The Executive Tune-up for this year
By David Lim, CSP
If you’re a car owner and like driving and have an appreciation for automotive stuff; don’t you make sure the car’s maintained well, give the right fluids and oils so that it runs as it should? The same goes for cycling enthusiasts and how to tweak and maintain their rides for optimal performance. And strangely, so many of us don’t see to do the same for ourselves. Almost every other year, I write a piece for this publication on executive health and fitness – simply from the point of a dedicated ‘amateur’ athlete who has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, and have had a lifelong interest in sports science.
So here are my tips for you to have your own personal body tune-up for better performance this year (assuming you don’t have a pre-existing clinical condition that requires a medical consult before starting a fitness programme)
1) Measure, Aim, Fire!
In the corporate world, there’s a widely held truth that what you can’t measure, you can’t manage. I can’t tell you how many times I have seem pudgy, unfit people at the local gym who obviously want to lose fat, or run a better time. But looking at their workouts, I see no system, no progression and when asked, they simply say they want to stay in shape. Not. So first and foremost, as a benchmark, measure yourself in terms of body weight, body fat, blood pressure and so on. Many machines are now available for purchase of accessed at gyms which can measure the percentage of your bone mass, lean muscle mass and fat mass using bio-impedance, where an imperceptible electric current is passed through your body via a sensor on a floor pad and grips attached to the microprocessor in the machine. The different rates at which the current passes through the different densities of fat, muscle etc will show up. While not being 100 accurate, I can act as a benchmark for the second part; which is “aim”. What’s your goal, specifically? Once you have that written down, e.g.; drop ten kilos in six months, you can “fire” – start taking action. This won’t happen unless you mentally commit and decide you want to be successful in this.
2) Make a Plan
Everyone’s got a way of planning, and I keep my fitness plan on a spreadsheet where my mix of endurance, strength and ‘other’ activities are tracked. I have a more intensive programme than the usual person owing to an upcoming expedition. That being said, you need to devise a plan that is more than just “ jog thrice week’. If burning fat is your goal – focus mostly on fat-burning activities; and these include, but are not limited to: moderate cardio vascular exercises which keep your heart rate in the 60-70% of it’s maximal (usually 220-230) for the typical male aged in their 20s, and dropping roughly by your age. So an approximate maximal heart rate for a 40 year old might be around 180 beats per minute. Work from there; doing session that go beyond 30 minutes as that’s when your body selective begins to burn a higher proportion of fat versus body glucose. Next, note that muscle burns fat. Fat does not burn fat. The more muscle you build, the more fat you will lose. The more multiple joint exercises you do, like Olympic –style lifting, not only will your ability to handle stresses improve (through what is often referred to as ‘functional training’); but you will burn more energy doing so. Don’t bother with teensy weensy isolated stuff like bicep curls and such. Get going with squats, lifts, dips, and exercise that work various muscle groups at the same time. Mix up steady state stuff like jogging with bodyweight circuit exercises that make you tired after. Do 10-12 repetitions for each exercise either in the gym or elsewhere doing exercises like lunges, pushups, planking, squats and so on. Consistency is key – so plan when you might want to do exercise regularly. Sometimes, the hardest part of your plan is getting into your exercise clothes and shoes after a long day at work
3) You decide what goes into your mouth
One of the best things I heard a personal gym trainer tell his client was “ Here, you’re with me and we can stick with a plan. Outside, I don’t control what goes in your mouth”.
New research has now shown that fat is not as evil as we once thought. In fact, what is causing artery hardening through moderate long-term inflammation is over consumption of carbohydrates or refined sugar. So an easy way to start changing your diet is to start cutting down on carbs like white rice and breads. Start by halving the amount you eat, substituting it with some extra vegetables or fruit. Then look at what is dressing up your food. Are your meats mostly fatty meats? Is it cooked in a lot of oil? Do you slosh on lots of fattening gravy and sauces? Shift to healthier cooking styles, and eat more fish. Avoid refined sugars in soft drinks (the worst), added sugar in beverages, sweets, desserts and so on. Get an idea of your total calorific consumption per day and figure out how to reduce it, and yet retain all the nutrients you need; sans the empty, junk calories. Your body is the perfect calorie counter: what goes in must come out, or gets turned into fat
4) Get the sleep you need
Cortisol is a hormone our body produces when we are under stress, or when we lose sleep. It triggers mechanisms which make the body want to store fat as an emergency reserve in times of crisis. These days, the fear of being chased by a tiger is probably long gone for most city dwellers, but it’s been replaced by stresses of meeting targets, and work performance. SO more stress you endure and the less sleep you get, the more fat you become. Losing sleep also affects your quality of life, creating cranky executives, with less then optimal cognitive skills and performance. Conversely, getting good sleep stimulates the pituitary and other glands, leading to your body being able to repair itself and to build muscle. Professional body builders have known for a long time that sleep is when the repair happens to stressed and ‘trained’muscles, and where muscle repairs itself and grows bigger and stronger.
These four points are just a brief look at the broad direction you should be going in your quest for tip top condition so that you can excel as an executive. Good luck!
David Lim is Asia’s Leadership Guide, and best known for leading the 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition. Since 1999, he has helped organizations build teams and grow leaders. Send him a note today at contact@davidlimspeaks to subscribe to his leadership e-newsletter or inquire about his organisational solutions