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Top 3 Tips for Running (and Even Winning) the Entrepreneurial Marathon

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Trying to build your business dreams while also living full out in the rest of your life is a difficult balancing act, and too often we put ourselves and our health on the bottom of the to-do list. When we do, it costs us productivity and the emotional strength and resilience to make good decisions and conquer challenges. I don’t just know this from hearing the tales of woe from my patients and being a voracious reader of business autobiographies. I know because my wife Romi and I have lived it.

We know how easy it is for entrepreneurs and parents to get overscheduled and overwhelmed trying to juggle the business side of our lives and the never-ending demands in our personal lives. We also know how often our personal health and well-being can end up at the very end of our long to-do lists.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, and if you want success, you have to move you up on your list. Building a business is a marathon (and so is life), and I know that the only way to finish strong—and even win—is if each of us takes good care of our health.

Here’s the inescapable truth: no matter what you want to accomplish in your life—growing a business, getting ahead at work, being an amazing life partner and parent, coaching your kids’ sports teams, volunteering in your community—you will always do better and enjoy it more, when you’re as healthy as possible. You can’t show up–feeling and performing your best–if you’re not taking care of yourself first.

When I’m coaching entrepreneurs, I often hear how exhausted and frazzled they are. Many feel like they’re slogging through their days with low energy and brain fog. They struggle with their sleep, have no energy and their stress levels are through the roof. They don’t love what they see in the mirror, but they don’t know how to get a handle on things. They complain of being irritable, moody and simply not bringing the best parts of themselves to everything they do.

Running the entrepreneurial marathon isn’t about the size of your business or your bank account. It’s about enjoying the journey and your life more as you build. You deserve to feel great. And it’s possible, even while playing full out in the demanding sport of entrepreneurship.

Yes, it takes some changes, but you don’t have to turn your life upside down to do it or feel like you’re taking on another full-time job. All I ask is that you follow my top three health tips, and you’ll quickly notice how much better you feel. And I’m warning you, you also might experience the added side effect of enjoying your life more too.

1. Get Your Zzzz’s

Research has shown—and anybody who hasn’t slept well can tell you–that when you aren’t getting enough sleep, you’re dragging through your day. It makes it hard to recall information and can cause depression. It decreases cognitive performance, making it hard to recall information and make decisions. It can also make you irritable and less lovely to work with. Plus, when you’re physically tired, it makes an otherwise doable schedule seem impossible.

When we’re sleep deprived, we’re also more likely to grab unhealthy snacks like chips and baked goods in a misguided attempt to boost our serotonin levels that a good night of zzzz’s would have replenished. Chronic sleep deprivation also increases our risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

Getting the sleep you need is about adopting good sleep hygiene. This simply means creating the best environment for sleep.

First, commit to consistently getting eight hours of sleep a night. If your body needs less to function optimally, over time you’ll naturally wake up before your alarm as your body tells you your perfect amount. I can hear you lamenting, “I can’t get more sleep, I have too much to do!” But I’ve learned from working with thousands of people on their sleep habits that you’ll actually get more done during the day if you get more sleep. And stay plugged into what my wife is putting out there. She’s not only helped herself but tens of thousands of others figure out what to cut out of your life to make more room for the things that are really important to you.

Second, stop using technology at least an hour before bed. Research published by the National Academy of Sciences showed that reading on your phone or tablet can prevent you from falling asleep. The study showed that people who used technology before bed needed at least an extra 10 minutes to nod off. But that’s not the worst of it. The next morning they were sleepier and it took them hours longer to fully wake up and attain the same level of alertness, compared to people who read good old fashioned print books before bed.

Too many of us are on our screens up until the last minute we turn off the light. Is that worth taking hours longer to feel alert and awake in the morning? I encourage you to get off off your phone an hour before bed. If you want to learn more about the importance of balancing your use of technology, read my blog on Three Ways Smartphones are Ruining Your Sleep and Relationships.

Third, go to bed at about the same time every night. Fitbit did a study of six-billion data points generated by its customers, the largest data analysis in the history of sleep science. They discovered that going to bed at the same time every night is the biggest predictor of good sleep. Turning in at inconsistent times during the week induces “social jetlag.” It’s as if you’ve traveled to a different time zone and you’ve got real jetlag– making it harder to sleep.

I’ve had patients and coaching clients argue that staying up to work after the kids go to bed is the most productive or the only quiet time during the day they feel like they have for themselves. Either way, making sleep a priority and going to bed at about the same time every night sets your internal body clock and establishes a rhythm that your body needs.

Commit to these simple tweaks for a month and see what a difference it makes.

I fully appreciate that sometimes people need a little extra help getting a great night’s sleep, even if they’re practicing great sleep hygiene. I was one of them. If you have a dietary supplement that helps you, be diligent about taking it. If you don’t, try Sleep Relief, a product I formulated specifically for busy people who want a great night’s sleep, but don’t want to wake up feeling groggy and hungover. Sleep Relief’s biphasic, time-release delivery system is a breakthrough in sleep technology that delvers its proprietary formula throughout the night to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake refreshed. And of course, if you’re having other issues with sleep that you think might point to underlying health or emotional issues, go see your health care or mental health provider to discuss your concerns.

2. Fuel Your Body

Another essential daily practice is fueling your body with healthy nutrition. Food provides the raw materials for our body and brains to function. This isn’t complicated, and the research is crystal clear–a whole foods diet is the way to go.

People often ask me what I regularly put in my mouth and how my family eats. In my clinical practice and lecturing, I’ve helped thousands of people learn my simple system for revamping their eating to a dietary pattern that promotes health. With every bite of food, you’re either promoting health or you’re feeding disease.

More than 60 years of research have shown unambiguously that the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, death from cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer disease and all-cause mortality. This dietary pattern is essentially the opposite of the toxic and disease-creating Standard American Diet.

This way of eating isn’t a fad diet. It’s a lifestyle—for your whole life. It’s about feeding your body nutritious, wholesome food so you and your family can feel and look your best. When you’re eating healthy, you don’t need to diet and you don’t need to count calories. When you give your body the nutritious food it needs to thrive, you have more energy, vitality and your body can cope with all kinds of stress better.

The way my family eats and what I coach others to eat is a whole foods diet with the majority coming from fruits and vegetables, whole grains (not the refined stuff overtaking people’s pantries) and legumes, nuts and seeds. Small amounts of animals such as sustainable, low-mercury fish, grass-fed and finished beef, and organic eggs and dairy products.  At its core, it simply focuses on plants and protein. We avoid refined sugar, trans fats and heavily processed foods. We eat a rainbow a day, the kids included. And when we don’t, we all feel it, the kids included. And yes, Romi and I drink celery juice every day and have been since before it became wildly popular all over social media. Here’s a short video I did if you want to know why.

I challenge you to commit to making these changes over the next 30 days and have fun with it. It may seem daunting or cruel deprivation at first, but I promise that you’ll start craving the things that are actually good for you and hate how you feel when you try fueling yourself with the bad stuff.

3. Move to Improve

Our bodies were built to move. Movement increases oxygen delivery and nutrients to your brain so you can think more clearly, be more alert and present in your life. It improves your mood by releasing mood-elevating hormones. It’s an amazing stress-buster. As Romi has said, “Exercise is my Prozac.”

Trust me, you’ll feel better and perform better if you move your booty and the rest of your bod. And it’s undeniable that exercise reduces diseases like osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia. If all that weren’t enough to get you moving more, when you’re healthier and stronger, sex is better, too.

But you may be thinking, “who the heck has time for exercise when we’re juggling so much?” You do. Sure, you can go to a gym every day if that’s your jam, but you don’t have do. There are simple exercises and routines you can work into your day that will have exponential benefits and impact.

  1. Take a stand. If you’re sitting, stand up. Working standing up can burn more calories and strengthen your leg and core muscles. And if there’s anything you can do while walking around–do it. I always walk around on business calls unless I have to be looking closely at a document.
  2. Use your workspace as a gym. I started doing this routine on those days when my patient load was crazy busy, and I knew I wouldn’t have time for a workout before I had to put on my dad hat. Grab the arms of your chair or put the palms of your hand on the edge of the seat and do some triceps dips. (If your chair is on rollers, obviously lock those babies down.) Then drop to the floor to do some pushups, flip over and plank for 30 to 60 seconds. Finally, do a set of squats by placing your feet shoulder width apart and squat way down (like you’re going to the bathroom), then stand back up. Viola! Instant workout. Add more reps and time to your plank with every passing week.
  3. Make stairs one of your BFFs. If you’ve got stairs, you can work your legs and get in some good cardio by briskly walking up and down the stairs ten times instead of a coffee and pastry break. And take stairs every possible chance in your life to extend your life.

When we break up our exercise into bite-size pieces, it makes it easier to do. No need to get in the car and drive somewhere to sweat. No need to stop working for long stretches of time to work out. All of these short exercises increase your circulation and send more nutrient-rich blood to your brain, making you more alert and engaged.

If you have a larger chunk of time you want to dedicate to exercise, say 20 minutes, there are some great ways to use that time. Take a brisk walk. Add some stair climbing to your walk for an even more challenging workout. Twenty minutes of yoga can work your brain and body at the same time. New to yoga? No problem. Check out the myriad of apps or browse Amazon Prime, where there are on-demand yoga classes for any level and style. Research shows that you don’t have to do all 20 minutes at once to get the health benefits. You could even break it out into two 10-minute blocks if that fits better into your schedule.

Again, commit to 30 days of incorporating more movement into your life, and take note of the difference. Plus, research from the Journal of Sleep Research shows that moving more throughout the day leads to better sleep, so you can see how this all works together.

Make this the year you take simple steps to make you a priority to see greater gains in all parts of your life!

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