Physical fitness . . . the final frontier (insert Star Trek Music).
Today, we’re tackling the subject of getting our bodies into shape, and in some ways, it feels like we’re approaching the last great frontier when it comes to personal alignment and health for leaders. When I talk to leaders about taking care of their bodies, I’m often greeted with blank stares and awkward silence.
Can I confess to you this component of personal alignment is an ongoing battle for me as well? Staying in good physical condition doesn’t come easy; I have to work hard at staying fit.
The apostle Paul wrote these words to a young pastor named Timothy: “For physical training is of some value.” Notice Paul didn’t tell his young pastoral apprentice that physical training was of no value.
It’s my belief we can serve God and others better when we’re physically fit. And when it comes to getting into great physical shape, I’m thinking about three main areas: Exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
Area 1: Exercise
With exercise, consistency is king. I get to the gym four days each week. I lift weights and do cardio. Of course, with COVID-19 restrictions, I have to get creative here at home due to the gym being closed. When the weather cooperates, Laura and I add walking to our workout routines. Our goal is not to become body-builders. It’s to keep our bodies in motion on a consistent basis. I was trained as a teenager how to exercise by a personal trainer. The breathing techniques, the importance of proper form, etc. was imprinted on me early.
But here’s some really good news: you don’t have to spend a fortune to get physically fit. Some gyms cost $10/month and offer free personal trainers. If you’re struggling to get consistent with exercise, find a workout buddy who will help you stay on track. One caveat here: before you start any exercise routines, check with your doctor.
Area 2: Nutrition
A good friend of mine told me several years ago, “John, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” Such great advice. What we put in our bodies (and how much of it) really makes a difference in getting fit. Most people know good nutrition plus physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight. But the benefits of good nutrition go way beyond what the scales tell us. Good nutrition can help us:
- Reduce the risk of some diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, some cancers, and osteoporosis
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Improve our ability to fight off illness and recover from illness or injury
- Increase our energy level
Good nutrition means your body gets all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to work at its best. Type the work “nutritionist” into Google search and you’ll find a number of good options in front of you. Of course, some nutritionists claim their plan is the only way or the best way. The truth is, many paths to good nutrition exist. Find a plan that helps you eat better, a pathway that’s sustainable over your lifetime, while allowing you some flexibility. An occasional cheat meal can actually help you stay on track
Area 3: Sleep
Most adults require anywhere from 6-8 hours per night to stay physically fit. The more consistent our sleep, the less issues we have with obesity and high blood pressure. Great sleep makes us less susceptible to depression and/or anxiety. Sleep is a leader’s cheat code.
King Solomon wrote about sleep: “In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for He (God) grants sleep to those He loves.” Amazing words from perhaps the most accomplished king in Israel’s history. Solomon was an achiever of epic proportions. But he understood the power of sleep.
Enough of the “I’ll sleep when I die” bravado. We shouldn’t be impressed anymore by leaders who consistently burn the midnight oil, skip sleep, who wear weariness as a badge of honor. With all due respect I plead with you . . . stop being irresponsible with your physical health and get some sleep.
Perhaps you’re reading this post and asking yourself the question, “why should I care about this?” “Why should I put in the time and effort to get physically fit?” Here’s three reasons:
- Leadership is difficult. It requires energy over sustained periods of time. Leadership demands the ability to make tough decisions. Energy and decisiveness can be directly linked to our level of fitness.
- Physical fitness increases our ability to think clearly. Clarity is an organization’s best friend. It’s one of the most helpful gifts you can give to those you lead.
- A well-rounded approach to fitness helps your leadership thrive. Incorporating exercise, great nutrition, and restful sleep frees your brain to think more creatively and to lead more confidently.
I could keep going here, but I think you get the point.
It’s deeply concerning when leaders dismiss the physical component of personal alignment. A devil-may-care attitude toward today’s subject simply contributes to less effective leadership. “I don’t have time, I’m too tired, I don’t like to sweat…” are some of the weak excuses we need to show the door.
Leader friends . . . let’s put on our gym clothes and punch through the final frontier (insert Star Trek music again).
I’m rooting and praying for you.