My job role has changed a fair bit since I started out as an installer back in 1998. Back then, I spent a lot of times on prewires, running up and down stairs programming stuff, carrying boxes of gear and spools of wires, going up and down ladders… My job was much more physical. These days, I spend a lot more time meeting customers in the shop or in front of a computer doing the daily “business” side of things: ordering products, scheduling jobs, paying bills, answering phones. I still get out into the field, but not nearly as much and usually not for the really physical stuff.
I’m going to guess this is probably a similar story for a lot of you: over the years your job has become a lot less physical and a lot more sedentary. Whether it is riding around in a van, programming at a desk, or doing the management side of things, you probably don’t move around as much as you used to.
A couple of months ago while out shopping with my wife I happened to step on a scale at Bed, Bath & Beyond and I was shocked and a little depressed by the number I saw. I had become a victim of weight creep, and weighed 12 pounds more than ever before. Worse yet, I could tell I was in mediocre shape at best.
I decided to make some changes to my routine to lose the extra weight and to make for a better me. These are five things I did that have had a fairly minor impact on my lifestyle, but which have helped me to drop 16 pounds in two months.
1. Just Stand
About a year-and-a-half ago I switched from a regular desk to an Ergotron WorkFit-A Standing Desk (read my review here). I’ve been using it so long now that it just feels weird when I sit at work. First off, there is a bunch of research that shows just how terrible long periods of sitting are for your body. Second, being up on my feet I’m more readily able to meet and greet people that come into our showroom and to move around to file and check inventory. Third, just by standing instead of sitting, I burn roughly an additional 344 calories a day at work. Not too shabby. While an actual standing desk like the WorkFit-A is great, you can build your own on top of a countertop or filing cabinet or whatever. If you are a programmer or office manager, this is definitely something you should look into.
2. Move Around
Beyond getting out of your chair and standing, make it a point to move around a bit during the day. Even if it is just a walk around the showroom or jobsite where you are working, try to move around at least once an hour. Push the vacuum. Get the mail. Google “exercise at your desk” for a variety of things you can easily do at the office. I’ve started doing planks and “leaning rest” (holding the top of the push-up position) exercises at my desk to help strengthen my core. These can be done anywhere and a minute of each will leave your stomach trembling and burning. Once an hour, drop down and spend two minutes going for the burn.
3. Work It
My wife wanted a treadmill, so we found one on Craigslist from an elderly woman that had finished using it to rehab her new hip. For $125 we got a pretty decent one that my wife uses to walk on. Following my little weight scare, I’ve started a routine of coming home and spending about 45 minutes doing some more intense exercising on the treadmill. At first, as proof of the terrible shape I was in, I could barely do a 15-minute mile without wanting to die. Fortunately, your stamina develops pretty quickly if you stick with it, and now I’m can do two miles at a sub 19-minute pace and not feel like I need the cardiac unit. If running isn’t your thing, do a brisk walk at a serious incline. Doing 3.5 MPH at a 10 percent incline will definitely get your heart rate up and get your legs burning. I installed an OmniMount OE120IW articulating arm for our bedroom TV, so I can turn the set to watch while I walk/run, and I spend the workout time watching episodes of Arrow. Other times I prefer listening to music. Jog.FM lets you sort songs by BPM or a mile pace to build the perfect playlist, whatever your speed. There is something shamefully motivating about hearing Britney Spears say, “Now get to work, bit**!” in a faux-British accent.
4. Track It
If you’re in this industry, you’re naturally drawn toward technology, and the idea of tracking your progress with apps or wearables is probably very appealing. I have an iPhone6 that spends almost the entire day in my pocket, and I use the built-in Health app to track things like walking/running distance and steps taken (Reaching 10,000 steps a day is incredibly difficult, by the way. Unless you are at CES or CEDIA, it seems hard to do in everyday life. Even running/walking four miles a day doesn’t get me there!). I added another app called Human that tracks other stats like cycling distance and activity time, and exports data to the Health app. Another app called Instant Heart Rate by Azumio uses the iPhone’s camera to measure my pulse, creating tags for different things like “exercising” or “resting,” and it also exports the data to the Health app. Whether you like a FitBit, Vivofit, Fuelband, Jawbone, the upcoming Apple Watch, or something else, being able to see and measure your progress can be very motivating.
For most of us, fast food breakfast and lunch pit stops are a regular part of the daily schedule, but this is really a habit you should try to curb. Not only do these meals add up from a cost standpoint, they are usually terrible health wise — high in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories. And when you start equating the 1440 calories from a Big Mac, fries, and Coke to almost three hours jogging on the treadmill, you might reconsider your meal choice.
Instead of a drive-thru, see if you can manage a more sensible lunch with choices like a homemade sandwich, soup, and fruit that will not only shave a lot of calories out of your diet, but will save you a lot of cash. Also, replace sugary sodas with water. No matter how much water you’re drinking, it probably still isn’t enough, and is one thing that has absolutely zero negative health consequences.
A really good bit of diet news is that coffee has almost zero calories, provided you drink it black. So you can enjoy your morning cup(s) totally guilt free! Coffee also helps reduce your appetite, and a midday cup could give you a burst of energy and keep you from feeling snacky. If you can’t stand it black, opt for honey or almond, soy or cashew milk. And avoid the sugary drinks at Starbucks that hold a massive amount of calories. For instance, that Venti White Chocolate Mocha you like to start the day with? 620 calories.
I certainly don’t claim to be a diet and fitness guru, but these simple lifestyle changes have helped me to feel fitter and better. Next week we’ll go back to talking tech.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.