• Simon Phillips

Are you a Corporate Athlete?

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

In our fast-changing world with ever-increasing demands and a focus on personal effectiveness and optimal performance, it’s more important than ever that busy change makers look after themselves and others physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, in order to rise to the challenges ahead of us and maintain wellbeing.

The concept of the ‘Corporate Athlete’ incorporates the subjects of wellbeing and personal development - neatly wrapped up into one holistic approach to performance development that addresses the four realms of body, emotions, mind and spirit.

Jack Groppel’s book ‘The Corporate Athlete’ was first published in 1999, so this is not a new set of ideas – just one that deserves ongoing endorsement in the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment that many of us find ourselves in.

Nor is it one that only relates to those working in large corporate organisations. Anyone with a busy work life can benefit.

With decades of research and development into the peak performance of elite athletes, the key concept is that peak performance does not come about through the development of skills and knowledge alone. Organisations cannot afford to address employees' cognitive capacities whilst ignoring their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. ‘Training’ in the corporate sense (both the formal learning provided by an organisation, and the informal activities, habits and rituals that individuals engage in for wellbeing and personal development) needs to address the whole person.

‘The High Performance Pyramid’ model illustrates that to perform at our best we need to develop strength and capacity across all four realms as follows:

  1. Physical health as the foundation, then above that…

  2. Emotional health, then…

  3. Mental health and acuity, and finally, at the top…

  4. Spiritual health, manifesting as a sense of purpose, motivation and endurance capacity.

Each level profoundly impacts all the others, and the ideal performance state (IPS) is achieved when all four levels are working together.

If all this is sounding a bit exhausting, then don’t worry yourself because another concept is that managing energy, rather than time, is the key to peak performance, and we need to oscillate regularly between energy expenditure and energy renewal to prevent burnout. So it’s ok to work hard if we are also taking care to balance this with appropriate levels of rest, play and other renewal activities.

The term Corporate Athlete may initially conjure up images of training for marathons or doing 40 mile bike rides at the weekends alongside your already hectic working life, but it needn’t mean that at all. It’s really about finding your level, whilst consistently taking small steps to develop strength and acuity across each of the realms - some examples including:


  • Drinking water throughout the day

  • Eating regularly (frequent small meals) and well (natural, whole foods)

  • Avoiding too many toxins

  • Sleeping well (early to bed, early to rise)

  • Resting periodically (short breaks every 90-120 mins)

  • Exercising regularly (high impact interval training is great – even 30 mins., 3-5 times a week)

  • Having regular massages – particularly back/neck and shoulders for office workers.


  • Developing self-awareness – becoming aware moment to moment of what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, how you’re coming across, etc.

  • Practising managing your emotional responses (controlled breathing, controlled thinking, focusing on what you want and choosing your response)

  • Practicing awareness of others – becoming aware of how others may be thinking, feeling, etc

  • Up-skilling in the communication of your thoughts, feelings, needs and expectations

  • Assessing and developing your emotional intelligence (excellent diagnostic tools are available, and can help massively alongside coaching in your development areas)

  • Seeking support and friendship from others (and not buying into the myth that you shouldn’t form friendships at work - appropriate boundaries notwithstanding).


  • Practising stress-management and prevention techniques

  • Engaging in mind-gym type activities

  • Training and development in all key result areas

  • Training in effective thinking skills (problem solving, creativity, avoiding thinking errors, critical thinking, etc)

  • Accessing workplace counselling where available/needed

  • Attending mindfulness sessions.


  • Practising meditation / visualisation

  • Going on re-balancing nature walks (beach, forest, etc.)

  • Practising yoga

  • Reading/studying spiritual literature and teaching

  • Engaging in religious/spiritual activity (prayer, chanting, singing, etc).

Workplaces looking to improve performance and develop their workforce should consider how they can incorporate all four realms in their development programmes, and how they can embed the practices into daily life. They should also consider what they can do to make these activities easy for employees in terms of provision of facilities, resources and time.

We all know we would benefit from doing the activities listed, and are no doubt doing many of them already. So it’s worth giving some thought to what you aren’t currently doing, and how you might incorporate these things into your day/week. What gets in the way for you? Sometimes it’s just about establishing new habits. Sometimes we tell ourselves it’s a shortage of time, but maybe we just need to place a few more boundaries around our time. Or stop watching so much television, engaging in so much social media activity, etc., in order to spend more time on activities that are truly renewing.

But life isn’t all about work and achievement. Maximal performance in business is only one side of the coin – the other is maximal happiness in life. So be a Corporate Athlete. Follow the tips in this article, and maybe read (or listen to) some books on the subject. But know that the benefits of your activities will ripple out far beyond work, and improve the very quality of your life.

If your organisation would benefit from some support in managing and thriving through change, or if you’d like to build resilience, improve wellbeing and maximise performance, get in touch with The Change Maker Group today to find out how we can help.


Martine can be contacted at community@thechangemakergroup.com


We are looking forward to hearing from you!

© The Change Maker Group 2020. All rights reserved.

+44 (0)333 050 9467

227a West St, Fareham

PO16 0HZ, UK

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