5 Ways Fitness Helps Sharpen My PR Saw

There is a school of thought that striking a balance between professional life and extracurricular activities allows you to work towards a healthy body to facilitate a healthy mind.  Not an easy task as demands increase in our profession and we increasingly discover that in the fast paced world of PR, dedication, effort and real time expectations require us to seemingly be on the job 24/7. 

One of the ways that I personally work on keeping myself in balance is by going to the gym on a regular basis.  Over the years, I have been a member of quite a few different types of fitness facilities ranging from a local YMCA to an apartment complex gym to a larger corporate style franchise “super” gym.  Regardless of the environment (which, if you have ever been in different types of gyms can be quite different) there are skills I have polished in the gym over the years that translate into how I effectively practice PR.  Here are 5 of them:

  1. Discipline – Anyone who belongs to a gym can tell you that occasionally it can be difficult to drag yourself in after a pressured filled day packed with meetings, pitches, phone calls, brainstorming, analyzing, public speaking, copy writing and every other activity in the life of a PR pro.  I can recall many times where I have wanted to go straight home after work and just lie on the couch and close my eyes for the evening.  Instead, I discipline myself to visit the gym on a consistent basis and keep my long term fitness goals top of mind so I don’t lose sight of the connection between maintaining the balance I strive for.  Translation – Effective PR requires a high level of discipline.  
  2. Measurement – Admittedly, I am a bit geeky when it comes to measuring my performance at the gym by carrying a notebook around and meticulously keeping track of days, sets, weight and exercises.  But how else would I be able to gauge my progress and know what areas need tweaks and adjustments to show more results?  Translation – Effective PR requires constant tracking, measurement and adjustments.
  3. Planning – From the moment I pull into the parking lot, I begin to plan out what my workout will be.  What body parts am I focusing on?  What exercises should I mix in?  How can I change up my routine and break some nonproductive habits I may be falling into?  What do I hope to accomplish with my workout?  What areas do I need to focus on and improve?  Translation – Effective PR requires constant planning, prioritization and thinking ahead.
  4. Etiquette – If you have ever worked out in a crowded gym, chances are you are familiar with “gym etiquette.”  Re-rack your weights, wipe down a machine after use, use earphones with audio devices, don’t talk on your cell phone (which to me is the most egregious of gym violations), allow others to work in with you at peak times, wear proper clothing, etc.  These may seem obvious, but not everyone obeys the rules that are put in place for the benefit of all.  Translation – Following proper etiquette is a cardinal rule of PR.  
  5. Communication – Most can agree that gym time is your time.  It’s a time to plug in the iPod and get consumed in our thoughts, quietly observing as we go out our business.  Most people walk into a gym with the expectation that they won’t have to, or don’t feel they need to communicate for any reason.  After all, you pay your dues and expect to be left alone when working out, right?  I take a slightly different approach.  With a sense of delicacy to the environment, I try to communicate as much as possible with others when appropriate.  I practice my networking skills by striking up a conversation with a stranger or make eye contact with someone who may be waiting for a piece of equipment I am using to open the door for a chance to communicate.  Over the years I have found that proactively communicating with others in this environment has honed my communication skills and taught me how to read and decipher things like body language, gestures and posture to be a more effective communicator.  Translation – Successful PR Pros are proactive communicators especially in situations that may be uncomfortable, public and require initiative.

Whether it’s fitness or another activity outside of our work routine, successful PR Pros strike a balance to maintain equilibrium in their lives.  What is your balance and how has it helped you to polish your PR skills?

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  • Mollie128

    I really enjoyed this post. As a workout-addict myself, I felt like the way you related the fitness world to the PR world was interesting and enjoyable to read. I especially enjoyed the last point regarding communication and how selectively communicating at the gym helped you learn to better read body language and gestures. I can picture exactly what you’re talking about with the different personalities you encounter on the next treadmill over. Thanks for a fun read!

    • Thank you for the comments Mollie!  I often try to relate my activities outside of work to my profession and one day at the gym I realized the similarities between working out and PR.  Although it’s sometimes hard to engage people in conversation at the gym, 9 times out of 10 when I do, they respond favorably, even those who otherwise may give the appearance of not being approachable.  Glad that you enjoyed the post.

  • Great post. You make me wanna hit the gym and pitch media at the same time. 🙂

    • Thanks Joe, glad you enjoyed it.  Want to hear the ultimate PR utopia?  Pitching a reporter if you happen to run into them at the gym.  That would somehow make the circle complete.  

  • Sharon Trader

    JT, I think this is your best post! Maybe because I can relate to it in a more practical way, being a long time proponent of keeping fit and working out. Beautifully written and the comparisons you draw on are great. Good job.
    Love, Mom

    • Thanks Mom, all those years as a kid watching you do aerobic dancing sure rubbed off on me!   

  • Harrison636

    FIrst off, I find it wonderfully ironic that I came upon this article because I have recently become a member at the largest gym in the Ozarks. And even more irnoicaly, I started my membership at about the exact same time as I started my PR internship. Therefore, I fully support the idea that a healthy life style can and does affect the way you function at work. For instance, I can name multiple occasions when I was having a “fat day” and my performance at work was slow and un motivated because I didn’t feel good about myself.
    As I started making the gym a more regular and mandatory activitiy in my life, I found my motivation peaking along with my body image which in a domino affect helped me in more ways than one.
    I think that PR tactics can be tied in and related to the way people work out and how they view exercise. For me, I typically put off big assignments (or arm exercises) for last because I dread them and find them most challenging. And yet, after I’ve completed either I feel the most accomplished and remind myself that that second set of weights or that giant presentation I needed to practice really wasn’t that bad and in the long run helped me a lot.

    • Some great parallels that you draw here Harrison, thanks for the feedback.  I dread arms day too, ugh.  Self confidence and discipline are definitely direct byproducts of fitness.  Keep up the dedication, it will continue to pay off!

  • Sara Ryan

    I thought this post was really beneficial to me, being a young PR professional. I believe if I remember the five ways to help sharpen my fitness PR Saw (discipline, measurement, planning, etiquette, and communication), it will help me when I am trying to get a professonal job as well as another internship.

    • Thanks for the feedback Sara!  Don’t be afraid to being these skills up in a future interview!  🙂

  • Madison Hrdlicka

    This post is very relevent to me as a new PR professional, especially the communication part. I had never thought of the gym as a place to work on my communication skills. Would you suggest practicing effectve communication at all times of the day, or do you think that it is important to use a small portion of your day to not think about it?

    • Thanks for the feedback Madison.  I think that any PR pro needs to be practicing their communication skills as much as possible at every opportunity they can.  I had a job at a local YMCA working the front desk for many many years and I can say that hands down, it was quite possibly the best communication practice platform that I have ever had, and didn’t even know it at the time.  Sometimes, we are sharpening our communication skills through small snippets of communication and don’t even realize it.  It’s also important to have down time and not think about it, but look at that as your time to write and read and work on sharpening those skills.

      • Madison112

        Thank you for the feedback. I would have to completely agree with the fact that you gain communication skills and don’t know it. Looking back on several of the jobs I have had (a front desk position being one of them) I am able to point out specific skills I have learned from them and at the time I only saw it as a part time job. So really, everything can be an opportunity to improve. Thanks!

  • Jordan728

    I like the way you’ve related physical fitness principles to PR in this post, John. I would agree with you on this post based solely on the idea that a person should cultivate their body and mind to gain the full benefits of both. Former Supreme Court Judge, Byron White, used to partly judge law clerks, before he hired them, on what they did for exercise and how their health was. I also agree that principles learned in the gym, carry over to other areas of life. If you’re not getting stronger, then you’re getting weaker is a lesson I’ve learned in the gym. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • I appreciate the feedback Jordan.  It almost seems impossible in our day and age to deliver the sharp results that our employer expects without having some form of physical activity in life.  Also helps to be able to learn lessons from life that carry over to our professional careers and sharpen our skills as a result.

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  • Heather Caldwell

    The fitness/PR comparison is spot on!  Measurement is so important, especially now in PR.  Social media is growing and expanding and companies are still learning how to use it to its potential.  What better way to pitch a social media campaign, or present the results of a campaign than with measurements! Also I thought the communicating at the gym is so great, I feel sometimes it is more awkward when people are trying not to communicate than to just chat it up while on the treadmill.

  • KristinM

    Great post!   The parallels you pointed out were really informative, and will be helpful not only at the gym, but while pursuing my Masters degree and ultimately looking for job in the field.  In addition to your list, I might add one more item: persistence.  Without persistence at the gym and in a career as a PR pro, there will be no results.  Thanks again for a great post!

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