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Succeed in Business = Think like an Athlete

Zoran Šljivić, Lead Software Developer

There are many scientific articles that prove how many benefits the human body reaps from physical activity and playing sports. A healthy mind in a healthy body. Exercise causes the feeling of happiness and reduces anxiety and stress. Primarily because it causes the release of the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine which reduce depression and provide a sense of happiness. Exercise strengthens the brain, improves memory and the ability to think. It prolongs life, improves skin health, strengthens muscles and bones, improves sleep quality, speeds up metabolism and strengthens team spirit.

A sports team or a project team, what's the difference? Well, the only significant difference is the terrain on which the set goal is achieved. At work, companies want their employees to work together to achieve a set goal. The same is expected of a football, basketball, or handball team. The better the connection in a team, the more the team members will try and help each other achieve their set goal. If the atmosphere in the Croatian national handball team is no good, we can almost be sure that the team will not place high in any of the big competitions. The same can be applied to teams in business organizations; if the atmosphere is subpar, people will not feel well about coming to work and will not be motivated to work. Another benefit of exercising is that people who exercise usually take less sick leave and suffer less injuries in daily life. Statistically, employees who engage in some sport have a 14% improvement in net worth for businesses compared to employees who do not engage in any sport. People who exercise regularly – on average three times a week – have greater self-confidence and are more content with themselves, meaning they are often more focused on tasks at work.

At Serengeti, we have started the trend of regular exercise over the last year. In addition to exercisers at the gym, we have a Serengeti running team that has been around since 2017 and which has frequently been preparing for a variety of trails, city races and bike races. We also have a team in Bjelovar that got more involved in group fitness training between races. Some just thought they could start exercising, some exercised on their own at home, but without achieving any of the results they wanted to see. With a little encouragement from me and educating colleagues about how the human body works, they decided to try doing a joint workout. From my point of view, I really wanted to help my younger colleagues not to spend 10 years in an exclusively sedentary lifestyle with fast-food habits, which would later cost them their health. To start off, we just talked about their eating habits and their expectations, after which we started exploring various theories that can be found on the Internet, only to agree on the practical part.

We agreed to do 3 workouts a week for 60-90 minutes, and the days in between can be used for passive or active rest (such as running or cycling). Mandatory training days are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – right after work. Why right after work? Well, for several reasons:

- less people in the gym than normally
- immediately after sitting in the office, we activate our muscles
- the rest of the day is used for rest and regeneration

This means that training starts at around 3:10pm, and until 4:30-5:00pm everyone can make it home for lunch/dinner. And there are still a few hours left for all other obligations. Other days of the week are reserved for active rest – or if due to some unplanned schedule changes we must skip the training on one of these days, then we adjust the weekly schedule accordingly. We are divided into groups according to physical predispositions, and we always do the exercises in pairs. Exercising in pairs is important because in this way partners get to motivate each other to perform the exercise and make sure that the other person does not suffer an injury.

Initially, motivation was needed so as not to lose willpower when learning new exercises and movements. At the very start, the main motivator was physical appearance. Later, their appetites for exercise grew, so the motivation came on its own from the results that followed. They soon started setting higher goals in exercises which include lifting, so sometimes my intervention was required – in the sense that maybe they needed to slow down a bit and focus on gradually building progress. In some other exercises, some people needed a few encouraging words to make them have a little more faith in themselves and their abilities.

Over three months of exercise, the team began losing excess fat, increasing muscle mass, sleeping better, and feeling better overall. All of this has resulted in them being more energetic at work and generally more focused on performing tasks. What is particularly interesting is that they gradually translated the way they cheer each other on at the gym when performing exercises to supporting each other when performing daily tasks at work. In the beginning, it was difficult for them – it is, after all, a lifestyle change. They could not understand what I meant when I explained that after a while it would be easier to train tired than to skip a session. After training, a person feels better and has more energy. What I consider the biggest success personally is that all these people have started to independently explore healthy habits and how to incorporate them into their lives. Through training, they have learned to allocate time better, and they are more persistent in performing tasks.

Sport has also connected people from different cities, so the team from Zagreb agrees with the teams from Bjelovar and Varaždin where to go for a run or which bike race to participate in. Through these gatherings and participations, we often come up with new ideas that we can use in business – whether it is researching new technologies or coming up with new ideas that we can use in marketing. My opinion is that all these people who have changed their exercise habits in the last few months are more proactive both at work and in their private lives. It would be best if instead of taking my word for it you asked them themselves – Ana M., Dubravko M., Saša B., David D., Antonio S., Ivan J. Ilija L., Pero C.V., Vedran T., and Goran B.


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