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Knowing When to Unplug

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The daily grind of operating a health club can eventually wear any operator down, so it’s important to prioritize taking a break to get reenergized — also known as unplugging. You can unplug on a daily basis, through quiet time set aside during the work day, or on a broader scale, with a long vacation that allows you to completely get away.

However you choose to unplug is up to you, but it’s critical to give your mind the time it needs to recharge. Here, you can find tips from industry leaders on unplugging and the benefits of doing so:

How do you unplug from work?

Ellen Latham, co-founder, Orangetheory Fitness: The best way for me to unplug is to workout. My mind frees up to focus only on the task at hand. I also practice some breathing techniques, particularly checking if I am breathing shallow (which happens when I’m busy). I take some massive, slow breaths on the exhale.

Ethan Smoorenburg, regional director, three Anytime Fitness locations: Managing my transitions throughout the day is deeply important to maintain stamina and execute actions at a high level. Before coming in the door for the day, and between each item on my schedule, I go somewhere secluded and breathe with my eyes closed, while reflecting on how I will best perform the next task at hand.

Don Suarez, manager, The HitFit Gym: I have two ways to unplug:

  1. I have a long car ride to work every day, so I’ll listen to the radio (oftentimes talk radio) or a podcast, depending on my mood. These 45-minute bouts allow me to check out (to an extent) and not think about daily tasks.
  2. My other way is watching or coaching my kids in sports. It takes my mind off my work and allows me to focus on something else.

Tom Hatten, founder and CEO, Mountainside Fitness: When I play golf or tennis, or go mountain biking, I get so into what I’m doing at the time, it almost forces me to unplug — I can’t really think of anything else, and I just enjoy it. When I leave for vacation, I’m clear to my team that unless it’s truly an emergency, keep work contact to a minimum. It allows me to come back fresh and deal with any issues with a much clearer mind. This allows me to be present to where I am.

What are the benefits of unplugging?

EL: You have to unplug or you could miss some important things. When I created this workout ( Orangetheory Fitness), one of the most important things I did was to eliminate distractions. It opened my mind up to some great things.

ES: In order to serve others well, we must first serve ourselves. People come to us with the hopes of positively changing their lives. We can do exactly that for someone by caring for ourselves through the creation of habits that are conducive to those we would expect for another. Tuning out distractions and taking time to decompress can allow us to rejuvenate our energy, and then give it back to others.

DS: It’s important for everybody to take time to do things they enjoy. We often get caught in the rat race of work, picking the kids up, rushing kids to practice, making dinner, going to bed, waking up, and doing it again.

TH: It provides clarity, as sometimes work can get muddy and stagnant. Sometimes, my brain just needs a “work rest.”

What tips can you offer for other fitness professionals who need to unplug?

EL: Nature, quiet time and reading a good book have worked for me.

ES: Here are my tips:

  1. It’s OK to recognize you are tired. A mentor once told me to think of your energy as a bank account. If the bank account is low, it’s time to be aware of it, and do what you can to uniquely add energy back for yourself.
  2. Exercise humility with your team. Know when there is an overload of tasks on your agenda and ask for help from those around you, while being honest about why you are requesting assistance.
  3. Plan your self-care — we cannot randomize our happiness. Set dates ahead of time of when you unplug, and don’t allow anything to infringe upon it. Know that the longevity of your own health and ability to serve well through it is needed by the world.

DS: If you don’t take time for yourself, you’ll find yourself burning out. This could lead to damaging relationships both on a professional and personal level.

TH: Finding other passions that fulfill you when you’re not working really helps. Try to remember: kind of like rest is as important as your workouts, so to is the break from work. Fuel your passion for what you’re doing by giving your mind and body the time away it deserves.

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