Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to be Healthy with a Desk Job

I started a new job this week that is very different from the one I used to have in terms of physical activity. At my previous job (where I spent almost 3 years), I was used to being on my feet almost half the day, and sometimes more.

Now, getting up to walk around isn't nearly as frequent of an occurrence. I sit in front of three monitors, manipulating 3D drawings and running simulations most of the day. Occasionally we need to go out on the floor and see some actual prototypes of our digital parts, but only once or twice a week.

It has been only a month since I have started the desk job, but I have learned some tips to help keep myself from going to complete mush.

  • Find excuses to walk. There are two restrooms in my building, one upstairs near where I work, and one downstairs. I try to use the one downstairs, so I have a bit of a walk and some stair-climbing.
  • Brown-bag it. There is no better way to have control over what you consume for lunch than preparing it ahead of time. Although I usually join my coworkers at the company cafeteria, I bring my (healthy) lunch from home. Occasionally I'll supplement it with a cafeteria item such as soup, especially if I know I have a hard workout planned for that evening.
  • But smartly. You won't get the health benefits of bringing your own lunch if you bring a baloney sandwich, chips, and cookies. I try to make sure I have a healthy dish with plenty of vegetables. One of my favorites is Smart Ones' Chicken Caberona fortified with extra fresh spinach.
  • Workout (almost) daily before or after work. This was important even in my previous job, but has become even more so with my desk job. Now, I generally work out at least 4 of the five work days, taking a break occasionally on Fridays, since I have been doing a Saturday morning group class. I'm more relunctant to take a day off, knowing it is the only real chance my body gets to exercise.
  • Eat a little lighter. I'm spending more hours overall sitting-despite my best efforts I'm probably not going to burn the same amount of calories throughout the day that I used to. I need to adjust accordingly.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekly Goals #1

Say you have a long-term goal, such as, "In 5 years, I'll be debt-free". The success or failure of this and other big goals is built on smaller, every day decisions. For example, to be debt-free, you need the funds to pay off your existing debt. and this requires you to both make and save money. This requires choices to be made...every day, mundane, frequent and maybe seemingly insignificant choices that add up for not-so-little results.

Being debt-free doesn't happen because you made a grandiose announcement of your intentions. It happens because you make choices every day that are consistent with your goal. It's choosing to get up on time to get to work instead of sleeping in an extra five minutes and risking being late. It's buying a plain coffee instead of a grande latte, because those few dollars will bring you a little bit closer to your goal.

The same goes for health and fitness-you don't make improvements by saying that in six months you will have _________(run a marathon, lost 20 lbs, lowered your cholesterol by 10%, etc). Setting the goal is important, but it is only the start of the road to the accomplishment.  You get there because you get up early to go to that 5:30 am spinning class. You choose yogurt over ice cream, or a salad instead of fries. You push yourself to finish the last few sit-ups even though all you want to is relax and look at the ceiling. It's all these 'little' choices that add up, and become something meaningful.

Daily choices matter. Which is why I want to start making some shorter-term weekly goals for myself. It's mostly 'small' stuff that is seemingly mundane. But they are important, and I want to reach the end of the week having accomplished them.

If I could add another 'A' to the S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym that most of us have heard of (if not, see this post), it would be for Accountability. One of the most important things you can do to progress toward your goals is to ensure you are accountable for them. To help myself do this, I'm going to "report-out" on how I did this past week.

#1: Transfer retirement fund from previous employer's 401k to new account. I tend to procrastinate when it comes to financial stuff like this, and I need to get it done soon. So, this is the week.

Result: I did as much as I could. Called the investment company and they are mailing me the paperwork to sign and have notarized before they can mail me the check. Once they mail the check, I will forward it to the company with whom I have my new IRA fund.

#2:  Work out 6 days of the week. Spinning, Calorie Crusher, Turbo Kick, and PIYO are looking pretty good (I have been addicted to group classes lately!)  

Result: Done! The details:
  •        Monday-spinning (45min)
  •        Tuesday-elliptical (50 min)
  •        Wednesday-Calorie Crusher! (60 min)
  •        Thursday-Turbo Kick (60 min)
  •        Friday-3 mile walk (40 min)
  •        Saturday-Calorie Crusher! (60 min) + 1 mile walk (~15 min)
  •        Sunday-rest (all day!). 
I feel especially pleased that I stuck with it despite almost bailing out on Tuesday and Friday
nights due to, well, laziness! But I didn't and it feels good.

#3: Read Bible/meditate in morning for five minutes (starting small.) Done 1/7 so far, and was surprised at how quickly those five minutes went by. 

Result: Done, although I ended up shifting it from the morning to the evening. I used an app called YouVersion and selected several short reading plans (Wisdom, Diligence, What is Love? and Addictions). Just a few minutes proved valuable and helped to remind me of my main goal in life: loving my God.

#4: Take care of getting prescription refilled. I can be really lazy about staying on top of this, especially since I have new insurance. It's important for my health.  

Result: Done!  And despite the hassle of new insurance info.

#5: Have lunch with coworkers at least 3/5 days of the week. I tend to be very introverted, and it is good to get to know some of my coworkers better this way.   

Result: Done! I am very glad I did this and hope to continue. I was feeling lonely at the beginning of the week, but by the end I was feeling much friendlier. Lunch is a great time to get to know and spend time with people, and it sure beats sitting at my desk.

#6: Learn at least five new Catia software tricks at work. I tend to get stuck in a rut doing the same things the same way because that is what I'm comfortable with.   

Result: Only 1/5 tricks learned (how to add layers). Part of this was because I had a hard time finding the Catia help files on my secure workstation. I did eventually find some and learned about the layers in the last 10 minutes of work on Friday. I'll work on this again next week.

#7: Find a project to do around the house when my mom comes. I really like doing projects with her, and it gives us something to do together.  

Result: Did not do, but that's OK, as we had several other things to do together, and that gave us the opportunity to spend time together. The main objective of the specific goal (spending time with her) was accomplished, so I think it was a success.

Creating goals to work toward this week was an excellent way to both get some necessary things done and to challenge myself. I will definitely be doing this again.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Salvaged Workout in Detroit

Oh Detroit. I have seen you twice this summer already, and you think I would have learned by now. Up north, there are two seasons: Road construction/maintenance season, and snow season. I happened to be visiting during the former for a five day software training course last week. 

You think I would have learned by the end of the second visit that I need to give myself extra time to get anywhere in the greater Detroit area. But I seemed to have forgotten as I planned out how to spend the 4 hours between the end of the class and when I needed to return the rental car to the airport.

The previous day had been a rest day, so I wanted to get a good workout in before getting on the plane home. With temperatures in the upper 70s, it was the ideal weather to exercise outdoors.

I scoured Google Maps for a safe outdoors area to run at. I wanted it to be at least sort-of on the way from the training center to the airport. I picked Maybury State Park in Livonia, which promised hiking trails. I figured I could travel the 20 miles there in 40 minutes, hike for 90 minutes or so, and even have time to visit a bookstore on the way back to the airport.
Maybury State Park...(source)

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and it took me more than two hours to get to the region of the park. This included a 20 minutes grocery-store stop for a mid-afternoon meal consisting of blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and a mini-Subway egg white sandwich. By the time I got to the area where the park was located, it was 5:15 and I had to be AT the rental car agency by the airport by 6:30. And despite my adherence to my Android's navigational promptings, I still couldn't find the entrance to the park. Reluctantly, I did a U-turn and head toward the airport.

I was upset that I wasn't able to go on my planned hike. The weather was just beautiful and I really wanted to spend some time outside. Since I had just come off of a rest day, I especially felt like I owed it to myself to get some exercise.

On the way back to the airport, I spied a small park with some paths. Psssh, I thought to myself. I would have a half hour at most. Not nearly the 1.5-2 hours I had hoped to hike at the park. It's not worth it.

But I knew that wasn't true. Even a quick workout would boost my endorphins, contribute to my fitness, and just, well, be good for me. So I parked the car and enjoyed a 30 minute run/walk. And I'm happy to report, it was a pretty decent salvaged workout, despite it not being what I initially intended it to be.

Note to future (and hopefully wiser) self: When visiting Detroit and its surrounding suburbs during the summer (aka the only season where it is almost certain to NOT snow), give myself at least twice, and perhaps thrice the amount of time you would think it would normally take to get to point A to point B. Also (perhaps more importantly): Adapt for the things that are worth it.