7 Career Insights….From the Gym

Justyn Warner on Unsplash

I met with two good friends in the past month who were both struggling to get into a regular exercise routine. I happily offered to support them however I could – because while I’ll fully admit there are plenty of good habits I’ve yet to create, getting to the gym is one I can put in the win column.  In the process, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself that applies well beyond.

Best I can recall, my gym habit started when I was in college. At that point I’d head to the cheap local gym, newspaper in hand and read it while on the Stairmaster. That was before I’d learn that the inflated calorie counts meant I wasn’t actually erasing all of the frat house beer and late night cookie dough.

Along the way I created a habit that stuck. What I’ve found over the years is that me at the gym is a window into who I am far outside it. Many of the learnings I’ve had over the years apply equally to my career – which reminds me that who we are in one part of our lives often transfers over to the rest. Figure out one, and you’ll likely have useful insight into others. Here are a few of mine.

Surprising parallels:

  • I work harder when someone is counting on me. In my current gym we share a bike with a partner and we track how far we go collectively. We don’t pick our partner but when I’m paired with someone who is pushing hard for mileage, he or she pushes me harder and I usually rise to the occasion. That said – when someone wants to coast, I’m equally happy to do so.
    • Career insight: Be aware of those around you – and the attributes of the collaborators, coworkers or team that support you in doing your best work.
  • My ideal has evolved over time. In college I was focused on dropping calories, then over time saw the need to add some weight training – at which point options like Body Pump and Bar Method seemed a better fit. And as kids came into my life, I appreciated the benefit of sweating with friends while spinning as a way to stay connected.
    • Career insight: The type of role or company or work setting that works at one point in your life may well evolve. Remaining open and curious about how you’re feeling is key.
  • Figuring out how to work it into my schedule has been critical. Before kids I could go whenever I wanted. Later I had to go early, before other things could get in the way. When my husband started adjusting his schedule to make it possible for me to get to the gym, I knew everyone won when I got some exercise.
    • Career insight: Understanding the flow of the day that works best for you helps you make the most of your time at work. Are you a morning person? Better later on? Different jobs offer different levels of flexibility and timing, and knowing when you’re your best self is invaluable in finding your fit.
  • I benefit from being pushed. I’m now at a gym where the instructor, who knows our crew, will push each of us to do just a bit more than we think we can. And I never want to disappoint – them or myself.
    • Career insight: Figuring out what motivates you to push just a bit past what you believe you can do is invaluable. Because what’s just on the other side of your limit can be pretty amazing.
  • My why is different. The reason this habit has stuck for me over the years isn’t just about the physical benefit. It’s at least as much about my anxiety release and the time when my creative ideas flow.
    • Career insight: Why you do what you do may be different for you than it is for those around you. Recognize it and honor it – while knowing it may very well change over time.
  • I’ve clarified my clear cost-benefit. Years ago I broke my ankle, which put me on crutches and unable to drive. In an effort to prevent a repeat performance, I avoid box jumps at the gym – as I tend to almost fall and risk breaking an important lower limb. Will I? Who knows, but it’s the risk – benefit calculation I’ve made, deciding that box jumps simply aren’t worth the risk
    • Career insight: We all have to decide the level of risk we’re willing to take with our own career decisions while realizing it will change over time. How much travel works for us? How regularly are late nights OK? I used to be a proud United Global Services member – but now the cost far outweighs the benefits.
  • Being good at something doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. I have this ability – pretty useless outside of the gym – to balance on things, including that half-ball called a Bosu. I can lift weights, do squats all while perched on this contraption that’s supposedly good for improving core strength. I try to add it to my workouts where I can based on some ongoing lower back annoyances. I don’t think much of it but every now and then people will comment on my great balance.
    • Career insight: While this ability feels like no big deal to me, it apparently is to others. Just like all of the countless things you likely do well and think nothing of – merely because you do them well. Don’t shortchange yourself – take credit for the stuff you do well and pay particular attention to the ones others recognize as unique.

Looking for insights into your career? Check out other parts of your life. You might find some interesting patterns that apply.

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