If you’re like most senior executives we work with, you may struggle to find time to squeeze that workout into your busy schedule. A recent article by Inc.com says Apple CEO Tim Cook goes to the gym every morning at 5 a.m. to start his day with a workout. Even Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who works nearly 100 hours per week, gets a workout in about twice a week. These highly successful leaders understand the importance and positive effects that physical activity have on your physical and mental health, and your ability to take on leadership challenges.

With gyms closed and social distancing prohibiting group sports and activities, many will wonder how they can continue to exercise and question whether it’s worth the effort. The short answer: yes. Exercising during times of stress and disruption is more important than ever. A study conducted by Science Daily shows that people who exercise regularly display a 43% reduction in poor mental health compared to those who do not exercise. Exercise and other physical activities produce endorphins in your brain, relieving stress and improving your mood. Exercise also helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your brain, which boost your energy and enhance your brainpower. 

Sounds nice in theory, right? But it can be tough to act on. Here are some actions leaders can take to develop better habits and start building exercise into their daily routine during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond. This is a great opportunity to practice routines for those busy days when you can’t get to the gym.

Set goals and track your progress

Smart leaders understand the importance of setting goals. It’s the leader’s job to set the vision and steer growth for the business. Leaders should approach fitness with the same mindset. You need to set realistic goals for yourself to stay on track and hold yourself accountable. Too often, people create New Year’s resolutions or other unrealistic goals that they quickly realize are unachievable and they give up on them all together. Here are some tips on how to set goals you will stick to.

  • Be realistic and set the bar low. Start with setting smaller, achievable goals that won’t stray too far from your regular schedule. These will feel much more attainable and as you begin to build these into your daily routine, you can adjust those goals to build on your workouts and gradually increase your workload over time.
  • Make them measurable. Is your goal to be stronger? Maybe it’s to build your endurance. These are good goals to have, but they are too vague. Turning those into specific goals focused on the amount of weight lifted, miles run, etc. allows you quantify your progress and enhances your focus to achieve them.
  • Understand the “why” behind the “what”. It’s inevitable you will have bad days where you don’t feel as motivated to exercise. This is when remembering why you started your fitness journey is so important. Remembering your “why” and using it as a motivator to drive you will help you stay on track.

Go for a walk or a run

Walking and running are both excellent cardiovascular exercises and they don’t require a gym. They can help you boost your immune system, lose weight, increase your stamina and improve your mental health. One study found that thirty minutes of exercise at moderate intensity, such as a brisk walk a few days a week, reduces anxiety and improves overall mental health. This article by Healthline explains the benefits vs. risks of walking and running to help you decide which is better for you. And once you are traveling again, the new habit will be easy to take on the road.

Use resistance bands for a full body workout

Resistance bands are a great alternative to the gym. They allow you to tone and develop your body from the comfort of your home. They’re also light-weight and great for travel. Get a set with a few different levels of resistance (measured in pounds), from extra light up to extra heavy. Self Magazine offers some great exercises with resistance bands that you can start incorporating into your routine.  

Try an on-demand fitness streaming platform

Is yoga something that interests you? Maybe you prefer group fitness classes as opposed to a solo workout. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to give boxing a go. There are online classes that focus on different objectives like HIIT, Tabata, resistance training and muscle building. Here are some of the best on-demand fitness platforms from Forbes.

Follow social media fitness influencers

Fitness influencers on social media, specifically Instagram, promote their active lifestyles and workouts. They strive to inspire and motivate others to live healthy, active lifestyles. What I like most about fitness influencers is that most of them post interesting workouts that you can incorporate into your own workout routine. They’re also great for daily inspiration. Here are the 50 best fitness influencers to follow in 2020, according to Insider.

Whether you’re new to the fitness world or are still adjusting to the at-home workouts during the COVID-19 quarantine, it’s important as a leader to remind yourself to stay committed to your mental and physical health and model the same for others. Keeping your mental health in check through regular exercise will help you make smart decisions, think innovatively and lead your team through this crisis.

To read more about the importance of self-care for leaders, read this post: “Self-Care in Challenging Times: The New Non-Negotiable for Senior Leaders”.

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