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More than muscle: essential benefits you get from exercise

Last week sucked—it was straight up emotionally rough. My August housing fell through after I’d completely packed up from the last place. Then, my bikes fell off my car. Two of them. On the highway. At 65 miles an hour.

Now, I’m staying with my sister’s family in Los Altos. Talking with my bro-in-law yesterday about how our days went, I reported that “Today was good since I’m getting back on track…”

Yeah, last week’s events really took their toll. Having to revisit the sublet or housesitting search again was stressful. (My work goals just fly out the window when that fundamental need, i.e. shelter, is in question.)

The thought that people could’ve been seriously hurt when my bikes fell (thank Gawd there were no collisions!!) was traumatizing. Not to mention would I have to invest in a new commuter bike??

Understanding that stressful situations are amplified by hormones such as cortisol flooding the body, the best thing I could’ve done once I was in a safe space was to get heart-pumping exercise to clear out those hormones.

I do yoga daily but often barely get warmed up. While this is better than nothing, I’m learning from Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s book The Power of Full Engagement that it’s not enough.

They cite numerous studies done at various corporate workplaces showing that physical programs at work have a big effect on people’s attitude and stamina with their work.

They also say that interval training (alternately bringing heart rate up, then letting the body recover) is more helpful for you than a sustained raised heart rate program (for ex. get heart rate up to a certain level and sustain for 20 minutes).

But how is this helpful for you, the creative entrepreneur? I mean, the studies cited were conducted in big companies. The companies that have big budgets to bring in experts and coaches to motivate and train the people in the program.

The companies that are motivated by cutting down on missed days at work, fewer worker’s comp claims, and higher productivity from better relationships between managers and employees.

What about us self-employed peeps who don’t have built-in support and accountability programs? Because I can tell you without a doubt that the majority of the entrepreneurs I work with don’t get enough exercise.

And last week, when I was reeling from the emotional punches that were thrown my way, going for a bike ride was the furthest thing from my mind.

Identified problem pattern: When stressed out, many people, myself included, go into lockdown mode.

Talking with my step-bro in the kitchen, I explained: “It’s a downward spiral. If I don’t get exercise, then I’m not clearing the stress hormones from my body. This leaves me feeling even more anxious. And when I feel anxious, my head convinces me that I don’t have time for exercise. Thus my state of being keeps getting worse!”

Which brings me to another important point that Loehr and Schwartz share: When you train interval style, you are essentially training your body to recover.

Here’s the super cool thing about this: not only does quick recovery after running a flight of stairs indicate better health in your body, it transfers to your emotional state as well.

In other words, your spinning class is helping you recover from the irritation of being on hold with the phone company!

This means that you can get back to the important stuff faster and with more energy.
Another reason this is critically important: negative emotions are a Huge Energy Suck.

Not to mention that those negative emotions, left unchecked, breed like horny rabbits. Yah. Think about it. Or don’t—that’s probably a better idea.

When you get right down to it, your emotional state is the factor with the biggest impact on how your spend your time. Just think how feeling inspired vs. crappy affects your energy level and thus your motivation to do your most important work, not to mention the quality of your work.

Here’s what I’ve noticed in the people I work with: they come to me wanting relief from feeling overwhelmed and are convinced that if they managed their time better or had better systems, all would be solved.

Of course those help and are important for a sustainable workflow. However,

I want more for you than sustainability.
I want You: happy, healthy, and whole.

I want you enjoying life, having energy at the end of the day for the whos and whats that light you up. I want deep satisfaction to be a daily experience for you. I want you to feel on purpose with who you’re here to be.

So you see, your body–more specifically your personal energy–is a critical part of the equation in supporting your overall well-being (not to mention productivity).

To recap, here’s how exercise helps you in more ways than feeling good in your body. It:

  1. clears your body of toxic stress hormones like cortisol.
  2. primes you to recover from stressful situations more quickly, and thereby causing less disruption to your day or week.
  3. prevents (or at least greatly slow down) the anxiety downward spiral, which means less recovery and less energy wasted in the down swing.
  4. serves as a pattern-disruptor for stress patterns which helps keep you in a wiser space.
  5. gets you back toward a positive frame of mind more quickly and thereby encourages you to make better decisions.
  6. carries forward, meaning, regular exercise you’ve done in the past makes today’s recovery smoother.

As for my state of being last week, while my head convinced me that I didn’t have time for exercise, my recovery instincts promoted the ideas of more rest, self-compassion, and permission to lower my biz production expectations–in other words, space to process and recover.

Once I realized that I was avoiding exercise, I chose to only ride my bike to get to my daily cafe work sessions which provided just enough feel good energy needed to recommit to getting back on the daily exercise track.

I’m happy to report that I’m now back to showing up in my positive presence daily. =)

And, thank goodness, it turned out that my commuter bike just needed the front wheel trued and a new derailleur mounting bracket, and my Burningman bike just needed 20 minutes of work on the front rim. They’re both back in business!

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