The harder you work, the more you achieve.

Luck coincides with effort given, and the more hours you put into your career, the better you will be at what you do.

Sounds logical, and it is, but do we ever reach a point where we take it too far?

For most of us, the answer is a resounding yes.

Do you remember how you prepared for a big test at school?

If you were like most students, the “best” method was to cram as much information as possible into your overworked brain. It didn’t matter that you would forget what you just learned a few hours later, the test was all you needed it for.

Sometimes, we can still try to force that same principle in our adult lives, but there is one major problem with this tactic; we need to retain what we learn to be able to apply it to every facet of our decisions within our working lives.

Just like a highschool student will stay up all night before a test, re-reading the same paragraph over and over, refusing to take even a 10 minute break for lost time, we as professionals make the same mistake in a different way.

We know exercise is good for us. It seems every week there is a new study coming out demonstrating the benefits of exercise on our it physical, mental, and emotional health, so why is it to hard to find the time?

Here’s why:

How can you justify giving up an hour of time that could be spent working, to do something that involves putting yourself in a state of discomfort, and requiring you to waste even more time finding your state of flow again.

As a professional runner you would expect me to be pretty good at making time for my training, and I am, but that doesn’t mean that I do not struggle with the concept of losing time. While I am out running, I am well aware my training is taking time away from completing tasks for my job, but maybe I can convince you that you will benefit in more ways than you realized, you will give it a try.

You will be surprised with the result, and your productivity will increase, even with fewer hours spent in the office.

Do you ever read an email, stop for a moment, and realize you have absolutely no idea what you just read?

You are not alone, but that is how we can end up spending most of our working days if we power on ahead with all the things we need to do, refusing to take a break, but allowing social media to be the mindless distraction we use to escape for a moment.

Although it never usually ends at a moment…

We accomplish nothing and feel guilty about wasted time.

That is exactly what exercise can do for you, but in a productive way. Exercise can be the time you process what you have been working on in the few hours before, and think about what you still have to do for the day.

You don’t have to make it into a 9 mile run every day like I would, but even a 20 minute break to walk around the block can do wonders for your mental clarity and creativity. A Stanford University study found that walking outside made significant improvements to divergent thinking, a skill critical to keeping your business relevant in today’s noisy world.

Not only do you come back from your run, walk, or exercise class with the feel good endorphins rushing around your body, but your brain has been given a boost. There is an increasing body of research concluding that exercise improves brain cognition, and as this Time Magazine article demonstrates, exercising slows brain decline.

It get’s better:

Not only does exercising help with the brain, but your memory is improved for up to four hours after exercise.

Improved memory and better brain cognition will lead to higher productivity, and accomplishing more, despite the loss of hours.

You can use the time spent exercising to problem solve an issue, or even just use the exercise itself as a metaphor for developing toughness and perseverance in life.

I don’t need to be the one to tell you that exercise is difficult and doesn’t feel good, but if you learn to commit to the challenge of getting fit, especially if it has been a while, you will develop a level of grit that will help in your working life too.

There are more parallels between the grind of working for a business and the grind of following a training schedule than meets the eye.

Once you start to take better care of your body and mind, your energy levels will increase, as will your desire to eat fueling, nutritious foods to stimulate your brain.

Those 3pm slumps will become a thing of the past.

I have convinced you that it is time to exercise, but just how do you do it?

Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs swear by exercising first thing in the morning, to begin their day with clarity and confidence.

Personally, I like to get a few hours of work in first thing in the morning; catching up on emails and responding to pressing matters. Set an alarm on your phone with a motivational message that is personal to you.

Have that alarm go off a few hours into your workday; it’s time to go outside and get those muscles moving.

Once the endorphins wear off, you will feel a little tired and hungry, but at the same time, you will feel energized, ready to face the next few hours (and the next round of emails).

If you are more of a night owl, exercising in the evening might work best for you, meaning that you can spend the day focused on the tasks to accomplish, and the exercise will act as a respite before another few hours of focus.

When it comes to the exercise itself, I cannot make any recommendations of exactly what you should do or how much. This will depend on your individual circumstances and fitness level, but there is one thing to consider; pick something that you (somewhat) enjoy, but still challenges you.

I know, I mentioned earlier that exercise, especially running is difficult and humbling. Even though you may think as an elite runner all my runs feel amazing, let me be the first to tell you, they don’t! In fact, most runs are a real struggle, but using running as a metaphor for the ups and downs of life, it is worth it.

If your job is particularly stressful, I encourage you to disconnect from technology, leave the phone at home, and use this quiet time out in nature to process your thoughts.

If you are determined to use this time productively, there plenty of business podcasts to learn from while you go, like the Science of Social Media by Buffer or the Tim Ferriss show.

You could also listen to your favorite music, using it as your “me time” that you may not get elsewhere if you have a family waiting for you at home for your return from work.

Whatever you choose to do, give it a few weeks for your body to adjust, and then see just how much better you feel in every area of life.

Entrepreneur magazine reported exercise as one of the ten traits all successful entrepreneurs posess and Richard Branson claims that exercising in the morning doubles his productivity throughout the rest of the day.

If Richard Branson can find time for exercise every morning, so can you!