When I rise each day at 4:30 AM to train my early morning high performance clients, Lou Gehrig’s famous words run through my mind, “…I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

The cold and dampness and ungodly time of day I face are a fair tradeoff to learn the lessons of leadership from my pre-dawn movers and shakers. From CEOs, COOs, psychiatrists, managing partners and surgeons, I have learned as much from them as they have learned from me. Through getting to know these special clients, I have realized there are six lessons that are common to leadership and exercise alike:

  1. Self-Efficacy: The belief that you can be the driving force to implement important change is critical to staying fit as well as running a company, large family or professional practice. Leaders step up and take responsibility for the wellbeing of themselves as well as their enterprise.
  1. Mentoring: Every high performer has had a mentor on the way up and now helps others to become more successful. As a trainer and coach, I provide the guidance to keep their bodies in shape. Leaders are both coachable and serve as coaches.
  1. Good Habits: While no one is perfect, people who keep fit have developed exercise and eating habits that work for them in the long run. My early rising clients have developed habits regarding meetings, travel, hiring and firing, time management and communication. Leaders develop good habits so they may be effective in all aspects of their lives.
  1. Openness to Change: As a trainer, I change clients’ exercise routines often to tilt the scales from muscle memory to muscle confusion. Not only does this keep things from getting stale, it maximizes muscle growth and prevents overuse injuries. Leaders understand that change is needed to prevent plateauing in all aspects of life.
  1. Push the Envelope: People who are the most fit push themselves to the edge of their comfort zones. One more push-up, one more high intensity cardio interval, one more change to a lower-fat food, one more standing lunge, one more food shopping skill. This ability to operate at the boundary of what you can and can’t do is what separates a .250 hitter from a Hall of Famer. Leaders know how to push their limits in all aspect of life.
  1. Intention: Keeping fit takes hard work and focus. Nothing just happens, they make it happen. They plan, they assess, they seek counsel, and they make informed decisions. Running a business, parenting five children and managing a practice all require one’s life skills to be focused. Leaders are intentional in all aspects of their lives.

Are my pre-dawn clients such strong leaders because they are fit or are they fit because they are such strong leaders? I’m not sure, but it makes for an interesting conversation, doesn’t it?

What lessons in life have YOU learned from your exercise experiences?