Prioritise exercise and you’ll become a better professional (but a six-pack is not the goal)

“Work out? Actually do some exercise? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. I’ve got clients hunting me down with pitchforks, a ton of new business to win, a blog to write, tweets to tweet, my child’s birthday present to buy, and if I’m late home from work again, my other half will take a sledgehammer to my fingers. I can barely find time to stuff a bacon sarnie into my mouth while replying to the 47 emails I received before lunch. So no. Uh uh. Can’t do any exercise.”

This is a fairly common response from professionals when faced with the nagging “exercise question”. And of course there’s an element of truth behind it. Almost everyone with a successful job feels hellishly busy. That’s life in 2016. But consider these stark facts too: you are getting older, you have a sedentary job, you are under daily stress, and you have just one body. If you don’t prioritise your bod, chances are it will start to get rather angry with you. Also, and sorry if this is irritating, if prime ministers and FTSE 100 CEOs can find the time to work out, why can’t you? So, tricky as the work-life-exercise balance is to achieve, can you really afford to sit behind your screen and say “nope, sorry, time really won’t allow it”?

We know how hard it is, we really do, so we spoke to one of the country’s most highly regarded personal trainers (and entrepreneurs) Matt Roberts – PT to countless celebrities and super successful business people – to get some tips and inspiration.


The most important thing in your life is your body. Without it, you’re in trouble!

So your body should always come first, but we know that it can’t be your maximum priority at all times. We know that life sometimes gets in the way. So when you are in those busy spells and there’s nothing you can do about it (after all your job is your job and it pays for you to visit the gym or have a personal trainer,) what you need to do is find ways to work with that: come up with smaller work outs, shorter hits and more stretching. You must adapt. You must take the long-term view and look at all 52 weeks of the year rather than focusing on a daily or weekly target, and becoming completely focussed on that.

But you do still have to prioritise exercise to a pretty strong degree. Most of my clients who have super-powerful positions – heads of FTSE 100 companies or people who run the country – still fit it in. That’s because it’s important you stay compos mentis in your job and exercise helps with that too. Some days you might not be able to fit it in, but when that happens you should try to find a little time for exercise the next day or the day after.

The key things with the body are maintaining good circulation and retaining muscle elasticity. If you’re time poor but not overly stressed you can do a really good session in 15 minutes. However, if you are stressed and your heart is already racing, then you shouldn’t be going to the gym and pushing it really hard with heavy weights. Doing that will damage you. You’ll overload the heart and break down cells. Maybe stretching or something a little more gentle might just be the thing you need. It’s all about finding the right approach for you.

Motivation is absolutely key to achieving any health and lifestyle goals. There are long-term goals and short-term goals and you have to know what these personal goals are for you. For some, it’s three months; for others it’s ten years. Personally, when I was 30 I said I wanted to be in the same shape at 40 as I am now. When I got there, I said I wanted to be in the same shape at 50. So I take a very long-term view.

For most of us it’s about keeping on an even keel over a long period of time. Exercise can make you feel better quite quickly. In six to eight weeks it can impact on the way you look and feel. And in one year it can completely change your body shape, if that’s what’s right for you.

Staying motivated is about checking in with yourself regularly. How do you feel now and how do you want to feel? Picture that, visualise it, put data onto it if necessary. Motivation is about identifying your personal aims and finding the right buttons to press.

But, if you can find that motivation, the rewards are endless. When you do the right sort of exercise, it provides clarity of thought, reduces stress, improves general health, boosts energy and gives a sense of wellbeing. Studies have proved that doing regular exercise makes you more productive at work, even if it takes some precious time out of your day.

But you’ve got to do what’s right for you. There’s a big narcissistic trend right now – which has increased the drive for many to get six-packs, become ‘shredded’ and focus solely on their ability to lose weight fast. Lots of gyms are jumping on that bandwagon and are selling the concept of ‘body transformation’ to this selfie generation. That’s fine. But the problem is that six-packs are completely unrealistic for most people; especially if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s or older and you’re busy at work. So rather than thinking about getting ‘ripped’, it’s much more important to see exercise as a route to good health. It’s a critical part of how you maintain yourself in the long term. It’s not about trying to get lean and shredded, it’s about making sure that you’re as healthy as you can be and that your system works well.

So if you currently shrug off exercise as you don’t want a six-pack, think about how your body feels instead. Does your achilles hurt? Do you ache in the morning? Do you always feel tired? If the answer to any of these is yes, then exercise can help. Start with mobility work and a bit of resistance training and get into the habit of doing exercise. Create a programme of really good performance nutrition alongside sensible, progressive cardio and progressive resistance. You’ll need to regulate this at times and not give yourself a hard time when things are a bit too much. Also, don’t beat yourself up when work gets in the way, but do focus on building up good habits over the long term.

Often the most difficult thing is starting. But if you understand your motivations and set yourself achievable goals, then exercise can help to transform how you feel. Stay realistic. Don’t give up when you have a busy period at work. Be aware of it and get back into it as soon as you can. Not only will you feel better but your productivity at work might just improve too…



So next time that nagging thought – “I really should do some exercise” – pops into your head, instead of shutting it down with the usual “haven’t got time” and grabbing another coffee, consider what Matt Roberts says. First – and don’t mention this to the boss – your body, not your work, really has to be your first priority most of the time. Second, by exercising regularly you’ll have more energy to focus on your work. Third, you’ll feel loads better. Finally, remember it’s not all about getting a six-pack and living on fish and broccoli, but simply about taking good care of yourself. Acting on that nagging thought could be one of the best decisions you ever make…after all, it could save your life.