HIIT it

One of the hardest thing about traveling as much as I do for work is staying in shape. Between long work days, plane flights, and business dinners, it is all too easy to let health and fitness fall by the wayside. When I am home, I try to get in at least one hour of targeted physical activity a day. On the weekdays I aim for this to be a weight training session/cardio at the gym, a session on my TRX if I can't make make it to the gym, and on the weekends I try for hiking or trail running so I can be outdoors and bring my son and my boxer along. Of course, this is a goal, and as most people (and parents) know, things are always subject to change. Like when I am on the road. Often times my schedule while traveling, training, or working with partners is dictated by someone other than myself. Which is fine, I am a big believer in trying to be flexible (something my 3 year old has helped instill in me). Even more than being flexible though, I am always willing to make the time to get in a workout even if the hour might be less than ideal. However, what is more challenging than trying to find the time to workout while traveling is being a weight lifting junkie, only to show up at a hotel that has nothing even remotely close to a gym. In fact, as most road veterans who like to keep fit can attest to, more often than not, hotel "gyms" are more likely to be a former janitor's closet with a set of weights and a sad treadmill facing a wall. During my time in industry, I have realized that hotels with great gyms are somewhat of a holy grail, and I can often be found bonding with other road warriors over where I can find the best hotel/gym combo in town.

Trying to make do with a crappy gym initially proved to be a huge challenge for me, and it often would deter me from working out entirely or doing much more than cardio. However, last spring I purchased a TRX (I will write a whole post about this magical piece of equipment some day) and fell in love with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which completely changed my on the road workout experience. The principle behind HIIT is pretty simple. The concept is about taking any type of exercise and repeating it in alternating intervals of high intensity followed by moderate intensity. The concept can be applied to anything from running, to squatting, to weight training, and is touted by fitness freaks as being one of the most effective ways to burn fat and tone muscle at the same time.

The best thing about HIIT though is that you can do it anywhere with little to no materials, making it the perfect type of workout for a less than impressive hotel gym. Here is what I used this past week in Tucson:

With practically no equipment at all (and these are items I have always found in even the lamest of gyms) and my trusty IntervalTimer app, I was able to come up with 5 days of grueling one hour HIIT sessions. When you are doing a HIIT routine, every day is different, making coming into the gym an exciting challenge to come up with a set of exercises that can be work a certain muscle group, or work at overall endurance. I like to switch my workouts by muscle groups. This past week I alternated between two workouts. My lower body workout full of sprints, 3 types of weighted squats, deadlifts, lunges, and leg raises, and my upper body workout involving curls, chest presses, planks, pushups, and other bicep and tricep moves.

becoming the master of working out in a crappy hotel gym

The best thing about High Intensity Interval Training is that it keeps you on your toes. Agility is so important in both the physical and the mental realms of our lives, and I think there is so many aspects about HIIT that can apply to improving the agility of our bodies and our brains. Brain training has become a bit of a hot topic of late, and from the wonders of daily Sudoku to more dedicated apps and sites like Lumosity (who tout themselves as "personal trainers for your brain"), more and more people are espousing the importance of keeping yourself mentally agile and fit by rapid brain exercises. The key to mental agility is all about keeping things fresh, and research has shown that brain training can have lasting benefits when it comes to memory, quicker reaction time, better listening skills, and faster thinking (just to name a few, read more here).

But it's not just our brains and bodies we need to keep fit. What about our businesses? How often do you check in and do something about the overall health of your business? Well, believe it or not, agility applies in the boardroom as well. There are even consulting firms nowadays that specialize in helping leaders, businesses, and other organizations in becoming their most agile selves. When you think about it, this concept makes tons of sense. If there is one thing anyone in business knows to be true, it is that everything is subject to change, and the best way for you to stay afloat and succeed is to be ready to think on your feet.

There are many concepts that can be of benefit when it comes to building and maintaining agility in the marketplace. My all time favorite is a skill that many of us pay little attention to because it was something we learned all the way back in elementary school. That of course is brainstorming. Brainstorming is something all of us know how to do, but often set aside time in our work or personal lives. I'm all for bringing back brainstorming. Some of the greatest inventions of all time, and arguably the majority of technology in recent years has all arisen from people sitting down and thinking that there must be a better way, and then throwing out ideas to figure out what that might look like. Innovation can only arise when there is a place where creativity and flexibility can thrive, and brainstorming is by far the simplest way to make this sort of environment possible.

But becoming fit and agile is about so much more than just great ideas, particularly when it comes to business. I am a huge proponent of goals and milestones, and setting out ways for you to evaluate your progress and assess your weaknesses. These are all elements I emphasize in my personal life, and I think they are also of the utmost of importance when it comes to business. The SWOT, which I learned about at last year's QB Connect from guest speaker Magic Johnson, is a great tool to assess the overall health of your business. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and is viewed a set of criteria that you can use to evaluate yourself, your business, or any projects you might be involved in. The process (click link to learn more) is incredibly straight forward, and can be a valuable tool that you can regularly utilize to assess yourself and your business, and maintain the agility necessary to stay ahead of the curve.

The last of my favorite tools for training yourself to become more agile in business is something that I was introduced to last week while on-boarding at Intuit. This is the idea of rapid experimentation. Intuit makes rapid experimentation a huge part of their business, and it is something that every business should look into if it makes sense with your structure and industry. The thought process behind it is simple: How many hours have been lost by businesses perfecting products in a vacuum like environment only to have them fail to be be enjoyed or adopted by their consumers? Far too many. When it comes to rapid experimentation, the idea is the star of the show. Yes, a prototype may often be necessary, but it can be crude and imperfect. The real goal is to get the idea out there to potential customers and clients as quick as possible so that you can test to see if it is solid, and rapidly gather feedback to create an end product that delights and succeeds in the market.

There are so many other ways you can work to keep your mind, your brain, and your business agile, and these are a few of my favorite. We all know that change is the only constant in our lives, and it is important to seek out everything we can to keep ourselves mentally and physically nimble. So what else do you try? What has strengthened your body or business in the past year? I'd love to hear other great ideas so that we can all be ready for whatever 2015 holds.