You know, I always heard that desk jobs could kill you.
To be perfectly honest, I just thought it was because people were lazy.
As a personal trainer as my full-time job for the better part of five years and being in the field for over ten I can honestly say if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “they didn’t have time” or that they “are exhausted after work” I could retire right now.
And retire comfortably.
Fast forward to now with the bank being my primary job, and I can unequivocally admit how horribly wrong I was.
Eight months in and I am up 20lbs (I’ve gotten 8 back off since the start of the year but it’s taken a LOT if effort), my body is stiff and I too have had trouble finding the time to squeeze exercise in. Heck it takes an extremely conscious effort to get 10,000 steps a day with a desk job much less finding the time to get a workout in.
Then there’s the food issue.
There is always, and I do mean always, food available for anyone to eat at work. Donuts, M&M’s, mixed nuts, flavored popcorn and whatever else the junk food fairies bring in overnight. I haven’t succumbed to a lot of that, but, it is definitely a trap I could easily fall into if I don’t watch myself.
Realistically the only reason I’ve held out is because everyone here expects me to be the healthy guy and I don’t want to ruin my image. A kind of reverse peer pressure if you will.
I’ve just stuck to eating Reese’s in the pantry with the door closed. Smh.
To everyone that I told “you have time, you’re just not making exercise a priority” over the years, I’m sorry.
A typical day for me right now goes something like this:
5:30a Wake up
6:15a Leave house
6:30a Lead group training session
5:15p Get home and love on the kids
6:00p Go out to feed and water the cattle
7:30p Play with Cale and get him bathed
8:00p Decision time – Do I workout or lounge on the couch and do nothing with my wife?
9:30-10:00p In bed to get ready to do it again tomorrow
So, yeah, I totally understand someone saying they don’t have time now. I feel like I don’t most days, either.
But here’s the thing:
I have to make it work.
I must exercise. I’ve got to make better diet decisions.
The obvious reason is that I know all the benefits from the countless books I read and courses I took over the years as a PT. The other reason is because I feel so much better when I am making a conscious effort to improve myself.
It’s going to take a massive mindset shift to make this happen, though. And the mindset shift is going to have to come in many different facets of my (and your) life.
The good news is that the plan doesn’t need to be complicated. There’s no need for it to be “cutting edge.” Effort and some sacrifice will do the trick here.
Erase what you think you know about how long workouts should be.
Do you want to know the optimal workout length?
It’s not a magic number like 45, 60 or 90 minutes – it’s the amount of time you can consistently devote to dedicated exercise.
20 minutes on your lunch? Great.
33 minutes between the time you put your kids to sleep and the time you fall asleep yourself? Amazing.
You see, we’ve all been conditioned to think we must work out a set amount of time, every time, in order to get results and that’s simply not true.
Sure 45 minutes to an hour will yield better results in most cases, but, if you let that arbitrary number dictate whether you build workouts into your schedule or not is where the water gets murky.
Do what you can, when you can. It may sound dumb, but something is always better than nothing. I’ve got buddies who make fun of me for saying that, but I know deep down they know I’m right.
Forget about 100% nutrition compliance, just win the day.
You know what’s not necessary to make lasting changes?
100% nutrition compliance.
Look, I’m never going to step on the competition stage for a physique competition. I like food too much.
We’ve got to stop forcing ourselves into insane diets that are only possible on paper where zero stressors live. The same concept of consistency we talked about with working out applies to nutrition, too. And probably more so.
Want to know what real life nutrition wins look like?
Water > Pop
Black Coffee > Non-Fat Frappuccino With Extra Whipped Cream & Chocolate Sauce
Grilled Chicken & Baked Potato > Fried Chicken & Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
See? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Ten little wins per day will lead to noticeable changes but won’t feel like you’re in diet hell.
I don’t know about you, but, unless you have your lunch prepped the choices for lunch here include BBQ, Mexican food or Pizza.
That’s it. That’s the list.
It makes it tough because you can go in with the best of intentions, but who can say no to chips and salsa? Not I. And if there is queso nearby it’s all over for me.
Not only does that put me into a carb coma for the rest of the afternoon, it makes me miss the fact I used to be able to wear stretchy pants to work.
Getting movement in at work:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that jobs today are a complete 180 from the jobs our great grandparents grew up working. We went from manual labor and long hours to sitting behind a desk with low back pain and carpal tunnel in less than a century.
While we can’t get away from how the workplace is structured today (for the most part), we can implement strategies that can make a positive impact.
I’ve got keys to help you do that here.
With some effort on your part these three techniques can not only help improve your overall health but also increase your productivity:
1. Alter your habits–
• Rather than opting for the front row in the parking lot head to the back. The extra 100+ steps each way adds up across the work week and year.
• Take your lunch outside to eat (weather permitting) rather than eating at your desk. Not only does this complete our task of moving more it can also help clear your mind from work and allow you to come back in a fresh state.
• Walk and have a personal interaction with a coworker, rather than shooting them an email.
• If your work environment allows, take calls as you walk around the office/outside rather than sitting at your desk.
2. Change the way you sit–
• Work on your posture in your current chair
• Bring a stability ball and sitting on that. I love this option and its super cheap.
• Purchase an ergonomic chair that’s suited to promote good posture – even better, see if your employer will buy you one!
• Make the move to a standing desk.
3. Take exercise breaks & “move” every hour–
Do you want to exercise but feel like you don’t have 30 minutes to commit to the gym? Take smaller 5-10 minute exercise breaks throughout the day to keep the blood flowing and the muscles activated.
Remember what I said about consistent action even if it wasn’t in big chunks of time? This is exactly that!
You could do something like:
• Break 1: 2-4 rounds of 10 air squats, 10 wall/hands elevated pushups, 10 chair/desk dips
• Break 2: 2-4 rounds of TWY (3-5/pos) sequence, :20 hands elevated plank
• Break 3: 2-4 rounds of 10 reverse snow angels, 10 superman, 5 deadbug/side
During the hours that you are not taking a dedicated short exercise break, try to move around a little, but, I would like to see you complete some of the following stretches/mobility moves:
• Upper trapezius/neck stretch 1-2 rounds of :15/side
• Wrist flexion & extension 1-2 rounds of :15/side
• Standing glute/piriformis stretch 1-2 rounds of :15/side
• T Spine Rotation stretch 1-2 rounds of :15/side
• Supported Knee Hugs 1-2 rounds of 3 reps/leg
• Supported Quad Pulls 1-2 rounds of 3 reps/leg
A few stretches if you don’t mind getting on the floor or carrying around a resistance band:
• Banded shoulder sequence 1 round of 15 reps/movement
• Spiderman with rotation 1-2 rounds of 5 reps/leg
• Press ups 1-2 rounds of 10
• Quadruped T Spine stretch 1-2 rounds of 5/side
• Sumo squat to stand 1-2 rounds of 5
• Kneeling hip flexor stretch 1-2 rounds of :15/side
It’s possible, if not probable, that you will look like a goofball doing some of this stuff at work. But, when you feel better, you perform better.
The spike in productivity alone will make it worth it.
In 2020 I know it’s my goal to work on all of this stuff that I’ve talked about here. It’s a different situation now because rather than writing about what I think needs to happen or how I think desk jobs are, I know what they’re like.
I’m in the trenches with you.
We can make the changes needed to control how we feel, how we look and our productivity during the work day.
Start slow, rack up some little wins and witness the snowball effect it will have on your life.