Callum Laing is the CEO of Entrevo Asia and the founder of Fitness-Buffet, an employee fitness business in 11 countries.
I’m always intrigued when I meet successful people, entrepreneurs or otherwise, to understand their fitness habits.
Over time this has lead me to identify three different types of fitness activities that serve three very different but important functions to an entrepreneur.
Before I jump into those, let me preface this and say that if you’re ‘too busy’ to exercise or just can’t be bothered, I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise. Because I can’t be bothered.
But if you are already interested in doing more exercise then hopefully these approaches will give you some ideas.
The first type of exercise is anything that can be done without consciously thinking. Typically this might be something like running, swimming or cycling.
Social Entrepreneur Masami Sato calls these both ‘Mindful and mindless’ activities. A quasi meditation which can either give you the opportunity to focus exclusively on one problem or to let your mind wander.
I normally give myself one or two topics to ponder during this activity and it invariably kicks up some new thinking and useful ideas.
2. Competitive sports
Another type of exercise I engage in is for the complete opposite effect. Like many business owners, I am occasionally prone to becoming completely obsessed on a problem/opportunity within the business. Playing with my kids, out for dinner with friends – the lights are on, but my mind is locked in a stupid spiral of over-thinking.
This has never once ended in a positive result, so I have learnt the way to force my brain out of this badly-coded loop is to play competitive sports. For me it is 5-a-side football, touch rugby, squash or even kickboxing.
The point is, when you’re in that environment, it forces your brain to be in the ‘now’ which gives you a much needed mental break. For 60 or 90 minutes, I have no phone calls, no messages and no thoughts about anything other than chasing the ball. It gives my brain a much needed break!
3. Bodybuilding / body manipulation
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about covering yourself in baby oil and putting on a mini bikini – unless you really want to. I am talking about understanding, and then being able to ‘manipulate’ your own body. Bodybuilders, of course, do this well – they can add or drop a few kilos each month depending on what their goals are.
So why is that important for entrepreneurs?
Despite your best intention, there is a whole world out there that might acknowledge your vision, but has other plans. It’s not personal, but as an entrepreneur you can find yourself on the wrong end of a bunch of stuff you can’t control. Staff leaving for better jobs, the market crashing, investors ditching your sector, Google giving away your product for free.
It is not hard, especially if you are on a run of these decisions, to feel like you don’t have any control.
In the past when that has happened to me, I decided that since I was doing such a bad job of influencing the rest of the world, I was going to focus on something closer to home. Building muscle or losing body fat were things that were 100 percent totally under my control. No excuses. No blaming the economy. This was all on me.
It was both scary and empowering. But ultimately, once you have learnt this and tested it a few times, it is great to know that you have full control over what your body looks like. Full control over whether you can push your body further this week then you did last week. (PS, the bible for understanding this stuff better is Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4 Hour Body.)
So those are my tips for getting fit for entrepreneurship.
You’ll notice that I haven’t once mentioned the physical health benefits of these exercises. The reason is that I don’t really care. Intellectually, I understand that they’re good for me – but being healthier in 30 years’ time is just too abstract and far off to incentivize any behavior change.
For me, there are two underlying principles that motivate me to go. The first is that it has to enjoyable, the second is that I need to see an immediate payoff. For the first one, pick activities that you enjoy (rather than things you think you should do). For the second, focus on the above three concepts to get your immediate psychological returns.