Sports have always been a big part of life, beginning when I was a kid. My father’s way of teaching me how to swim was by throwing me in the water and telling me to fight and try every possible way to get to the surface. This approach has actually helped me overcome any potential fears I may have had, and ever since, I have used sports to get through long study nights and long working hours.
For entrepreneurs who are working hard to build startups, and their employees, exercise is crucial for keeping you in good health. According to many studies, it also improves your mood and reduces depression. The road to building a company is rocky enough; an even mood will help.
Here are 10 reasons why exercising will make you a better performer at work:
It makes you determined. If you play a sport on a regular basis, then you probably have a coach who is always pushing you and shouting at you to help you get the best out of yourself. If you don’t have one, then you probably have your own ways to keep yourself motivated. Athletes always strive to push their limits; any obstacle in front of them is just another challenge. The same thing applies at work. If you stumble upon a difficulty and have too much work to do at the office, if you can’t get any investment or if your startup idea needs some adaptation, you will learn not to give up. You will work it out, because, it’s just another challenge for you.
It reduces stress. Stress is an undesired companion, especially if you are an entrepreneur. “I do exercise in the gym before work, then I do some cardio, like taking a long walk or jogging after work,” says Lebanese entrepreneur Mark Malkoun, the co-founder of ReachFast, an application that helps iPhone users call and message their recent contacts more easily. “Entrepreneurs endure a lot of stress due to the nature of their work, and exercising can help a lot to reduce this stress and offset the harm that it’s causing to our bodies and minds.”
It makes you a better team player. Whether in the gym, in the pool or outdoors, workout buddies always encourage each other to perform better. If you’re involved in a team sport, like basketball or football, this increases your team work ethic. Team players are also a great addition to any startup. By team players, I mean those co-workers who help each other and collaborate to get a specific task done efficiently, and who work hand in hand to take their startups to a whole new level.
It makes you more accepting of failure. Team sports not only make you a better team player, but also help you accept failure. When playing against another team, one of the two teams will fail. Acknowledging that you failed is good, as it helps you reconcile with yourself. In the workplace, accepting that you failed when accomplishing a task or when launching an idea or making an important decision, will first, help you understand the mistake you made and learn from it, and second, work even harder to avoid it in the future.
It makes you more responsible. George Washington Carver who once said, “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” In team sports, just as at work, admitting that you broke the rules lets your colleagues, your teammates and your boss realize that you are a straightforward person who takes mistakes seriously and doesn’t cover them up. This will make them trust you more and maybe rely on you more often.
It gets your creative juices flowing. A study has shown that aerobics are more likely to boost your creativity. Exercising doesn’t train your muscles only, but also your brain. That is why sometimes when you are out of ideas and go out for a jog, you feel much better afterwards and the ideas start coming.
It replaces your morning coffee. Have you tried working out super early before coming to work? If not, try it. It fuels your body with energy and jump starts your metabolism, to get you ready for a long day at work. And if you’re bootstrapping, it’ll be a good way to cut down on your coffee expenses.
It makes you a good listener and teaches you self-discipline. Hind Hobeika, a competitive swimmer and the brain behind Instabeat, acknowledges that swimming has taught her self-discipline, “which is SUPER important as an entrepreneur”, she wrote in an email. It has also made her a good listener. “Swimming has taught me to listen to a coach and train with a team, which is the similar to listening to mentors and working with a team,” she says.
It gives you time to reflect. I personally enjoy swimming a lot, and I try to do it four times a week. During that time, I’m able to stop thinking about the outside world and focus on my technique, endurance and pace. It’s also a good time to collect my thoughts and reflect. Hobeika agrees: “Swimming is my alone time, the only time I’m not connected to anything but myself, so I’m obliged to listen to my thoughts and do a lot of reflection.”
It lets you meet potential partners or customers. Last but not least, exercising is a social activity. It allows you to meet new people or to get to know your colleagues, employees or co-founders better. “Sports give employees an opportunity to meet both colleagues and friends through a healthy medium,” said Derv Rao, co-founder of Duplays, a Dubai-based platform that connects players to sports in their local city. “Relationships are built above and beyond those formed by conducting business together.” (Disclosure: Wamda Capital has invested in Duplays).
Companies should offer sports to their employees, he says, because these companies “have demonstrated a direct impact on the bottom line through lower sick days, better employee performance at work and a healthier social life, leading to increased employee happiness and retention.”
Sometimes it is good to just throw your laptop away, get out there and enjoy a well-deserved workout. Not only will it make you feel better, it might help you come up with the next best idea. And just like kids fight their way in the pool to reach the top, entrepreneurs and employees should do the same too, but not only in the pool.
Reine is the Arabic Editor at Wamda. You can reach her at Reine[at]wamda.com, on Twitter @farhatreine or connect with her on LinkedIn.