Being successful at something usually means becoming ‘obsessed’ with what you do.
You have decided to dedicate most of your time to building your career or running a startup, so working weird hours and night shifts isn’t something new to you. However, your health also requires a bit of your attention, and it’s easy to lose sight of it between the demands of work, family, friends, and other extracurricular activities. “Well, I’m always on the run so I don’t really have time to work on staying fit.” – how many times have you said this? You grab some junk food and a caffeine/sugar packed drink, aware that you’re just doing more damage.
This mentality will always point you in the wrong direction. Career men slowly stop prioritizing themselves over everything else, thinking that their younger bodies are strong enough and can handle the overworking and not-sleeping. In reality, that leads to feeling old while still in your mid-30s.
How do we change our long-lasting habits? Some say that you need strong willpower, others that it happens when something ‘clicks’ in your head, but it all starts with the realization that things should and need to be different. The key is not in radical changes, but small ones. You need a simple routine that will be a regular part of your day, not flashy resolutions.
Nutrition is King
If you really want to make changes, you have to start from your diet. Nutrition is responsible for at least 80% of your health. You shouldn’t go crazy if you miss an exercise session after work, but make sure you take care of yourself while at work. Becoming a master of preparation is inevitable if your schedule is tight.
But is your work really stopping you from maintaining your health? Do you seriously not have time? These are some of the frequent excuses people reach for when they eat poorly and feel sorry for themselves. Buy bags of frozen vegetables, get chicken, pork, beef or salmon, some sweet potatoes, and some salad. Put that in the fridge at home and at work, and you’ll have great food ready to be microwaved and consumed. Once you create a routine in preparing your food, you’ll find a rhythm.
Also, make sure to expunge all the bad and empty calories from your life. You have an early meeting with your executives and you didn’t really catch enough sleep last night, so you’re in need of caffeine? Grab a strong black coffee or green tea, instead of sodas, energy drinks, and lattes which contain hundreds of calories and more than 50g of sugar.
If diet is 80% of your health, the rest is physical activity. Here’s what you can do to keep yourself fit in between long working hours and job stress.
Run. Running is definitely an activity to get you moving. You don’t need to start training for the marathon though. In fact, running three times a week will be quite enough. You also don’t need to get up two hours earlier than usual – you can go for night runs. Running at night, about two hours before bedtime, will help you sleep better, improve your mood, and get you of to an enthusiastic start the following morning. Just remember to have some reflective tape on your clothes whenever it is dark out. After all, safety first.
Strength training. Walking might not help you lose weight, but it will help you burn some calories and feel better. Try to find a half an hour at least 3 times a week to perform a strength training routine. Always stretch to keep your muscles flexible, and focus on the most important exercises – overhead presses, pull ups, squats and deadlifts. Strength training can give you results like no other type of exercise. You can do it before or after work, even if 20 minutes is all you have. Everything counts, and it all adds up. In combination with walking, 2-3 strength training sessions per week are enough to keep you fit, healthy, and alert. Use a good app for tracking changes and body measurement, to know whether any progress has been made. Good results will motivate you to continue giving your best.
Always stay active. If you have your own office, get up every half an hour to stretch, do some push-up, or just walk around. When you’re on the move, your brain works much faster.
I can’t stress the importance of sleep enough. The truth is that you can’t catch up on it. You just need 6-8 hours of sleep in order to be truly productive during the day. Turn the electronics off or keep them out of your bedroom, turn off your smartphone’s Wi-Fi connection, and the ringer. Walk into your bedroom and allow your brain to get into zen mode. Otherwise, calls, messages, emails, and TV programs will be unnecessary stimulations that will only distract you from sleeping.
Improve your daily routines. We often think about the big things, while the cliché says that it’s all about the little things in life. And a cliché wouldn’t be a cliché if it weren’t true, right? Working late hours and frequently changing shifts can make it harder for you to keep track of your health, but it is doable. You just have to be smart with organizing and managing your time. Make some small changes starting right now, be patient, and introduce them gradually. The results of these tiny routines will build up, and you’ll eventually find yourself feeling good and having enough energy to maintain both your personal and professional life.