Entrepreneurs and business founders often experience high levels of risk, uncertainty, and stress; running and building a business is a 24/7 job, and equal amounts of ambiguity and pressure can really do a number to your physical and mental well-being. Many successful people are highly goal-oriented when they go into business themselves; however, it’s easy to lose track of that when they are faced with the stress of starting a company. With a million different things to do, it can be hard to lift your head up for air. So what can you do to not lose sight of the prize?
Setting a goal for a fitness competition or event can help take your mind off the pressures of running a business. From Spartan races, BJJ tournaments, and marathons, to a CrossFit competition or a 5K, setting goals outside the workplace can have profound effects when you step back into the office. Here are 5 reasons why entrepreneurs & founders should commit to a fitness event.
1. Exercise Boosts Mood
Committing to a fitness event and training with a goal in mind can help you stay motivated for your daily workout. In turn – when you exercise regularly – you can reap the benefits of regular physical activity. In fact, in a recent study performed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, it was found that mild exercise can treat symptoms of moderate depression as effectively as an antidepressant.
The study found that participants who ran for just 15 minutes a day – equivalent to an hour of walking – reduced the statistical risk of major depressive disorder by 26%. This is significant, considering that a report by the Canadian Mental Health Association and Business Development Bank of Canada found that 62% of business owners interviewed reported that they experienced feelings of depression at least once a week. Exercise and mini goal-setting/achieving can help alleviate feelings of depression that most business owners face.
2. Fitness Events Are Social
When I quit my job to start Brand North, I decided to run a marathon for the first time. It took an extreme amount of planning and willpower (among other things). Funnily enough, this extra work didn’t create more stress: it took my mind off of the new business. I joined a running group for accountability and discipline, and ended up making new friends based on our similar goals and interests. I grew to not only enjoy the workouts, but the people I was working out with as well.
I think this is relevant, because there are a number of studies that discuss the psychological cost of owning and running a business. Risk factors can include occupational loneliness, social isolation, and straight-up burnout. Surrounding yourself with a support network and friends can help alleviate the inevitable low points of starting and building a brand-new company. Creating new social relationships and nurturing old ones shouldn’t be an item that falls by the wayside; on the contrary, real-world human connections and interactions should be a priority because these relationships can help save you from burnout.
3. Goal Setting Can Be Profound
Many models and studies have suggested that there is a strong relationship to subjective well-being and goal setting via self-imposed motivation. Generally speaking, the more goals you achieve – whether externally imposed or self-imposed – the more hits of dopamine you’re going to receive. That being said, I think a problem can arise if someone sets a big goal too soon. Let’s take a marathon as an example. For someone that is new to running, 26 miles can seem like a nearly-impossible length to run. Rather than focus on the large goal, focus on the smaller goals to get there.
What I mean by that is start with a 5k (3.1 miles). Then after that, work yourself up to a 10k (6.2 miles). After a few months you’ll be able to run a half-marathon. The same thing applies to business. If you’re caught up in the goal of achieving an arbitrary, end-goal number in your mind (such as achieving $10 mil in sales) you can lose sight of the smaller goals that can help you get there. Start with building a client base and establish a solid team and work from there. All of these small goals can pay off in big returns on your self-confidence, overall well-being, and state of mind. Don’t start off by trying to run the marathon.
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. – Pablo Picasso
4. A Fitness Event Can Help Cultivate New Interests
When you discover a new hobby or interest, there can be a sense of adventure to the whole thing. If you are working towards an event-based fitness goal, there is going to be a lot of planning involved! Say you take up hiking. You’re going to need the right shoes, the right gear, and the proper amount of stamina to complete a trail.
This all goes back to goal-setting. If your goal is to run a marathon or hike a segment of the Appalachian trail, there are going to be a multitude of mini-goals in front of you. To run a marathon, you’re going to need to be in good shape; this can lead to an interest in weight loss and nutrition, and can spark another hobby (such as cooking). The adventure, excitement, and planning are a big piece of why a fitness goal is perfect for an entrepreneur and founder. Fitness goals can parallel business goals without any of the financial/mental risk attached. Completing these small goals in fitness can boost your self-confidence in other areas of your life as well.
5. A Fitness-Based Goal Can Inspire Inner Change
You won’t be staying up into the middle of the night working if you have to wake up at 5am for training. Running a business is like any other goal-based activity in life: it requires balance, discipline, and hard work. The thing I love about training for event-based fitness goals is that you’re often working with other people (such as classes, running groups for marathons, CrossFit, etc.). Training alongside others seems to increase our capacity for exercise and brings out our competitive and social nature. In fact, they even have a name for it: The Köhler Effect.
This effect is described as “an increase in motivation that sometimes occurs among individuals working in groups on conjunctive tasks that require persistence but little coordination of effort. The effect is likely due to the increased effort expended by the less capable group members”. Essentially, that means that no one wants to be the last one to cross the finish line.
It’s also interesting to note that the word compete comes from the Late Latin word competere, which means to “strive in common, strive after something in company with or together”. By setting goals based on fitness events, you’re going to be working alongside and competing with a lot of different people; however, the most important person you’re going to be competing against will be yourself.
Entrepreneurs and Exercise Go Together
There are a number of reasons why entrepreneurs & founders should commit to a fitness event. In the world of startups, occupational isolation, and CEO burnout, the closest thing to a magic pill might just be an emphasis on physical and mental well-being. While there are many ways to boost these feelings of inner vitality, training for a fitness event has always been one of my tried-and-true methods to help curb the effects of stress (especially when starting a new business).
Signing up for a fitness event invariably boosts inner confidence, inspires radical change, and increases motivation and well-being through goal setting. The social, mental, and physical aspects of event-based fitness activities are profound and are benefits that should not be overlooked. This gives a whole new meaning to the sentence “boost your bottom line through healthy competition”. Strive to be your best self and let the results speak for themselves.