Guest comment: Staying the distance as a corporate athlete

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Working in investment banking is like running a marathon, says Chris Jessop of Nuffield Proactive Health. You can't do it if you've had too many Krispy Kremes.

You are a good operator, you have a great track record and you are well respected within the firm, but as the cliché goes, you are only as good as your last deal.

And things certainly don't seem to be getting any easier. The pressures if anything seem worse as you grapple with the pace of change, greater complexity, rising expectations and excessive workload.

So how do you thrive in this changing landscape? How do you raise your game even further to meet these increased demands?

It might sound a little trite, but you really do need to think of yourself as a corporate athlete - and one aspiring to a medal position. Like a top athlete, you need to devote the time and the sheer physical effort to fine-tune your performance and maximise your potential. Focusing on your own physical wellbeing is not just about avoiding ill-health and looking good - although this helps - it is about maximising your energy, your stamina and mental sharpness. It is becoming an essential element of contemporary corporate success.

I'll start with the good news: by nature, if you are successful in this industry you probably have good raw material - you chose your parents well. You are bright, you have the capacity for working long hours and you are in pretty good shape health-wise. Now the hard bit - how can you possibly fit anything else into your time-precious lifestyle, particularly when you regularly spend over 12 hours every day in the office at your desk?

If you're to make time for the factors necessary for corporate success, there are a few things you'll need to focus on:

Your mindset. This is not a nice thing to do - it's a fundamental and important part of living your life. It is a priority. It is something that has to be woven into your existing lifestyle, not just an add-on, if you are going to keep it up. People who fall by the wayside are typically those who see it more as a sprint than a marathon, a well-intentioned but excessive burst that can't be maintained. Those who succeed are more considered and graduated in their approach, showing a real strength of character for the longer haul.

Balance. You need to keep the balance. Making a commitment to a wellness lifestyle doesn't mean that you need to become boring. You can probably still carry on doing most of the things you usually enjoy doing - there's nothing wrong with a bit of hedonism. You can just do them with an easier conscience. Unless you keep the balance you won't keep it up

Practicalities. Many of the things that health experts recommend are about practical adjustments rather than radical changes. Some are quite straightforward and obvious, like drinking a couple of litres of water a day, cutting back on coffee and only drinking it in the morning, keeping a bowl of fruit on your desk, trying to chose the healthier options on the menu and using the stairs in the office rather than the lift. These are all easy to do and can be surprisingly beneficial. There is hard scientific evidence that they work.

Some things are, however, a little harder - like introducing more activity or exercise into our lives. Here there is no easy answer, you simply have to try and choose something that is as convenient and as fun as possible - using the in-house gym, cycling to work, buying a rowing machine for the spare bedroom or, if you work in London, simply getting off the tube a couple of stops earlier and walking.

Whatever you decide, taking a positive approach to your wellbeing has never been easier with much greater access to a wide range of choice: there has been a proliferation of health information, food options, corporate wellness programmes, juice bars at the stations and Livingstone's cycle lanes.

Invest in your wellbeing and aspire to gold. The rewards in terms of performance will come.

· Chris Jessop is chief executive of Nuffield Proactive Health.

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