke me in the stomach and say, “FLUBBER!” At that point, it was very clear that I was suffering from a “bit of a weight problem.”

I’m amazed at how many people who lead others don’t do what it takes to lead themselves well in this area. The reasons are similar in most cases:

1. I’m too busy.
2. I’m too tired.
3. I’ll get to it later.

We have an obesity problem in America. It stems from eating too much and moving too little.

One of the most practical and beneficial ways you can lead yourself first is to be physically fit. I know it’s important to get your mind right, to develop good character, and to keep your promises. Unfortunately, too many leaders make excuses for their level of physical fitness. They have compartmentalized their physical health from other areas. They haven’t made the connection – that engaging in the disciplined rigor of maintaining one’s physical health leads to improvements and growth in all other areas of life. Let me say this as clearly as I can – you will be a better leader if you take care of yourself physically.

• You feel better about the way you look.
• You have more energy.
• You have a clearer mind.
• You sleep better.
• You feel better.

It has a dramatic effect on your perspective and outlook. I learned this lesson in life later than I should have. In the summer of 2010 I was finally fed up. I was the biggest I had ever been and I felt like I was one cheeseburger away from a heart attack. After doing a little research and with the recommendation of a couple of my friends, I started a program called P90X.

I stuck with it. I pushed through it. I rearranged my schedule to complete it each day. I made a promise to do it and I kept that promise. At the end of the 90 days (yes, that’s 90 days in a row) I was a different person.

You don’t transform your body in a day (it took you more than a day to get where you are). But you can change your body a little bit each day if you’re dedicated to it on a daily basis.

I think exercise is one of the easiest things for a leader to rationalize not doing. When a person does the work of character building or learning from their experiences, they can do that from the comfort of their office or workplace. Exercise often requires a change of scenery. It requires a change of clothes. And if you’re doing it right, it requires you to sweat.

Exercise is a constant decision between comfort and discomfort (we feel like a stiff rope rather than a rubber band). Getting started in an exercise program is one of the most uncomfortable things you can do. You have to work through all of that initial soreness. You are completely out of breath after two minutes of cardio. You feel like you’re going to die.

People stop working out and exercising after two days because it hurts too much. They’re not willing to push through the initial discomfort to begin the process of retraining their bodies.

But there are two types of pain at work here:

  • Bad pain is the result of you being out of shape and having a sore back because you’re belly’s too big.
  • Good pain is the result of working to get in shape and having a sore back because you were recently introduced to free weights.

There are some things a leader can hide (at least for awhile). You can hide your true feelings. You can hide your intentions and your motives. But you can’t hide your physical fitness. You see yourself in the mirror. You know how you feel after you walk (or crawl) up a flight of stairs. And you know, deep down, that you need to do something about it before you experience a crisis of some kind.

I’m not advocating that you get supermodel thin or starve yourself. I’m encouraging you to improve your overall fitness and to invest time exercising on a daily basis. Yes…every day. It’s that important.

What do you think? How do you incorporate exercise and physical fitness into your daily routine?

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This post was excerpted from Tim’s latest book, Leadership Starts With You. Move toward successful leadership by demonstrating self-leadership. Available for Kindle, Nook and paperback.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.ericjacobsonblog.com Eric Jacobson

    Tim,

    Enjoyed this post. Thanks Tim. It really hit home. About a year before you started your transformation I made the decision to become healthier and about a year later had lost 40 pounds. I worked with a trainer and changed the way I ate. Wanting to continue to stay driven and goal focused, I soon started running 5K races (about 20 a year). Nearly daily I take about a hour to exercise. Some of my best thinking happens during those hours. Congrats again on your P90X achievement.

    • tim milburn

      Thanks Eric. Great comment. Appreciate you sharing your success and discipline to remain fit. It makes a huge difference.