It is hardly a secret these days that your physical fitness and mental fitness are closely linked and to perform at your best you need to keep the two in sync. Today I will look at how I use physical training to keep my mind sharp and my ideas fresh!
Sleep and Exercise, Not Exactly What You Think
I am a firm believer in a few different mantras that relate to sleep and exercise, a couple in particular. The early bird gets the worm. The most famous, most cliche of all sayings about sleep, but yet in my experience it holds completely true.
When I am looking to optimise my performance I would take an extra two hours in the morning over two hours in the evening every time. If you are in the office before 7am then there is (in most regular areas of life) no one else around to distract you. Distractions kill productivity, remove them and your performance will skyrocket.
Secondly, You can substitute sleep for exercise. This I truly believe. Not in the long run, not every day, but a lot of the time you are able to swap one, two or even three of your precious sleeping hours for exercise and actually feel better afterwards. If you are used to getting to bed at eleven and waking up at seven, try one day to get up at five instead and get in a couple of hours of running or gym. By then end of it you’ve both ticked the first mantra as well as freed up the rest of your day for mental productivity.
Training as Self-Discipline
One of the biggest things you can gain from linking your physical and mental productivity is self-discipline. Taking on a strict (or even not that strict to be honest!) exercise regime can bring structure and order to your life, help you to eat better and lead to huge gains in your self-discipline which will positively impact on your work and business. The more you structure your work and time, the more specific you can be with your focus and the further ahead of your rivals you can get.
Moreover, taking on large physical challenges can help to develop extra self-discipline, something which becomes very apparent in your training. When training for marathons in the past the fear of the challenge I have accepted generates a mental clarity and self-discipline like almost nothing else. And when running these races, at mile 20, when everything hurts and the world is a terrible place, this is when you reap the rewards from your hard work and discipline.
Exercise and Mental Health Benefits
Getting physical has been shown in a whole range of scientific studies to be hugely beneficial for mental health. From depression to stress and anxiety to PTSD and ADHD, keeping physically active can have huge positive impacts on your life if you are going through any of these.
When I am feeling stressed out, overworked and I need some time and space I love to go running. Preferably early morning as I mentioned earlier, the act of focusing the mind on a simple, challenging and basic task is like meditation (I do strongly believe that running if done right is a form of mindfulness) which afterwards leads to a complete calm and focus both in the body and mentally.
Aside from helping on the negative side of the coin, keeping physically fit can help you on the upside also! Studies have found that people who exercise more tend to perform better on mental tasks (the same endorphins that are released whilst you are working out help you to concentrate and promote the growth of new brain cells), tend to have higher self esteem (thanks to those endorphins again!), sleep better, have more energy when awake and tend to be more emotionally and mentally resilient (due to pushing their boundaries more often – try running 20 miles and you’ll understand what i’m talking about!).
Work Hard and Reap the Rewards
Like anything in life, being ‘successful’ requires hard work. One area of life that is easier than many others to get in order is exercise. Start small, be consistent and remember to push your limits a bit. Get up early. Catch the worm. Swap some of your sleep for exercise (it’s possible because the next night you will sleep ‘better’ and therefore be more efficient even with your sleeping time!). Staying physically fit will keep you mentally fit and help to give you an edge in all walks of life. So get out there, get your trainers on and lets get moving!