Getting into shape for Holiday season
What good is a summer bod in October?
If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to already feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that is piling up for fall and year-end projects. As the schedule gets more and more packed with projects, it’s easy to pretend that fitness is one of the things to knock off the calendar so you can churn out just a couple more deliverables. But the benefits of working out extend far past the superficial and physical.
Setting fitness goals helps your brain with long-term planning. Think about it: just because you decide to run a marathon, doesn’t mean you’ll wake up tomorrow able to conquer 26.2 miles. You need a plan. That plan may force you to reorganize your schedule and forgo things that sound fun in the moment, like a second glass of wine. But that’s how you reach your goals.
All of this translates into your end-of-year projects. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of working until everything is done and done perfectly, but with a scheduled workout at 6:30 p.m., you have a hard stop. Maybe that means you spend a little less time chatting over coffee in the morning, or perhaps you look at a 2-hour meeting and decide it’s not 100% necessary for you to attend. But your tasks will be completed, and your projects will be that much closer to being finished.
That feeling of accomplishment
Setting and achieving physical goals affects what psychologists call self-efficacy. Put simply, when you achieve one goal, you automatically feel more capable of achieving your other goals. It doesn’t even have to be a big goal, like the aforementioned marathon. Your goal might be to hit the gym three times this week, or do 20 push-ups every day for a week. Perhaps it’s just one more minute on the treadmill. When you hit those small accomplishments, your brain is triggered to say, “Well if I can do that, then I can definitely do more!” You can finish that report. You can get that campaign launched on time. The little wins convince you the big wins are possible.
Pushing through physical discomfort builds your mental endurance and willpower. This is the muscle you work if you’ve ever held a pose in a yoga class for just two more breaths, or stayed on that treadmill for all 20 minutes you planned even though it felt like two hours.
That ability to focus, to push through an unpleasant task, is necessary in any job. No industry is all glamour all the time; inevitably there will be a hefty amount of drudgery, double-checking details and dealing with unpleasant situations. The willpower and endurance you build in a workout will help you stay calm and focused through those long days.
A fitness plan is just the start
Having and working for fitness goals gives you a model for emulating other people’s successes. Think about every time you see a fitness magazine at the newsstand or in line at the grocery store. It seems like every other headline is “Get Jennifer Aniston’s abs,” or, “How to get fit like The Avengers.” You might buy that magazine and incorporate some of those tips into your nutrition or workout plan.
The same process should apply to modeling the success of your coworkers or career idols. Did another team in your office produce a really successful campaign that connected with both the client and the constituents? Ask them how they accomplished that! Do you want to figure out how to get a foot in the door in a different company or move up a level at your current firm? Find someone who made that move and talk to them about what specific steps they took. There’s no need to struggle through your projects or your career blindly, especially when that valuable knowledge is out there.
In that spirit, go ask some crazy fit person you know about setting a fall fitness goal. Make a plan, stick to it, and feel the self-efficacy wash over you, in and out of the office, all through December.