For the Corporate Athletes

You didn’t sleep well last night because your mind was racing with the endless list of projects at work. You woke up extremely tired and poured a large cup of coffee before logging on to your emails. You sat in traffic and finally got to the office just in time to sit in meetings all morning. Fast food is the quickest, easiest option for lunch so you pick something up and get back to work. More sitting, more meetings, more coffee. Sound familiar? Trust me, I get it! You’re tired. You’re busy. The last thing you want to do is go to the gym. Between the lunch meetings, traveling for work, and your commute… let’s be honest. When could you possibly have the time or energy to workout?

Most of my clients are in this exact position. Having worked at a health club in downtown Chicago for a year, and now working at VMware’s corporate gym, the majority of my clients are what I like to call “Corporate Athletes.” They work hard to be successful at their jobs, lead their teams, and support their families. Fitting a workout into their schedule isn’t easy. Making healthy food choices isn’t easy. But I’m here to show you that it IS possible to put your health at the top of your priorities.

Hearing it from a personal trainer’s perspective is one thing, but it’s important to hear it from a Corporate Athlete himself. Steve, one of my former clients, is the senior vice president and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Health Care Service Corporation. In addition to his successful career, he pours into his wife and two kids, and is in great shape. This is his perspective.

“I often hear the phrase ‘I don’t have time to work out’.  Well the reality is, we all have the same number of hours in a day.  What we do with those hours comes down to what we prioritize.  Like many others, I am balancing being the best husband and dad I can be at home with being a dynamic and inspiring leader at work. When you add in corporate travel, time for seeing friends and trying to get enough sleep, it’s easy to see why working out can fall off the priority list!
So why did I decide to prioritize working out and how have I built it into my weekly routine in a sustainable way?  In early 2014, I saw a picture of myself and realized that I was putting on weight and becoming hopelessly out of shape.  My clothes were tight in the wrong places and every time I played with my kids I was quickly out of breath and concerned I was going to pull a muscle!
Like many, many people before me, my answer was to join a gym.  However, with all the competing priorities, merely joining the gym was not enough to change my behavior.  There was always more work, or the need for more sleep, that would prevent me from making it to the gym before work.  After a couple of months, I decided to sign up with a personal trainer.  Having regularly scheduled appointments with my trainer was what I needed to break the cycle.  It was hard in the beginning but I was motivated by quickly seeing results.  After about 6 months of working with a trainer, working out became an important part of my routine and increasingly a part of my identity.  I began to supplement my training sessions with work outs at weekends and in hotel gyms when I traveled.  I began to look forward to my next workout and get frustrated when my schedule interrupted my workout routine.
I continue to have two scheduled training sessions per week with a personal trainer at 6:00 AM before work.  This protects against me falling into bad habits and keeps my workouts fresh.  I also find that with a trainer I am able to combine strength training with a good aerobic workout.  Performing short interval circuits on specific muscle groups helps me build strength and burn fat by keeping my heart rate in the 110 to 140 range for the full hour.  As much as I try, I’m not able to consistently keep this level of intensity without a trainer.
Once working out becomes a part of who you are, it leads to other good lifestyle choices. I eat healthier than I used to – not because I have to but because I want to.  I get positive energy from my workouts which helps me be at my best at home and at work.  My clothes fit better (tight in the right places!) and I feel better about the way I look.  I’m more active with my kids than I used to be – in fact when I finish this I’m going for a run with my 12-year old son!  I’m now at the point where I can’t imagine not working out – a remarkable transition from where I was just 3 years ago.


Feeling inspired?? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Make the most of your time while you are at the gym.

Work with a trainer or follow a program that is going to get you closer to your goals every day. If you walk into the gym completely unprepared, you’re guaranteed to waste a lot of time figuring out where you need to be and what equipment you’re going to use. Your time is valuable! Plan ahead to make the best use of your time spent at the gym.

  • Incorporate functional strength training 2-3x/week, with a specific focus on posture, correcting rounded shoulders, and strengthening your core and middle back.
  • Include mobility and flexibility exercises that address long-term structural health and preventing pain or injuries. Hip, T-spine and shoulder mobility are especially important for Corporate Athletes.
  • Rest and recovery days should be included in any training program. Sleep is also a critical factor in health and energy levels.

Make a meal plan and stick to it.

Nutrition is 80% of the battle when it comes to your health and seeing results. You probably know how hard it is to see the results you want when your team goes out to lunch every day. Helloooo Chipotle, Chik-Fil-A, Jimmy John’s (I mean you can’t go in there and not get the Italian Night Club with salt and vinegar chips AND a cookie… or maybe that’s just me??) and gooodbyeeee all the hard work you just put in at the gym. Don’t get my wrong, I’m not saying you can never eat out, but the more you do, the harder it is to eat a clean, balanced diet. Not to mention- why there is always some kind of celebration at work?? Cake, donuts, and bagels are constantly calling your name from the break room. What works best for my clients is being prepared in advance. Plan out your breakfast. Pack your own lunch. Stay out of the break room. Pick a day on the weekend to set aside for your weekly meal prep. Hard boil eggs, grill chicken, steam veggies, cook quinoa, buy individual Greek yogurts, chop up raw veggies to have as snacks, buy fresh fruit, etc. If you don’t have time to do all the work yourself, use a meal prep service such as KitchFix or Bite Meals. Ordering from a meal prep company takes all the time and thought out of meal prep. After that, it just comes down to discipline. What’s more important- running a race PR or eating that slice of cake? Ask yourself if the instant gratification is more important than your long-term goals. And if it isn’t… don’t give in to the temptation!

Make your workout your “me” time.

Your workout should not be an extension of your work day! Unplug and focus on YOU. I put my phone in airplane mode while I’m at the gym so I can listen to my music and have access to my workout, but won’t be distracted by every text or email that I get. Take advantage of having a physical and mental break from work.

Make it a priority.

It’s as simple as that. Anything that is important enough to you CAN AND WILL HAPPEN. Block off your gym time on your calendar and treat it just like you would any other important work meeting. Set your alarm an hour earlier to get to the gym. Every time you choose to wake up instead of hitting snooze or take a pass on that slice of birthday cake, it will become easier to make being a Corporate Athlete part of your routine until it’s second nature.

Photo Credit: BCBSNC Blog



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