Exercise & Health is Important to Trading
Much has been made of my trading lifestyle after my New Market Wizards interview with Jack Schwager in 1995. He tagged me “Mr. Serenity” because trading seemed so easy to me. I wasn’t the over-caffeinated, nicotine-addicted, overweight, stressed out stereotype he had seen often when interviewing other traders.
My book Successful Traders Size Their Positions – Why and How? is one of the reasons I can be “serene” when it comes to trading. If my positions are always within a tight limit of how they affect the portfolio, rarely would any movements get so exciting that they would affect my emotional state. This helps me stay strategic, in mental balance, and allows me to be totally ready to execute the next 1000 trades.
Another very important aspect to remaining “serene” would be health and exercise, something many prefer to put way down on the list of priorities when thinking about trading. I would suggest that every trader reconsider those priorities and move exercise and health way up to the top.
We have all heard the saying, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” You certainly don’t have the ability to be as successful a trader because your health, both mentally and physically, will impact decisions made, available time you can spend, and the clarity of your thinking. Someone in pain or ill with the flu is simply not going to feel that making the next trade is something important to do. You may instead just be trying to get through your day.
One Facebook follower whom I respect asked me to say something about my personal thoughts and practices on exercise and health. I thought the idea had merit, since it has been a priority of mine for many years now. It all started back in my 30’s when Trendstat Capital Management, Inc. took off, and I had to represent the company to clients worldwide. My schedule would include round the world trips over weeks, lots of speaking engagements, writing research papers for industry publications, being on the board of the National Futures Association, one- or two-day domestic trips to Chicago or New York, and managing Trendstat at the same time. Days were long, weeks were long, and months were long.
What is the best way to deal with that amount of potential stress to keep balanced and moving ahead? Stay in good physical shape. My secretary and I had an agreement that when she would book trips anywhere that I had to stay overnight, she made sure the hotel had internet and an exercise room of some sort. Even when traveling, I would try my best to get in some treadmill work, walk to appointments, lift small weights, perform Pilates moves, or get on an elliptical machine or bicycle machine.
I was always finding myself in situations where I was entertaining a client at dinner and far too many calories would be consumed. To me that meant that those same calories had to be “burned off” some way. I remember countless times in New York City where I would come in on a Sunday night, take a bus from the Newark airport to the World Trade Center (when it was still there), and walk or take subways the rest of the week. By the time I left for Phoenix Sky Harbor on Friday afternoon, I had not once gotten into a taxi or car. Yet I had logged in countless miles on the sidewalks of NY, burning thousands of calories and strengthening my legs. I remember one trip when the soles of my shoes wore through, and I had to scramble and buy a new pair of dress shoes quickly.
My long-term motivation has remained the same. In order to have a quality of life and a balanced approach to trading you must think like the Olympic athlete. Olympians train with a goal in mind. So do I. My goal is to stay in good shape for trading, golf and other fun activities in life like playing with my granddaughter. One day at a time, I must keep the goal in mind and be self-aware enough to make good decisions. Exercise is key in keeping my mind clear, and it enhances my ability to focus.
Cake or no cake? Twelve oz steak or 8 oz salmon? Veggies or mashed potatoes? Elliptical or walking? Working straight through or taking an hour to work out? Having a snack or waiting until lunch? Wine or beer? Golf or skip it because it is windy outside? Small decisions throughout your every day affect the sum of calories in versus calories out. Take on the attitude that you’re training to be the best that you can be over your whole life, and that should give you the attitude that every little thing is important to consider on your way to health.
Now in retirement I have different routines, different physical needs, but the general goal and direction are still the same. When I travel now (hard to call trips vacations when I’m retired), I like to have internet and exercise capabilities with our hotel. My wife likes to work out (Jazzercize and Cardio Sculpt) as much as I do, and frequently we hike or work out together when on the road. We like staying in hotels close to where we are hoping to go, so we can walk to sites that interest us. Most guys hate going shopping, but I think of it as walking and carrying exercise while being with my best friend. I weigh myself on the scale many mornings to see where I am. I also take my glucose and blood pressure from time to time and transmit all the above to my doctor, who is quite technically savvy. Just knowing that I’ve gained a pound or two is enough motivation to get to the exercise room and get back on track.
I try to get some sort of physical exercise in 5 of 7 days. It could be a 30-minute elliptical machine session, a cardio sculpt class, cardio warm-up with 30 minutes of weights followed by 45 minutes of elliptical, or it might be 4+ hours of walking and playing golf. If pressed for time, I might hit golf balls for only an hour. I could be walking the dog for a special one-hour hike (He likes to sprint the last block home, so I sprint to the finish.) On weekends in Phoenix it is fun to take the dog on a longer hike in the desert around town.
The point is I try to do something active. I would be bored doing the same thing repeatedly, so I mix it up to work different muscles, keep my heart rate and weight down and maintain my ability to stay “serene”. I like sitting at my computer and posting to social media, researching new ways to trade, and keeping up with emails as much as anyone out there. I have reliable high-speed internet; my desk suits me fine, the music is tuneful, and I’m very comfortable in my space. However, knowing that the number one priority is my health, all those other things must allow for some scheduled “me time.”
All my trader friends out there have extremely different lives with a variety of situations available for exercise or healthy lifestyles. You may live in India and not have access to a gym. You may be in London, take The Tube to work, and stay for the New York markets till late in the night. You may live in Toronto and are snowed in for the day. You may be married with children and your day seems to just disappear. Little things like parking in the lot the farthest you can from the door and walking a few more steps helps the cause. Skip the car and bicycle to work a few days a week when the weather permits. Have a quick workout in the company gym for your lunch break and eat something small at your desk afterwards. Think outside the box. Movement equals exercise. Keep moving!
One pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories, so if you create a deficit of only 500 calories per day, then over 7-days, you will lose one pound. Many dieticians would say that if you could just cut back 250 calories per day in your diet somehow and get 250 calories of activity into your day, you would achieve that daily goal and you would watch the weight slowly melt away. Remember if you are a bit heavier than you would like, it took a lifetime to get the weight on and it comes slowly but surely. Your heart is a muscle. Working it out helps keep it strong and working well for you. My heart rate has always been low especially when I’m trading or working at the computer. I truly believe that is due to the cardio exercises I have done over time.
You must figure it out for you. Much the same way your individual trading strategy must fit you and your situation (Creating Your Own Successful Trading Strategy Video Series) , so must your method of improving and maintaining your health and well-being. If you are trying to become the best trader you can be, I strongly suggest you make your health a priority. Do not take your health for granted. Without it, you will quickly realize that everything else will seem less important. Start doing something; anything and while you are at it, enjoy the ride!
yields the following calories burned for 200 pound (roughly 91 Kg) man doing these various activities for 30 minutes (in no particular order):
Walking the dog = 92
Walking 4.0 mph on level treadmill = 182
Health club exercise, general = 204
Bicycle, stationary, general = 274
Weightlifting, strenuous, general = 228
Ballroom dancing, fast = 160
Washing dishes while standing = 60
Vacuuming = 114
Making the bed = 46
Sweeping outside the house = 136
Walking/running, playing with children, moderate = 126
Rowing machine, light effort = 278
Stair stepper machine, light effort = 278
Mowing lawn, power machine, walking = 204
Shoveling snow by hand = 228
Basketball, shooting baskets = 160
Golf, walking and pulling clubs = 150
Soccer (Football ex-USA), casual = 274
Tennis, singles = 318
Swimming laps, freestyle, light effort = 278
Water aerobics = 136
Skiing, downhill, light effort = 182
Standing occupation, light effort = 92
Fishing in a stream = 228
Pistol or trap shooting while standing = 68Hiking cross country = 228