A few years ago, I was going through some old books in the attic and found my grandmother’s copy of a book written in the 1950’s on the topic of how to keep a successful home. I was thrilled and expected to laugh out loud at all the old-fashioned statements. When I reached the section on health, I braced myself. But to my surprise, the advice in the book could have been written today. In short, it recommended moving every day, ideally doing some morning “gymnastics”, and limiting sugar and wheat in your diet.
Similarly, during my studies to become a yoga instructor, I learned about the Vedas, sacred Sanskrit texts written thousands of years ago. I kept exclaiming (much to the annoyance of my fellow students), “Wow, this is exactly what we teach in our leadership solutions!” Interestingly, theories I thought were fresh and new had been around a long time. The difference now is that we have the brain science to support them.
Most of us can easily recited all the things that we need to do to manage our energy: sleep seven to eight hours, eat leafy greens and exercise. Our shelves are full of books on the topics, with podcasts (such as my own https://www.roosandshine.com/listen-podcasts/) and blogs (such as this one) discussing the subject day after day, and new research continuously proving the need to manage our energy. So, if we all “know” that energy contributes to performance, why is the rate of burnout higher than ever in today’s workforce?
Over the years, I have worked with so many leaders struggling with work-life balance. A spectrum of causes exists. Some people deprioritize their own health out of a sense of nobility, putting their own needs last in order to be a great leader. Others ignore everything else because they are so passionate about their job or they fear they will fall victim to the next round of cuts. Whatever the reason, there are a few best practices than can help to better meet your energy needs. And today I want to share about movement.
I believe we can learn more than we think from the 1950s. When I lived in Stockholm, I used to belong to a fancy gym in the city. Entering the gym there was a staircase, but also an escalator. It would never cease to surprise me to see all the members riding the escalator with their cool gym bags slung over their shoulders. And, that is part of the problem. Many of us when we hear the word “movement,” we immediately think of an expensive gym membership and attending classes three times a week. But really, the key is how we move every day.
Here are a few recommendations to get more movement into your day:
- Treat exercise as a luxury. It’s easy to think of exercise as a must. And you do have to do it, because life depends on how much you move. But instead of thinking of it as a chore, I look at it in a different way: I get to do this luxurious, one-hour yoga session, or whatever it is. I changed my paradigm from “exercise is drudgery” to “exercise is my special time.” It’s a way to treat myself.
- Think outside the gym. Exercise doesn’t need to, and should not, just happen in the gym. Research shows that it’s not how much time that you spend there that counts, but how much movement you incorporate into your everyday life. So, get up and move from your desk. During my client workshops, I ask my participants to stand up in the middle of class to do ten squats. That is a true energy boost!
- Use technology. You can use some brilliant apps for a quick workout. All it takes is 20 minutes to feed your brain with focus, energy and happy thoughts.
- Get your heart pumping. When it comes to mental and overall health, working out creates stamina and better results. Pick any activity you enjoy that increases your pulse.
- Find your people. Having a training partner increases the likelihood that you’ll actually work out. Combine exercise with your role as a friend, partner or parent. I do yoga and badminton with my daughters, run with my friend (that time also doubles as peer coaching) and have been part of online communities when my training needed a little motivational push.
So, take a moment to reflect on your own movement. I find that this specific energy driver actually triggers the other four, and if you work out and keep moving, it will be easier so sleep, eat healthy, relax, and connect with others.