The Art of Persistence and Time
As MBA students, we often think we need to have it all. Yesterday. The reality is, success can be achieved through a combination of persistence and time. As you know, getting into business school is not exactly something you can do overnight – you need solid experience, a stellar GMAT score, a compelling application, etc.
Just as you cannot completely change your career path overnight, you cannot do the same for your own physical fitness, despite what you may have seen on shows such as “The Biggest Loser”.
There was a time when I couldn’t run a mile to save my life. I’ll never forget when my first trainer broke the news to me that I was 32% body fat.
“But I’m a size 4 – how is that possible?!” I cried.
“Simple – you have very little muscle and you have not trained consistently over time”.
After absorbing that initial shock, I continued to train consistently for the next 5 years, incorporating the advice I had received from many great trainers along the way. Some would suggest that I pursue fitness competitively, but at the time I was traveling quite a lot for work and didn’t seem to think it could balance it all.
Now, as a national level competitor with an amatuer physique organization, I have a greater appreciation for goals that can be achieved through persistence and time. People often ask me how I balance my work schedule, while pursuing my MBA and striving to move from amateur to “pro” status.
Let me tell you – it’s not as if I received my MBA acceptance letter overnight, won a competition the next day and then proceeded on with my day job of managing multiple projects, consultants and direct reports at the same time. I succeeded by making small, consistent improvements at work, at the gym and in my personal life. It was about winning a little each day, and focusing on what was important to get to the next level over time, not overnight.
As a fellow MBAer, I would like to share with you some ideas of how you can incorporate fitness into your demanding schedule, without having to completely overhaul your lifestyle:
1. Establish “mini” fitness goals. Start small. Maybe right now you are only getting in two solid workouts a week. Increase it to 3 by taking up something you haven’t tried before such as yoga, boxing or a boot camp session at your local gym.
If you are not on a fitness program at all, try starting with just three 20-25 minute cardio sessions per week for 3 weeks. If you think about it – this is a small time commitment compared to group meetings or dinner dates, and you can fit it in before work, during lunch, in between classes or after work. After you have achieved your initial “mini” goal, try upping the time to three 45 minute sessions per week, with a mix of cardio and weights.
Also, try not to involve weight loss as a benchmark for success: instead, focus on how you feel after your workouts. Your weight can fluctuate through changes in muscle mass, bone mass, water and fat storage; therefore, it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is moving the needle on that scale (i.e., did you really lose a pound or are you just a little dehydrated today?).
2. Put some “routine” into your routine. Believe it or not, you can “train” your body to adjust to a schedule. If you routinely start going to the gym at 6:00 p.m. every day, your body will eventually “recognize” that it is time for the gym and you should feel more energized based on how consistent you are. Try it!
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff – literally. It takes an increase of approximately 3500 calories to add one pound. If you are not interested in switching to a strict diet overnight, try to “save” 100 calories a day instead. You can do this by skipping the mayo on your sandwich or opting for a Vitamin Water instead of a soda. All else equal, that 100 calories a day could save you 10 pounds over the course of a year.
4. Outsource. As you’ve discovered in the workplace, some things are best left to the experts. Personal training is not as expensive as you may think, especially if you pair with a friend. The two of you could split the cost of a once-a-week session with a trainer for less than an average bar tab. While the beer was a sunk cost, the knowledge you can gain from a great trainer will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
(All images courtesy of the author)
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