Leadership Essentials 2.1 – Leaders Build Mental and Physical Tenacity

Physical fitness drives clear thinking and a capacity to perform and survive the challenges we are confronted with.

In my earlier post I described how much I hate losing. In fact while I know losing teaches us so many things, I personally hate it. I personalise it. I ask myself ‘What is it I did wrong?’ or ‘What was it about us they didn’t like?’. To have those thoughts is natural. To not quickly overcome them is dangerous because it takes away our focus. If you are an entrepreneurial leader, creative in spirit, intensity of feelings is something to be managed.  Focus is sometimes challenging to maintain.

I have also spoken in earlier posts about how life throws up some pretty ‘mean’ challenges.  Family problems, a move, a new job, financial struggles, relationship breakdowns, death, new life, personal illness and so on. Many of these test us and make focus very difficult.

Mental and physical tenacity is our ability to survive the challenges that life throws at us and continue performing to our highest possible level. To still have the energy to perform despite all kinds of distractions and pressures. For me, building and maintaining that tenacity relies on a strict regime of fitness.

I want to preface the following by saying I am far from an elite sportsman. I play a range of ball sports adequately and get deeply involved in sports with my children. May I also preface the following by suggesting before you do any intense exercise or change diets you seek advice from a doctor or related expert.

In organisations leaders are generally time poor. We have a thousand excuses for not doing exercise. I take, however, 80 minutes four to five times a week. Even during intense periods of personal or work life. That time is part of my work. That means sometimes I will take the 80 minutes at 6am and others 10am or 3pm. Basically I don’t have a set time for exercising because that gives me an excuse to say ‘I didn’t have the time to get to my specific work-out time’….if you know what I mean.

My work-out is usually a combination of running and weight training.  I am actually running better in my late forties than I was in my early thirties. Simply I am more motivated and clearly see the place intense exercise has in my life.  My exercise is not golf, which I am sure is great for the spirit and social interaction, but has little impact on building physical tenacity. I find it fascinating when I go to a public gym the number of people, especially young men, sitting on equipment looking at themselves in the mirror.

There are many highly intense exercise routines that don’t require running, therefore jarring of the bones. For those who do enjoy running though, great shoes are important despite university studies that say otherwise. For me it is the difference between painful shin splints and being able to easily run 8km. The other great product I use to build and maintain the cartlige in my knees is Blackmores Glucosamine. Without those two products intensity of exercise would be impossible for me.

Intensity in exercise is all about giving focus.  If your exercise is Yoga, running or football training, it is important to put yourself in the zone. My actual exercise time is never more than 6o minutes (my 80 minutes alows for preparation and a shower following the workout). My running, stomach exercises and high rep. weights routine are performed  in quick succession, really never giving me a time to sit still. The intensity is about losing myself. That is the key to a really good workout. Losing yourself in it, not fighting to stay in it.

Importantly, I have found I need one weeks rest every 6 weeks to refresh and rejuvenate myself to be able do another five weeks of intensity. I definitely avoid breaks longer than a week because I lose momentum. I begin to eat badly and my total regime breaks down.  On the other hand if I have no breaks I get tired , run down and more likely to experience illness and downs. Life is a balance.

Many executives use fitness trainers.  I don’t and I think if you need to for an extended period of time, day after day, you may not be learning to help yourself; not building your own mental and physical tenacity. On the other hand fitness trainers can be very useful as a starting point or regular point of instruction on training technique.

Finally, having fitness goals are often an imperative to motivation. I have two. My weight and running time / distance. This helps with immediate purpose for each workout. I keep a spreadsheet to record workout days, running distances and weekly weight. What I have found is that we generally have a natural comfortable weight. I am not interested in losing for the sake of losing. Just staying around that natural weight. If I put on weight, I quickly reduce by controlling my food intake, especially that of carbohydrates and saturated fats, and reducing my intake of heavy foods at night. Of course dieticians will often tell you to avoid large meals and to consume smaller, healthy meals and snacks up to 6 times a day.  Please consult an expert on this matter.

The point is that mental and physical tenacity is built upon regimes.  It doesnt just happen from nothing.  The end point is that we are able to survive tougher times because we are phsically stronger.  I have also found intense exercise gives me great perspective.  For some reason after that tough and intense run, bike ride, rowing session, football practice, yoga session, dance class, martial arts session or whatever it is you do, an issue or challenge that seemed impossible, suddenly has its place and you have more strength to deal with it.

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