To live a life that’s fulfilled, fun and sustainable, a strong body and mind are needed.
As entrepreneurs and leaders, all too often our health is in either a boom or bust moment: that is, we’re doing great with exercise and diet, and then we’re not.
To disrupt the boom-bust cycle and get our health on track in a no-fuss, sustainable way I think we need three things:
Something to work towards;
A health and fitness plan that’s simple and easy to follow;
Accountability and support from other leaders with similar dreams and demands.
Below is a story about two decades of boom and bust cycles with my health, along with an invitation as to how, together, we can both do much better.
I’ve always been reasonably active: I played sport when I was at school; competed in plenty of organised runs and rides as a younger fella and these days I’m on the court to coach and support my kids’ sports teams along with playing with them on the trampoline, in the pool and the backyard.
Even with a semi-regular level of cardio-type exercise and an at-times hectic life of always being on the move, I’ve never felt consistently physically fit or strong.
It turns out that my lack of physical fitness was pretty similar to my levels of emotional and mental fitness, too.
The back story
For as long as I can remember, my highest priority has been the professional part of my life. Since university, through my early career in my 20s and more recently growing my business, The Physio Co, in my 30’s and early 40s, learning, progressing and improving my professional self has been the thing that has dominated my mind and my life.
I didn’t realise it for a long time but that work focus has been at the expense of my mental, emotional and physical fitness.
To give myself the best chance of living a long and useful life, I needed to take responsibility for my own sustainable supply of energy from a healthy body and mind - and that’s what I’m slowly but surely edging toward.
The unhealthy habits that defined my early career
It’s been almost 20 years since I graduated from uni, and there’s been plenty of challenging moments (days, weeks and months!) in business, marriage and life that have tested me.
These have sometimes left me in these unhealthy situations: being in a crappy mood; thinking unhelpful thoughts and listening to negative self-talk; blaming people close to me for my own mental junk; attempting to soften the edges of my pain with beer, wine (or both!) and/or defaulting back to the comforting sweet treats of my youth (think Easter eggs, chocolate hot cross buns, pizza and caramel slice.)
I’m in the middle of changing all of that, and I’d love you to join me in the pursuit of a life’s best level of mental, emotional and physical health. Interested?
My inconsistent approach to fitness
My health and fitness has had fleeting bursts of attention. I’m talking about a fair few failed new year’s resolutions to get fitter and eat better along with the once or twice per year organised run, ride or swim to train for.
Those short-lived health kicks and half-hearted attempts to make any meaningful change have been quickly ditched when some minor crisis appears in my life (usually at work involving a people-related challenge of recruitment, retention or performance), and I allow that short-term drama to dominate my thoughts.
Whenever there’s one of those countless inevitable hiccups that goes with running a business (and there’s always something to distract - especially when you lead a service business that relies on people), or I’ve become sick with one of the ubiquitous bugs most of us pick up each year (especially if you’ve got little kids nearby), I’ve become distracted and allowed myself to eat and drink poorly again along with skipping exercise. Soon enough, I’m off the wagon, again.
And when my physical health deteriorates, my mental and emotional health usually joins in the downward spiral. That is, the bad moods, negative self-talk and delay all come rushing back.
The over-eating and reliance on alcohol
In a few short days (anywhere from two to five was the norm), when I’d allowed a work or life drama to become my focus, I’d have made an unconscious shift from striving towards a fit and strong body to merely surviving by eating too much, and whenever I felt like it.
I’d fill my waking hours with work, worry about work, or procrastination (the delay was usually caused by worry about work). A few nights a week in the middle of these cycles I’d probably self-medicate and share a bottle of wine with my wife and/or sink a beer or two.
This unhelpful rhythm was on repeat for a very long time. Years. It needed to change but until recently, I didn’t have the will to embrace the discomfort and build the skill needed to make any meaningful change.
In the last couple of years, I’ve finally been making more sustained changes to my habits which have helped me physically - and not-surprisingly - mentally and emotionally too.
The changes to my diet (supported by more self-awareness)
After years of false starts, I’m finally starting to be in control of my health habits and I’m feeling like it’s something I can manage in a low-fuss and sustainable way.
I’m getting better at managing my thoughts, emotions and mental health through the inevitable business challenges - even when I’m feeling stressed, sick or have a long, anxiety-inducing list of things to get through. I’m also getting better at recognising the early signs of the negative cycles I used to succumb to, and respond more quickly to minimise the depth of the spiral.
In the past few years I’ve made small, incremental changes to my diet (like giving up the daily addiction I had to Coke Zero), having an almost three-year spell from alcohol (that started with a goal of not drinking for a month, then all of 2019 and I just kept going), giving up hot chips (I think, forever - do I really need them again?) and I've settled on a carb-conscious diet with lots of greens, lots of water and not-too-many treats. It’s the type of diet that I picked up from Chief Brabon and Emilie Brabon-Hames.
This year I’ve also been experimenting with a few 13-hour and 16-hour intermittent fasts guided by the Zero app. It turns out I still eat more often than I need to (which is super-easy to do when you work from home, are prone to worry-fueled delay and it’s only a short walk from the home office to the pantry with its calorie-filled comfort and distraction).
The simple approach to paying attention to when I eat via the timer in the Zero app has been a great way for me to become more aware of my eating habits.
The peaks and troughs of my inconsistent approach to fitness
Way back in 2012, after the first decade of focusing on work and neglecting my health, I committed to a HUGE fitness goal: to complete an ironman triathlon. That’s a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and a 42.2km run (a full marathon) - all in one day.
With a 12-month training plan to follow and by embracing my obsessiveness with chasing seemingly impossible goals, I crossed the finish line of Ironman Australia at Port Macquarie, NSW with an exhausted smile in just over twelve and a half hours.
In the nine years since completing that event, I've barely stuck to a fitness routine for more than a month or two at a time.
It was in mid-2018, after a family holiday to Fiji when I tipped the scales at my heaviest weight ever, that I decided something had to permanently change. Since then I’ve been tiptoeing (still with a few setbacks) towards a more sustainable approach to a fit, strong body and mind.
The sustainable changes I’ve made to my fitness routine
In a global-pandemic-themed 2020, I discovered and got stuck into the Push-Up Challenge to build a base of core and upper body strength.
I really enjoyed that short challenge in May and I loved the feeling of a slightly stronger body that came from a LOT of push ups! The Push-Up Challenge exists to improve both mental and physical health, along with raising awareness - as a 2020 participant, I can tell you it worked for me.
The next challenge
Despite my love of running, riding my bike and swimming, I’ve been doing very little of all three of these in the last few years, and it’s time that changed.
Last week I got an email encouraging me to get involved in the 2021 Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. There are approximately 27 weeks from Easter until race day on October 10.
I’m at a standing start in terms of training for any of the 3km / 5km / 10km / 21km or 42km events, but, most training programs, even for the 42km marathon, are 24 weeks or less in duration - so there’s plenty of time to train.
What I’ve got in mind
I’m not one to do things in a typical way so I’m going to try something different.
To keep feeling strong in my core and upper body, every day I’ll do 3-4 mins of daily bodyweight exercises too (check out the 3P’s workout below).
I'll also commit to a short, 15-minute or 'move' activity every day - that might be a walk, run, ride, or swim.
The one-run/walk/ride-plus-a-little-bit-of-cross-training-per-day plan feels like an easy-to-manage and sustainable approach to getting a bit fitter, working towards a goal and staying in shape. It may not be conventional, but it feels like something I can fit into my life right now.
Creating a team is where the magic happens
When I invited my mate, Dave, to do the Push Up Challenge with me, it took the experience of slogging my way through the daily schedule to a whole new level of fun, friendly competition and accountability. We loved it!
Want to join me?
I’d love to do something similar with leaders like you.
Are you brave enough to join me and work towards your own version of life’s best fitness by committing to a virtual journey together?
If you get involved, I’ll make sure I encourage you and hold you to account on your commitment. And you’ll do the same for me - I’m going to need help!
Every day, when I knock-off each of the daily 3P’s workouts, I’ll make a quick post in our shared What's App to share my win and keep myself to account. When you see my post you could cheer me on, comment on the post, say hello or simply pull on your own training shoes, get moving with your own mini-workout.
What if I’m starting from scratch?
That’s fine! You don’t have to be a runner to get involved, you don’t have to be fit and you don’t have to show up to train at a certain place or time - do it when it suits you.
To get involved, you just have to be a leader that is familiar with the challenge of blending work, life, family and fitness that be willing to commit to a low-stress training program.
Why do it?
To improve your physical and mental health, feel supported, and help others to do the same.
This will be a low time commitment, supportive, high-accountability virtual crew of leaders who are taking responsibility for their physical, mental and emotional health. I reckon it’ll be a whole lot of fun, too.
How to join
To get involved head over to the 3P's Challenge WhatsApp group HERE.
Please go to the link, click join, make a quick post to say hello and let us know what you plan to do (eg. '💪 3P's workout every night before bed').
If you have a question, please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is one achievement that won’t be defined by KPIs or testimonials. Instead, you’ll sense it in your physical and mental strength, and that’s good news for everyone around you – family, friends, team, clients and peers.
See you there, TW.
The 3P's detail
The 3P’s challenge takes just a few minutes a day.
It involves 3 simple exercises done every day - even when you're crazy-busy or have a minor emergency to work through. Find your own 3P's rhythm by doing the workout early in the morning, doing it at lunchtime, or doing it before you go to bed. Do it whenever it works for you - but get it done!
When to start
Day 1 starts on the 1st of every month. (If you miss the start, join in any time - making progress is always the best option.)
What type of pushups should you do?
Any! You could start with wall push-ups or knee push-ups if they work for you. Over time, do your best to progress to full bodyweight pushups if you can. (Some more push up tips are HERE.)
How long should I hold each plank?
Start with 10 seconds. Over time, try to progress to 20 and then 30 seconds. If you haven’t planked in a while, start with your weight on your knees instead of your toes. (Some more plank tips are HERE.)
If you’re an overachiever and want to do more than one 3P’s workout a day - go for it. That could be a morning and evening 3P’s workout or even a 3P's workout every few hours. To keep up your streak, you have to do at least one 3P’s workout every day.
When you finish one month, start again, and repeat for the next month. #thinkbigactsmall
Join the 3P's Community
A daily commitment on your own is hard. There's a supportive, high-accountability crew of leaders working on their physical, mental & emotional health in the 3P's Challenge WhatsApp group HERE. Join for a whole new level of fun, friendly competition and accountability.
The last bit.
Take care of yourself. Don’t do this challenge or any of these workouts if you’re injured or have health problems that you might make worse. You’re responsible for your health, do what's right for you.
One-page 3P's Overview
I've created a one-page for the 3P's Challenge that you can download, print and put up on your wall/mirror/desk/ - somewhere that you'll be reminded to stay focused and get your workout done. (Downloadable version of 3P's Challenge one-page is here 👇).
3P's Challenge one-page download version HERE: CIE Club - 3P's Challenge 2021