Money and Health

Staying Healthy While Making Money

A fit body and mind keep your business in peak condition.

WHAT'S the state of your health? Not your company's health--your own. If you're like all too many entrepreneurs, you're too busy taking care of busi- ness to take care of yourself. But the bottom-line lifestyle that's so easy to get used to can endanger not only your personal well-being but also that of your company.

Which should give you all the motivation you need to put down that greasy ham- burger and pick up those carrot sticks. After all, you wouldn't treat your business in such a cavalier way, would you? Why should your body be any dif- ferent?

Sadly, however, entrepreneurs often fail to make the correlation between body, mind and business. "Typically, the entrepreneurs I've worked with have neglected their physical well-being for many years while they've focused on building their businesses," says Dan Barrett, a personal trainer in Miami. "Once they reach a certain age--say, 45--they become very concerned with what's happened to their bodies. The stress of business and the years of neglect [take their toll]."

The good news: Even the most hard-driving entrepreneur can get on track to better health.

Let's Get Physical

Of course, any call to fitness begins with a call to your doctor. The older you are and the more out of shape you are, the better an idea it is to get a physical checkup before beginning a fitness regimen. Once you're confident it's safe to proceed, set a few goals for yourself. Are you hoping to increase your energy? Do you want to shed some unwanted pounds? Are you trying to heal your aching back? Then set your goals accordingly.

"What I've noticed in working with entrepreneurs is they're usually very goal-oriented individuals," observes Barrett. "They approach [their training] like a business venture--they set their goals and go after them. But it's after those first [few months] that it becomes critical to incorporate this into a lifestyle change."

Needless to say, you're shooting for precisely that: a lifestyle change--one that, ideally, takes into account your cardiovascular health, your muscular strength and endurance, and your flexibility.

Rest assured, no one's asking you to gear up for a grueling marathon. "It's a fallacy that exercise has to be painful to be gainful," says David E. Wil- liams, a medical director at Scripps Clinic's Executive Health Program in La Jolla, California. "We have more and more evidence to indicate that moderate amounts of exercise over the long haul will accomplish all the benefits of more vigorous exercise."

Basic Training

At a minimum, you should plan to exercise for roughly half an hour at least three times a week. Barrett encourages his clients to choose activities they'll enjoy--whether it's power walking, bicycling, swimming or kayaking.

"It doesn't have to be an all-out effort," assures Kathleen O'Meara, fitness director for Boston University. "For someone who's just starting, intense ses- sions three times a week aren't [such a good idea]. Walking briskly four times a week might help get you into the groove of liking exercise."

Any workout should include stretching exercises at the beginning and end of the routine. But, says Barrett, if you only have time to do one or the other, he recommends stretching after your workout. Another tip: To reduce the likelihood of injury, engage in a variety of activities rather than con- centrating on one.

Even without injury, however, you can expect to initially feel a few ill effects from unaccustomed exertion. "You'll ache--especially if you've been inactive for a while," says O'Meara. "That feeling is fine; it's going to dis- sipate in a couple of days. On the other hand, if you're feeling exhausted, then you're doing too much."

You Are What You Eat

Speaking of too much: What have you eaten today? "Most human beings are weak-willed when it comes to food," says Williams. "If they see it and smell it, they're going to get into it. So for most of us, the safest [approach to good nutrition] is out of sight, out of mind."

Audrey Cross, a professor for the Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, echoes Williams' senti- ments. "If you have a bowl of fruit on your desk, it takes no discipline to reach for a pear," she points out. "If you don't have a bowl of fruit on your desk, you'll reach for something [else]."

Planning, according to Cross, is key. "Think of your office as a health bank," she encourages. "You want to put things into savings there that you can draw out when you need them. If you have a small refrigerator in your office, for example, stock it with fruit juice, vegetable juice, yogurt and water."

Although healthy snacks are a plus, don't forget to eat nourishing meals--preferably at the same times every day. You probably have a good idea of what should be on your menu: foods low in fat, salt and calories. And, as they say, variety is the spice of life.

"You need to get the whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals [into your diet]," says O'Meara. "The best way to do that is [through] variety."

Above all, take the time to eat. Busy entrepreneurs have a bad habit of ignor- ing the rumblings of their stomachs.

It's All In Your Mind

To get yourself in top condition, you need to pay attention to more than just your physical health. For maximum performance, Michael J. Gelb encourages entrepreneurs to take regular "brain breaks."

Gelb, author of Thinking for a Change: Discovering the Power to Create, Com- municate, and Lead (Harmony Books), says these brain breaks can include any- thing from listening to classical music, doodling, meditating or even--no joke--juggling.

"If you don't take a break, your brain will make you take one," Gelb insists. "The ultimate way it does that is to force you to have a nervous breakdown. But in less dramatic ways, you'll find it becomes hard to concentrate."

At the very least, says Gelb, allow yourself a five- to 10-minute break two or three times a day. You might be surprised at the difference these brain breaks make.

What difference will a renewed focus on health mean to you and your business's performance? Personal trainer Dan Barrett says the number-one reaction from clients is they notice an increase in energy. Stress reduction is another benefit.

Chances are, a healthier lifestyle will also help you sleep better, reduce your risk of depression, assist in weight control and enhance your self-image. Can there be any doubt improved productivity will result?

"Once [clients] get going, they say, 'I don't know what I did before I did this,' " reveals Barrett. "When they miss their workouts, they really feel it." (Debra Phillips, Entrepreneur Magazine)