Even the most health-conscious corporate executive sometimes struggles to balance professional and social commitments with a regular exercise regimen. The bottom line is this: The healthier you are, the more productive you will be; the fitter you become, the fewer work days you will miss, the less susceptible to stress you will be, and the better you will sleep.
So how do you make time for a workout when you are at your desk before a foreign market opens or at the office long after the gym closes? I recommend what I call the Corporate Workout: a time-efficient, flexible routine that can be done at any time of day . . . no equipment, no gym membership and no weight room necessary. All you need is a stairwell and some guts, which should not be a problem for people who routinely close multimillion-dollar deals. Your body is the equipment, the stairs are the cardiovascular machines and each landing in the stairwell is the weight room. Oh, and you'll want some sweat duds and access to a shower later. This is definitely not a regimen meant for your business suit.
The program is simple, at least to describe: Climb a flight of stairs. Perform an exercise on the landing. Take the next flight up. Do another exercise. And so on. On the road and don't have access to a stairwell? Skip the stairs and do the same exercises in your hotel room.
Try the following sequence of exercises, each targeting multiple muscles and joints; the first in each set focuses on the upper body, the second on the lower body and the third on core muscles. (Follow the same concept for a shorter sequence.)
· Push-ups: as many as you can get with proper form.
· Split squats: Put one foot forward, one foot back, splitting the legs broadly enough so that when the back knee is lowered toward the floor, the front knee is directly over the front heel; do eight to 15 on one leg, then switch legs and repeat.
· Bicycle sit-ups: Lying on your back with the legs moving in a bicycle motion, first move one elbow to the opposite knee, then the other elbow to the opposite knee; do as many as you can in 60 seconds.
· One-arm fliers: Begin in a push-up position and slowly raise one straight arm away from the body while keeping the shoulders and hips square to the floor; slowly return the arm to the start position, then raise the other arm in the same fashion; do eight to 15 on each side.
· Mountain climbers: Begin in a push-up position, pumping each leg forward and backward like running in place; do 12 to 20 on each leg.
· V-ups: Lying on your back, raise one straight leg to maximum height while simultaneously reaching to the leg with both arms; lower the leg and arms, then raise the opposite leg and both arms again; repeat as many times as possible in 60 seconds.
· Squat thrusts: Begin standing, drop to the floor, kick both legs back, do a push-up, pull the legs in, stand up and jump; perform as many as possible in 30 seconds.
· Wall sits: Sit against the wall with the knees bent slightly above 90 degrees for 60 seconds.
· Double crunch: This is a modified sit-up in which you simultaneously raise the upper body while bringing the knees back toward the head; max reps in 30 seconds.
· Pull-ups or flexed arm hang (if you can find a secure place).
· Co-contractions: Begin in a seated position on the floor with your hands beside your hips and your legs straight in front of you; with the left heel down and the left knee in a slightly bent position, elevate the hips while simultaneously lifting the right leg off the floor; maintain this position, with your weight on your hands and left heel, for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
· Bridge, a.k.a. the plank: Lie facedown on the floor, supporting yourself on your forearms and toes, raising the hips to roughly the height of the shoulder blades; hold this position for 60 seconds.
Listen to your instincts and adapt accordingly. Certain movements may need to be modified or eliminated.
Some tips before you start:
(1) Get a physical. The corporate sector is full of stress, too little sleep, insufficient exercise and poor eating habits. These are the ingredients for physical overload, so ease into these workouts and pay attention to how your body responds (fatigue, soreness, etc.).
(2) Start by walking from landing to landing; with greater fitness, alternate running to one landing and walking to the next; then run them all; when one time up the stairs is no longer challenging, add a second ascent, then a third.
(3) Add exercises as conditioning improves. And work to increase your reps as well as the duration at each station.
(4) Wear a heart rate monitor. Use 220 minus your age to determine your maximum heart rate. Start at about 65 percent of your maximum, and with greater fitness push toward 85 percent of your heart rate max.
(5) Once you have settled into a routine, set the exercises and the number of repetitions or duration of each one. Time yourself to the top of the stairs and use that time as a baseline to assess your fitness level as you progress.
(6) Get a little competition going with some colleagues. Better yet, after whipping yourself into shape, invite your boss, then bludgeon him or her into submission. You will never feel better about a hostile takeover.
(7) Running down stairs is a high-risk investment. Take the elevator down and save your energy (and your knees) for the next ascent.
(8) If you're willing to buy some equipment at minimal cost, pick up a stability ball to add sit-ups, back extensions, push-ups and other exercises; a few pairs of dumbbells to add some free-weight exercises; and maybe a jump rope. And consider consulting a competent personal trainer. Then you can get creatively brutal in adding exercises and tailoring this routine to your conditioning level.
Further tips for the exercise-challenged:
· If you commute to work, then really commute. Try walking, jogging, cycling or in-line skating. One Baltimore businessman kayaks to his office.
· Entertaining clients? If you are golfing, walk the course -- if the place allows it. Better yet, meet your client on the court for squash, tennis or racquetball.
· When traveling, check out the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association) Passport to map out health clubs near your hotel. Or pick a hotel affiliated with a health club.
· If you have the luxury of an administrative assistant, he or she can do better than bring you coffee. Have that person map out the surrounding area for the healthiest eats, for you as well as for your clients. If you have time to eat badly, you have the time to eat healthfully.