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Fitness lessons we should apply at work.
I just rode a 464 on my Peloton!
That may not be super impressive to an experienced cyclist, but it’s a solid personal record for a guy who’s never ridden a real bicycle. I’ve been a big Peloton-er for 2 years. My household needed to shake off the sedentary vibe that came with our collective transition to 100% remote work. So, we bought a bike.
I’ve learned a lot during my latest fitness journey. I’ve learned that seat cushions are an absolute must in spin classes. I’ve learned that few things feel more dramatic than dropping your water bottle on the ground halfway through a ride when you’re clipped into the bike and firmly “in the zone.” And I’ve learned what happens when Cody Rigsby plays Britney Spears.
But my biggest takeaway from 24 months of pedalling to nowhere is a reminder of just how many ideas we can borrow from fitness to improve the workplace, especially in the area of learning and development.
Fitness is iterative. You get a little better every time. One 3-hour bike ride won’t do much but tire you out. However, nine 20-minute rides spread out over 3 weeks will result in meaningful performance improvements.
The same is true for learning. Sitting in a classroom for 3 hours doesn’t mean you learned 3 hours’ worth of information. That’s not how our brains work. We’re easily overwhelmed, no matter how much information the SME requires you to include in the course. Instead, focus learning activity on narrow, targeted topics. Repeatedly expose people to this information, allowing them to apply what they’ve learned. Then, introduce new topics once people demonstrate their understanding. Yes, this means microlearning is the cerebral equivalent of a Peloton membership.
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I do 4 things every day:
Take a walk while listening to a podcast (Pod Meets World is my nostalgic fav).
Complete my daily Axonify training.
Watch The Philly Captain on YouTube.
Ride my Peloton (unless its a scheduled rest day).
If I don’t check all 4 boxes, I feel incomplete. They’re not just activities. They’re habits around which the rest of my day revolves. I started riding the bike a lot to make sure I got the max value from my household investment. Along the way, Peloton made it easy to shift from casual rider to devoted spinner.
Workouts are available in a variety of durations. I typically ride for 30 minutes, but sometimes a 15 or 20-minute session better fits into my schedule.
They offer several workout types. If I’m bored or tired on a particular day, I can switch from a bike ride to an outdoor run and maintain my progress.
The mobile app lets me take my workouts on the road so I can use a bike at a hotel or complete activities that don't require equipment.
I get weekly emails with progress summaries, personalized workout recommendations and encouraging instructor messages.
Call it “fitness in the flow of life.”
Everyone is busy at work. They don’t have time for MORE STUFF, even if that stuff is meant to help them improve. Rather than expect people to make time for learning activities, learning and support resources must be designed to fit into their workplace realities. If we expect people to regularly do something during the work day, like look up information about the company’s products, that information must be available via the devices used on the job in formats that makes sense for when, where and how it will be consumed. Likewise, if we need to pull people away from the operation for dedicated training time, we must account for how this will disrupt the operation and clearly articulate why this disruption is worthwhile.
That’s how you make learning part of the work(flow).
I give myself most of the credit for my Peloton progress. But I definitely wouldn’t keep coming back if it weren’t for my favorite instructors (Tunde, Kendall, Cody, Ally, Alex). They’re essential to my experience, even if we’ve never met in real life (watch Kendall shout out LearnGeek during my 400th ride below). They push me out of my comfort zone while keeping me focused on important things like form and hydration. They can’t see me. They can’t provide personal feedback. But they somehow always know when to say the right thing, especially when I start to tire about 2/3 of the way through and they “get in my face” to boost my motivation.
Managers are the Peloton instructors of the workplace. They may not have Tunde’s room-brightening smile or Cody’s sweet dance moves, but they’re right there, side-by-side with employees every day doing the work. Managers must have the skill and insight to deliver timely, actionable feedback. We must grant managers “permission to lead” by helping them prioritize time with their teams rather overloading them with administrative tasks.
Points. Badges. Leaderboards. Peloton has them all. I’m an OG gamification fan. I see value in the strategic use of game mechanics in non-game settings to promote desired behaviors. But I’m also a fan of choice - not making people play games they don’t want to play. I never look at the Peloton leaderboard. I don’t care if I earn a badge for a themed ride. This doesn’t lessen my experience because Peloton is designed with choice in mind. I can focus on elements that matter to me, like tracking my progress using output metrics (hence the 464 humble brag about 900 words ago).
Engagement is personal. What motivates you probably won’t motivate me. What motivates me today may not motivate me in 6 months. This is just as true in the workplace as it is in a workout program. Give people the option to engage. You can still run contests and track progress on leaderboards, but don’t isolate people who choose not to play. Rather than recognize everyone the same way, let people decide how they wish to be recognized. For example, my company allowed me to select a one-of-a-kind gift to recognize my 5-year anniversary.
Peloton uses technology and design to connect the world through fitness, empowering people to be the best version of themselves anywhere, anytime.
That’s Peloton’s mission statement. It also sounds a lot like what we do to enable performance in the workplace! No, this post isn’t sponsored by Peloton (although I’m happy to talk about future posts 😜). Rather, my experience over the past 2 years has me excited about my personal fitness again. It’s also reminded me of how much inspiration we can draw from our everyday lives to improve the workplace experience.
Plus, I’m really proud of that 464.
Until next time, be well. JD