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Workplace Fitness
A gym full of useful advice for continual learning

by Eileen McDargh

A “Where do you get all your energy?” That’s a question many of us are asked as we finish leading an intense management retreat, conducting a training session, or keynoting a major conference. My answer, after I jokingly say, “Drugs!” is “Exercise”.

I’ve realized that some of the lessons learned in a physical fitness program are appropriate for our personal and professional growth and also have application in the training room.
  • Cross train.
    It’s essential for continual improvement. We all get into our ruts, doing the same routines over and over again and wondering why we don’t see any improvement. The body (as well as the mind) slips into neutral. Cross- training challenges different parts of our physical structure. We have to learn a new way of holding weights, of balancing, of breathing. We gain a new appreciation for a different skill set. The parallels in organizational behavior are immediate.
  • Hydrate.
    The body demands water when it is being physically taxed. So too does the brain. Notice I didn’t say “coffee”. Just plain old clear water. Water might not be our favorite beverage but hydration actually helps our endurance. No wonder we want pitchers of water in our training rooms!
  • Push beyond your barriers.
    There are two kinds of barriers; those imposed by others and those imposed by ourselves. The latter are the most restrictive. I finally took a spinning class. This class uses a stationery bike that can be adjusted to tighten or loosen the gears. I can literally feel like I am pedaling up Mt. Everest or cruising along the beach sand. It’s the hardest class I have ever taken. I love and hate it. And I go because it makes me push against what my mind says “you can’t do”. Now, I’m NOT going to challenge Lance Armstrong. My body DOES know its limits. But I AM doing that which I said I could not. It’s a thrill!
  • End performance anxiety.
    Walk into a gym and you see the jocks who grunt and lift huge weights vying with their buddies for the most reps. Go to a class and you’ll see the double-stepping, dance-twirling footwork of some double-jointed exerciser. If you try that move, you’ll twist your knee and land in surgery. We are not built alike. While pushing beyond barriers, also know that each one of us has specific abilities. To demand that I hop and dance like the knee-torking guy in the front row is ludicrous. I am here to improve my body—not resemble theirs!
  • Talk is cheating.
    At my gym, there are members who spend most of their time swapping war stories and giving updates on current sport matches. Instead of working out, they talk. And then, they’ll ALSO talk about how hard they worked out. I call that cheating. Stick to the task at hand. Action ALWAYS is louder than words
  • Get a trainer.
    We can’t see our postures with free weights. We don’t know what different exercise might improve a specific problem area. And we don’t always stick to a regimen unless we’re accountable to someone besides ourselves. Call it a coach, an advisor, a mentor—whatever. But all of us can benefit from the advise and new eyes of someone outside of ourselves.
  • Celebrate your success.
    I admit: I despised exercise when I started. But I KNEW that I had to begin. I set a goal of 3 exercise times per week—30 minutes to start. Every time I exercised, I put a sticker in my appointment book. Yes—a fun sticker: animal, cartoon face, flower, you name it. Amazing but my appointment book began to blossom with crazy kid stickers. I could literally see progress every week. When beginning any new behavior, we all know that rewards are important. Stickers are cheap and visual. Whatever the reward, it’s the consistency of the giving that matters.
Workplace workouts in the context of learning can promise growth, stamina, productivity, AND ultimately profitable performance.

© 2004, McDargh Communications. All rights in all media reserved.

Eileen McDargh, CSP,CPAE is head of McDargh Communications, a training and consulting practice founded in 1980. She’s also an award-winning author, radio commentator, and on the Board of the National Speakers Assoc.

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