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Every Entrepreneur Should Be Weight Lifting

First time hitting three plates on dips
Way back in the day when this blog was actually branded Supply Chain Ninja [vs. Entrepreneurial Ninja now], I wrote about consulting and supply chain and, of course, subjects that interested me that I then related to one of the two. One such post was “What consulting has taught me about weight lifting, and vice versa” – you can probably guesstimate what that post was about.

Well, now that this blog’s about the Art of Startups and Entrepreneurship, I want to translate some take-aways and experiences from weight lifting to the entrepreneurial realm. Or even better, tell you why every entrepreneur should be working out. REGULARLY.

The benefits of weight lifting for entrepreneurs are many-fold ranging from adding structure to the entrepreneur’s chaotic day, the quantifiable challenge, and its benefits to your overall wellness.

At the end of the day, you’re probably your harshest critic

Hey, I get you. Being an entrepreneur, you probably feel the difference between success and failure is driven by you. The brand, the company’s missions and values, it’s about how you develop it. Of course, though, there’s a ton of external forces that make or break your company including your team, the market, your client’s internal office politics, forces majeure… so maybe it’s not all about you, too.

When you’re lifting weights, though, it’s first and foremost a test of you against yourself. When you’re lifting however many pounds (or kilos), those big chunks of iron don’t care about you. They don’t care if you had a bad day or good day. They just abide by the laws of gravity. If you disrespect the weight and aren’t careful, they’ll punish you.

In one of the rare instances of your life, as an entrepreneur, it’s really about you. You can make excuses of why you aren’t going to make it to the gym this early morning, but at the end of the day, you’re making excuses to yourself. So in this way, working out gives you the ability to truly be your harshest critic while being very honest in that it’s largely… yes, about you.

Adding a little structure to the chaos is a beautiful thing

When you’re an entrepreneur crushing it every day (working, that is), you can lose track of time. You’re in this mode of figuring out why this piece of code isn’t working, and it’s driving you insane. Or customers are hitting you up left and right asking if you can help them import data else all heck breaks loose. Maybe you even forget to use the bathroom… that happens. Often.

Your weekends are much like your weekdays, so much so that you wake up not actually sure what day it is. Happens. Often.

When you insert a little time for working out, you start to add a nice little placeholder and structure to your schedule. Suddenly, you’ve added time for yourself (maybe a workout partner, too?). The only way to achieve any results from working out is doing it consistently. So when you put on your calendar placeholders for 30 minutes or an hour a few days a week, you’ve added consistency in your otherwise chaotic, fluid life.

I’ve long understood the notion that you only make time for those things that matter to you. When people say they don’t “have time”, it’s an excuse. You don’t make time. With a workout schedule that you follow, you’ve made it a priority for you. And beyond that, you’re making YOURSELF a priority. If you’re going to succeed, you need to take care of yourself first to be in a place to care for your company and others.

You like challenges. Well, there’s nothing more challenging than adding 2.5 pounds to the bar

It’s amazing when you’re squatting and you’re contracting those quads, driving your heels into the ground keeping your chest high… you’re breathing out slowly, and when you’ve reached the top, you rack that weight, and *BAM!* you just set a new personal record.

Lifting is an amazing exercise in quantification and having a true visual gauge for improvement. Sure, you can use Hubspot’s Sidekick to track email open and click-rates or crunch spreadsheets for inventory fulfillment metrics, but there’s a lot going on there. When you’re lifting, you can see yourself getting stronger and fitter in the mirror and on the bar. Want to do more than you’ve ever done? Just add something incremental like the 2.5-lb plate. It’s not much, but it can mean A LOT.

I believe entrepreneurs are driven by a host of things, but one of the most common is the challenge of building something meaningful from nothing. It’s a test against the 800-lb gorillas more established in the market. It’s a test of your leadership abilities. It’s a test of your persuasive skills.
You love challenges. Embrace weight lifting as the challenge you get benefits from every workout.

Round out your health in more ways than the physical

I’m a big proponent of University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Seven Dimensions of Wellness. I believe at any one time, you should strive to have at least five of these dimensions in a stable condition. Of course, depending on your own preferences in risk and the like, maybe just three or four should stable for you. 
University of Californa, Riverside's Seven Dimensions of Wellness
There are countless studies on the positive effects of exercise, and I won’t cite the many articles here – just a Google if you’re interested after you're done reading this. Instead, I want you to look at UCR's dimensions, and you may be able to see all the different ways exercise can impact you.

For me, I’ve met some great friends (social), found time alone to think on my own -- like my own introverted nirvana (spiritual, emotional, occupational), am in great physical shape with loads of energy (physical which then affects occupational, social, etc.), eating better because I want to maximize my exercise gains and optimize nutritional value (physical), etc. The list goes on and on.

When you’re heads down plugging away at your startup, it’s easy to lose track of time. It’s easy to grab something quick and easy like fast food. It’s easy to work in silo on your own or holed up with just your team with little interaction with the outside world. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to stress until you’re exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically, etc. Weight lifting gives you the platform to find stability and strength in more wellness dimensions, so in the end, you’re working and living at peak capacity.

Weight lifting can teach you patience and perseverance

I loved this story I read about legendary Romanian Olympic lifter Nicu Vlad about the time Nicu was working on the Snatch. He had a progression to follow with the end goal of lifting 185 kilograms on the Snatch. However, he missed his progression of 170 and 180 (multiple sets with varying degrees of success, but largely misses). He didn’t once act out from missing the lifts. He kept progressing up to 185. On that 185 rep, Nicu gripped the bar, eyes determined… and in one swift, smooth motion, he nailed 185 kgs over his head for the best lift of the day.
The great Romanian lifter Nicu Vlad
Nicu had amazing determination, impeccable skill, and unrelenting mental fortitude. Despite all of the missed attempts, Nicu knew the plan for the day focusing on the end game, not missed sets in between. Each lift, no matter the weight, was performed to perfect technique. He was consistent, even if he failed to hit the Snatch.

In entrepreneurship, wins like Facebook, Uber, Pardot, AirWatch, etc., are not made over night. They take time with eyes on the grander vision. Weight lifting can teach you all about patience and trusting the process of hard work and consistency and, yes, perseverance. Because if you’re looking to lose weight, hit three plates on the bench, it’s not going to be accomplished in one workout. It’s going to be a consistent process with small accomplishments along the way.

I could go on and on…

I really could. I’ve already written a lot, but there are so many parallels of weight lifting and entrepreneurship and startups… and so many reasons why entrepreneurs should all lift weights. (Perhaps I’ll write a follow-up next month.) That’s just how powerful weight lifting can be for entrepreneurs, or heck, everyone.

Next time you get frustrated about how a typo caused you to spend hours trouble-shooting your code, maybe you should take that frustration to the gym. Entrepreneurships’ ebbs and flows, highs and lows are a great match with weight lifting’s ability to expend energy and build mental fortitude.

Okay, lift on 3. 1… 2… 3… LIFT!

What are your thoughts on the benefits of weight lifting for entrepreneurs? How do you think working out or exercises has been beneficial (or not) to your startup aspirations? 


  1. Hi Daryl,
    This is a great post.
    I agree with you "Every Entrepreneur Should Be Weight Lifting"

  2. This was a very motivational article that you wrote. I was lifting weights way before I became an entrepreneur. I already had the patience and discipline needed to reach my goals. When I became an entrepreneur, I remembered that just like weight lifting it is a slow process.


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