In a busy life juggling home, work, family and friends, something has to give. And more often than not for stressed-out mums it’s exercise. But in fact, if there’s one thing that can help you cope better, and even be more successful in your career or business, it’s exercise.
If you think that exercise is just another box to tick on your busy weekly schedule – another ‘chore’ competing with housework, errands, work and chauffering children, then Sara Colombo suggests that you need to think again.
Because exercise isn’t just a luxury for those of us with time to sweat off the pounds and tone muscles – science shows that less than one hour a day of physical activity can improve your health, boost your mind and help you be more productive!
Indeed, people who exercise regularly develop brain skills, have a more positive outlook on life and are able to handle better the balance between business and family.
So, if feeling great and enjoying a rewarding career, being a fulfilled freelancer or running a happy business is your dream, make time to exercise!
How does exercise help you?
Many people hit the gym to shed weight and lose that annoying muffin top, but quit in the blink of an eye because it’s too hard, or they’re too busy, or they don’t like the colour of the walls in the changing rooms (trust me, I’ve heard all sorts of excuses!).
And it’s shame because regular exercise doesn’t just help you to look and feel great, but it could be the key to living a healthier life and running a more productive business.
Really? How does exercise help you? In many ways – from feeling more confident and determined, to being more relaxed and positive. Exercise also helps develop brain skills like memory, and the ability to cope with stressful situations.
Five ways exercise can help you succeed
Need more convincing? Here are five ways in which working out is great for you and your career or business.
1) Exercise helps to reduce stress
Passionate entrepreneurs and freelancers face an enormous amount of stress – from setting up a business, to create a new project, market one’s services, find clients, innovate, grow up and re-brand, etc.
Trying to juggle full or part time employment with the demands of a family can also be incredibly stressful at times. It can feel as if you’re always letting someone down – rescheduling meetings that clash with school, childcare or sick babies, or not being there for your children around the clock.
The stress derived by such a hectic life can negatively influence your body and mind, and in some cases even lead to frustration and depression.
However, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins – hormones that can boost your mood while lowering your perception of pain. Often referred to as the ‘runner’s high’, the positive and balanced sense of pleasure caused by the production of endorphins makes you fell better, more relaxed and invigorated.
And the great news is that regular exercise stimulates regular production of these chemicals, boosting your mood and self-perception, and helping to ‘innoculate’ you against life stresses. So you can cope better with whatever life, work or your family throws at you!
2) Exercise helps you sleep well
One of the most common problems home workers, freelancers and business owners have is that they find it difficult to stick to a fixed routine and often work until late, over the weekend, or, in general, at very (extremely!) unpredictable hours.
And that’s without adding babies or young children into the mix! Once you become a mum, a full night’s sleep becomes a much-desired fantasy that’s often elusively out of reach.
Yoga can help you to relax and stretch your hurting back and shoulders before going to bed. Not got time for a full-on yoga routine? You don’t need one. Just a few minutes meditating and stretching in the comfort of your home-based yoga corner right before going to bed will make a massive difference to the quality of your sleep.
And running can help you release the surplus of energy accumulated over a sleepless night. It’s also a powerful happiness booster and prepares your body and mind to sleep. Sweating and jumping helps you sleep better, too.
But like many things in life, the timing of your exercise is important. The majority of experts agree that doping a low impact activity like yoga just before going to bed can de-stress your mind and re-balance your senses, while higher impact disciplines should be practiced during the day.
3) Exercise gives you energy
Isn’t climbing the career ladder, building up freelance work or starting a business a bit like running a marathon? It requires early mornings, late nights, long projects, deadlines, goals, schedules, issues to be solved… and, finally, a bit of respite!
And do you know what does it take to run a marathon? Stamina and strength.
The great news is that any form of exercise can increase your determination and strength (physical and mental). You know that working out makes you feel great and getting into that dress makes you feel even better, right?
What you should also consider is how the confidence derived from this can help you strike a positive work-life balance and work smarter. Firstly because when your self-esteem increases, you are more determined, positive and closing a deal or negotiating with your manager or a client becomes easier.
And secondly because feeling good will make you more sociable and open to new projects and ideas, and will lead you to network more and meet new people.
So not only will exercise give you more energy to get up earlier or work later if you need to – not to mention dashing between work, school, meetings and home, and balancing all the jobs on your daily to-do list – but it will also give you the confidence and emotional stamina to do it all with more ease and success.
4) Exercises teaches you discipline
Trust me, I have been a ballerina and when it comes to discipline, nothing beats the proper control of movements (and a harsh teacher) that classical ballet requires.
Sport and fitness require a certain amount of discipline too. From learning the basics of a certain exercise, to memorising steps, attending all classes, setting (and reaching!) goals, respecting a new diet, committing, trying, failing and trying again.
Cutting your teeth on a new activity and dedicating yourself to reaching your goals can help you to develop a natural discipline that will help you in your career, freelance work or business too. Sticking to something (even through the hard moments) and enjoying the rewards will, over time, come naturally to you in exercise and in life.
5) Exercise is your ‘me’ time
Wake up, make lunches, do the school/childcare run, squeeze in a business meeting, dash to the shops for food, pick up the kids, put the washing on, cook the dinner, clear up after dinner, hang up laundry, do bed time routine, walk the dog, go to bed. Repeat.
For most of us, that list (with variations) is our daily life. But did you spot what was missing from it? There’s no ‘me’ time. And not because we don’t want it (in fact, as you probably know all to well, we crave it!), but because juggling work, family and housekeeping is not exactly easy, and often the easiest thing for mums to drop from their day is any time for themselves.
And this is exactly why exercise is so important. Because finding some good and healthy time for ourselves is the key to avoiding burnout. Exercise is your chance to do something just for you. To focus on your needs, enjoy some quiet and clear your mind.
Not only will exercise bring a whole host of great physical and emotional benefits, but it can also give you space from the rest of your life (and demands on your time and mind), and with that comes a clarity that lets ideas come into your head, and allows you to problem-solve with an ease that is impossible in an other-wise busy life.
You’ll also have more energy to give to your work and family if you have taken some time and space for yourself – making you happier and more productive in the rest of your day.
Make time for exercise today!
As busy mums, it’s not always easy to carve time out of our day for exercise – but if you can squeeze even just a few minutes for physical activity you’ll feel the rewards.
Not only will you feel more positive, have more energy and sleep better, but you’ll be better equipped to cope with the challenges life throws at you, and be more prepared for success!
Sara Colombo is a qualified Italian, French and English freelance translator and interpreter specialising in medicine, health and fitness, and marketing.