Global Running Day: Does your day include time for exercise?
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Global Running Day 2023: Does your day include time for exercise?

Global Running Day 2023: Does your day include time for exercise?

Global Running Day is observed on June 7, and for many busy executives, making time for fitness needs to be top of the agenda – your professional performance depends on it

ola Chudy on the joys of running Image supplied

My day starts at 4.45am. While most people are still sleeping, I get up to fit in a run, a bike ride or a swim before work. You’d think I’d be permanently exhausted, but having running as part of my lifestyle gives me an edge I never knew was possible.

Today’s rapidly changing business landscape is full of ever-increasing pressure to perform and succeed, and many professionals understandably cite the lack of time as the reason that they don’t exercise regularly. I should know, I was once one of them.

A high-pressure career in publishing saw me burning the candle at both ends – working long hours during the day and often into the evenings, deadlines interspersed with international travel, frequent networking dinners and my presence required at launches, parties and events. Sport didn’t get a look-in.

For a while, I just carried on with this lifestyle, but I started feeling lacklustre. My weight increased, and my overall mood was low. Work that I had once found satisfying and inspiring suddenly had less and less meaning. I found it increasingly challenging to motivate myself and was unable to summon much joy or enthusiasm.

Expectations on productivity and performance are higher than ever. We are constantly assuaged by messages. Inbox fatigue is a thing. AI and new technology such as Chat GPT is meant to make our lives easier, but in reality it means expectations for productivity increase. It is not a surprise that carving out time for sport and fitness is challenging for most people. For those who demand the best of themselves in the workplace, ignoring the physical aspect of human performance can be setting your career back more than you might know.

Performance at work is often seen as being a ‘mental game’ but a holistic approach means recognising physical fitness has a positive impact on every part of your life, and that includes at work. Today, my work is probably more ‘high pressured’ than it ever has been, but thanks to my physical fitness, I am able to better manage the challenges.

Sport in the Middle East is booming. Thanks to notable events such as the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup, Formula 1, Ironman events in Oman, Dubai and Bahrain, as well as government and private-backed investment in marathons and other events, sports positive impact on society is growing. Awareness across the region has grown, with federations encouraging younger athletes to compete at national and international levels – the focus on sports filters down to community runners and amateur athletes alike.

The benefits of running and exercise

I jumped on the bandwagon in 2019. Feeling unfit and burned out, I turned to a personal trainer, and then a running coach, to help me get fit and feel ‘healthier’. As I discovered the rewards that came from my new routine of regular physical exercise, it fed into all areas of my life. I credit many of the skills I honed learning to run – self-discipline, routine, focus, flexibility, and endurance – to the changes I was able to make in my professional life.

I quit my career in publishing to start my own communications business. I know if I hadn’t experienced the challenge of completing an ultramarathon, I would never have found the courage and tenacity to pursue my dream or to take on newer and bigger challenges. When I am faced with a stressful situation, I can draw on the grit I know exists thanks to my experience of pushing through 50 kilometres of sand in 40-degree heat during a desert ultramarathon. I overcame a lifelong phobia of open water to complete a half-ironman swim of 1.9 kilometres, so a tough negotiation at work that I might have once avoided doesn’t phase me nearly as much. My performance as a professional has improved, because I run several times a week. I know I am far from alone in feeling these benefits.

David Mackenzie is the founder of recruitment specialists Mackenzie Jones and a leading ‘age group’ triathlete, meaning that he regularly tops the podiums in local races.

“I have always exercised but in 2017, aged 48, I discovered triathlons; I have done 16 Ironman 70.3s and am about to complete my second full-distance Ironman. A funny thing happened… the more stressed I got at work, the more training was the ultimate de-stressor.”

Mackenzie, a running brand ambassador for Japanese sportswear brand ASICS, isn’t alone in having discovered or ‘rediscovered’ a love for sports later in life. Tongue-in-cheekily referred to as ‘adult-onset athleticism’, many 40 and 50-somethings are turning to sports, from running to swimming, cycling and triathlons. Pop your head into any bike shop and the age of the average customer is 30-plus. Disposable incomes coupled with an innate drive to excel mean it’s no surprise that some of the most successful men and women in your office also spend their weekends and early mornings training, hitting the gym and going for a run.

“The drive to be successful in your career is often mirrored in your drive to push yourself in sport. The ultimate challenge is to continuously improve in your work and sporting life. The majority of my age group (50+) are all senior leaders who are either at the top of their profession or entrepreneurs and run their own businesses. Doing sports, I feel healthier and more focused,” adds David.

“Endurance sports have a positive impact on my job performance; sport is a stress relief and makes me more focused and happy to take job challenges,” agrees Qatari Nasser Al Rayes, a Qatari runner and athlete who represents ASICS in Qatar. “Being a runner and endurance athlete gives me more confidence and a clear mind to focus more on my daily duties and responsibilities.”

Life lessons from sport

When an athlete is training, he or she will focus not just on the main skills such as scoring a goal, or running as fast as possible. Their success and performance is made up of everything from adequate rest and nutrition, to mindset, to learning to be patient and effective at managing their stress and energy not just on race day, but over the entire training period.  Success in the workplace has similar parallels, and practicing these skills over and over again means you can apply them to all areas of your life.

While we tend to make resolutions on December 31, Global Running Day might be a more opportune day to consider how adding movement to your life can be a catalyst for turbo-charging your performance at work, too.

Jola Chudy is an ASICS FrontRunner and communications consultant.

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