CrossFit, yoga, high-intensity workouts, meditation, low-carb diets - the approaches different small business owners take to keeping themselves well are as varied as the businesses they run.

Life is generally pretty busy when you're a small business owner, making it a challenge to find the time and energy to keep fit, eat right, grab enough sleep and do all the other things that help keep you feeling well.

But the business owners interviewed this week for Small Business say keeping well plays an intrinsic role in keeping them on top of the stresses and demands of running their own operations. Their primary message seems to be make looking after yourself a priority, or your business can suffer.

Meditation is a big part of the life of Imogene Bevan, of mobile beauty business POP Nails, who also tries to eat a protein and vege-rich diet, does yoga and writes a gratitude list every day to maintain a positive focus.


"I find that the meditation keeps me present within my work, and focused on doing the the job well rather than living in the future and worrying about things that haven't happened yet. Yoga is also great nourishment for my mind and body; it gives me energy on those long days," says Bevan.

"I try to put my wellbeing first and always remember to be kind to myself. If I am not looking after myself first, my business will ultimately suffer."

Karen Staples, owner and founder of Auckland-based food company Pure Delish, has been doing CrossFit for about six years. She's also an avid CrossFit competitor and ranked 22nd worldwide in the individual masters CrossFit competition last year.

"Doing CrossFit has been a fantastic diversion from the day-to-day running of my business. It not only gets me away from work, it takes my mind completely away from the stress, and by the time I have finished my workout I am a different person," says Staples.

"I truly believe a healthy and fit body gives you a healthy mind and you can cope with so much more. It definitely increases my concentration and energy levels to go hard in all areas of my life."

Staples also follows a semi paleo/low-carb style diet and is such a believer in the power of good food she provides healthy meals at work for her staff at subsidised rates.

Grant Difford, creative director and founder of Auckland-based creative agency Waking Giants, is in to running, which he usually does early in the morning. A couple of times a week after work he'll also hit the trails around Auckland Domain with a mate.

"Running enables me to see things differently. There's nothing better than starting the day watching the world wake up and seeing the sun rise; it helps me clear out any baggage before getting into the day," Difford says.


"Time and energy are always excuses that we use to not do things and, yes, I suffer from them too. However the benefits definitely outweigh any demands on my time. Rather than dwell on the challenges, I find they can be resolved with the fresh insight that a completely different activity provides."

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Keeping well - Peter Rana, BodyTech Gym

Peter Rana is the founder of Auckland-based BodyTech Gym.

What do you do to keep well, and how does that impact on your work?

One word describes my approach to wellness - balance; that is, balancing work and life. The key to this is taking time to work on my fitness and health. Being healthy not only helps me feel good about myself but also helps me produce good results in all areas of my life: work, family, friends and community.

When deciding what kind of exercise I commit to, I weigh up the cost-benefit in doing so - that is, the 'time cost' to achieve total physical fitness.

I want the most productive exercise that makes me as strong as possible, provides me with a good degree of cardiovascular endurance, maintains a high level of flexibility and, of course, maintains a healthy level of body composition. So I do 20 to 30 minutes of high-intensity strength training three times a week.

As someone working in the fitness industry, what are some of the pressures and issues you see small business owners facing in terms of keeping themselves well?

We live in an accelerated culture where time is the commodity in shortest supply. Small business owners are often frustrated by what it will cost them in terms of time out of the business if they incorporate some sort of fitness regime. They are disillusioned with the entire thing.

The exercise and fitness industry has sold the myth that acquiring worthwhile fitness results requires frequent and long durations of exercise. Because of this they count themselves out of the cost-reward proposition of exercise. This alone has prevented people from realising any of the potential benefits exercise promises.

Stress is often an issue for small business owners. What are some of the ways small business owners can deal with that through a wellness regime?

Chronic stresses simply exhaust people physically and mentally and have major implications in terms of producing good work at the office, or having the desire to spend quality time with friends and family.

Healthier business owners make better employers; better employers make happier employees; happier employees provide gains for business and, in turn, for the entire organisation.

At the risk of offering a pat answer, embarking on an exercise programme is the best antidote to stress. However, not all exercise programmes are equal when it comes countering the effects of chronic stress, so research your options.

I also suggest business owners make a habit of relaxation. Do whatever is personal to you - enjoy a massage, take a sauna, read more, spend more time with Charlie the dog.

Lastly, what would be your three top tips for small business owners wanting to get in better physical shape to deal with the demands of their working lives?
1. Make working out a priority. Commitment, not announcements, makes the difference. Plan for it by putting it into your diary and practise integrity when it comes to sticking to your gym appointment.

2. Find a gym or trainer that specialises in high intensity training (HIT). HIT is the most productive and efficient means to gain strength, stamina, fat loss and cardio endurance. Because of its intensity, it won't last long. All you need is three sessions a week to expect reasonable results.

However, not all HIT programmes are safe or equal. If anyone asks you to do explosive movements or exercises, thank them and walk away because you are going to get hurt.

3. Commit to making small nutritional changes that will enhance weight loss, cut down on excessive fat and sugar intake. If you are having three desserts per week, cut down to two and then one. Instead of drinking three cans of beer a night, drink two and eventually one.

Same with coffee. One-to-two cups a day is reasonable.

Clarification: Peter Rana is the founder of BodyTech but no longer the owner. BodyTech Nugent St is now trading under new owners with Rana employed as an expert fitness consultant.
Coming up in Small Business: More than 70 per cent of small businesses have no employees. What are the highs and lows of working on your own and what are some tips for making this work? If you've got a story to share about what it's like to go it alone in your business, drop me a note: