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Why CEOs Run The World

Why CEOs Run The World

If there was a Runners Anonymous self-help group, a lot of the addicts would be CEOs. These days, running (or maybe endorphins) seems to be the drug of choice for CEOs. Why is that? And why am I following that stereotype? I hate to follow the crowd. Any crowd. I see myself as an unconventional thinker, a trailblazer. Yet, here I am fitting right into a stereotype and perfectly happy doing so.

Last Sunday morning, I ran 13.1 miles – effectively a half marathon, except this was on my own – around the coast of Manhattan and Brooklyn in 1 hour 35 minutes. Just for the fun of it! (Though I was also keen to try out my new Lululemon running gear) This was a new personal best and follows a pattern of me beating my personal best a half-dozen times per year for the past four years. At the age of 46, surely I should have peaked long ago, and now be gliding gently towards my rocking chair. But I’m still on the run.

Kansas City half Marathon
    CEO Ben Legg at 2016 Kansas City Half Marathon

    Always On The Run

    A little background: I have always been a runner of sorts.

    I started my career as a British Army officer, which involved running 2-3 times per week, along with all sorts of other exercise. I was fit. When I left the army in 1999 to enter the world of business (initially as a strategy consultant at McKinsey), I dropped that frequency to one run of six to eight miles every weekend. This was at an unmeasured pace – probably around nine minutes per mile – with my dogs tagging along. So I have never been unfit. However, through the next 13 years travelling the globe working in executive jobs at McKinsey, Coca-Cola, and Google around the world, I flatlined at that level. My assumption was, that over time, I would let my fitness slip gently.

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    So what happened to make me running obsessive, and fitter now than when I was in the army?

    I think the most likely explanation is becoming a CEO in 2012. CEOs make conference speeches and TV appearances more than others, and I am no exception. This leads to seeing your own picture a lot more often, and noticing yourself looking a bit chubby is a great motivator to become fitter. You also hear a lot about the link between fitness and being able to cope with stress. Getting some alone time is attractive too, given that your days are packed with back-to-back meetings.

    Therefore, since 2012, I have one-by-one initiated a number of actions that have each nudged me towards ever-increasing fitness:

    My own gym:

    I bought my own gym. I had often joined commercial gyms in the past and not gone to them. The time required to get there, work out, get home, get changed, etc. just seemed like too much. However, with a home gym, you dramatically reduce the unproductive admin time associated with working out, so you have no excuses but to do it. I now workout 3 times per week.

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    Running midweek:

    In 2012, I toured the U.S. with a colleague and he suggested running together for fun. So, I took my running kit and loved it. What better way to see the cities I visit for work than running around them at sunrise, when everyone else is asleep, the streets are empty, and the sun is just peeking over the horizon? I now run twice per week midweek, in addition to my weekend run.

    Half-marathons:

    Four years ago, I signed up to do my first half marathon in years and loved it. I wasn’t particularly happy with my time though, so I signed up to run around six half-marathons per year, in order to always have a “test” ahead of me, to prevent slacking off.

    Company health:

    When the insurance broker came to me a few years ago and said that our healthcare premiums would rise by $1,000 per person per year, even if we maintained the same level of claims as before – just due to industry cost inflation – I decided to try to fight it. I gave the HR department $300 per employee to get the organization fit and reduce the number of claims. They then set about giving out subsidized Fitbits, organizing fun health-related activities, and incentivizing health improvements that were based on twice yearly medical checks. Clearly, I needed to lead by example. We did avoid those health cost increases, and also had a lot of fun in the process.

    Fitbit:

    Clearly, this has been a major driver of fitness for many people. Since getting my first Fitbit, I have tracked my pace on every run and always strive to keep improving. Benchmarking my weekly steps vs my friends and colleagues is also highly motivating. Like other CEOs, I like to win, and certainly hate to be out of the top three in my friends’ league table (of about 80 people) so can’t have a single slack day. I now average around 120,000 steps per week – between running, walking, and working out.

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    Running tourism:

    Given my new habit of running midweek at sunrise, I started to try to find the perfect morning running route. I now scour Google Maps for every city that I travel to, looking for the best runs – based on views, architecture, history, serenity, and other factors. My current favorite is in San Francisco, taking an Uber to Sausalito just before sunrise, then running back over Golden Gate Bridge and along the Embarcadero. Awesome!

    Setting minimum standards:

    I have set myself several “bars” for acceptable running standards. These include:

    • Never running less than six miles per run.
    • Never running slower than a seven-and-a-half minute pace per mile.
    • Always overtaking at least 10 times more people than the number that overtakes me (to keep me in the top ten percent of runners).

    Calendar blocking:

    To ensure that I manage to fit exercise into my overloaded calendar, I pre-block my calendar with recurring entries – three runs and three workouts per week, at sunrise. That keeps the time free. If I need to schedule an early morning call, I move the calendar block to a different time in that day, to ensure I get my exercise.

    HelloFresh:

    Diet clearly plays a part too. I used to eat too many carb-heavy, rich meals. Then in 2015, I subscribed to HelloFresh, which now delivers three boxes of ingredients to my house every week, for me to cook awesome meals (clear instructions are provided). The service provides very healthy ingredients and sensible portions, and this has definitely led to a bit of weight loss, enabling even faster running times.

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    Tough Mudder:

    What a great invention! Running 12 miles with a bunch of friends – braving mud baths, monkey bars, razor wire, and electrocution – strikes me as a fine way to spend a Saturday morning. I have completed two this year and am planning many more.

    Featured photo credit: Kansas City Business Journal via bizjournals.com

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    Ben Legg

    CEO of Adparlor

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    Last Updated on August 7, 2020

    6 Best Fat Burning Exercises You Can Do at Home

    6 Best Fat Burning Exercises You Can Do at Home

    Gyms all over the world are re-opening, yet most people are put off by the various restrictions, risks, and the realization of not having so much time to dedicate to exercise anymore. Covid-19 has started a revolution within the fitness industry, and the new trend is all about at-home training. If you’re going to follow this trend, you’ll need to know some of the best fat burning exercises you can do at home.

    Many busy people around the world don’t want to spend hours commuting and queueing outside of gyms, but the desire for a flat stomach is stronger than ever now that the summer season has finally peaked. If you want to maximize the little time you have to exercise from your living room, check out these fat burning exercises.

    The best workouts are always going to be those that consist of moves that engage multiple large muscle groups. You can easily take a simple, conventional toning move and turn it into something more efficient that gives you the most bang for your buck.

    While it takes a lot of different kinds of training to reach well-rounded fitness (strength training, cardio, stretching, etc.), total body strength training and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) are best for burning off body fat quickly.

    Apply this concept to the exercises that make up your routines, and they become dynamic, fat-burning workouts. Here are the best examples of exercises that consume a lot of energy and don’t require any equipment.

    1. Burpees

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      No cardio compilation would be complete without burpees. They challenge every part of your body and send your heart rate soaring in no time. All this adds up to an exercise that burns about 10 calories per minute[1].

      Assuming you’re doing between 10 and 20 repetitions every minute, this is one of the best fat burning exercises out there. You can torch even more calories by upping the pace. Just make sure you don’t let your form suffer!

      2. Jumping Lunges

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      See the source image

        If you thought basic lunges were hard, you’ve never tried jump lunges before. This plyometric exercise strengthens all the same muscles, but it’ll also get your heart pounding in no time.

        To get started, simply lunge forward on your left leg as you bring your right arm forward and left arm back, elbows bent at 90-degree angles. From the lunge, jump straight into the air as you switch your arm and leg positions, then land with the opposite arm and leg in front. You’ll burn about 12 calories per minute, so you can really get a good workout in a short amount of time.

        3. Jumping Squats

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          Like with jump lunges, jump squats add a cardio element to a basic strengthening move. You’ll perform a bodyweight squat with your arms straight out in front of you, or bent with your hands behind your ears. At the bottom of the squat, jump as high as you can, land with your knees slightly bent, then immediately sink into your next squat.

          4. Push-ups

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            Push-ups are a total body exercise that are easily modified and can be made to be very challenging, even for the most avid exerciser. To make pushups easier, elevate your hands on a bench, counter-top, or against a wall.

            To make push-ups more difficult, elevate your feet. The higher the angle (with your hands on the ground), the more of your bodyweight you support. Also, you can increase the range of motion by elevating your hands on books, push up handles, or something similar.

            5. Mountain Climbers

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              Mountain climbers might win the award for most travel-friendly exercise because they require no equipment and take up hardly any space. On the flip side, they also deserve some recognition for being super challenging.

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              A 150-pound person can expect to burn around 30 calories after three sets of 40 repetitions. You can easily incorporate any of these other moves to create a full workout, or simply go for as many sets as you can.

              6. Jumping Jacks

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                That’s right. This old-school warm-up is an effective form of cardio. The primary benefit of doing jumping jacks is that it elevates your heart rate. You breathe more deeply while jumping, which delivers oxygen to your bloodstream and ultimately to your muscles.

                In addition, you will also shake your lymphatic system and burn fat at a rapid rate[2], promoting weight loss. Extra tip: Do as many jumping jacks as possible for 10 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat the same routine for 20 seconds and 30 seconds.

                What to Do With These Exercises

                Each one of the above-mentioned moves has the potential of consuming a lot of calories on its own. Pairing them or combining them can be an excellent way of creating a time-effective, fat-melting home workout. I have been coaching busy executives, moms, and dads for over a decade, and finding time-effective hotel room workouts has always been a skill of mine. In my experience with extremely busy clients all over the world, three types of routine give the best bang-for-buck results while also improving the rate of compliance (it’s useless to have the best routine if you don’t practice it).

                Let’s explore a few examples:

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                Daily Walks

                This is the home fat burning protocol baseline. It’s important to realize that no exercise routine will help you lose weight if you don’t make a point of getting your 10,000 daily steps.

                If you’re able to be out and about, aim to get 10,000 steps per day. Walking serves as a great way to clear your head, manage stress, and keep fat gain to a minimum.

                This may not sound like a big deal, but getting around 10,000 steps per day may burn as many as 500 calories[3]. Taken over the week, that’s 3500 calories, or the same number of calories in a pound of fat.

                Walk in the morning. Walk while doing meetings on the phone. Walk after meals. Walk while you listen to podcasts. Walking time doesn’t need to be dead time.

                Bonus: When you go for your walks, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and breathe through your nose. Nasal breathing has a ton of benefits including:

                • Better oxygen extraction, which can lead to more energy.
                • Maintain a balanced pH in your body.
                • Deep nasal breathing may decrease nerve activity in the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response).
                • Increase Nitric oxide, which can improve the flow of nutrients into your body, improve waste disposal, and regulate blood pressure.
                • Regulate workout intensity.
                • Mouth breathing accelerates water loss, which can accelerate dehydration.

                The Intermittent Training Protocol

                This protocol should be the base of your exercise program, and it takes virtually no time. Do this every day:

                Pick one of the above-mentioned exercises and perform it with perfect form, as fast as you can, for 30′ seconds, totally cold. If you have stiff joints or previous injuries, scale down the jumping version of the exercise with the static one (example: switch jumping squats with regular squats).

                Repeat this 2-3 times a day, every day.

                In his book, The Immunity Code, Joel Greene explains how quickly performing an exercise totally cold and at a totally random time of the day will prime your body to learn that particular movement pattern, improving strength, metabolic rate (therefore fat loss), and joint health.

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                The secret of maintaining a young body may as well be being able to sprint from zero to hero or squat as fast as you can without a second notice (as our ancestors might have been doing their whole life).

                This intermittent training protocol takes virtually no time and has an insane cumulative effect. Think about it: 30 squats, three times a day, for seven days is 30 x 3 x 7 = 630 squats that likely equal 1000 calories burned and virtually zero time consumed. A great idea is to do your chosen exercise each time you hit the toilet in order not to forget about it.

                The 20-minute Hotel Room HIIT Workout

                Here, the game gets tough. If you can cut 20 minutes, one to four times per week, you’re up for a sweaty, fat burning blast. Do this:

                Pick 4 of the above-mentioned exercises, and do them as fast as you can for 60 seconds, then rest for 2 minutes.

                Example of a lower body + core day:

                • 1′ jumping jacks, rest 10”
                • 1′ jump squats, rest 10”
                • 1′ jump lunges, rest 10”
                • 1′ jountain climbers, rest 2′
                • Repeat 3-4 times

                Example of an upper body + core day:

                • 1′ jumping jacks arms, fully extended, rest 10”
                • 1′ press-ups, rest 10”
                • 1′ burpees, rest 10”
                • 1′ mountain climbers, rest 2′
                • Repeat 3-4 times

                Final Thoughts

                Over my 10+ years of experience as a trainer coaching TV celebrities, executives, CEOs, and a ton of average people looking for a great workout, I’ve learned that the only way to help people maintain a fitness routine is to create a fitness regime that can improve people’s lives rather than consume it.

                Going to the gym is great, but it’s a time-consuming activity, and it’s rarely a necessary one if your goal is to be lean, young, healthy, and energetic. Over the past four months, I’ve been helping thousands of people to get fit from home, for free, in my private Busy Yet Fit Community by streaming my live home workouts every single day. Feel free to join and learn more about at-home routines that suit all levels of fitness.

                More on the Best Fat Burning Exercises

                Featured photo credit: Pavigym Prama via unsplash.com

                Reference

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