soccer player kicking ball at sunset

This morning, I encountered a new term coined by Jack Groppel and Ben Wiegand -- corporate athletes -- that perfectly expresses the many comparisons I've made here between high-performance workers and elite athletes. Like elite athletes, corporate athletes push themselves to the mental and physical limits day after day; however, corporate athletes tend to focus just on work performance rather than the body as a whole.

Here are five lessons any office all-star can take from the realm of sports science to supercharge creativity, productivity and overall performance.

  • Regular breaks. Watch any athletic activity (with the obvious exception of endurance-based sports) and you'll notice plenty of downtime. Whether these breaks are 20 seconds or 30 minutes long doesn't matter: Every few minutes, professional athletes get a chance to mentally prepare for the next burst of action so they can give it their all.
  • Performance nutrition. Sure, Michael Phelps may consume 12,000 calories while he's preparing for the Olympics, but each day's eats are precisely geared towards giving him the protein, refined carbohydrates, fat and overall nutrients he needs to power him through his grueling training regimen. Office all-stars should skip the soda and junk-food snacks in favor of healthier fare that feeds mind and body.
  • Strategic rest. Most athletes have a period of forced rest before and after competitions to recuperate. Corporate athletes should similarly schedule time off after a particularly grueling project or before beginning work on a new one.
  • Exercise. We know that regular physical activity is linked to improved overall health and increased productivity, but consider one more benefit: harmony. By balancing a sedentary workweek with active mornings, evenings and weekends, we're promoting overall happiness and wellness, which catalyzes work efficiency and prevents burnout.
  • Fundamentals. Top-tier baseball players take thousands upon thousands of ground balls during practice year-round. World-class basketball players still spend hours a week practicing free throws year-round. Why? Because they know that mastering fundamentals drives long-term success. Corporate athletes must similarly focus on the fundamentals of their discipline -- even when it's tempting to ignore that which you already know and only take on new tasks.

Are you a corporate athlete? How do you sustain such prolonged productivity?

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