Why I Just Keep Swimming: The Business Benefits of Aquatic Exercise
As we’ve highlighted in a previous blog post, there’s more than one similarity between media relations and a fitness routine. The key is patience, but hard work and the proper approach also are required. I felt that it would be timely to follow up that post with one that specifically highlights how, in my experience, one kind of fitness routine in particular can have a markedly positive impact on business, both internally and externally.
As you may have guessed from that previous post, our team members really enjoy staying fit and active. Each of us has our own preferred workout: for example, our account directors Katie Huffaker and Lorna Kiewert are frequent attendees of spin class, while our intern, Anna Bradley, favors weight training. My go-to has always been basketball, but as I inch towards the big 4–0 I find myself playing a little less hoops. The desire to have a vigorous exercise regime, however, remains as strong as it did when I could run up and down the court for hours.
Two years ago, I dipped my toes into the Union League’s swimming pool after realizing I might benefit from a change of pace. I’ve improved over time, but I’m a C+ swimmer on my best day. The great thing I’ve discovered about this sport, though, is that even if your form isn’t perfect, it’s an exhausting workout and forgiving on your joints.
Easing up on my body isn’t the only benefit swimming has given me. It’s no secret that we’re living in a multimedia world, where the temptation to be absorbed in your phone during 20-second elevator rides, rather than engage with your surroundings, is constant. Walk down any street and the high percentage of pedestrians with their eyes glued to their screens is no longer astounding — it’s commonplace. For now, at least, being underwater means the absence of dinging phones, email pings, funny cat GIFs, etc. As I continue expanding beyond client work and taking on the challenge of strategically growing our boutique agency, having that time to totally unplug has proven to be a huge help in keeping my head clear.
And swimming has certainly provided a positive impact on business. When you hear people talk about where their “Aha!” moments occur, much of the time they say it’s outside of the office. For our account director Will Ruben, it’s in the shower. The pool has been that venue for me many times. Whether there’s something about being immersed in water or the methodical back and forth of doing laps (or both), swimming eases my mind and allows for creativity to flow. When you’re submerged and focused solely on breathing and moving your body in unison, there’s no place for the mental clutter of everyday life.
Take Neurensic’s simple messaging as an example of when the water provided me the setting to let my mind focus. In 2016, the company was at a point in its development where it didn’t want to appear as judge and jury when it came to identifying disruptive trading, but it also didn’t want to undersell its powerful AI technology. While contemplating the best way to explain this to the market, the idea of “clarity” came to mind during one of my Michael Phelps-esque sprints. When you think about regulation, most people want to be on the right side of the law. In today’s digital-driven marketplace, however, the lines can be blurry. Neurensic brought to bear technology that allowed for traders and risk managers to have a much clearer picture as to when disruptive trading practices had occurred. This messaging has become central to the company’s brand, and it came together in a swimming pool.
Turning from the client side of things to a more introspective view, swimmers often have characteristics that make them great employees. Perfecting the proper form and breathing techniques is of the utmost importance when in a competition, but it also teaches discipline and commitment that can extend to the rest of your life. Other sports don’t always do that — you can get by in basketball with funky shooting form, but if your butterfly stroke falters, it could cost you the race. Swimming fosters a keen attention to detail and a perseverance that not many other sports require, and those qualities are crucial to driving bottom-line results for clients. It also eliminates the option to quit. There are no time-outs and none of your teammates can hop in the pool to take your place when you start to feel taxed. [Except in a relay; however, even in a relay, you still have to complete your section of the race.] In PR, if you don’t keep going until the job is complete, you sacrifice your reputation and credibility.
If you can find an exercise regime that benefits your personal health, and lessens your screen time, then kudos. Everyone has different exercise preferences, but I can tell you that swimming has done all that and more for me. I highly recommend giving it a try, and if you have any questions about starting out as a novice swimmer, I’m happy to talk you through them.