Exercise helps keep the brain active and releases plenty of endorphins which boost mood. The practice of pushing oneself physically has also been linked to being able to push further outside of your comfort zone in the professional world. In fact, entrepreneurs tend to perform better at work if they are physically fit.
For this piece, we talk to doctor and entrepreneur Shuhan He, for a closer look at how this particular businessman manages to work fitness into his life.
Hey! Could you tell us a little about yourself, and the work you do?
I’m Shuhan He, an emergency medicine physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I am also the founder of ConductScience.com, a company that develops and spreads scientific tools to improve the accuracy of outcomes in research and medicine. We make things like robotic stereotaxic surgery machines for animals, or knowledge transfer programs to better educate the world about science.
As you might be starting to realize, there is certainly plenty to work on when it comes to my entrepreneurial work with ConductScience. Thankfully, I’ve managed to come up with a few ways of making the process easier, leaving time for keeping fit.
So, you believe in keeping fit?
Anyone who knows me would tell you that I strongly believe in the benefits of frequent exercise. It reduces the risk of cardiac problems and generally keeps your body and mind feeling sharper. A great power to have when there’s a lot of work to get done! A recent Harvard Health Letter references a study by the University of British Columbia which implicated frequent exercise in changes to brain structure. Aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus – a region of the brain vital to working memory and learning.
Would you be able to share your workout plans with us?
I don’t feel that I have a lot of time to dedicate to planning gym sessions, so I like to follow a pretty simple plan. Posting in online communities like r/leangains on Reddit allowed me to learn about fitness plans that work for other people, and create my own.
Over the last year or so, I’ve made enough time to visit the gym about 10 times per month, which equates to about two and a half times per week. Despite my hectic lifestyle and irregular working hours, it is still very much possible to slot in two or three gym visits every week. My top tip is to do this when you are feeling the most unproductive at work, which for me might be around lunchtime.
To keep the mind from falling into a routine, I devised a couple of different workouts (day A and day B) which I alternate. They follow a reverse pyramid training scheme, which just means that I begin lifting the heaviest weights first and reduce the amount as the sets repeat. Typical exercises include deadlifts and squats.
Below, you can see my routine for day A. I follow a similar one for day B, but having slightly different alternating workouts helps keep my brain stimulated each time I go to the gym.
- 5 sets of weight pull-ups. 10-15 reps each time. Gradually decrease from 100lbs to 60lbs.
- 5 sets of bench press. 4-5 reps each time. Gradually decrease from 225lbs to 185lbs.
- 5 sets of squats. 8 reps each time. Gradually decrease from 335lbs to 255lbs.
- 5 sets of hex bar deadlifts. 8 reps each time. Gradually decrease from 315lbs to 275 lbs.
- 5 sets of overhead press. 12-16 reps each time. Gradually decrease from 155lbs to 115lbs.
- 5 sets of pendlay row. 8-12 reps each time. Gradually decrease from 225lbs to 185lbs.
That’s enough of my specific workout routine, as everybody is in a different place when it comes to how much they can manage or would like to do. However, the outline above has worked wonders for me so far – keeping things simple but allowing me to keep my desired level of body fat (8-11%).
Is there anything else you do to keep in shape?
Something I like to do to keep in shape is called ‘intermittent fasting’. This means that there are days where I reduce my calorie intake. Perhaps I will have one large, protein-filled meal to refuel before a night shift. There are plenty of stories about how intermittent fasting can help with weight-management goals.
As an entrepreneur and emergency physician, it helps not to have to worry about cooking three full meals every day! That also leaves more time to get work done, and hit the gym.
Let me be clear, I definitely don’t recommend eating less food than you need, otherwise, you definitely won’t be feeling productive at any time of day. Doctor Graham Walker writes in Emergency Medicine News about his foray into intermittent fasting, and how he eats from noon to 8 pm, and then nothing from 8 pm to noon the following day.
Key results include increased productivity and improved body image. Pretty much the dream combination for any hard-working entrepreneur looking to keep fit?
Also, I always try to eat about 150g of protein each day, whether that be through a large helping of tandoori chicken from my local Indian buffet, or some meat cooked at home. Protein is absolutely essential for health, because as well as increasing fat burn and helping me achieve my fitness goals, it reduces appetite throughout the rest of the day. That is key if you attempt intermittent fasting.
So, in your opinion, is it possible to keep fit as a busy entrepreneur?
I think it is entirely possible to stay in shape and lead a hectic, entrepreneurial life. All you have to do is commit to your fitness goals and make sure you pay the gym a visit several times per week. As I said, it is best to arrange these workouts during times of the day where you typically feel less productive. Eating the right foods, especially proteins, is also really important. Make sure you don’t sacrifice any sleep for your newfound fitness routines!
This content is brought to you by Mubashar Ali.