When the clock came into view, I knew I was going to beat my goal—by a lot. I picked up my already quick pace and crossed the finish line in just over 26 minutes. I’d just taken 90 seconds off my last PR for a 5K race.
I wasn’t always a runner. And I didn’t start running to lose weight, complete a marathon, or any of the other common reasons others lace up their first pair of running shoes. I started running—and developing a daily fitness practice—to make me a better business owner.
At the end of 2016, I had reached a plateau in my eight-year-old coaching business. Things were going well but I wanted to build something that could have a bigger impact. I had my heart set on building a support network for other small business owners, a place entrepreneurs could go to share their challenges, questions, and victories with others who could help.
To accomplish this, I was going to need to stretch myself by hiring employees, making some big investments, and changing the way I was personally operating. When I looked around at the small business owners who had done similar things, almost all of them had one thing in common: they were athletes. They were runners, CrossFitters, surfers, and cyclists. They prioritized their health and fitness as much as they prioritized their businesses.
I realized that, if I wanted to level-up my business, I better start leveling-up my fitness, too. I started by making walking part of my daily routine. Then, I started incorporating a little yoga and progressed to trying out running. That’s when I discovered Aaptiv.
The Aaptiv Effect
Working out with Aaptiv gave me structure, flexibility, and guidance for my daily fitness practice. I learned to push myself in new ways thanks to both the Aaptiv trainers and the digital community.
Over time, the results started to speak for themselves. Last September, I ran my first 5K in about 45 minutes. Just a month later, I improved my time to just over 30 minutes. Next month, I’m aiming for my first 25-minute 5K.
Of course, it’s not all PRs and faster paces. It’s not even all the ways exercise boosts your energy. The results of my fitness practice have transferred into key business-building skills. Here’s how my fitness practice—and Aaptiv—has made me a better business owner.
1. I find discipline in action.
I used to think that there were people who had discipline and people who didn’t have discipline. I saw it as a personality trait—and one that I lacked. When I saw small business owners with a fitness practice, I would think to myself, ‘I wish I was one of those people with discipline.’
But after over a year of almost-daily workouts, I now know that discipline isn’t something you’re born with (or not). Discipline isn’t who you are, it’s what you do. If I want to be more disciplined, I just need to do what discipline looks like for me in that area of life.
When it comes to my fitness practice, that can mean choosing a 10-minute strength training workout like Aaptiv Trainer Sultan’s “Playin’ With That Bodyweight” or Aaptiv Trainer Mike’s “Planks For Days” instead of forgoing a workout because of time constraints. Doing something with consistency has become more important to me than doing something big once.
When I decide to incorporate a workout into every day, I am practicing discipline. The same goes for my business. I practice discipline by communicating with clients and team members daily, by emptying my inbox daily, or by sharing our product daily.
2. I practice hitting goals.
Fitness performance and business performance have one big important thing in common: goals.
Whether it’s a new PR for a 5K race or a new revenue milestone, most of our planning and execution revolves around hitting our next goal. Now, in business, it’s easy to get caught up in all the variables, the things we don’t know how to do, or the tasks on our to-do lists instead of working with the plan to beat the goal. It’s incredibly easy to get distracted and derailed.
My fitness routine gives me an opportunity to practice sticking to my plan, working through the variables, and adjusting my execution as necessary in a lower-stakes environment. Hitting my goals becomes a product of this practice and I can translate the confidence I find to my business.
Aaptiv’s training programs are a fantastic way to try this out. For example, Aaptiv Trainer Meg’s “Cross-Train to 5K” program and Aaptiv Trainer Ackeem’s “Total Body Training” program give workouts structure while also focusing on a specific outcome.
3. I’ve cultivated resilience for hard times.
There are ups and downs in business and fitness. In both, there are times I feel powerful and confident. And, there are also times when everything feels like it’s going wrong or that the world is against me.
That’s when resilience is key.
Resilience is the power to bounce back and make use of the hard stuff instead of quitting. It goes beyond alleviating stress to use it as a tool. It’s like Meg always says, “The real workout starts when you want to stop.”
I’ve found physical resilience in realizing there’s always a little more left in the tank than I think there is. Nothing proves that like a good tempo run with active recovery like Takacs’ “Success in 10’s” or “10-8-6-4.” Both of those runs left me stunned by how much I could push myself to the edge and still have the capacity for more.
I carry that over to my business any time we’re working on a big project or campaign that has me up against my limits. I also return to my capacity for resilience every time I face a setback and need to adjust my plan.
4. I pause for a daily mental reset.
When you’re a small business owner, your brain is constantly working. You’re thinking about your next product launch, the current marketing campaign, and the difficult conversation you need to have with an employee—all before your second cup of coffee!
My fitness practice has given me a chance to reset my thinking every day. I can either focus on the task at hand or zone out for a bit of moving meditation. When I’m done, I am ready to start my work day with renewed confidence and focus.
If I need a break from my mental treadmill, I might hop on the actual treadmill for a sprint workout like Aaptiv Trainer Rochelle’s “Make a Sprint for It” or sling some kettlebells with Mike’s “In the Swing.” These intense workouts force me to forget my current strategic hangups and put all of my mental energy on my physical output.
On the other hand, sometimes what I really need is an opportunity to process a question or challenge that I’m hung up on as a business owner. That’s when I love steady pace runs, like Meg’s “Form and Focus” or “Ready for It.”
5. I’ve gained the confidence to show up and push limits.
Creating a daily fitness practice has also given me the confidence to create daily practices in my business. In the past, I didn’t have the confidence to execute on a plan day after day. I’d let small challenges or insecurities stand between me and my goals.
Right now, I’m working on a visibility practice in my business. I know that, while I stand behind the work my company does, I have a hard time showing up to share that work with people who need it. So just like I’ve committed to starting every day with movement, I’ve committed to starting my work time with marketing. And just like every mile I run makes the next one easier, every Instagram post I create or video I record to spread the word about what we do makes the next one easier.
I’m also finding that the practice of marketing—just like the practice of fitness—helps me push my personal limits regularly. I don’t always look for the path of least resistance. I have the confidence to show up and do things that feel hard.
To train for pushing my limits, I purposefully seek out workouts that scare me. For instance, where I would have avoided burpees before, now I seek them out like in Ackeem’s “Faster Work, Longer Rest.” I’m also pushing myself on longer and longer runs with classes like Aaptiv Trainer Candice’s 71-minute treadmill workout “Intervals Ain’t a Thing.”
Entrepreneurship is training, too.
The ability to build a business isn’t something you have or you lack. You have to train for it just as you’d train to run a marathon, squat 150lbs, or perform a perfect chaturanga.
Working out—with Aaptiv by my side—reminds me of this every day. Whether I can fit a 10-minute class or a 60-minute long run into my busy workday, the choice to show up and train is what moves me forward toward both my fitness and my business goals.
Tara McMullin is the founder of CoCommercial, a support network that helps small business owners work together to overcome challenges and solve problems. She’s also the host of What Works, a podcast about what’s really working to run, manage, and grow small businesses today.