A morning swim is the secret work weapon of MEC's chief operating officer

A ruined knee was the catalyst for me to make better decisions at work, writes MEC's Paul Hutchinson.

Poor biomechanics and too much sport as a kid meant that, a couple of years ago, the doctors told me impact sport was over.

Approaching 40, in fear of middle-aged media spread and too young for a knee replacement, my only option was swimming.

So, last year, I started a morning swimming regime. At the crack of dawn, you’d find me going back and forth in the local pool with nothing to think about but lengths and strokes and not hitting my head on the end of the pool.

Then, one evening, I received a work email that infuriated me. I was unable to dash off an angry reply there and then as was my usual style, so I left the email unanswered. As I stepped into the pool the following day at 6.30am, I couldn’t get the email out of my head.

No more counting lengths and strokes. Just a build-up of anger. Then something switched. Rather than getting angrier, I started to consider ways I might respond to that email. Having considered my options, I started to write the response in my head.

When I arrived at the office, I coolly composed my reply. Ten minutes after hitting "send", the phone rang. It was the person who had infuriated me the evening before. I was surprised but delighted to hear that whatever it was that had enraged me had been addressed and we agreed a collaborative way forward.

I am convinced this was because my daily dip had given me time to think about the problem and come up with a solution. Strangely, adding an early-morning paddle to my routine saves me time.

A few dozen lengths give me space to think through the big decisions at work. I stride into the office relaxed and my energy levels soaring. It’s true swimming gets monotonous. But that’s the beauty of it. Cogitating over a challenge or opportunity makes my hour-long swim fly by.

Paul Hutchinson is the chief operating officer at MEC.

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