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Extreme physical exercise give leaders the edge

Keeping in top physical shape is giving leaders the edge in the boardroom.

More and more top professionals – particularly women – are turning to tough physical pursuits as a way of strengthening their careers.

On top of already heavy schedules, leaders are signing up for triathlons, marathons and 10k runs, believing that pushing themselves to the physical limit also develops their capacity for the day job.

Women aged 25 to 45 make up the largest group of runners in England, and one on 12 UK females now take part in some sort of physical competition.

HR Business Network member Catherine Sobolewska of Anthony Collins Solicitors is a distance runner, who does 5k races but plans to move on to marathons.

She said: “There are obvious health benefits. I see a difference in my general health and almost never need to miss any work (no days off due to sickness in the last 12 months). When I catch colds they tend to be quickly fought off and my energy levels are generally high.

“Aside from the physical, I think that running in particular has benefits in terms of building productive habits that will help in the day job. For example, self motivation, endurance, self discipline, time management and so on.

“I would also add that any kind of sport, or really any activity which provides an active shift of focus from work, particularly for people in very stressful jobs, can help keep stress levels down and I find that it helps me to gain distance and perspective from issues that need a clear head rather than a tired emotional response.”

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, said: “Being active has numerous benefits for a healthy lifestyle – both physically and mentally. I often come across successful women who use physical activity as a break from the stresses of the office or home life, and who are often extremely competitive in these areas.

“That’s the beauty of participating in sport of any kind, it can be tailored to fit different lifestyles – with many women fitting in yoga at lunchtime or running to work each day.

“In terms of improving performance at work, being active certainly makes women more energised and often it is the women who factor exercise into their day, that are the experts at time management, multi-tasking and are the competitive players. In the past women were not encouraged to be competitive, it was seen as a male trait, but now women show this behaviour in the boardroom and on the sports field.

“Overall, physical activity is all about enjoyment, which will of course reflect in a working environment too.”

Men aren’t slacking off though, as network member Stuart Lawson from Crown Worldwide Ltd added.

“I wouldn’t call myself a fitness fanatic but I do set myself a monthly exercise target for running, cycling and swimming. Fitting that in to a hectic work schedule and a busy family life is difficult but I find it worthwhile.

“Exercising gives me time to think about events coming and past, helping to create clarity of thought whilst also taking my mind off the pain of the exercise! I feel more alive when I’ve been exercising than I do if I can’t get my ‘fix’.”

Do you use extreme physical sports to keep you sharp for work? Tell us in the comments: