In the latest episode of the Building in Public Podcast I interviewed Brandon Epstein. Brandon is an expert in fitness for entrepreneurs. He runs the company entrepreneurfitness.com and has a podcast called Entrepreneur Fitness.
I think fitness is critically important for entrepreneurs, yet it’s commonly overlooked. I think it’s a major contributor to overall productivity. I also think the needs of the entrepreneurs are a little bit different from the needs of the average person. A lot of the stuff you see out there is more geared towards people who are at a 9-5 or have different kind of work/life balance. So I really enjoyed getting advice from Brandon because he specializes in the needs of entrepreneurs specifically.
Brandon shared a lot of great lifehacks to get more energy and increase productivity. You can read the highlights of the interview below or listen to the podcast in it’s entirety here.
Entrepreneurship as Sport
Mike: What is different about the needs of entrepreneurs as compared to people in a 9-5? What do they need to do differenty?
Brandon: What I’ve noticed, through my own experiences working with clients and interviewing a lot of experts is that entrepreneurs are much like athletes. Our number one resource; what we need more than anything else is, energy. If we don’t have energy then our business goes nowhere. And that’s why really much more than the regular person who maybe needs to get their workout 20mins workout a few times a week, entrepreneurs need to be training themselves mentally, physically and emotionally.
It requires a much more holistic approach to health. We can’t really get away with just doing that normal, doctor recommended 20mins workout 3 times a week because we need to get ourselves in peak state all the time. If we want to constantly be in getting those aha moments, and be in our most resourceful states, that’s not gonna happen on accident. We need to make habits of things like exercise on a daily basis. We need to get in proper routines everyday, to get us into these peak level states; what I call flow states. We need to do things like meditation to make sure that we’re resting our mind properly and were able to get into resourceful state. So it’s a much more holistic look at fitness than what the average person who maybe just working a regular job would need.
Mike: Yeah, that’s awesome. I can definitely relate to a lot of what you said. Like, I feel like startups and entrepreneurship is really a sport. It’s like mentally and physically draining. I kinda got into nutrition and fitness maybe a few years ago. You know, I’m still not expert at it or anything like that. But it’s just had a profound effect on my productivity.
The Ideal Fitness Routine for Entrepreneurs
Mike: What would you recommend as kind of a general fitness routine? I know this is a very complex topic…So maybe like your 80-20 advice on what a workout routine might look like for an entrepreneur?
Brandon: Yeah, so if you’re an entrepreneur you need to move everyday. And you need to get your physiology involved no matter what you’re doing. I don’t care if you do have to be at the office or your grinding for 18hrs a day. You need to be getting up every hour and moving. And so maybe that’s just getting up and doing some push ups; maybe it’s doing some jumping jacks. Maybe it’s dancing for 30 seconds. You need to do something to get your physiology involved. And so that is where it starts and then as far as getting into a normal routine,I really do recommend trying to get at least a few days of muscular workouts. Anaerobic work outs where you’re training your muscles because as far as longevity goes; all the research has shown us that every system in our body, our nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, our everythin; our endocrine system; follows our muscular system. So if we’re not training our muscular system at least a few times a week, the rest of the systems go “ok, ok well I guess we can fall off a little bit too”. And we think about how this affects our hormones; our endocrine system. If our endocrine system starts to fall off, we have increased levels of cortisol; we’re gonna be more stressed out easier. That’s why exercise is so important for making sure that you’re able to manage stress. So I recommend doing atleast a few days of strength training — anaerobic exercise.
Also try to get a few days of aerobic exercise. You can do something as small as 4 minutes a day. Maybe before you get in the shower in the morning.u do a little aerobic workout. 20 air squats, 10 seconds rest, 20 jumping jacks, 10 seconds rest. And you do something like this for 4 mins. It’s very simple but you wanna get some kind of aerobic exercise going.
As entrepreneurs we need a release right? A lot of people may smoke weed when they get home; maybe they have a few beers when they need to let out some steam. But I think a huge thing that we could be doing otherwise is just go for a workout, go for a run, lift some weights, go play a sport with your friends. Just do something to get your physiology involved. We want to constantly keep ourselves in peak emotional and mental state and were only gonna have that clarity if we’re constantly training our physiological body through exercise.
Mike: I know a lot of entrepreneurs out there are probably not looking to get 6 pack abs; or get bodybuilder bodies. But they’re looking to be healthier; be happier, be more productive, etc.. Again there are a couple of things I can definitely relate to, one is your idea of getting continual exercise. I try to make a point of at least once per day, in addition to my normal workout, to just to go for a walk. Just go outside for a walk for about 15 mins. I will try to do that more; probably 2-3 times a day.
Brandon: I love the idea of splitting up your work day, almost like as if you’re doing high intensity interval training. So you have these spurts of work. Maybe you bring it down to doing pomodoro style where 25 minutes you’re grinding on one task; very focused, you’re present, focused on what you’re doing. And then you get up for 5 mins. You go for a walk. You check your cellphone; you disengage a little bit. And then you get right back on the next interval, 25 minutes; lock in and get yourself going then. I think when you do this kind of thing it really allows you to train yourself in a way that you’re getting much more focus energy. And every time you go back to your work; you have clarity; you know what you’re gonna do; you know why you’re doing it; and you have some blood flushing through your entire body from whatever movement you just did.
Mike: Yeah; I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs who just rave about that pomodoro technique. I just wanna highlight one of the things you said. it’s about how working out can just give you that boost of energy and especially compared to doing something that’s a whole lot less healthy like drinking or smoking. I know in the past for me; earlier this year actually I kinda burned myself out. I was working a ton. And I was too tired to even work out but I realized I was tired because I wasn’t working out. So I had to cut that negative feedback loop of going out or working more instead of working out.
Mike: So given, entrepreneurs can have a really busy schedule; what is your take on the best time of the day to work out? I’ve been working out in the morning; do you think that’s a good time or do you recommend another time?
Brandon: It really depends on the kind of person you are — what works best for you. What we want to do is create habits that we’re going to be able to sustain for long periods of time. So maybe you need to be the kind of person that implements a workout into your morning routine, that’s how you stick to the habit. But maybe you’re the kind of person who says “well I know this is a priority for me and I’m going to get it in at some point no matter what” and if you’re that kind of person then maybe your habit is you just get it in when you feel like it. Usually I notice that people that I work with; It’s better if you schedule it in specially when you’re trying to create the habit initially. So mornings are great time. It really depends what you’re trying to do. The priority is energy and so that’s why morning is a great time to do it because you’re gonna get tons of endorphins pumping through your body. And so I think that’s a big thing for entrepreneurs; getting themselves energized, and morning workouts are great way to do that. If you wanna skip on your cup of coffee and then start a workout instead; it works.
Mike: I love that idea of optimizing for energy and for creating the habit. So I’m glad to hear I’m doing ok with my morning workout. It’s working for me. It’s helping me stay in the habit. Maybe I don’t have the most amount of energy during the morning workout but again my goal is not to lift a million pounds it’s just to keep myself fit and keep that energy going.
The Truth About Sleep
Mike: I want to go onto a related topic which is sleep. I know the common wisdom everywhere is that you gotta sleep eight hours a night.But it’s tempting to want to less sleep less than eight hours a night so you can either work more or have more fun. It just seems like it’s a lot to spend a third of your life sleeping. So are there ways to reduce the amount of sleep we need? Or would you definitely recommend sticking to eight hours a night?
Brandon: I research a lot of experts who specialize and spent their whole lives researching sleep. The scariest thing about sleep is that sleep deprivation is one of the most harmful things we can do to our bodies, especially as entrepreneurs. I’m not saying that you need to sleep eight, nine or ten hours a night; I’m not saying you need to sleep 4-5-6 but there is a certain amount of sleep that every person needs to be able to function optimally. You need to find out what that is for yourself personally. Some people only need 5hrs a night; some people do need 8hrs a night and so what I like to do with everything and what I do with clients is to have them test it. The best thing you can do is test these things. So first off; maybe go a week sleeping 6hrs. a week 7. A week 8. A week 9. Track your energy level, your perceived happiness, etc..
If you do want to be able to substitute an hour of sleep out in exchange for getting some more productivity one thing you can do is engage in outer brain wave meditation. If you engage in 20 minutes of outer brain wave meditation it’s equivalent to an hour of sleep. So what you can do is minus an hour from your sleep during the day and then halfway through the day I recommend meditating no matter what.
There’s a lot of schools of thought about when you should be sleeping; different ways to optimize your sleep; doing things like having black out curtains are very helpful. Doing little things like not eating past 7” o clock or so it’s helpful for getting better sleep. Doing things like keeping your house cool; keeping it under 70 degrees; that’s also very helpful for sleeping better. Not touching technology for your last two hours before getting to sleep. All these things are very very beneficial. It just depends on how far do you wanna take it.
Mike: I love that idea of testing. I’ve definitely found stuff that is common wisdom that doesn’t necessarily work for me and other stuff does. IT just takes some testing to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The Ultimate Morning Routine
Mike: are there other things you’d recommend doing in the morning to kick start that day? certain habits that you have that you recommend for entrepreneurs to be productive?
Brandon: theres a lot of stuff — and a big thing is understanding what works the best for you as an individual and, again, testing. So there’s a lot of things that work well for some people; while some people aren’t as in to it.
One thing I think is extremely important is practicing gratitude every morning. Apart from just writing down a few things you’re grateful for — actually saying them out loud with emotion; really experiencing how grateful you are for whatever it is. It just puts you in a peak state. The whole goal of the morning routine is to put you in a flow state versus a survival state. So many people wake up and they check their phone immediately and go “oh shit, I got some emails coming, I got texts, I got some things to do. I gotta go; I gotta go; I gotta go.” Automatically you’re in survival state. And that’s the one thing we wanna avoid. First thing in the morning; we wanna make sure we get ourselves into a flow state for functioning optimally.
Something I always recommend to people is put your phone on airplane mode when you go to sleep. Put it in airplane mode and just allocate 30 minutes for yourself in the morning. You wake up; you take ten deep lower belly breaths; really breathe; you get presence. You hydrate; consume a lot of water 20-32 oz — that will energize you. Before you can reach for that coffee; breathe, get hydrated start to go through some gratitude and then do some simple visualization. See how your day would look like if it was perfect. If you had a perfect day what would happen; how would everything go. And see it in details. Spend 5 minutes doing that.
Those are a few very simple things. They’re gonna put you into good states. And if you want something; in addition on top of that; I would say do some affirmations out loud. Say them with energy — yell it! You wake up the neighbors.
I think all these things get you into this growth state; where you’re ready to expand and grow. And when you do turn your phone on you’re ready to deal with anything. The world could throw anything they want at you. And you’re ready to roll baby; you’re ready to go. And that’s where we want be. We don’t want to be reactive; we want be proactive. We want to control all these stimuluses that are gonna be coming at us.
Mike: Yeah I think it’s super important to start the day off right. I’ve been working on it myself. I’ve done a couple of these and I’m definitely gonna be putting more of these into practice. I use this app called “Batched Inbox.” it actually prevents me from getting emails before 10am. That’s the time I get my first email. It’s been super helpful. I definitely wanna work on leaving my phone outside the room; even when I sleep so that I’m not texting or on twitter or anything like that. I like the ideas around gratitude; affirmation and hydrating first thing in the morning.
How Often to Exercise
Mike: How often would you recommend doing each muscle group? You don’t wanna burn yourself out I know. You just wanna keep yourself engaged. What kind is the right amount? Is there any general guidance there?
Brandon: It really depends on what kind of routine you’re following. But in general; if you’re just a normal person; you’re eating normally and you’re not doing anything too crazy. You don’t need to hit a muscle group more than once a week. You’ll be fine doing that. That allows you to have three lifting days where you’re working three of your muscles on each day. Once a week is fine because a big thing you don’t want to deal with over-training. Over-training can make your weaker and put on fat.
Key Mindsets for Success
Mike: This has been a ton of actual advise on all kinds of aspects of life fitness; general productivity, and mindsets. Is there any other kind of fitness or general wellness tips that you’d want leave before you sign off.
Brandon: In general, I really like people to think about what kind of identity you want to create around who you are when it comes to health. Because until you identify yourself as a healthy person; as a person who has certain standards; it’s really hard to create that body or those mental states. Until you really identify what kind of person you wanna be and set those standards; you always have an excuse. You don’t have anything you’re reaching for. What do you want, what do you wanna look like, What do you wanna feel like every single day? And then stick to your conviction around the exact identity you created for yourself. And you just put one foot in front of the other then you’re gonna get there. Its just a matter of taking that action, having conviction, following through and setting standards. You don’t need to be a fitness freak to have a body you want or have tons of energy. All you have to do is set the standards for how you want to feel, how you want look, and then make sure you’re putting in enough effort and enough activity to keep yourself at that state. And if you ever drop below it, then you know that you need to step it up — because you’re falling below your standards. You’re not identifying with the person you know you should be.
Mike: Yes, it really comes back to the mental state — getting yourself in the right mental state. Just like entrepreneurship, you have to be in the right mental state, you have to be in the right state for fitness. Well Brandon, this has definitely been awesome. I can say, I’ve instituted maybe half of what you said here and it’s had huge effects on me. So I just can’t imagine what the other half is gonna do. For anybody listening, if you’re anything like me, doing even half of what was spoken here, I can guarantee, you’ll be more productive, energetic, in a better mood and more fit.
Thanks a lot for coming on Brandon where can everybody find out more about you?
Brandon: I talk a lot about all these stuff all the time in my podcast, the Entrepreneur Fitness Podcast, if anyone is super interested to take this to the next level, you can always head to my site entrepreneurfitness.com/coaching we can do a 30-minute discovery session so we can find out if taking it to the next level with me is something that’s better for you.
You can listen to the entire episode on itunes here.