The Physical Foundation Of The Energy Pyramid

The energy pyramid is a helpful way to think about the role of energy and how to manage it. It has four tiers that depend on each other: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. It lays out a blueprint we will follow for the rest of the book. The energy pyramid also dictates that we must rest sufficiently or risk burnout, and at the same time make sure we are challenging ourselves and pushing our limits to increase our energy capacity.

• One way to cultivate greater physical energy is to start every day with an intense seven-minute workout. This wakes up your body, boosts energy levels, and gets you started on the right foot for the day.

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Pyramidal Thinking

When we put off our work, it’s often because we have too little energy to do what needs to be done. When we experience our work as draining, we’re too tired to focus, we’re easily distracted, and we feel like we can’t accomplish the job we’ve been assigned, what we’re really experiencing is a lack of attention to the underlying energy pyramid that powers us all.

This is a bigger problem than we realize because even more so than time, energy is a finite resource that we must protect on a daily basis. Nothing else you read in this book will make an iota of difference if you don’t have the energy to pull it off.

Energy drains, and once it does, recharging is necessary. One great tool to understand energy management is the energy pyramid, an idea conceived by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.

The energy pyramid is a four-tiered pyramid with physical energy at its base, emotional energy above that, mental energy in the next layer, and spiritual energy at the top. Each of these plays an important role in building up or draining our energy, and each tier depends on the tiers below to sustain itself. Understanding the interconnected nature of what goes into our energy bank allows us to take charge and create more for ourselves. Put another way, if you don’t satisfy these levels of energy and engagement, it’s unlikely you will even be in a position to focus, work, or conquer procrastination.

The energy pyramid sets forth a model of energy management that we will follow for the rest of the book, for the most part.

The pyramid points out that we must first notice and improve our levels of physical energy. Physical energy forms the basis for all the other tiers; it’s the foundation upon which all our energy needs are built. To manage our physical energy, we must mind our physical health. We must eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise.

That may sound draining, and sometimes it is. After all, if you’re not used to eating vegetables, indigestion will be the initial response to your newly healthy diet. But with time and persistence, eating well pays off with adjusted gut flora and an excess of energy. Exercise works the same way. At first, exercising feels draining, and we finish our routines exhausted. But after we’ve done it for a week or two, we start to feel energized when we’ve finished. What used to be difficult becomes easy, and when it does, it comes with a burst of fresh energy to apply to the rest of our lives.

Sleep, at least, is an activity that always feels good when we’re doing it. While plenty of us wish we didn’t need to sleep and could keep working without respite, it’s a nonnegotiable fact of life that humans need rest. Without sleep, we yawn, have trouble focusing, and eventually fall asleep amidst our required activities. By contrast, when we put effort into getting enough sleep, we’re energized, ready for our day, able to focus, and unlikely to fall into an ill-timed slumber.

The best part about the physical foundation of the energy pyramid is that it’s not an absolute scale. We don’t have to become as athletic as teenagers, as health-conscious as dieticians, or as well-rested as Winnie the Pooh to benefit from healthy changes. All we have to do is find room for improvement, then improve. The benefits are almost immediate, and noticing and focusing on how much better minding our health makes us feel can motivate us to continue.

The Seven-Minute Morning Workout

In this spirit, you can begin right now to improve your physical health and wellbeing, and you don’t have to make an enormous change to start reaping the benefits. Exercise is a proven way to stimulate your brain’s release of happy hormones, or endorphins. Working out boosts your blood circulation and floods your body with fresh oxygen, lifting your mood, strengthening your muscles, and protecting your heart health.

One excellent way to lay the foundation for good physical wellbeing is to exercise daily, and preferably in the morning. You don’t need to go overboard, though—just seven minutes is enough to get the day started on the right foot. Overnight, your body goes into a state of dormancy. Waking up is not just a matter of coming to consciousness—it’s also about booting up your metabolism, warming up your muscles, and getting your entire system ready for the day ahead. A seven-minute workout can help you wake up and start the day feeling energized and inspired.

First, make a habit of stretching the moment you wake up. Get up instantly and move around, taking deep breaths and exposing yourself to bright light. Your quick morning workout can be whatever you want it to be, but here are some ideas:

• Take a quick jog outside to warm up your muscles and fill your lungs with fresh air. You could also try running on the spot indoors or even dancing energetically around your living room! Another option is to run on a treadmill or exercise bike.

• Choose a quick cardio workout like skipping or aerobics.

• Do a favorite bodyweight exercise routine such as Pilates, making sure you hit all the major muscle groups.

• If you do a sport, try some targeted exercises for this sport.

• Remember to stretch before and after—your muscles and joints are especially delicate in the morning!

The power of the morning workout is that you do it every day, no excuses. It’s short enough that you’re finished with it almost before you realize it, yet it still works hard to keep you flexible, strong, and fit. No more excuses about not having enough time! You could easily squeeze in seven minutes before your morning shower or do it just as you wake up in the mornings.

One common way of including healthful physical exercise into your morning routine is to have a fixed program you follow every day. The “Scientific 7-Minute Workout” was first published in the American College of Sport’s Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal in 2013. This high-intensity workout engages the whole body and has been shown to improve overall performance, boost heart and lung endurance, and improve blood pressure. The workout can be found online and is as follows:

Thirty seconds jumping jacks

Thirty seconds wall sit (prop your back against a wall with your thighs horizontal to the floor and hold)

Thirty seconds full push-ups

Thirty seconds abdominal crunches

Thirty seconds step-ups onto a chair or box

Thirty seconds squats (arms forward, keeping knees in line with toes, and hips sent backward)

Thirty seconds tricep dips (you can do this between two chairs)

Thirty seconds plank (body as straight as possible, resting on forearms)

Thirty seconds high knee running in place

Thirty seconds lunges (without knees going past the line of the toes)

Thirty seconds push up with rotation (twist up and back to open body on both sides)

Thirty second side plank on each side

Depending on your level of fitness, the above might seem intimidating or plain old boring. But the idea behind the seven-minute morning workout is not merely to aid in weight loss or muscle building. In all honesty, seven minutes a day is not enough for a complete physical program. However, seven minutes in the morning lays the foundation for more healthy activity in the rest of the day, and can energize and motivate you—which in turn makes it easier to engage in other exercises.

When you think about it, seven minutes is barely any time at all. But in that time, you can wake up and energize every major muscle group and get yourself feeling motivated and focused for the day ahead. The boost in mood and pride you’ll get from being disciplined enough to work out every day will flow over into other areas of your life. Then, you’ll have more energy and motivation to funnel into other important things.

Too many people spend all night sleeping, then sluggishly creep into the next day without so much as a stretch. They plonk themselves down into office chairs and work for hours. Such a sedentary lifestyle is not only a disaster for your physical health, it has real consequences for your overall mood and energy levels. No, you won’t turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger just because you work out for seven minutes every morning, but you will absolutely find more energy, more purpose, more discipline, and more focus by starting the day right.

Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition.

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