If you’re like most Americans you woke up at 6:00 a.m. this morning. Nike CEO Mark Parker has already been working out for one hour. He has one hour left. He works out for two hours four days a week. On the other three days he works out for “only” one hour. The Wall Street Journal recently featured Parker’s workout as part of its “day in the life” profiles.
Parker is not alone. When Starwood Hotels & Resorts CEO Frits van Paasschen was recently interviewed for an Associated Press article, he invited the reporter to meet with him where he holds many meetings…on a bike ride. The 52-year-old ironman competitor exercises six days a week, wherever he travels in the world. While in New York City, he takes a bike ride before the city “has yet to fully wake up,” according to the AP. Michelle Obama gets those famous arms through a lot of hard work, hitting the gym at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m., before the kids wake up and even before her husband gets to the gym.
I wrote my first book on public speaking in 2005. I had decided to interview dozens of successful leaders who were considered extraordinary communicators. I devoted an entire chapter to health and exercise because nearly everyone I interviewed made physical fitness a top priority. One executive even suggested I speak to his personal trainer who told me, “A proper training program will help you have better posture, exude more energy, and prepare you to handle the demands of a busy professional life. Without energy you’ll look and sound like a dud. The executive who exercises regularly looks and feels energized. They radiate passion, vitality, and energy.”
Successful leaders carve out time for daily exercise because they have no choice. They have to prepare their bodies to handle the increasing demands of long hours and heavy travel schedules. Weight-training and cardio exercises give them the strength and endurance to communicate with energy all day. I’ve heard from several people who work with Apple CEO Tim Cook that he has superhuman energy. He once stepped off an 18-hour plane trip after working most of the time, took a shower in his hotel room, and conducted 12-hours of meetings! The other executives were ready to call it quits and Cook had plenty of energy left. How does he do it? Cook is a fitness buff; often hitting the gym by…you guessed it…5:00 a.m.. He cannot afford “not” to work out.
Most of us have room to step up our level of physical activity. It doesn’t always require that you workout at 5:00 a.m.. I think Nike’s Parker would agree: The key is to “just do it.”