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Physical Fitness Is Good for Business

Use these lessons from triathlon training to improve your work performance.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Triathlon participation is at an all-time high, according to USA Triathlon. A recent study the organization commissioned noted that a large number of triathletes are professionals who have a passion (or, in my case, an addiction) to the multi-sport life, with hundreds of CEOs and business leaders actively participating in triathlons each year.

A former competitive swimmer and avid runner, I started participating in multi-sport endurance events in late 2008 as way to cope with the loss of my father to heart disease. Prior to this, I had long and religiously adhered to a fitness regimen that I found to be highly beneficial to both my physical and mental state, but I didn't expect that my newfound pursuit of performance-based fitness would also help me perform better as a business owner, industry leader and entrepreneur.

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I recognize and appreciate that all entrepreneurs have their own particular methods--mental and physical--for managing their business, coping with stress, overcoming challenges and leveraging opportunities. And all of us, whether we admit it or not, have a "game day" routine that we follow in advance of an important event or task we're preparing for. Whether you prefer to stay active through a marathon, triathlon or yoga or spin class, I truly believe that a sound body creates a sound mind, which in turn will lead to sound business decisions.

Metaphorically speaking, I can go on and on about the parallels between endurance sports and business . Both endeavors require training, preparation and goal-setting:

  • There's strategic planning; how do I approach the race terrain?
  • Sizing up the competition; who are my rivals, and how can I beat them?
  • Performance measurements; am I improving?
  • Transition ; how quickly and efficiently do I move between race segments?
  • Financial investments; how much do I need to spend on race gear, nutrition supplements?
  • Contingency planning for times of crisis; what's plan b should I get a flat or lose my goggles?

Tips for getting your game on:

  • For inspiration, I subscribe to a sport-specific magazine like Runners World (my favorite) or Triathlete Magazine. When starting your own business this can serve as a good tactic to help submerge yourself in the industry. Read trade magazines and business journals not only for inspiration but to get to know your "sport" and the competition inside and out.
  • Start small, maybe with a 5k or triathlon. Use the first few races as opportunities to assess yourself and the market. Why? Because gradually growing your business will help make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew and allow for steadier and more stable growth.
  • Set goals. For many triathletes, their goal is to finish. For many people in business, goals are strictly based on financial success. Both are fine, but it helps to set performance-based goals, too. Constant strive to improve on previous benchmarks. For example, my goal for my first Olympic triathlon was to finish in less than three hours. I beat that mark by 25 minutes; my goal next year will be to improve my time by 10 minutes, and so on.
  • Never become a "Did Not Finish." I recently joined a tri club earlier this year, and "Never DNF" is the club director's motto--and now it's mine, too. In my last triathlon, I fell off my bike due to very wet road conditions. Although the fall negatively impacted my time, I got back up, fixed my bike and managed to finish the race, road rash and all. In business, DNF is never an option. Sure, you'll face obstacles and setbacks, but your livelihood and your employees are depending on you to finish the race, every day.

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