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spike bullet April 2004 - Healthy Workplaces

Workplace Fitness: A gym full of useful advice for continual learning
Resources (links, books, articles, humor)

color bulletWorkplace Fitness 

A gym full of useful advice for continual learning

by: Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE

"Where do you get all your energy?"  Thatís a question many of us are asked as we finish leading an intense management retreat, conducting a training session or keynoting a major conference.  My answer is "Exercise."

Iíve realized that some of the lessons learned in a physical fitness program are appropriate for our personal and professional growth and have also have application in the training room.

Cross train

Itís essential for continual improvement.  We all get into our ruts, doing the same routines over and over again and wondering why we donít see any improvement.  The body (as well as the mind) slips into neutral.

Cross-training challenges different parts of our physical structure.  We have to learn a new way of holding weights, of balancing, of breathing.  We gain a new appreciation for a different skill set.  The parallels in organizational behavior are immediate.


The body demands water when it is being physically taxed.  So too does the brain.

Notice I didnít say "coffee."  Just plain old clear water.

Water might not be our favorite beverage but hydration actually helps our endurance.  No wonder we want pitchers of water in our training rooms!

Push beyond your barriers

man and woman stretchingThere are two kinds of barriers; those imposed by others and those  imposed by ourselves.  The latter are the most restrictive.

I finally took a spinning class.  This class uses a stationery bike that can be adjusted to tighten or loosen the gears.  I can literally feel like I am pedaling up Mt. Everest or cruising along the beach sand.

Itís the hardest class I have ever taken.  I love and hate it.  And I go because it makes me push against what my mind says "you canít do."  Now, Iím NOT going to challenge Lance Armstrong.

My body DOES know its limits.  But I AM doing that which I said I could not.  Itís a thrill!

End performance anxiety

Walk into a gym and you see the jocks who grunt and lift huge weights, vying with their buddies for the most reps.

Go to a class and youíll see the double-stepping, dance-twirling footwork of some double-jointed exerciser.  If you try that move, youíll twist your knee and land in surgery.

We are not built alike.  While pushing beyond barriers, also know that each one of us has specific abilities.

To demand that I hop and dance like the knee-torquing guy in the front row is ludicrous.  I am here to improve my body ó not resemble theirs!

Action speaks louder than words

At my gym, there are members who spend most of their time swapping war stories and giving updates on current sport matches.  Instead of working out, they talk.

And then, theyíll ALSO talk about how hard they worked out.  I call that cheating.

Stick to the task at hand.  Action ALWAYS is louder than words

Get a trainer

We canít see our postures with free weights.  We donít know what different exercise might improve a specific problem area.  And we donít always stick to a regimen unless weíre accountable to someone besides ourselves.

Call it a coach, an advisor, a mentor ó whatever.  All of us can benefit from the advice and new eyes of someone outside of ourselves.

Celebrate your success

I admit: I despised exercise when I started.  But I KNEW that I had to begin.

I set a goal of 3 exercise times per week ó 30 minutes to start.  Every time I exercised, I put a sticker in my appointment book.  Yes ó a fun sticker: animal, cartoon face, flower, you name it.

Amazing but my appointment book began to blossom with crazy kid stickers.  I could literally see progress every week.

When beginning any new behavior, we all know that rewards are important.  Stickers are cheap and visual.  Whatever the reward, itís the consistency of the giving that matters.

Workplace workouts ó in the context of learning ó can promise growth, stamina, productivity AND ultimately profitable performance.

About the Author

Eileen McDargh, CSP,CPAE is head of McDargh Communications, a training and consulting practice founded in 1980. Sheís also an award-winning author, radio commentator and on the Board of the National Speakers Assoc. Her website is 

Copyright 2004, Eileen McDargh.  All rights reserved in all media.  Used with permission of the author.  Thanks, Eileen!

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book graphic  Books  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon. 

  • Health Promotion in the Workplace (3rd ed), Michael P. OíDonnell  (editor & president, American Journal of Health Promotion).  Delmar Publishers 2002 ISBN 0766828662 
  • How to Design Workplace Health Promotion Programs, Michael P. OíDonnell, Ph.D.  2000  American Journal of Health Promotion 
  • How to Evaluate Workplace Health Promotion Programs, Ron Z. Goetzel, Ph.D., et al  2000  American Journal of Health Promotion  
  • Promoting Employee Health: A guide for Worksite Wellness (2nd Ed), Rebecca Cogwell Anderson, Ph.D.  American Society of Safety Engineers; 2nd edition March 1999.  ISBN 1885581254
  • Workplace health, Employee Fitness and Exercise, Kerr, Griffiths & Cox, Ed.  (1996)    Taylor & Francis.  ISBN: 0748401423 
  • Wellness at work: Building resilience to job stress, Valerie O'Hara.  New Harbinger Publications 1995.  ASIN: 157224030X  
  • How employers are saving through wellness and fitness programs  (2nd ed)  Editor, Beth-Ann Kerber.  American Business Publishing 1994.  ISBN: 1882364325

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About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.  We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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