Fitness has always been an essential part of my life. I may no longer ride horses or run track like I did when I was younger, but I still consider physical fitness key to my success in my day-to-day life as the entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell.
I am no pro—in fact, my sprint triathlon name is “Turtle”—but I am the #everydayathelete. As I’ve gotten older, exercise has become my time to reflect, calm down and focus. It helps me be a better mom, a better manager and a better executive. I even sleep better, which lord knows we all struggle with.
I worry that women feel they can’t fit it all in, and I know this because I am always worrying about it, too. I get it. I have two children—a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old—and I have multiple jobs. My husband is also an elected official, so I have a lot of responsibilities connected to that, too. But my exercise habit is a crucial part of my routine, and the benefits it provides go far beyond the gym or running track.
1. Physical activity helps you de-stress
I’m a high-strung individual with lots of energy. (That is putting it lightly.) I’ve found that working out regularly helps me channel my energy into working hard instead of being worried and anxious. With it, I’m more focused, excited and purposeful. If you’re stumped, stuck on something or trying to solve a problem, stopping, taking a break and exercising can help bring new ideas. Plus, if you’re peeved at someone, it can calm you down. You can’t go into meetings angry when you’re in a leadership position.
2. Sweating with others, while kind of gross, is a great way to network
I find a lot of a really high-performing executives have some kind of athletic output in their lives. I’ve connected with so many women at work and at conferences just because we’re all runners. Before I was even remotely connected with Dell, Karen Quintos (Dell’s CMO) and I were at the Fortune Most Powerful Women conference and were both trying to figure out a running route. We immediately bonded. It would have taken me 16 phone calls and multiple assistants to get me a conversation with Karen, and now we’re really close. Exercising together is an incredible networking tool. And understanding what people value outside the office will deepen your relationships with them.
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3. You just feel better
Exercise helps lower your risk of everything from osteoporosis to heart disease. If you want to live a healthy life, regular exercise needs to be a priority for you. Exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand, and sleep is another thing many women executives talk about as essential.
O.K.—so how do you prioritize it?
You have to figure out what works for you. I take conference calls while I’m running, and I bring exercise routines with me when I travel. I throw the baby in a running stroller when there is no childcare. (That is a hell of a work out!) On days where there really is no time, my husband and I go on a quick walk in the evening. Look, we are not all going to go out for the Olympics, but you can be the #everydayathlete, so sweat it out!
Elizabeth Gore is the entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell and the emeritus chair of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council. She was named by People as one of the top 100 Extraordinary Women, is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business and one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2016 Women to Watch.