It's About The Bike

The Energy Project offers individuals a science-based approach to fueling sustainable personal energy. Last week I listened in on one of their free webinars hosted by Tony Schwartz, co-author of The Power of Full-Engagement. During the call, Tony shared some key principles by which we can cultivate absorbed focus in the face of incessant distractions.

My daily routine is likely quite similar to yours. I schedule back-to-back meetings and find myself checking email and returning phone calls in between. But what I try and make time for every day, is one hour of physical movement outside. Lately, I’ve been averaging 70 mile-100 miles/week on my bike and the practice has given me some of my best ideas. If I don’t do this, I am often not in the “performance zone” and operating at my best.

Cycling allows me to recharge. Although my heart-rate is high, my mind is in recovery mode. I am attentive to the road, my body, the weather – so much so, that I withdraw from the mental noise that otherwise stirs up at the office. By narrowing my focus, I am able to take in a wider view. I am open to seeing things in different ways and making new connections.

I once heard that 60% of problems are solved in a way that people can’t explain, often when our conscious minds are actively disengaged. In The User’s Guide to the Brain (2003), John Ratey explores the finding that exercise helps our thoughts organize themselves. He says that the brain uses similar circuits for organizing thoughts as it does for moving. So physical movement can certainly help us solve problems. Have you ever been stuck on a matter and had an “a-ha” moment after you gave up and went for a walk? If you are spending much of your day in the “survival” or “burnout” zone, these reactive states make you sub-optimal as a problem solver. My recommendation? Start gradually putting a few specific actions in place to increase your cardio and redirect your focus. Just a few times per week might lead to a breakthrough for you.