Fitness fads to professional nirvana: how everything matters, even Camp Kale


Petra Sandanam
Petra Sandanam, Consultant, Communications
You know that person who works at their sport – running or lifting or swimming or rowing – with single minded focus day after day, month after month, for years on end?

I am definitely not that person.

For two years, I’ve flitted from training regime to training regime. Since 2014, I’ve tried my hand at yoga, running, HIIT (high intensity interval training) hiking, a brutal fitness retreat (which my colleagues have dubbed “Camp Kale”), rock climbing, dragon boat racing, boxing, and my current favourite, powerlifting.

Here are my top five fitness lessons, which are surprisingly applicable to professional development:

1. The skills you pick up are all transferable. Everything I’ve done somehow plays a role in what comes next. Rock climbing helps my grip when lifting, HIIT helped with the sprints in dragon boat racing, and yoga is the best recovery from a brutal boxing session. It’s a good little reminder that even the simplest tasks at work often set up the skills you need to move onto meatier projects.

2.  It all counts. All your efforts are a sum of their parts. Looking at the last two years objectively, an argument could be made for my inconsistent training habits. But that’s the thing. It’s become habit. There’s something to be said for making small changes and sticking to them over time. Some of the most successful, productive people I know do the little things day in and day out, whether it be reading newspapers first thing, carving out time to train or writing the next day’s to-do list before they leave the office.

3. It takes a village. Part of the appeal of flitting from sport to sport is the community. I’ve met incredible trainers, motivating training buddies and supportive cheerleaders that have made the journey much more fun. You can do it alone, but think of all the experiences and the wealth of knowledge you’d be missing out on. The best outcomes in business are most often driven by great teams that put egos aside, support each other to do better and focus on the task at hand.

4. Hold yourself accountable (or have other people do it for you). The people in my life have been subjected to me talking about each new obsession, have been convinced to train with me and have even, on occasion, been sent pictures of my latest training mishap or exciting new ‘PB’. What this has meant however, is that I’ve actually had to follow through and go to that Friday evening boxing session or Saturday morning hike. There’s nothing like telling people your goals to make sure you follow through.

5. Stepping out of your comfort zone is never as scary as it seems. In 2012, Todd Sampson (Non-Exec Chairman of Leo Burnett Australia, panellist on Gruen Transfer and all-round fantastic speaker) told my packed uni lecture hall that the ability to be braver than yourself or the competition for just 5 seconds longer would open up doors you never thought possible. And he was right.

Walking into that boxing gym? Or that old school no-treadmills-allowed powerlifting gym? Way outside my comfort zone. But probably two of the best decisions I’ve made recently. Same thing at work. This blog is proof five seconds of blind courage (hitting send and texting KPMG’s NewsRoom editor so that she wouldn’t let me get out of this) can lead to unexpected things.

The best piece of advice I ever got was “never get comfortable”. Incredibly simple, but its advice that I’ve taken to heart at work and in my training, always pushing to be a fraction better than before. I want to tell you that my current powerlifting/boxing combo is the one for me; but we both know I’d be lying through my teeth.

Until next time.



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