Happiness is Just a Pushup Away

By Ron Pohl

Wednesday September 23, 2015

In my role at Best Western I have the privilege of meeting with members from around the world who help me develop and implement successful strategies by sharing their expertise and insight. My work is engaging and keeps me on the road much of the year. I enjoy my job, but I love my family and leisure time as well, and strive to give each of them my complete focus at different times. While balancing all aspects of my life is an ongoing process, I know that the commitment to mental and physical fitness I made years ago is what enables me to be successful today.

Earlier in my career I had naturally high energy and could work 14 to 16 hour days without tiring. I kept up this routine for many years. However, once I entered my 40’s those long work hours started to drain me, leaving less energy for other pursuits. Concurrently, I began to see friends and family contracting avoidable illnesses and getting injured, or even dying, way too early. Reality check. I was not exempt from the effects of aging and I wasn’t going to let it get the best of me, not without a fight anyway.

It was then I committed to getting healthy and to bringing as many people along with me as possible. The only time I had to workout was early in the morning at 5 a.m., and it was often difficult to pull myself out of bed. However, I managed to push through the inertia because the guilt of not doing it was even worse. I put on my headset, a Walkman at that time, and started running in the neighborhood. From there I participated in a few 10K road races and eventually progressed to complete my first marathon in 2001.

Throughout this time my family was incredibly supportive and I became relentless, pushing them to exercise as well. It was contagious. I recently set a goal to complete one competitive event with my wife and each of our three children. Talk about quality family time! Reluctantly they all agreed. Each child picked a different event, and made sure that it exceeded the rigor of the one just finished by their sibling.

My middle son was the first to accept the challenge and we successfully ran a half marathon together. My daughter, who had until then never run a race, was next. She signed us up for a Spartan Race, which consisted of a five-mile, 14-obstacle, mud run through the desert. She was fantastic. My wife, who had never run before, didn’t want to be left out. We trained and ran our first 5K race together and she placed first for her age group! Finally, my youngest son, who had done the least amount of exercise of all, signed us up for an Ultra Spartan Race. We ran 12 miles through the desert and conquered 27 obstacles. It was the hardest race I’ve ever run, but we finished, and in respectable time. Today, my weekly routine consists of two days of weight training, two days of cardio and yoga.

Likely you’ve heard that the benefits of physical and mental exercise include stress reduction, increased focus and improved quality of life. Once I’d made working out a habit I started to look for new ways to exercise my brain as well. While it’s easy to see when your body is out of shape, declining mental acuity often goes unnoticed. Failure to keep your brain challenged can negatively impact your physical abilities, your outlook on life and even your aptitude. Just like varying your physical routine, it’s important to find multiple activities you enjoy to engage your brain in different ways. For example, video games improve your mental and physical coordination and reaction time. Apps like 2048 and Sudoku can challenge your mind in new ways as well. Try committing to reading one business book a month, rotating in a piece of fiction to keep things fresh. Remember, it’s never too late to learn a language or pick up that guitar you haven’t played for years.

Gary Keller, author of “The One Thing,” says that significant achievement requires big energy and talks at length about the importance of sleep, mediation, nutrition and exercise as the building blocks to creating sustained energy. I agree with him, as having subscribed to this approach for the past 10 years, it’s clear that my success and quality of life depend upon keeping my body toned and mind sharp.

But don’t just take my word for it. There are many successful CEO’s with daily exercise regimens including, Oracle’s Larry Ellison; Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson; and Best Western’s David Kong.

Please join the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn. Or you can send thoughts directly to itspersonal@bestwestern.com.