Strong and well-defined shoulders are essential to a powerful physical appearance
Functioning at your peak in the boardroom is not just down to your mental drive and determination, you must be physically fit, too
In the world of the high-flying executive, any businessman worth their executive salt exudes power, competence and control. And whether we agree from a moral standpoint with the vanity aspect of the following is largely irrelevant: physical appearance has much to do with creating that lasting and powerful first impression so crucial to business.
Research from Harvard University in 2014 found that attractive men are more likely to be successful when pitching business ideas to potential investors or stakeholders. What that says about the ethics of the modern world is another topic for another day.
However, taken for what it is: it clearly pays to look fit and healthy. And one sure-fire way of presenting yourself as more powerful is by keeping yourself in good nick and filling out your suit (and showing the well-maintained muscle beneath the shirt never hurts, either).
But besides just looking better, there’s the plethora of intrinsic benefits that looking after your body has. Research from Alzheimer’s Disease International states that by 2050, more than 131 million people will be living with some form of dementia.
And with lifestyles becoming catered for more inactive working habits, especially with the everything-delivered-to-your-doorstep culture of the Middle East, heart disease and cardiac failure is an increasing threat for people across a range of professions, including those working at decision-making executive levels in multinational corporations.
Both of these stats are morbid but pressing. And both can be prevented. The solution is simple: hit the gym.
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It’s almost become a cliché. But such is its truth, it’s worth reiterating: regular exercise is holistically good for you. From mental health to physical capacity, training brings out the best version of you.
“Being fit and healthy is proven to make you more productive,” Matthew Graham, general manager of Talise Fitness at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, explains to Debonair.
“As a leader, being productive at work is crucial for your business to succeed. When it comes down to it, your health and wellbeing is the single most important thing in your life. If you don’t take care of it, you’ll likely go before your time.
“Working in corporate pressure cookers can potentially lead to you making the wrong lifestyle decisions such as poor nutrition, too much caffeine, lack of sleep and deciding not to go to the gym as you’ve had a stressful day at work,” he says.
For executive-level professionals, being fit for business has never been more important, nor more accessible.
Whether it’s delivering a sales or business pitch, organising the daily admin affairs of your company or just increasing the productivity of your time spent at the office, improved brain function and increased fatigue levels are essential to the longevity and ultimate success of your career.
But. And here’s The But: The modern executive’s 24-7 life of connectivity, travel and immediate international communication doesn’t make it easy to pull yourself away from the laptop, phone or tablet to take yourself to the gym to push and pull some weights.
And it’s an aspect of corporate life that gyms and hotels — global and boutique — have inevitably capitalised on. And with good reason.
Gyms in particular are no longer just iron paradises teeming with lumbering meatheads heaving weights bigger than baby elephants around. They’re now one-stop all-round fitness centres: corporate wellness programmes, tailored personal training regimes and nutrition plans are part of a de facto offering.
Globo-style gyms such as Fitness First run corporate wellness programmes to tap into the executive mentality and fitness requirements. Meanwhile out-and-out fitness brands’ apps — like Fitbit and Technogym — allow users to stay constantly connected to their lifestyle activity data, track sleep patterns and do structured, directed workouts wherever they are with no equipment at all.
And taking the work-out-anywhere concept even further, Technogym’s Personal Line, including the Kinesis wall — a collaboration with furniture designer Antonio Citterio — allows you to have a space-efficient gym integrated into the interior of your home. When originally released in the late 2000s, Kinesis walls made a splash with the way it was able to incorporate a range of exercise patterns in one: from yoga and Pilates to strength training.
Hotels have likewise upped their fitness games with a host of not just on-site fitness suites, but in-room set ups, such as Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness smart gym concept: Some of Hilton’s rooms come with a digital kiosk that offers more than 200 bespoke exercise tutorials, and a storage bay with dumbbells, a bike machine and even a TRX system — perfect for the travelling executive.
However, given the range of programmes and newfangled pseudoscientific approaches to working out that seem to appear more regularly than an offensive tweet on Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, it’s not easy finding the right one for you. And self-discipline and self-regulation can be tough. Which is why seeking personal training is still a good option.
Talking to Debonair, James Heagley, Founder of D5 Executive gym — a fitness centre in DIFC — says, “the execs that come to us are, generally speaking, time poor but cash rich. They’ve spent most of their time building their wealth at the expense of their health.
“Fitness-wise, they feel like that ship has sailed a little bit. And now they realise that they’ve been pushing themselves hard professionally in their 20s and 30s and, from burning the candle at both ends, when we see them in their 40s, libido is reduced, they’re gaining weight and everything comes crashing in on them all at once.
“So we find a way of tailoring a programme that takes a holistic, exercise and nutrition approach to improving their healthy habits,” Heagley adds says.
At the root of this sudden awakening to being healthier that business professionals in finance, banking and investment tend to experience, there is a vanity factor that is inevitably sewn into their thinking.
We live in a body conscious society where social media posts are lauded like Da Vinci’s paintings in the Renaissance. Rightly or wrongly. But with this being the case, plenty of people experience that, “Do I look fatter than I used to in this suit?” moment. And while that reaction in itself is a natural one, a knee jerk, uneducated reaction to getting fitter isn’t wise.
The immediate response in those who know no better can be something along the lines of: must do more bench press, more bicep curls, get bigger shoulders — in short lift heavy weights and get bigger to fill that suit out properly. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“To look great in a suit you’re going to have to train your entire body,” Graham adds. “Your body is an interconnected web that’s really more like one unit, one muscle; why would we focus on only one muscle group during a workout or one type of exercise activity?
“The idea of focusing on only one muscle group in a workout is definitely not efficient, nor is it athletic. You should focus on movement patterns, not muscle groups, when exercising to develop a functionally strong body. At its core, exercise is all about movement.”
So whether it’s hitting the gym for vanity’s sake, or a genuine desire to be a healthier version of yourself, the science and the experts all agree: it pays to be fit for business.
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Bespoke health and fitness facility in DIFC begins class designed for the time-poor executive