A study by Stanford University researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Archive of Internal Medicine tracked 538 older runners for 21 years. They learned that maintaining an active lifestyle through running will add 16 years to your active life. That’s 16 years of productivity and healthy joy that might have been spent dealing with disabilities, heart issues, diabetes, etc.
Whether it’s running, biking, swimming, yoga or just daily meditation, setting aside time for your health is so crucial to a balanced lifestyle. But when you feel like they’re just aren’t enough hours in the day, how can an entrepreneur fit it all in?
You cannot mentally set up a conflict between a successful career and a fulfilling life. We all know that you can really only be productive for a limited number of hours per week. We also know that you need to have a happy personal life to be effective at work and to be a great co-worker to other folks. You also need to be fit and well-rested to be creative and productive. Since you know this, act on it, and insist the rest of your company does as well. –Michael Wolfe, CEO, ccLoop, Inc.
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Y Combinator’s Paul Graham says “It’s a net win to exercise. You’re repaid for the couple hours a week you lose with greater productivity during the remaining hours… What a startup (bootstrapped or not) takes is 100% of your performance, not 100% of your time. And optimizing for performance means spending some time on maintenance.” And have you seen Paul Graham’s calf muscles? Johnny Drama would be jealous.
1. Get in the Game
For this article, I asked Shelby.tv founder and former professional lacrosse player Reece Pacheco for his tips to stay fit. One of the most important points of perspective he provided me with was that working out, just like running a startup, requires mental determination, agility, flexibility and endurance. So get in the game.
“I’ve always been an athlete,” says Pacheco, “But I’ve found it’s tremendously important and beneficial to stay fit despite startup life. Staying healthy helps keep you going through long days, longer nights and what is a stressful roller-coaster ride of a career. Whether it’s lifting weights or endurance training, I always feel better after a good workout. Furthermore, I love the mental game of it. Exercise is often thought of as purely physical, but the longer I’ve been in the game, the more I realize it’s all mental. That mental challenge of climbing a ‘startup mountain’ is present everyday as a founder and putting yourself through long runs, heavy lifting sessions or crossfit workouts – whatever it is – is a great way to keep challenging yourself and be ready for whatever your startup throws at you.”
2. Work out first thing in the morning
If you can get into the habit of working out first thing in the morning, you’ll feel free, uninterrupted and energized throughout the entire day. A no-excuse, early AM approach is one of the only ways to get it done consistently. Yes, it may be rough for the first 5 minutes, but you’ll thank yourself later on. In a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Of A Kind‘s founder Claire Mazur says, “In the mornings, I get out of bed and immediately go for a run because I require every endorphin I can get my hands on just to function normally.” For the record, I consider a good romp in the sack to be a legit morning workout routine too.
3. Add Variety
Running is addictive. The gym is a scene. But you know what else is really awesome? Biking! Swimming! Tennis! Football! Hockey! And yoga posing (my personal favorite)! Some say variety is the spice of life, (I prefer mint and basil)… But variety in your workouts is a great way to maintain balance and wake up muscles you didn’t even know you had.
Toli-Kuznets, the creator of Marketcetera turns to rock climbing. He says, “For me, rock climbing turned out to be the perfect exercise. It’s very engineer-friendly: you climb ‘problems’, you use the same analytical and forecasting skills to map out your route. It’s a great outlet for whatever problems ‘drive you up the wall’ at work, and by the time you are done, you are dead tired and can fall asleep without any worries. Your ‘typing fingers’ get stronger, along with all your other muscles.”
4. Turn your commute into a work out
If you have a shower at the office, you have no excuse not to take advantage of your morning commute. Walk to work. Bike to work. No shower in your office? Then, run home from work. Feeling tired? Take the bus halfway and walk the rest.
5. Sneak workouts in whenever and wherever you can
“Something is better than nothing,” says Shelby.tv’s Pacheco, “So even if ping-pong is the only exercise you get that day, so be it. Use a standing desk, take the stairs when you can, walk everywhere, do pushups in the AM… it all adds up to a healthier you.” You manically add meetings to your calendar, so why not also block out time for your health while you’re at it?
Use a calendar app like Tungle.me, which shows your predetermined workout times as Not Available. Speaking of scheduling, why not schedule a workout as a meeting? Here’s to betting you’re not the only one who’s feeling slightly sluggish after long days sitting at a desk. Go for a long walk with a client. Hit the gym with your co-founder. Or why not challenge a competing startup to a Dodgeball duel? Just call Betabeat if you do.
Entrepreneurs say they take a slew of vitamins to feel top rate including a multi, B12, C, D, and fish-oil pills. It may seem like a lot, but Pacheco swears the B vitamins helped keep him going during the long days of TechStars.
Not sure which vitamins to take? In David McCandless’ TED talk “The Beauty of Data Visualization” he references “Snake Oil?“, which is his beautiful data visualization creation of popular health supplements. Check it out for yourself to see if those goji berries are really worth $9.99 a bag.
7. Make healthy eating choices
“We all know that exercise is essential, but a healthy diet is just as important. In the 12 months after we founded ZocDoc, I slimmed down a lot – because the service made it easy to schedule visits with Maye Musk, my dietitian. She taught me to keep a food diary, which I’d review with her every few weeks. I dropped 25 pounds that year, just by eating more conscientiously!”
– Cyrus Massoumi, co-founder & CEO of ZocDoc
The food you cook at home is far healthier than anything you can get at a restaurant. Eating healthy is one-third of living a healthy lifestyle, along with exercise and sleep. Avoid all sodas. They are crap for you. Limit your caffeine intake, choose tea over coffee, salads over burgers and keep healthy snacking options around the office like fresh fruit, granola and nuts.
The more junk you put in your body, the worse you will feel. Sure, junk food is cheap and quick, but do you take the cheap and quick route when it comes to your business? No. So, why would you do it for your health?
We’re all human after all. There are going to be 4am nights when you’ve downed one margarita an hour. There are going to be days when you nom a Shake Shack burger with extra cheese and pickles. Thankfully, what goes in, must come out. Pamper yourself with a trip to the steam room or the sauna to sweat the toxins out. And if you’re feeling ambitious, there are a number of cleanses that will give your system the rest it needs. I recommend the Blueprint Cleanse, if for no other reason than the Cashew Milk drink at the end is delicious. And for a mini break, try just eating fruit for 24 hours.
9. Sleep: every so often, don’t set an alarm.
You’re an entrepreneur. You’re in this game because you’re passionate, but I’m also willing to bet you’re in this game because you don’t like working for anyone else. So every once in a while, wake up without an alarm, in other words, sleep until your body asks you to wake up.
10. Surround yourself with good people
Kinvey‘s founder Sravish Sridhar added a lot of insight to the tips above. But my favorite tip of his? “Smile and make sure you make the people around you smile… Have people whose company you enjoy, and spend time with them regularly.”
Bonus: Apps to track your workout
This morning, I used RunKeeper to track my morning jog across the Williamsburg Bridge. Next, I’ll check out Runmeter. I’ve tried WakeMate to monitor my sleep, but the wristband stopped working after night one. I have a Withings WiFi scale on the way. I’ve been giving Fitocracy a go. I’ve even used ionic charged wristbands to test out their effect on my balance in yoga (nil). What apps and devices do you use to keep fit?
This list is part of a two-week study on the future of fitness. Inspired by movements like RunKeeper’s mounting Health Graph API and apps like LifeLens: A smartphone app that can detect malaria, it’s impossible not to wonder what the future holds. What are your predictions for the future of fitness and what companies are helping to make those predictions a reality? Please share in the comments or email me at my address below.