By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs
A common recommendation for aspiring and new entrepreneurs is to prepare a written business plan. But do they also need a “wellness plan”? According to Patti M. Hudson, the answer is yes.
Hudson is the founder of Patti Says, a Warrenton, Virginia-based coaching practice that offers workshops on health, stress management and other topics related to work/life balance. As someone who’s worn many entrepreneurial hats during her 30-year career in fitness and nutrition, she knows a thing or two about business ownership.
“I’ve always worked for myself,” she said. “While attending Boston University, my plan was to become a Ph.D. and save the world. Then I got married and had my first child when I was very young. That prompted me to create my own fitness routine and become an instructor.”
Hudson opened three New York studios and a boutique during the 80s, when the nation’s fitness movement was just getting underway. Around that time, Hudson’s husband – her high school sweetheart and the father of her two sons – decided he didn’t want to be married any longer. “I had no money, no master’s and no financial back up,” she said. “At the time, my sons were two and four and my future was scary.”
Still, Hudson swallowed her fear and moved forward, building one studio and using the proceeds to start the next one. Over time, she bought a home for her boys and remarried.
“My fitness business saved my life in many ways,” she said.
In the late 90s, Hudson’s second husband, who was on active military duty, received a job transfer to Northern Virginia. “I was in my 40s and wondering if I could parlay my fitness knowledge into a speaking business,” she said.
She found the answer while cycling one day, when she struck up a conversation with an Air Force officer. When she mentioned her interest in public speaking, he handed her a business card with the name of a seminar company. Hudson contacted the company and, before long, began giving seminars on employee transition services for government agencies.
Eventually, Hudson returned to New York State, where she got into life coaching for eight years before moving back to the Washington, D.C. area. Nowadays, her career consists of teaching and speaking to mostly government and corporate clients on a wide range of life topics.
“My ultimate goal is to raise workshop participants’ awareness of their self-limiting thoughts and actions,” she said. “And then provide them with tools and knowledge to help them break their behavior patterns.”
In the Q and A below, Hudson shares her thoughts on health and fitness for entrepreneurs and the benefits they can obtain from a comprehensive wellness plan.
Why do entrepreneurs need a wellness plan?
Patti Hudson (PH): For 40-and-older entrepreneurs, it’s essential to have this type of a plan. The body wears out as you get older. Energy goes out with stress, an inevitable part of entrepreneurship. Infusion comes in with proper food and fitness.
What should a wellness plan include?
PH: The primary factors that affect physical wellness are the environment, genetics and behavior. Out of those three, you only have absolute control over the last one.
In addition to proper nutrition and a daily stress reduction routine, a good plan will focus on the following:
1) Flexibility. As you get older, a balance and agility routine becomes important. In my workshops, I explain how to do a “body scan” once an hour, so you can note where your muscles feel stressed and tight. Over time, you’ll become attuned to which parts of your body–whether it’s your neck, shoulders or other areas– need greater flexibility and stress reduction.
2) Cardio vascular fitness. Buy a pedometer to determine how much you move. I advise my workshop participants to create 3,000 steps (a little over a mile) a day, then maintain that track for a three-week period. Once you form that habit, go for two days with 5,000 steps – and do that for three weeks. Then incorporate small bouts of intensity into your routine. Get a heart rate monitor to help determine your bio-specific fitness zone, since most of us overestimate exercise intensity by 50%.
3) Muscular strength and endurance. Include a core-strengthening exercise, such as Pilates or yoga, to improve your muscle tone and center of gravity. Otherwise, “Bob” (Belly on Belt) may come to visit. For every decade over the age of 22, we lose significant muscle mass, which highlights the need for strength training exercises.
4) Body composition. Buy a body fat monitor to keep track of your fat and muscle composition. While the ideal body fat percentage depends upon body type, it’s generally in the 8-22% range for most younger women and 28% for those age 50 and older. For men, the ideal range is 11-17% and 20-22% for those 50 and older. Using your body fat percentage for a proper weight goal – one that reflects your age, genetics and gender – is just smart lifetime fitness.
How can entrepreneurs incorporate exercise into their lives when they’re already pressed for time?
PH: Actually, the time commitment isn’t as much as you might think. For busy entrepreneurs, thirty minutes of exercise three times a week will do it.
You also can use your workspace to improve wellness by making one simple change. Instead of a desk chair, use a physioball — one of those big, brightly colored rubber balls you’ve probably seen at the gym. Sit with your legs at a 90-degree angle. Since you have to balance on the ball, you will use your core muscles in the body’s mid-section. This helps strengthen your back, a common source of pain for those 40 and older.
Aside from lack of exercise, what do you see as the most common wellness-related downfalls?
PH; One is little knowledge about food portion sizes. Another is lack of sleep. If you’re sleep deprived, it affects everything you do, including your ability to pay attention. Sleep deprivation influences 40-and-older entrepreneurs more than younger ones because their reaction and decision-making time already is slower because of age. They need a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night.
What steps can entrepreneurs take to start making wellness improvements?
PH: When you have your own business, it’s easy to lose track of what you’re eating during the day. For entrepreneurs who want to shed a few pounds, two good web sites to check out are My Fitness Pal and Lose It!
If you’re eating on the run, avoid overly processed foods when possible. Instead, choose foods that are prepared simply with natural ingredients, such as a veggie-filled tossed salad with chicken or a baked potato. The smart entrepreneur will plan and prepare meals in advance and follow a guide, choosing to eat veggies and protein for lunch and forgoing starches until later in the day.
The best course of action is to stay fit, put good food in your body, avoid sugar and limit alcohol. Within these general guidelines, anything you can do will make a positive difference.