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Don McNay: Health and exercise require same time commitment as creating wealth

“Feel the city breaking
and everybody shaking
and we’re staying alive, staying alive.”


– The Bee Gees

I’m 50 pounds lighter than I was last Christmas. I’ll be down another 50 by Christmas 2013.

It took me until this year to realize that health and exercise require the same time and resource commitment as creating wealth. People who become wealthy do it in a slow and steady fashion over a long period of time. They need to have good habits and they need to make savings a priority.

The same thing holds true with diet and exercise. It’s not about fads, it’s about changing lifestyles. I know. I’ve tried every fad weight loss program you can possibly think of. They left me morbidly obese.

I never tried the all-Twinkie diet, but that is about the only one I missed.

Most of the weight loss came through a combination of motivation provided by a deeply committed golf pro, Clay Hamrick, and consultant, Anne Parton (who I hired as director of operations for McNay Consulting last week). I lost the first 40 with a combination of golf lessons and better eating habits.

I’ve always had the mindset of treating exercise as something that happened “after work.” Since I always have more business projects than hours in a day, the time pressures would cause me to blow off time for exercise and grab lunch from a drive-through window.

It’s taken some serious psychological rewiring to get me to make my health a priority. If I can do it, anyone can. I’m a middle-aged grandpa whose last athletic feats were performed when Jimmy Carter was president.

I’ve noticed some immediate benefits. I feel better and have far more energy. Also, taking time to exercise allows me to disconnect from stress and come back at work with a renewed vigor.

Thus, exercise has not taken away from business. It’s made me more productive than ever. And more aware of how an hour in the gym means better hours at work.

People who work with me know immediately when I’m missing exercise. Apparently I am much easier to work with after I have my workouts.

Not to mention adding years onto my life. I used to think I would not live to an old age. Now I am certain that I will. The mindset has completely flipped.

The first step to good health was getting me to do something. Like anything. I had not truly exercised in years and it showed. Golf was my natural choice because it is competitive and I enjoyed it before I deemed myself too fat to play a decade ago. Clay, Anne and I set some concrete goals for golf and I achieved them all in 2012.

I’m waiting for the PGA Senior tour to give me a call. Or at least let me do a “Tin Cup” imitation in the U.S. Open.

One of the goals was to walk a nine-hole golf course. Once I did that, I needed a different challenge. Zumba kept popping up on my radar.

I grew up in an uber-macho family where sports dominated. I played football, basketball, baseball and ran track. No male in my family danced. Outside of a few disco moves, I’ve never really danced either.

Thus, some extreme mental wiring had to take place to get me into a Zumba class. I kept running into professional women who raved about the benefits of Zumba and obviously getting into shape, but the one who finally got Zumba on my radar was Neil Burns.

Neil is my Facebook friend who once weighed 680 pounds. He is now 400 pounds lighter. Zumba was one of the techniques he used to get the weight off.

A former college football player, Neil was less of a stereotypical dancer than I am. He seemed like he would be the perfect Zumba buddy for me.

I followed Neil on Facebook and arranged to interview him at the Richmond Athletic Club where he worked out. About the time I interviewed him, Neil was moving away from Zumba to other exercises and away from a club that offered Zumba.

That left me to attend Zumba on my own. Those who follow my writing recognize that I am fearless when it comes to breaking barriers, but being the only man in a Zumba class was terrifying.

That is until I met Onieta Stewart. Onieta is an evangelist for the powers of Zumba. She is married to Bobby, who is operations manager for the Richmond Athletic Club, but she is really married to the concept that people can improve their lives through exercise and fitness.

Onieta teaches an incredible number of Zumba and other exercise classes each week and leads them with an intensity and enthusiasm that is absolutely contagious. She also “got” that I felt like a fish out of water.

She explained that several other men came to Zumba classes and that it was something you can do at your own pace. I saw women in the class going at full intensity and some at a slower pace like me.

Also, after I broke my class’s gender barrier, a woman brought her husband to the next class.

Without Onieta, I can see how my trip to Zumba would have been a one-time experience. Now I am attending on a regular basis. And losing weight. And getting in shape.

Because the key to the whole program is “Staying Alive, Staying Alive.”

And having fun while you do it.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the bestselling author of the book Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money. McNay, who lives in Richmond, is an award-winning financial columnist. You can learn more about him at donmcnay.com. His new book, Life Lessons from the Lottery: Protecting Your Money in a Scary World, was just released on Amazon.

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