I have some new aches and pains today, the result of making good on one of my birthday resolutions.
I am finally emerging from the haze of new motherhood, with three births in six years setting me back in my fitness each time. Before having the girls, I had planned to enter a marathon. At my running peak, I logged more than 30 miles a week. In the past eight years, my dedication to exercise has been half-hearted at times. I’ve run a few races, but been less successful in my efforts to expand my routine. Each time, I lasted about a day.
You don’t have to be a mother of young children to relate to my ambivalence. Sometimes the effort to get to the gym doesn’t seem worth the payoff it brings, and it always seems that something more immediately pressing demands my attention.
For CEOs directing multinational corporations or executives overseeing dozens or hundreds of employees, the difficulty is even greater. Recently I read an article in Newsweek about marketing great Peter Arnell. The author, Daniel Lyon, describes Arnell’s boundless energy — “Arnell doesn’t walk. He dashes.” He also mentions Arnell’s fairly recent physical transformation: “(Arnell) lost 250 pounds, going from 407 to 152 pounds in 30 months.”
When I read the article, I wondered: Is there a correlation between people’s physical fitness and their career success? Is Arnell more successful now that he is living a healthy lifestyle? Would he say his physique was an impediment to his career before? Does physical fitness matter for CEOs, or is it more useful for leaders to have a singular focus on the health of their organizations?
For most people, exercise is a contributing factor to success. However, with all the demands on executives’ time, I can understand why exercise might be relegated to the absolute bottom of their list of priorities. Obviously, people can and do excel in their fields without a high level of physical fitness — Arnell did.
Still, research shows that people who exercise are more productive. They are better at managing their time, better at completing projects, and have improved mental and interpersonal performance. The self control and self discipline involved in sticking to an exercise routine transfer to other areas of life as well. It makes sense to me that CEOs, as people who are striving to use every resource imaginable to maximize their impact, would find a way add this proven productivity booster to their schedules.
Ted Kennedy, the founder and head of CEO Challenge LLC, says that CEOs who stay fit “show an incredible knack of being able to juggle numerous things at one time. They are a true inspiration, and their ability to focus is enviable.” Kennedy’s company plans and promotes sports competitions designed to find the best CEO worldwide in a variety of sports.
When fit CEOs use sports and exercise to help them manage stress, they model a healthy lifestyle for others in their organizations. So the benefits extend beyond the individual CEO to the entire company.
Knowing that, I will lace up my running shoes, and push past the pain.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.