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Executive Ali Ghani discusses benefits of exercise: how it improves work life

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As an entrepreneur, you spend lots of time running your business. In addition to your day-to-day responsibilities, you likely stay on top of things by reading newsletters, taking part in webinars, following industry trends and more. But a Canadian investor, entrepreneur and business leader says you should also take up some athletic endeavors, specifically running. He’s found over the years that his commitment to distance running outside the workplace has helped him in many ways in his professional life as well.

Ali Ghani, who lives and works in Calgary, has experience working with companies in a diverse range of industries. He holds a diploma in electrical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in Applied Systems Technology from SAIT Polytechnic. After several years working at major information technology corporations, he went out on his own in 2000 and founded a commercial property development company.

Ghani believes strongly in maintaining a high level of health and fitness, and has been active as a runner for years, saying that when he’s not working he’s probably in the street or on a trail racking up the miles. He says that his avocation, which is really more of a passion, has helped him immeasurably as an entrepreneur, especially in the following five ways.

1. It prepares you for the day ahead.

There are those who are morning people and those who are not. Fair enough. And let’s face it: it can be difficult to get out of bed rather than hitting the snooze button. But Ali Ghani says that if you commit to a run every morning, it will force you to start your day with a fitness activity and prepare you for the work that lies ahead, and you’ll actually begin looking forward to it.

“If you truly enjoy running, as I do, you’ll start anticipating your early morning runs that get you moving while everyone else is just waking up and making coffee,” he says. “It’s a solitary activity that lets you breathe fresh air, get your blood flowing and think about the things you need to do later in the day.”

2. It gives you energy.

How many times have you watched people drag into the office in the morning? Probably too many. Sometimes watching low-energy people can almost make you feel tired. “But if you go to work after your morning run, a shower and a healthy breakfast,” says Ghani, “You feel ready to take on the world.” As an entrepreneur, Ali Ghani believes that the potential for success is incumbent on one’s ability to be upbeat and energetic, not only when working but when interacting with others. “Having a strong energy reserve is especially helpful when I need to pitch a new project to investors, negotiate with someone or even lead a meeting. It’s important to allow your vitality to be seen and felt.”

3. It’s a stress reliever.

Stress is something that everyone in business faces at one time or another. How you handle it, and — more important — how your body is conditioned to handle it can make all the difference. Ghani finds that running helps him to decompress, evaluate priorities and figure out solutions to nagging problems. “Everyone knows that stress can take its toll on the body,” he says. “The important thing is to take care of your body so stress can’t create more physical reactions than it needs to. Running is really helpful in this regard.”

4. It can make you more successful at addressing goals and objectives.

Many people who become active as runners begin to set and achieve running goals. You don’t have to be competitive to do this. It might just be running five miles one day, then committing to run six miles one day next week. “When you run in this way,” says Ali Ghani, “You begin to get comfortable with the challenge of goal-setting, then exceeding your goals. In a way, it’s like a game.” He adds that because everyone in business leadership positions are by virtue of their work, running supports the mindset of doing this in the office as well as on the track.

5. Running might help you sleep better.

Everyone has a rough time sleeping from time to time. And there are those who suffer from insomnia. Ghani says it’s possible that running might help you improve your quality of sleep. “Of course, everyone’s body is different,” he says, “so I can only speak for myself. But I believe that it’s possible to sleep better and more soundly if you run regularly.”

Story by Harold Simms