As a language professional, your mind is the most precious tool you have.
The obvious way to keep it sharp is to feed it with as many new skills, ideas and theories as you can.
But in the rush to attend every course, conference, workshop and webinar going, it’s easy to overlook perhaps the most mind-boosting exercise of them all.
And that is exercise itself.
Fit body, fit mind
Mental and physical health are closely linked. When you improve the latter, the former tends to follow.
The mental side is also linked to performance at work. So whatever your job – be it translator, project manager or managing director – there’s much to gain from regular exercise.
It doesn’t matter what form it takes. If it gets you moving and your heart pumping, the mental benefits are all the same. And they could help you just as much as any amount of training and CPD.
1. Exercise gives you more energy
Ever have days when you feel tired and sluggish for no particular reason? When every little task feels like an effort and you can’t pinpoint why?
You’re not alone. We all get days like that. But if they are the rule rather than the exception, now could be the time to start your exercise habit.
Physical activity raises your energy levels, and the effects last long after you finish. So try starting your days with a workout and take the buzz with you into the office.
2. Exercise clears your head
On those off days, you might also have trouble focusing. Thoughts collide, your mind wanders and you struggle to get on with your work.
As a language professional, this can be a problem. Clarity of thought and expression – and the ability to finish things on time – are key to what you do. There’s no room for fuzzy headspace.
Nothing blasts out the mental cobwebs like a good run. And there aren’t many better ways to tame your thoughts than by swimming a few lengths.
So get your trainers on, or get down to the pool, and get moving.
3. Exercise improves your decision-making
When your head is clutter-free and your thoughts are in order, focus returns. Problems seem smaller and you can look at things with an objective eye.
As a happy consequence, your decision-making improves. Choosing the right word, working with that new client, taking that strategic risk – a clear head cuts out the noise and helps you do the right thing.
Since good decisions are at the heart of your craft, it’s worth exercising more for this benefit alone.
4. Exercise makes you more positive
Getting up and out the door is positive. Putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, faster and further, is positive.
Working up a sweat. Breaking personal records. The panting euphoria and sense of achievement when you get back home. All incredibly positive.
That’s the thing about exercise: it has no time for negativity. And when it gets itself into your daily routine, its positive influence seeps into every part of your life – including your work.
5. Exercise gives you confidence
You never thought you could run that 10k race, but you ran it. You never thought you could lift that enormous weight, but you lifted it.
You didn’t believe you could cycle that far, bend yourself into that yoga pose or beat that ex-pro at tennis. But you did. And it felt brilliant.
All exercise is a victory, and winning makes you confident. Add the side effect of looking and feeling fitter and stronger, and you’d do well to find a better source of self-esteem.
Carry that confidence into your writing, negotiations, marketing and networking, and there’s little you won’t be able to achieve.
6. Exercise lifts your mood
There’s a moment many people experience while running. An almost trance-like state where your body kicks into automatic, your mood lifts and you feel unstoppable.
It’s brought on by a flood of endorphins in the brain, and it’s known as the runner’s high.
But the feeling actually isn’t exclusive to running at all. Any kind of prolonged exercise can trigger it, and the afterglow can last for up to 12 hours.
Happiness is known to increase productivity at work. So now you also have a business case to get out there and get a sweat on – especially if you charge per word or hour.
7. Exercise reduces stress
The language services industry can be a stressful place. And your success in any role hinges on how well you manage the strains.
If regular exercise isn’t part of your stress-busting arsenal, it really should be. It gets you away from your desk, forces you to switch off and lets your subconscious work away at your worries.
If your chosen exercise involves punchbags, bats or rackets, all the better. That way you also get a physical release of stress and tension. And that’s something we all need from time to time.
8. Exercise fuels your creativity
Creativity. Whatever your role in the language services industry, chances are you need it in your daily work.
The problem with creativity, though, is that it works flexible hours. And it always seems to be out-of-office when you need it most.
When you do hit a creative block, it can be tempting to sit there, stare at the screen and try to force your way through it. But this is usually a waste of time, and only leads to more frustration.
Better to get up, get outside and start walking. Or running, or swimming, or cycling, or whatever it takes to distance and distract yourself from the problem.
You might soon find that ideas start flowing. That problems begin to solve themselves. That the word you’ve been grasping for all day pings into your head within minutes of leaving your desk.
The idea for this post, for instance, came during a run. And all the mental blocks on the way to finishing it were shifted by brisk walks through the streets around STP’s London office.
There may or may not be a scientific explanation. But it works for enough people to make it worth a try. Just remember to take a pen and notepad with you – because you will need them.