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In today’s hypercompetitive and interconnected business environment, we sometimes forget that we are humans first and business people after. Regardless of how well we feel, our body needs constant maintenance; the bottom line is you need to take care of both the hardware (your body) and the software (your mind).
I decided to write this short article on how to apply an “athletic mindset” to your business, as well as to yourself, after I noticed that 90% of my staff’s absences in the last 4 years have been health related. For various reasons, be it cultural, religious, or related to disposable income, a large portion of Southeast Asia have poor diet and exercise routines. In turn, this has a dramatic impact on productivity.
At FlySpaces, just as sales training is part of our company’s DNA, I encourage my employees to make healthier choices. I even implemented what we call “Vitamin Wednesday” where we have a service that brings fruit to the office every Wednesday.
As CEO / Business Owner I believe there are some “must do’s” in order to take care of both hardware and software to allow you to reach your peak performance. Some of the world’s top business schools, such as Instituto de Empresa (IE) in Madrid, Spain, have incorporated these notions of athletic mindset and peak performance into their MBAs and Owner Management Programs (OMPs).
There are 4 pillars that make up peak performance, each of which have a direct impact on the other. For instance, if you rest well and eat well, then you’ll be in a better mindset the next day which will allow you to perform better.
Here are the the 4 pillars that make up peak performance:
Pillar 1: Mindset
This is where everything begins. Just as with any business decision, it requires a conscious decision to follow through and to execute that decision relentlessly and with discipline.
There are various ways to help you achieve your peak mindset, from simple to-do lists to visualization techniques (which I personally love using while interval jogging). The easiest way to tackle your tasks is by tackling smaller, easily achievable goals first then as the day progresses you can gradually move up to harder ones.
These don’t necessarily have to be directly work related, just any type of goal that will help you perform at your best. For instance, I will always make an effort to have lunch with someone to avoid eating too fast. This will help with digestion, as well as with my caloric intake (thus improving the nutrition aspect as well). Another small goal is replacing soft drinks with water, or better yet, with coconut water which is full of antioxidants (and it’s a great hangover cure as well).
Pillar 2: Rest and recovery
We all know how important sleep is in helping us stay productive throughout the day, but there is a lot more to know.
We should all be getting around 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. This is because during sleep, our organs regenerate in a bottom up cycle: starting with our lower body and ending with our brain. Whilst the brain is regenerating, we have our deepest sleep, and it is during this process that new pathways are created, helping us remember new things we have learned the previous day. So, if you’re someone like me, who wakes up between 6-8AM then the optimal time to go to sleep is between 10PM-12AM.
If you do struggle with falling asleep, you can always try Melatonin supplement, which stimulates our sleeping hormone, to help you reach the “mindset” of going to sleep at a specific time.
Personally, I am not a fan of afternoon naps because it takes time to fall asleep and then to fully wake up again. I think simply getting your full 8 hours of sleep is more than enough to have a super productive day.
Also, if you do long-haul flights regularly, then try booking night time flights. You’ll be tired enough from the day, and if you managed to squeeze in an aerobic session at the gym, or at home, then falling asleep will be a lot easier.
Pillar 3: Nutrition
Just as a side note, I am not a nutritionist, these are simply things that I have read about and what I have found to work for me.
The basic rule of good nutrition: added sugar is the devil. The problem however is that avoiding sugar is nearly impossible. Nowadays it is present in basically everything we eat or drink: the world’s biggest companies make billions every year selling us sugar. Even more basic than that, we like sugar. But, what we can do is to make smarter choices about how we intake it.
What has worked for me is intermittent fasting. This basically involves introducing a 16 hour fast into your daily routine. It is a lot easier to follow than it initially sounds: typically I will only eat between 12PM and 8PM, so a large portion of my fasting period is when I’m asleep.
By reducing the number of meals I have achieved the following:
- Reduced my intake of sugar, simply because I have reduced the amount of meals I eat during the day
- As my body has no food intake for 16 hours, it goes into starvation mode and pushes it to regenerate faster
- When the body enters starvation mode, it attacks our glucose warehouse (the fat basically) resulting in weight loss
- Saved time in the morning as I don’t have to organize my breakfast*
*Barack Obama always had the same suit, shirt, and tie, giving him less things to think about during the day. Doing things like this help us automatize small portions of our daily life resulting in cost and time savings.
There are also a lot of myths surrounding juicing. Even though fruits are healthy for you, when you juice them, you are removing all of the fibers and leave yourself with just the fructose, i.e. the sugar.
Also, if you do a lot of sports (like me) it is important to make sure you are getting the right nutrients into your body. This will help you avoid losing steam in the middle of a work-out.
Lastly, there is the continuous debate over whether being a vegetarian or a carnivore is healthier. There are concrete studies that show the intake of meat increases cholesterol levels, but lots of vegetarians who have high intakes of carbohydrates (which the body turns into sugar) also have high cholesterol levels. So, it’s simply a matter of moderation.
Pillar 4: Daily exercise
In my opinion, there is no excuse not to exercise. There are simple life hacks that have helped me, the most basic: always having my running shoes with me. I have jogged in the most ridiculous places on Earth, (I.e. with a bullet proof vest in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and in the Namibian desert) , I will find the time to go for a quick jog.
As I travel quite often to places like Singapore or Hong Kong where a hotel with a gym is above our company’s budget for accommodation, I found a simple solution: TRX kit. It is relatively inexpensive (50 USD), and only weighs 300g so it’s easy to pack in your hand carry. Another solution is to use the furniture around you as impromptu equipment, for instance you can use a chair for tricep dips or step ups. Or if you’re more interested in a low impact workout, yoga is a good option, plus it only requires 2sqm of space and a youtube video. So there really is no excuse not to squeeze in some exercise during your day. There is even an app you can download that gives you a 7-minute workout if you are really short on time.
Aerobic vs Anaerobic
Here we need to reveal some myths about losing weight. Nutrition is a relatively young science but more and more anti-aging doctors are writing interesting pieces on the difference between your metabolic age and your actual age.
As we age, our metabolism slows down and the muscles get replaced with fat. To slow down our ageing process we simply need to keep building muscle, which happens best with anaerobic rather than aerobic exercise, which is better for cardiovascular optimization. Finding a combination between the two however will be best for your overall health.
One way of finding this balance is to do an aerobic workout in the morning on an empty stomach. This will directly attack our warehouse of fat. Then in the afternoon, after you have already had 1 or 2 meals, you can add in an anaerobic workout. The nutrients from the food will help you perform your best during the workout.
Best example of a good mindset on working out?
Recently I had the pleasure to meet Mark Mobius, CEO of Franklin Templeton, at my gym in Manila. At 80 years old and managing 40 billion USD of assets, he told me that he chooses the hotel’s he stays at based on its fitness center.
Last piece of advice: Stick to natural medicine as much as possible
I am not trying to invoke the “all-natural” card here, but I just wanted to share a personal story.
One morning after a long-haul flight from Manila to Madrid, and probably after too many cervezas on the first night, I woke up with visual migraines (not the painful ones, but the ones with auras around your images). These lasted for more than 8 months, during which I went through every possible form of diagnosis, from MRI to MRA to blood and allergy test only to be told that “migraines are part of life, and you should try to stress less.”
Then one day i went to Ubud and sat down with a chiropractor (admittedly, I was very skeptical on the whole natural way of curing people) and in one 40 minute session the doctor told me more thing about myself, down to my favourite drink (gin and tonic) than all the expensive tests and doctors had in the last 8 months just be testing my strengths and my pressure points. After 3 more sessions, the migraines were gone and have not returned.
All I am trying to say is that Western medicine is great for diagnosis because of the high quality technology, but it can focus too heavily on symptoms rather than causes. Let’s take cholesterol controlling drugs as an example. They are prescribed to people with high cholesterol to artificially decrease sugar production but as a result it causes stress to the liver and pancreas. So by solving one problem, it has created another. Also, generally once you have been prescribed these drugs you have to take them for life.
What has worked for me is taking a variety of nutrition supplements on a daily basis, from magnesium to b12 to Ginko.