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  • Writer's pictureWill Foden

Why Fitness Is A Staple Non Negotiable For A Busy Executive

Working in Singapore has opened my eyes to the level of expectation placed on many individuals, fathers, mothers, and professionals looking for their next venture. But the toll on their health, bodies, and mental capacity is well known to show its ugly head, usually in the form of becoming overweight, unhealthy as well as becoming weak.

In the busy Business district the ambition for an MD or a CEO to "stop and meditate" or "take 5 mins to yourself" is non-existent. Time is money, there is business to attend to and deals to be made but one common trait that I have found working with individuals in the business sector is that the executives that make their physical health a non-negotiable are able to sustain that level of pressure without failing, breaking or having to take time away from work to get over illness or fatigue.

Meet my Client Lance Little. Currently, Lance is the MD for Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific. As you can imagine with the pandemic, Roche is in overdrive making testing kits, analyzers, and actionable equipment to fight and prevent the spread of the virus around the world. Pre COVID-19, Lance was traveling up to 40 times a year globally but due to flight restrictions, the last few months of training have been dedicated to his recovery from a brutal accident.

I have worked with Lance for a couple of years now, with the premise of "optimizing" his health and his body to be able to train hard and train smart, whilst being able keep running on all cylinders to optimize his work and health.

At the beginning of last year, we hit some personal records such as a 170kg deadlift to top the year off.

Then over the Xmas period, I received this picture: (be advised the below picture is a little graphic)

As you can imagine, I was sat in the UK, at home thinking what the hell has he done here!

After touching base with Lance we found out that he actually had ruptured his distal bicep tendon clean off the bone. This literally meant that his bicep had recoiled into where his shoulder was. Lance went on to describe how he did it hitting a block of ice and falling over snowboarding, feeling a snap and thinking "it will be ok". He then went on to carry on snowboarding down the slope thinking he could just shrug it off.

If you are squeamish skip this bit as below is an image of what actually happened:

From my side, obviously as a coach, the point is to keep my client progressing, but the reality was that this was now the main concern, getting Lance back on the wagon, keep him moving forward as well as not giving into not being able to do the same style of training as we did before. To top this injury off, the world started to feel the effects of COVID-19, meaning that Singapore hit the circuit breaker to increase the challenge of maintaining a healthy body, recovering from an injury as well as helping Lance have actionable goals to achieve.

Below is an insight into the busy life of a high-level professional and the processes around his rehab, what drives him to be successful in the gym, and how that affects his performance? I’ll then jump into his training, what we wanted to achieve, and why?

What is the highlight or what was your most valuable achievement during this current phase of training?

'Achievements change over time, but the current highlight for me is a 200kg rack pull, 8 months after surgery. In January, I tore the bicep tendon from my forearm (distal bicep tendon rupture) which required surgery followed by a physio with ongoing rehab.

As a busy MD of Roche how do you build strength and fitness into your life and why are you do diligent in doing so?

Pre COVID-19, I was traveling up to 40 times per year, and I have been doing that for the last 8 years. Spending so much time on planes, eating in restaurants and living in multiple time zones across, Asia, Europe and US has a detrimental effect on your body. I believe that investing in my physical well-being is key to balance these negative impacts of my working lifestyle, and committing 3 hours a week to train is doable.

A major element that has been working for me since my operation has been the "team" working around me. I was able to connect Will and Logan (Physio) with my surgeon so that everyone was aligned on my rehab. They shared clinical papers and built the rehab program that kept me moving forward in an aligned manner. This is unusual and having my trainer and Physio connected with the surgeon gave me the confidence that all aspects of the rehab journey were being covered.

During the circuit breaker, we worked together online how did you find that? and what were the main reasons for having PT during that time, and what progress did you see?

During the circuit breaker, it was important for me to keep working. Obviously, without the benefit of the gym it meant that we had to change the program but this gave us a chance to work on more cardio and mobility. These are areas that I tend to neglect in the past and have now become more prominent which means my overall fitness is much better.

It has taken time to build the habit of training into my working life and it was important during the circuit breaker to maintain the consistency of my training even if the workouts changed.

As a businessman what are the most important parts of your training? Why and what keeps your turning up?

I am fundamentally a competitive person and training allows me to indulge that when my travel doesn't allow for regular sports. In other words, I can compete against myself and keep pushing the limits. Strength training is the most enjoyable and therefore the important element is consistent improvement. I am happy to move into a block that develops technique, or core strength for a period of time, but overall I need to be progressing. Just turning up at the gym for a workout with no objective doesn't work for me.

What have you liked most about the coaching/program?

Will takes the time to get to know what makes me tick, and what works for me. Being in my mid-fifties means that recovery takes longer, however he is able to gauge when and how to push me to ensure that I am always progressing.

If a businessman or woman was considering personal training you need to have the mindset that you are bringing in a new element to your life, not just a period of "getting fit". This is a long and ongoing process and you should expect that before believing in quick fixes. Take your time choosing a trainer that you can connect with and who has a commitment to you as a client and who will bring their learning into your training.

Recovery from injury is ongoing but now that I am able to get some weight through my arm, I can continue to build strength.

The Coaching Process - What are the key indicators to progression when time is at the essence?

Dealing with an executive there are two key paradigms to understand:

The Physical- the physical implications for someone who is as busy as Lance is not like dealing with a normal general population client. High-stress situations, lack of sleep, lack of nutrition i.e. not eating as well as dealing with clients around the clock can take its toll on the body as well as the mind.

To be clear, I am never testing Lance's mental fortitude. This is a given, considering the level of job he has, but what we do need to know and understand is how he functions under the hood, from a nervous system standpoint all the way to how much force he can produce on a given day to get stronger over time and make sure he stays injury free.

Understanding that there is a time and place to train hard but there is also a time and place to train smart. The training was about keeping him progressing, making sure that we hit key performance indicators in the gym but also making sure that we both understood that this was a sliding scale. With Lance’s rehab it was simple enough to understand the process of recovery with his bicep tendon, allow time to do its job but still keep Lance in the game when it came to his lifting a progression. Overshooting too quickly and we could have pulled the fitting out or re-damaged the injury site.

Physical endeavors are an important journey for any individual. Being strong enough to "get your hands dirty" when needed is a critical part of being a functioning member of society. But I feel that this is even more crucial for someone who has a high stress job. Being strong, being conditioned as well as knowing when the body needs rest is the key for an executive to push forward knowing he or she is reclaiming some of the damage that a 4am phone call with the USA and a 7:30 meeting the next morning can do to the body.

Mental - Working with Lance has taught me many things. I feel that when it comes to health and fitness, I have the tools and the answers to keep anyone moving forward from a high-level executive to a sportsman. But working with Lance taught me that there were some glaring similarities to a professional athlete’s mindset:

- Resilience - This was apparent every time we trained. Lance would never give into the status quo of "I'm too busy". There was no option but to better himself as he knew that this would keep him on his game longer.

- Clarity - With our training pre and post injury, we always had a destination. There were always times where we had to go off script because he was not in the place to perform what we needed, but there were also times where we took the chance to get the best out of his training.

- Leadership- Any great leader will walk the path first to show the way. I have done this in sporting contexts, leading teams from a playing and coaching standpoint. It is clear that Lance walks the walk when it comes to his mind and his body. We both know he has the go of a 21 year old but the realism is he is a grandfather, with the aim of taking his grandkids snowboarding is a huge driver for him to be on this planet longer. Leaders lead, and they also let their actions speak louder than words.

Finally the common theme throughout.

In the world Lance lives in its common to see men and women who have let their health and fitness slide. Allowing external factors to take control and actually start to suffer and not being too morbid but cutting years off their life for something they have control over.

Lance is not only a client who I look up to as a friend and mentor but as someone who is willing to put their claim in the sand, meet challenges head-on and overcome them with no excuses just hard work, which I thrive off as a coach and as a businessman.

Training is simple, the art is taking repeated action.

If you are interested in how we could build training into your busy lifestyle for you click to contact button below and let's figure out where we can get you to.

Stay Strong

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