Health. Fitness. Workout routine.
Just reading those words makes me want to eat a cookie and take a sizable nap. But the truth is, these three things are becoming more and more of a concern in the workplace. Business owners are taking more of an interest in the health and welfare of their employees day to day.
Studies over the past decade have shown that well-rested, healthy, fit workers are more productive. They also take less sick days and require fewer trips to medical professionals. But let’s put the business element aside and focus on you: the 9-5er, the person trying to balance work, stress, relationships, kids and living a relatively healthy life.
Even in the past two years, we have seen an influx of products and technology focused on helping us live a healthier lifestyle. Apps such as MyFitnessPal, Microsoft Health, and Couch to 5K have been pouring out of the developer’s chairs and onto our phones and computers, all promising to help get us moving, watch what we eat and enjoy the exercise we once dreaded. And it works! …for all of 3 weeks. Then, for one reason or another, those notifications start getting ignored.
“Hey Tom, have you logged your breakfast this morning?” – MyFitnessPal
swipe “Sorry, buddy, you don’t need to know I just shotgunned 10 mini-muffins.”
The truth is, no matter how little physical exercise happens at work. It can still be an exhausting experience. Writing code, running from meeting to meeting or working with customers is mentally taxing and even though your body did nothing, your mind needs a nap. It is hard to even see the point, why do I need to run 5 miles? When is this helpful? Even being chased by a bear, you would only need to run to the nearest tree. Lifting 300 pounds? What are you, Superman? When will this be handy in a real life situation?
The bottom line: we are trained to be efficient and work smarter, not harder. These elements directly conflict with the principles of a daily workout routine. Personally, it took me years to find something that worked, but the important part is that I found it. Here’s my story:
Stress does some insane things to your body and mental state. From headaches to problems with sleeping, it can slowly cause long-term issues with mental and physical health. I am not a medical professional but I did have several telling me that they could find nothing causing my headaches or leg tremors and that I should look into my day-to-day lifestyle for why I was feeling this way. Ultimately, I chose to cut down on the pizza and try some fitness classes.
After trying the gym, biking and lifting weights, I ended up in a friend’s aerial arts class. Aerial arts is the practice of performing tricks and moves in an apparatus rigged in the air (trapeze, lyra, silks). These moves require an enormous amount of strength and flexibility to achieve. And, hanging in the air is really fun.
I started going several times a week, starting at ground zero where I could barely lift my legs off of the ground, let alone lift my body weight onto a trapeze. But I had a goal, our instructor showed us several breath-taking moves that she said were easy (lies), and didn’t hurt (also lies). It took 4 months to start seeing significant progress, but soon I was able to do all beginner moves and go into the more advanced classes.
It will be a year in September of me sticking with this routine. I wanted to share with you the three things that have kept me going:
Whether it be a workout buddy, a team or a classroom of people, having someone make you accountable for showing up and accomplishing something makes it much harder to quit. Joining the parks and rec adult sports teams, fitness clubs or classes (cycling, fencing, martial arts) will give you a set schedule to work around and individuals who depend on you to be there. Also, support just feels good.
Remember that pointless run? Those crunches that did not make you look like Ryan Gosling? Well, now you have a more reasonable reason for doing them. Want to compete in that 5k race with your friend? Start scheduling a before/after work run. See a really cool martial arts move your instructor did? Start stretching and working on the things he did to accomplish it.
As IT professionals, we have to know how something works. That bit of code, a new web engine, that video of someone immersing a PC into mineral oil and claiming it still works (video on YouTube).
Apply this same curiosity to your workouts. Why am I stretching this muscle, what is it called? If I want to accomplish this goal, what exercises and stretches do I need to do to get there? What foods fuel my body the most when I am strength training? (Please don’t make me eat kale, that stuff is gross.) If you start to back your meal choices with the knowledge of what your body needs as opposed to what it wants, you would be amazed at the difference in the choices you find yourself making on a day to day basis. The upside to this fitness craze is the resources are almost unlimited; you just have to go out and find them!
I hope the above knowledge helps to tweak your workout and meal plan to fit the goals you want. Remember that no one is perfect, your body needs rest so skipping a workout day is not the end of the world. Eating that corn dog at the fair will not cause your gym trainer to pop out of thin air and revoke your privileges. There will be times where you do not feel any progress for days to weeks and others where you are Superman and must immediately stand heroically at the edge of a building to show off those new biceps. Make a plan, stick to it the best you can. If life gets in the way, let it. Then get back to your routine.