Your Physical Energy Keystone: Exercising Your Way To Resilience
To help you begin the ascension toward your best and most resilient self, I’ve explored with you the various tenets for maintaining good physical energy. We looked at managing our energy tanks, seeking prevention over the cure, the virtue of good habits, and the importance of sleep in a professional’s life. While these approaches are each at the core of acquiring resilience, they do tend to require a bit of deliberation and practice. But there’s a simple step that can give you a head-start with fast results, beginning today. You know it as Exercise, and its power you should never underestimate.
Certainly, we’re all capable of committing to exercising 4 to 5 days each week. It’s just a matter of making it a priority. And it’s not solely about the familiar health benefits (extensive research indicates that exercise prevents disease, keeps weight in check, and even helps manage appetite.) Getting regular doses of physical exercise provides the one type of energy that feeds all the others. Those who exercise regularly recognize it as their keystone habit, defined as a habit that leads to the development of other good habits. This starts a chain effect in their lives that produces various positive outcomes. So, as you examine grit and resilience through an energetic lens, I ask you to strongly consider what additional positive outcomes exercise can have for you.
Embrace The Bonuses
The magical power of exercise lies in its ripple effects— no, not the ripples you’ll develop on your arms and stomach. I mean the added benefits. Ever notice how you sleep better after physical activity? That advantage increases as exercise becomes more routine. How about the way a modest weight lifting session, like curling 2 light dumbbells on a yoga mat, keeps your metabolism at peak? That’s because after you exercise, your body continues to burn calories at a more rapid pace.
Besides the muscular and cardiovascular benefits, exercise releases resilience-building hormones like endorphins and boosts your serotonin levels. This helps moderate the release of cortisol into the body, thereby managing your temperament when you’re faced with emotional struggles, whether you’re in crisis mode or not. Fogged thinking becomes clear, and challenging work weeks can be handled with intent and precision. For me, when the pressure is on and my schedule is packed, exercise always gets squeezed onto my calendar. It becomes my resilience lifeline, allowing me to think more clearly, manage conversations skillfully, and equalize my emotions.
Mind Over Matter
When you acknowledge intellectually that exercise is important, but your reflex is to convince yourself that you’re too busy for a workout, there’s a realistic solution: simply change your attitude! Think of exercise as a reward, not a punishment or burden. When I’m in crisis, or feeling a bit swamped, I look at exercise as my oasis or safe space. I remind myself that nothing can harm me or steal my attention during my workout. Like anyone else who exercises, I’ve never regretted working out after the fact.
Is it a matter of lacking the motivation to get to the gym in the first place? There’s a solution for that, too. On such days, tell yourself that all you must do is walk through the gym doors, giving yourself permission to turn around and leave once you arrive. This has been my trick for years, and not once have I turned around. In fact, many of these workouts were among my best!
A Sensible Commitment
Exercise (like networking) never seems to be the most urgent and important activity to be engaging in right now. But never lose sight of the fact that it is the most important! Carve out the time for it by adding it to your calendar, just like your most important business appointment. My favorite trick is to tie exercise to another activity. If you have the benefit of working in the big city, try walking to your appointments. I do, and I can get to most of my appointments on foot within 30-minutes. All it takes is an extra bag containing my professional shoes.
You can even commit to taking a walk right before lunch. Perhaps you can walk to and from a lunch meeting. You’ll be “walking off” the meal, and preventing that sluggish feeling that often results in the afternoon. Since elevating your heart rate to 120 beats/minute for 20 minutes per day is the recipe for a genuine cardiovascular workout, that mission can be accomplished without hesitation by taking a brisk walk anytime. And as it turns out, 20 is plenty. Double the exercise does NOT double the benefit.
Exercise and nutrition are a natural pairing when considering good physical energy. Let’s explore nutrition next in our series on grit and resilience.