I had the good fortune in my early adult life to be in the Army. One of the perks in the Army is that you are paid to work-out every day. It was part of your role description and responsibility. An unfit soldier will put himself and his platoon at risk. I therefore had the pleasure and pain both at West Point and later active duty to exercise on a regular basis. Sometimes, it was exhilarating like singing cadence at the top of your lungs while on a battalion run. Other times brutal, such as the yearly Obstacle Course administered by the Department with a Heart at West Point. All of it good, necessary and part of your job description!
This all seemed to change when I left the Army and joined
the consulting world. Early morning
calls replaced morning PT. Long hours on
planes and in front of a desk slinging code took a toll on my health. It seemed in my mind at the time that fitness
and taking care of myself was no longer part of my job description or even
opposed to it. I and companies at that
time did not yet see the impact of wellness on work. The drive for more billable hours and seemingly
higher productivity dominated. This corporate culture (or my take on it)
resulted in weight gain, lost health, and a decline in productivity over time.
Like the Army, corporations have now come to realize that being
fit is a necessary part of the job.
Indeed, wellness is almost as important to the survival and strength of
the company as it is to an Army platoon.
Here are three reasons why:
Improves Decision Making. The enemy of all good decisions is
stress. Exercise and fitness help relieve
stress and keep away fatigue. A simple 20-minute walk will provide a few
minutes to clear your mind, allowing you to focus on the problem on hand. Better yet, get up and walk around the office
when taking a phone call meeting when things get heated. The simple step of
standing up will shake off the cobwebs that tend to collect during back to back
Comradery. The best thing about the Army was the
comradery. One way it was built was through
morning PT. While I am not advocating
each company go on a company run each morning, I am recommending a common
fitness program like Accenture Active. This
program has really helped me to know my colleagues better through fitness
events (MS 150, Annual Veterans Walk, etc.) and programs (active rewards
programs, Fitbit competition). One
example was a random competition that I and some colleagues engaged in on one
Saturday. One of my friends started a
Fitbit weekend competition and although we were all in different states, we
kept apprised with the others’ progress. We all engaged in friendly and sometimes hilarious
banter through the Fitbit app as we each surpassed 10 miles.
on Sick Days. Staying fit helps to
keep you out of the doctor’s office and in yours during working hours. Research conducted at Brigham Young University, the Center for
Health Research at Healthways and the Health Enhancement Research Organization,
suggests unhealthy eating is linked with a 66% increased risk of loss of
productivity while lack of exercise
is associated with a 50% increase risk of low productivity. My experience bears
this out. Before returning to fitness, I
was habitually hit with bronchitis and, at least twice a year, pneumonia. Both resulted in sick days and loss of
productivity when I worked through it.
Since returning to my target weight in Nov. 2015, I have had neither
bronchitis or pneumonia. Not sure how many
days have been saved but approximate it as at least a week a year. And, an increase of productivity on those
days that I should have been recovering and drove through and worked despite my
These are just the top three reasons why you should consider staying fit as part of your role description as a consultant. Increased productivity, esprit de corps and better decisions are just three reasons exercise is an imperative in the working world. Let me close with a cadence I wrote for my team as we run from one project to another:
Last Thursday I had the pleasure to attend the Austin Chamber of Commerce Business Awards with some of my Accenture colleagues from the Austin office. We were finalists for two awards – the Employee Wellness and Environment award for large offices. Here is the group at our table.
Smiles abounded at the table even though we did not win. Why were the smiles so broad? I can’t speak for my friends, but I can speak for myself. I was smiling because Accenture’s wellness programs helped save my life!
This may sound like an overstatement. I promise you it is not. Before I became an active participant in Accenture’s wellness program I was on a downward trajectory. Too much stress and not taking care of myself drove up my weight and ruined my fitness.
The bottom hit at halftime at my son’s senior homecoming game. My son was nominated as Homecoming King and I and my wife were to escort him on the football field. Carrying over 300 lbs. on a hot Texas evening, my calves became so tight I could barely move. I had to momentarily move behind the bench and stretch out my legs. Luckily, just before I took the field my legs stretched out enough so that I could hobble onto the field.
My wife and son were kind but that was a close call with my health and only one of many. I had to do something. So, I explored Accenture’s wellness programs and they came to the rescue. Specifically, these five programs helped me to lose over 170 pounds, restored my health, and improved my outlook on life and ability to handle stress.
Wellness check-up – Each year our company provides for a free wellness checkup for employees and their spouses. The wellness checkup is followed up by recommendations and assistance as well as a discount on your insurance. The wellness checkup indicated that I had a health issue. I was contacted and followed up with a more complete physical (also discounted through the company) that verified the issue and provided the proper diagnosis. With the treatment prescribed, my shoe size shrunk back down two sizes. It also helped provide me with enough energy to seriously attack my weight problem.
Employee Discount Program for Weight loss program – I now had the immediate health issue under control, so I looked around for a weight loss program. I was toying around with a liquid-based diet since it worked in the short term in the past when an email appeared in my email box offering half off on Weight Watchers for a year. With that single email and discount, my life was forever changed. Those who regularly follow my blog know the impact Weight Watcher’s has had on my life; leading me to lose over 170 pounds in a year and a half. The Why’s of Weight Watchers! I still attend every week. But the first step to this life changing program was the Accenture discount email that I received on January 1, 2015 (Yes, I kept the email as a memory!).
Accenture Active – Another program that was key to my transformation was Accenture Active. I was one of three leadership journeyers during the first year of the program. In this role, I was afforded weekly sessions with the other journeyers and a fitness coach. In addition, I had the opportunity to blog on a weekly basis as a means of encouragement to me and to others. Also, the program provides a Fitbit to each employee and their spouses as well as a program called JIFF that allows you to get prizes for meeting wellness goals and tasks. With the Fitbit and the encouragement of JIFF rewards, I went from being able to walk 1000 steps a day to 10,000 steps or more daily.
Mindfulness Training – With my fitness on the right trajectory, I had to tackle the underlying problem for my health issues in the first place – my reaction to stress. Accenture again came through with a program. My boss worked with a local company to provide mindfulness training for leaders. In the class, I learned the practice of meditation and mindfulness that I use daily. I may still have some moments, but this program has really helped me in focusing on the now and not worrying unnecessarily about the future.
Truly Human Campaign – I had my head and body half way in order, so I now had to turn to my heart. Accenture has a program for that also called “Truly Human”. It provides programs and advice on how to leverage the unique talents of individuals. It provides exercises and tips on how to be kind to both yourself and your colleagues. I wrote about the importance of taking care of your heart as well as your body in this previous blog. Feed your soul, heal your body The Truly Human campaign helped reinforce my daily practice of thankfulness journaling and capturing positive events in a happiness journal.
I want to thank Accenture for my new lease on life. To end, I will close with a catchphrase from my time at Accenture Active – Life’s Attractive When Your Accenture Active!
Another week and another lesson learned on the Weight Loss journey. One thing that seriously impacts your fitness and your health is the reduction of stress. One of the things that I love to do to relieve stress and get a little exercise in to boot is to dance and Karaoke. These are two of my favorite past times and last week I got to do both of them.
Our team had an informal outing to see and hear one of the musical institutions in Austin the Spazmatics. This group plays some of the best 80’s music that I have heard. It brings me back to my college years when I danced the night away to Hammer time, Devo, the Romantics and assorted new wave music. Believe it or not, I had parachute pants at one time and could do a mean rendition of “Can’t Touch This”. At the time, I thought the music could not live up to my teen years filled with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. But it has! Anyway back to the story.
We all had a great time dancing to the music and ended the night at the Karaoke club were we had another classic, song contest. The time was a great way to get over some of the stress of the work week. And beyond that, it was a fantastic way to get exercise. I broke my record for the earliest time to get 10,000 steps done pictured below. Over 10,000 steps before 2:30 AM. This dancing extravaganza also put me over the top in meeting my goal on JIFF that I set for this 90 day journey – 1,200 points !
What are the key points for all those trying to get more active?
Exercise does not have to be drudgery on a treadmill. There are many ways to move and get your steps in!
Life is too short not to dance. Work hard but play hard also.
Last but not least – Accenture Active – “You can’t touch this” program! A few steps and before you know it you have free movies!