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How to become a Corporate Athlete

By 12 March 2024 No Comments

What does a tennis champion, a marathon runner, and a Practice Manager have in common? They all face high-pressure situations that require them to perform at their best, often under extreme conditions. But while athletes have coaches, trainers, and nutritionists to help them optimise their physical and mental energy, Managers are often left to their own devices, relying on caffeine, adrenaline, and willpower to get through the day. This can lead to chronic stress, burnout, and poor performance.

In this blog, we introduce the concept of a corporate athlete, a term coined by two experts in sports psychology and human performance, Dr. Jack Groppel and Dr. Jim Loehr. They argue that business leaders can learn from elite athletes how to manage their energy, not just their time, and create a balanced lifestyle that supports their personal and professional goals. We also share some practical tips on how to train like a corporate athlete and achieve peak performance in your work and life.

It’s not all in the head

Evidence suggests that to consistently perform at their best Managers and leaders need to look beyond mental focus. They should strive to boost their physical energy levels, foster emotional resilience, and pursue spiritual fulfilment. Of course, this is not a panacea and, in most cases, restructuring workloads or implementing flexible work arrangements tailored specifically to help individuals address burnout and stress is a first step.

That being said, sometimes change is “slow a comin’” and there are many ways you can help yourself by adopting a ‘corporate athlete’ approach today.

Learning from world-class athletes

From collaborating with world-class athletes for over 25 years Dr. Jim Loehr and colleagues developed the High-Performance Pyramid to help Managers consistently get into the “ideal performance state”. The pyramid is comprised of four levels:

The body, emotions, mind, and spirit are interconnected elements that influence performance. So we suggest developing ‘rituals’ to improve your energy at all four levels.

  • Physical capacity is the foundation of the performance pyramid. Without a healthy body we can’t function, never mind perform to the best of our abilities.
  • Emotional capacity is crucial for peak performance – positive emotions fuel energy, while negative emotions drain energy.
  • Mental or cognitive capacity includes focus, time management, and critical thinking, which are all key performance enhancers.
  • Spiritual capacity levers personal/corporate values and purpose for motivation and resilience.

Enhancing rituals for your physical capacity

“We survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast foods on the run, fuel up with coffee and cool down with alcohol and sleeping pills. Faced with relentless demands at work, we become short-tempered and easily distracted. We return home from long days at work feeling exhausted and often experience our families not as a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an already overburdened life.” Jim Loehr

To become a corporate athlete physically:

  1. Drink plenty of water. “Drinking water, we have found, is perhaps the most undervalued source of physical energy renewal.” – Jim Loehr
  2. Eat healthy wholefoods, when hungry. Lots of plant-based fibre rich foods are particularly good for the body.
  3. Establish regular, supportive sleeping habits.
  4. Exercise. A regular walk in nature is good for your body, mind, and spirit. Get up from your desk and move regularly. After all, sitting is the new smoking!
  5. Be aware of your posture throughout the day.
  6. Relax, give yourself time to rest and recover.
  7. Breathe deeply and with awareness.

Nurturing rituals for your emotional capacity

Be aware of your feelings towards yourself and others.

  1. Cultivate mindfulness and emotional intelligence to improve self-awareness and resilience. Be aware how your behaviour influences your own and others performance.
  2. Manage emotions effectively through rituals such as deep breathing, relaxation techniques, and positively reframing what’s happening to you .
  3. Maintain a positive outlook and attitude.
  4. Master self-control of your emotions to ensure a positive behaviour and frame of mind.

Boosting rituals for your mental capacity

Mind yourself.

  1. Meditate to enhance mental energy, keep calm, and restore the mind.
  2. Take regular breaks.
  3. Think about how best to develop little rituals to improve performance and productivity.
  4. Visualise success.
  5. Focus on one task at a time. Trying to do too many things at once is tiring and wrecks your head.
  6. Mix things up to maintain interest.
  7. Think positively.
  8. Look to life beyond work.
  9. Avoid fixating on a single task.
  10. Baby steps can build good habits.

Seek spiritual fulfilment

Know that you are making a difference.

  1. Tap into your deepest values and sense of purpose for motivation and resilience.
  2. Connect your job to your deeper purpose.
  3. Love what you do.
  4. Stick at it when the going gets rough.
  5. Take time to reflect on things.
  6. Talk to someone when in need of support or guidance.

Just do it

If you want to thrive in today’s competitive and fast-paced world, you need to develop the skills and habits of a Corporate Athlete. You need to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and balance your energy expenditure with energy renewal. You need to train yourself to perform at your best under pressure and recover quickly from setbacks. You need to be resilient, agile, and focused. Use the tips outlined above and explore the links to help you become a corporate athlete.

Remember you don’t have to do it alone. Like professional athletes seek help to optimise your nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and to enhance your cognitive and emotional skills. Build or join a supportive network of peers, mentors, and role models, to create a positive and empowering mindset.

Don’t wait any longer. Do it today and unleash your full potential as a Corporate Athlete. Transform your life and career.

What little change are you going to make today in order to create your very own ritual?


Becoming a corporate athlete – Sporting Edge

“We allow ourselves to get physically tired but not mentally.”

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