At age 19, the only regular exercise Tim Mulcahy got was trudging door to door selling insulation. Daily nutrition was a “salesman’s diet” of Burger King, cigarettes and coffee. “I was unfit,” he admits. “I was unhealthy.”
An invitation to go running with a colleague changed all that. After gasping and wheezing through a two-mile run, Mulcahy looked in the mirror and saw the inkling of a new man: “My face and skin and eyes were just glowing. I remember just feeling alive. I was addicted from then on.” Five or six days a week would find Mulcahy running, playing tennis or weightlifting. “I just felt so much better if I exercised,” he says, “and, amazingly, my sales doubled that year.”
You know the importance of staying fit and healthy, but who has time when you’re at the helm of a growing company? Mulcahy doesn’t buy that excuse. Now 43, Mulcahy is a serial entrepreneur who has managed to stay active even while founding 12 startups over the past 20 years, most notably Toronto-based Energy Savings Income Fund (launched in 1997 as Ontario Energy Savings Corp.), a $733-million-a-year reseller of natural gas and electricity. As co-founder, Mulcahy helped grow the firm to revenue of $146 million before leaving in 2001. What’s more, fitness has been a “mandatory” part of staying focussed and sane, he says. Indeed, Mulcahy is proof positive that healthy living and business success can â and should â go hand in hand.
You’re sharper, delegate more effectively and have more energy, says Mulcahy, “And if you’re running at 100%, you can get twice as much done.” No wonder that in 2001 Mulcahy launched Toronto-based Truestar Health Inc., an online resource for healthy living. “I’d been selling natural gas for 12 years,” he says. “I really just wanted to sell health.”
Still, Mulcahy is the first to admit the path to good health isn’t always easy. Marriage, then children increased the demands on his time, and making healthy food choices was tough when he was always on the run. To stay the course, Mulcahy relied on friends and family for support and inspiration. “My children motivated me because I wanted to set a good example for them.” He also listened to motivational tapes from such gurus as Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra, which helped him prioritize and organize his time.
Interested in replicating Mulcahy’s success? Here are more of his hard-won lessons on incorporating health and wellness into an already busy life:
Establish a routine: Mulcahy knew he was more apt to stay committed to an exercise program if he scheduled regular workout dates. Find a time that suits your needs, and pencil in at least three days during the workweek and one on the weekend. Even at the peak of Energy Savings’ growth, Mulcahy would rise by 7 a.m. and work out for 30 minutes before heading to the office. On the road, he visits hotel gyms or spends 20 minutes doing sit-ups, push-ups and stretching in his room.
Easy does it: Save your hard-core workouts for the weekend and think shorter exercise periods, more often â they’re less daunting and easier to fit into your jam-packed day. It could be 20 minutes on a bike or a half-hour of circuit training, in which you quickly rotate between weight-training movements.
Ingest the best: Incorporating exercise into his routine was easy for Mulcahy, but making healthy food choices proved harder to master. Mulcahy started by reducing his fast-food intake, eschewing burger joints for restaurants with larger menus that were more likely to offer healthier options. Little things such as removing the skin on chicken or passing up potatoes also helped. To keep on track through necessary business lunches and dinner functions, Mulcahy focusses on eating the vegetables and skips dessert.
Stay liquid: Since dehydration leads to fatigue, Mulcahy helps keep his energy level high by drinking 12 to 15 glasses of water a day. To make the task easier, he always has a good supply of bottled water near at hand. You could also try keeping a water carafe on your desk.
Rest in peace: It’s typical for entrepreneurs to fit more into their day by sleeping less. But a lack of zzzs eventually catches up to you. While everyone’s sleep needs are different, Mulcahy says he feels his best after about eight hours of sleep. “The toughest thing for me is trying to wind down,” says Mulcahy. To tune out the day, he unplugs his cellphone around 9 p.m., and then relaxes with a hot shower or a good book.
Â© 2005 Susanne Ruder