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How exercise makes you a better marketer

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When I was in high school, I played basketball every day. I was really skinny. I could eat whatever I wanted and I definitely did not have a healthy diet. Plus, I had a huge appetite. There were never leftovers in my house.

But, as I got older, I played less basketball and still ate the same quantity of food. The result was that I gained weight. I just started buying bigger pants and baggy shirts.

Then when my wife was pregnant with our first child, I started to gain "sympathy weight," meaning that I would eat more to match my wife's pregnancy weight gain with some pounds of my own. Then my wife had the baby and the weight just melted off her. For me it wasn't so easy.

So I decided to do something drastic to lose the weight. I signed up for Operation Boot Camp. It was a full month of working out every day and dieting. The camp started at 6 a.m. which was a pretty early for me. But it was only a month so I thought I could handle it.

After a month of Boot Camp, I dropped 10 pounds and felt great. So I decided to do a second month. Then I did a third and fourth month. At this point, I was used to getting up at 5:30 a.m. so I just kept doing it. I was so into it that I actually became a Boot Camp instructor and did that for about four years.

In 2012, I "retired" from Boot Camp and switched to spin class. Now every morning I wake up and go to Flywheel Atlanta. It's really hard and sometimes I feel like I'm going to die. But I leave class feeling super energized. It's really a great way to start the day.

Obviously there are lots of physical benefits to working out. But, what I've found is that exercise has actually made me a better marketer. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Better productivity. I used to be one of those people who walked into the office like a zombie. I couldn't even talk to anyone until I had two cups of coffee. It just took me awhile to get into the flow of the day. But since I've been exercising every morning, I come into the office wide awake and ready to go. I get a fast start and I get more done. On days that I don't exercise, I just don't feel as good and I find myself getting tired in the late afternoon. I'd estimate that exercise gives me an extra hour of productivity each day. Over the course of the year that can add up to 260 hours or about 11 days.
  2. Stress management. There have been a lot of studies about how exercise relieves stress. According to the Mayo Clinic exercise pumps up your endorphins which are the brain's "feel-good neurotransmitters." I'm a believer. A few years ago during a particularly stressful time at work, daily exercise helped me keep it together. If I didn't work out in a given day I would get home at night so exhausted by the stress that I'd have to go right to bed. It was an awful feeling. So during stressful times I always make sure to get a workout in. It just keeps me sane.
  3. Improving creativity. At its core, marketing is about new ideas that drive better results. But coming up with new ideas isn't always easy. I've found that some of my best ideas come to me when I'm exercising. I'm not sure what it is about exercise that gets the creative juices flowing. But sometimes I get back from a long run with tons of new ideas. The challenge is remembering them and writing them down as soon as I get home. According to an article in Newsweek, "Almost every dimension of cognition improves from 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and creativity is no exception. The type of exercise doesn't matter, and the boost lasts for at least two hours afterward." So if you're looking for a creative solution to a business problem, go for a jog and it might come to you.
  4. Higher energy levels. When you work in marketing, you have to be high-energy. You have to sell your ideas and your vision. But if you have low energy that's hard to do. I find that exercise gives me an extra boost of energy that lasts throughout the day. If I have to give a big presentation, I always have to get a workout in that morning. It's the energy from the exercise that makes me a better presenter.
  5. Competitive edge. I usually work out in competitive group activities. In Flywheel spin class, you compete with other riders to see who can get the most points. It's very competitive and a lot of fun. I have to admit that when I get the highest score in a class it really feels great. I find that the competitive drive carries over to my work. As Vince Lombardi said, "Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit." That's good insight. I do think working out competitively has made me more driven to try harder at work and deliver better results for my company.

Do you think that exercise makes you a better marketer? Let me know.

Jeff Perkins is VP-global online marketing with conferencing and collaboration solutions company PGi (www.pgi.com). He can be reached via email at jeff.perkins@pgi.com; on Twitter: @jeffperkins8; on LinkedIn; and via his blog, Single-Minded Proposition.

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