The life-changing power of small things: Fitness

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series The life-changing power of small things

On May 21, James Citrin, the author of The Career Playbook who is also the leader and CEO Practice at Spencer Stuart delivered the Wesleyan University Phi Beta Kappa Commencement Address. This post has been adapted and condensed from that speech by the man himself and reproduced here without any alterations whatsoever.


About 18 months ago I was in Istanbul, Turkey, for the November Board meeting of my firm, Spencer Stuart. Our job is to recruit leaders to many of the most important organizations in the world, which, by the way, is how I’ve done so much research around careers and success. Over the past 22 years, I’ve recruited over 600 executives and board directors, including the CEOs of such companies as Twitter, Intel, Yahoo, Hulu, New York Times Company, and MetLife, as well as not-for-profit CEOs to such organizations as Sesame Workshop, PBS, NPR, New York Public Library, The MIT Media Lab, and Radio Free Europe.

In Istanbul, we were hosted by the head of our business in Turkey, a great guy named Kaan Okurer, of course, a Wesleyan alum, class of 1997. Upon seeing Kaan at the opening dinner, I was struck by how great he looked. He was clearly ripped and in incredible shape, noticeably fitter than the last time I had seen him. “Kaan, you look amazing, what have you been doing?” I asked him. “You won’t believe it if I tell you,” he replied. I implored him and he finally told me about his new regime. “I walk wherever and whenever I can,” he said, “but the real secret is a remarkable app I found and have been following religiously. It’s called, ‘The 7 Minute Workout.’”

He was right, I was incredulous. The 7 Minute Workout? Come on. I grew up in the era of “No pain, no gain;” of running 40+ miles a week to train for a marathon; the more the better. How could something that takes only 7 minutes possibly be worth anything? The answer, once again, is the power of small things.

The 7 Minute Workout has gone viral, and many of you may know it and even do it. But if you don’t, trust me, you should. It works, and it only takes 7 minutes. Seven minutes is so short that it rounds down to 5 minutes, and 5 minutes rounds down to nothing. There is almost no excuse not to be able to fit this in every single day.

If you’re traveling and have an early flight, you can still do 7 minutes before you head to the airport. If you’re on a crunch deadline, you can take a 7-minute break and do it. If you’re exhausted, and it’s time for bed, you can still fit in one last 7-minute block. I do it virtually every single day. I took two days off recently — on the day of and the day after the London Marathon in April. Don’t be fooled, though.

The #7MinuteWorkout has gone viral, and many of you may know it and even do it. But if you don’t, trust me, you should. Click To Tweet

The actual exercises are difficult, especially at first. It’s made up of 12 exercises selected based on scientific research to complement and build upon one another. You do them at high intensity for 30 seconds each, with only 10 seconds of rest in between. Jumping jacks, wall sit, squats, lunges, pushups, crunches, plank. You can do them in a small dorm room or apartment, hotel, even in an office. No equipment is needed.

The regimen achieves the equivalent of an hour’s workout in only 7 minutes. And the app is incredibly well designed, with a female or male narrator capable of giving the verbal directions and encouragement in 17 languages, as well as Pavlovian rewards such as bells, countdowns, and an automatic activity calendar. I’ve done 13 marathons, including three since doing the 7MW over the last 18 months, and have stayed healthy, averaging only 12 miles of running a week leading up to each race!

Let’s move onto the next example — a dedication to making one single improvement each week.

Series Navigation<< The life-changing power of small thingsThe life-changing power of small things: Weekly Improvements >>

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