ESI Commercial MD: triathlons are my secret work weapon

Jon O'Donnell: the managing director of ESI Commercial
Jon O'Donnell: the managing director of ESI Commercial

Jon O'Donnell explains how each triathlon discipline unlocks its own unique characteristic that helps his work, as well as his physique.

Long, long ago in a media career far, far away, I was the size of a small suburban house. Close to being as tall lying down as standing up. My salvation came in the form of my daughter, and the overwhelming desire to see her grow up with a father who did more than just teach her how to make a Greggs sausage roll sandwich.

A friend of mine was training for the Hyde Park triathlon and insisted that I join him – so I did. It was only a short distance but, given my current state, I needed to train hard to get to the start line. Little did I know that triathlons would become my secret work weapon. Like all decent habits, it didn’t take long to move on to the hard stuff.

So why is this my secret work weapon? Well, for me, the gold is in the training. The sheer volume means you have to live a (fairly) disciplined lifestyle. Every late night means you probably miss a day’s training; a night at the Brits, you probably miss a week. So you choose your battles more wisely and make them count. The training itself is the real key, though, as each discipline unlocks its own unique characteristic.

Swimming is your personal organiser. The monotony of it means that you can’t help but go through the day in your head, playing out scenarios, working out the best way forward.

Cycling is your internal creative agency. After pushing through the first painful 20 minutes, your mind becomes an open book for ideas. Most of my presentations, strategies and scripts are written while powering through Marlow.

Finally, the run is your mentor, your problem-solver; the voice that gives you clarity in the fog of daily mayhem.

Of course, there are downsides: the injuries – of which, at my age, there are many. It’s at this point that I rely on my other secret work weapons: a good sense of humour and being surrounded by brilliant people. Both usually help.

Jon O'Donnell is the managing director of ESI Commercial.

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