Our Struggles to Stay Healthy While Working From Home Part 2

It’s been just over a year since we posted about our struggles to stay healthy whilst working from home in a remote team. In that time we’ve had two new members join the team, one full company meetup and one regional, one new baby, two engagements and three home moves, so I thought it was about time we give an update on where we are with our health. Ian did promise an update 6 months after the last, but don’t hold it against him.

Ash

My goal last year was to run 20Km a week. It turns out that was a pipe dream! But, I’m pretty pleased with what I did achieve…

For the last 9 months I’ve been going to the gym consistently 3-4 times per week. Once I realised that I despise running I started lifting and focussed on improving my strength and body composition. Running always felt like a chore whereas I look forward to going to the gym, which is the reason I’ve been so consistent. Going into 2017 I plan to continue lifting and really work on my weak areas.

One thing that I’ve always struggled with is flexibility and that’s become even more on an issue since lifting. This year I really need to start stretching and I’m going to give yoga a try. Previously I’ve dismissed the idea, as I’m not really into the whole being mindful or spiritual kind of thing, but I’m going to start with 10 Min Yoga for Men Beginner Routine, as recommended by Brad.

I’ve really cleaned up my diet over the last 12 months, bar a short blip over Christmas. Admittedly, I have started drinking coffee again, but no more than 2 cups a day. Since “watching” what I eat my weight has steadily decreased and I’m pleased with my progress. Back in July I weighed 87Kg and I’m now down to 80Kg, with a goal weight of 75kg.

On Tuesday evenings I play badminton, which is currently my only form of regular cardio. Although my weight has decreased over the last few months I don’t feel as fit as I used to and that’s something I would like to change. As the weather improves I need to make a conscious effort to get outdoors more and walk in the countryside. I might also give swimming a try.

Brad

About 6 months ago I realized my cardio was bad and that the infrequent running drills I had been doing weren’t cutting it. I decided to replace my HIIT routine and with an interval running routine:

30 sec jog / 10 sec sprint x 12 (8 mins)
90 sec rest
30 sec jog / 10 sec sprint x 12 (8 mins)
17.5 mins total

I run around a nearby soccer field when the weather is good and at an indoor track when the weather is bad. Being able to run year-round, no matter the weather, is key to developing it into a habit and part of my weekly schedule. So far I’ve been averaging probably 1.2 runs per week and not managing to keep pace in the last quarter of the routine. I’d like to get this average up closer to 2. I have no doubt it would help with my pace and overall conditioning. It’s tough to do a run on days when I have tennis or hockey though, so it’s a struggle to fit 2 runs in some weeks.

I became a little bored with yoga a couple of month ago, so I tried a video series that was recommended to me. I nearly broke my neck. It was too advanced. But it made me realize how much further I have to go with yoga and that I should be challenging myself more. I found the prequel video and have been repeating it, building strength, balance, and better technique. I’m now very close to moving on to that other video.

Although yoga is definitely making me stronger, I still feel I need to supplement it in some areas. I also do skater squats and pistol squats to try keep the supporting muscles around my knees strong. Weak knees is one of my biggest concerns as I get older.

After listening to Naval Ravikant talk about eliminating bad habits on the Tim Ferriss podcast [1:07:06], I decided to give up caffeine. It wasn’t hard. I had already reduced my intake to just one cup of tea in the morning. But man, that little bit of caffeine was affecting me big time. In the days and weeks after I cut it out, I had muscle spasms where I didn’t even know I had muscles. At times I was concerned that something else was going on, but after a couple of months the spasms went away completely and I now feel better than ever. I no longer need digestion supplements with meals and I’ve even had patches of skin clear up completely that have been dry and damaged for as long as I can remember. It’s hard to believe. Now I just need to work on cutting out alcohol, ha!

As for mental health, I’ve written a daily journal entry for every day in 2016. I did fall behind at times and had to fill in the days I missed, but when I did write at the end of the day, I found it a wonderful ritual to reflect on what happened, highlight some of the things I observed the boys doing, work through problems, describe how I was feeling, etc. It was a good therapeutic practice but also a handy record that I can search when memory fails.

Gilbert

Looking back at last year’s post there have been some big changes in my life that have taken place since then. The biggest one being that we now have a 10 month old child crawling about the house. It’s been an amazing experience learning to be a dad and one that certainly brought a big lifestyle change for me. Thankfully working at home with a baby in the house hasn’t been as distracting as I thought it would be, which is great. It’s also been great to be able to be at home during the day and be able to cherish those special moments that you would otherwise miss.

As you might imagine taking care of a child is hard work so that has definitely helped me feel a bit more energetic and less lethargic at times. Another change that has happened since last year is that I’m now regularly playing basketball instead of football (soccer). Both were sports I played at school and I like the different discipline involved in playing a completely different sport. Sadly this is still my only regular exercise which is something I would like to remedy this year.

When it comes to weight both my wife and I made a decent effort over the summer to get serious about losing some weight. I invested in a Withings WiFi scale to help us start tracking our weight and my wife started going long walks every day and I took up running, which I quickly replaced with cycling as I had to admit I’m just not built for running. I was pleased with the progress we made while we had the opportunity. However, during the winter in Scotland the days get very short (e.g. sunset at 3pm) so I’ve not done any more cycling since November. Definitely something I want to pick up again in the spring.

Iain

Reading back over last year’s post has me feeling a little guilty, but first the good news. I have joined a local gym and typically go three times a week (discounting holidays and illness). I’m glad to be back in a routine since moving house and it’s great having a local gym, which doesn’t cut into my day too much.

2016 was the year of golf for me, I bought clubs in January and played 20 rounds throughout the year, with numerous trips to the driving range, and a couple of golf weekends. Golf may not be the most athletic of sports, but walking over 5km each round can only be beneficial. I also did a half marathon hike over Dartmoor with some large practice hikes as preparation.

My son is now an energetic two year old which means a lot of chasing him around! But also, as we have a reasonable sized garden, we spend a lot of our weekends and summer weeknights in the garden running around, kicking balls and hitting plastic golf balls (start ‘em young, right?!).

So now to the stuff that hasn’t panned out so well. Beachfront running didn’t happen at all, mainly because the gym sufficed as my exercise quota for the week. I haven’t been using my standing desk nearly as much I as I wanted to, but I am up and standing as I write this! Implementing a Paleo diet full time really didn’t happen either, but I put that down to eating generally healthy (not strictly Paleo) meals as a family with my son.

I feel like I am fully acclimatized with home working, although I do forget to eat sometimes. However, I have spent a couple of days out of the home office, working in coffee shops, and coworking spaces locally to try and mix up the routine and get out of the house. I hope to do more of that in 2017, as well as continue to go to the gym and eat well.

Ian

Since our last article I’ve moved halfway across the World, and then moved again to a more permanent setting, and am now in the throws of moving yet again (hopefully for the very last time). To say there’s been some stress and not a lot of concentration on improving my health would be an understatement.

However, I have managed to stick to my “lapsed Paleo” diet, mostly. Recent weeks have seen some extra lapse while house hunting, and the Christmas period in general was a disaster, but I’ve not really suffered for it. I’m still the same weight I was a year and a bit ago, 7-8 pounds over my ideal.

One thing I have tried to improve over the last year is my sleeping habits. I used to stay up way too late, and would sometimes kick myself for not feeling as alert as I could the next morning. I do subscribe to the notion that programmers are often at their best when a little tired and feeling relaxed, it certainly seems to help me get into the flow, and I often find that I can get my best work done a little later in the day when my mind isn’t racing so much. However, I’ve made a concerted effort to be in bed and reading at a reasonable time, usually after switching my mind off by first watching an episode of some Sci-Fi junk on Netflix. I’ve been generally getting a solid 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night, and feeling much better for it.

Exercise hasn’t been something I’ve had a lot of this part year. I never did find a squash club to join, and I didn’t get any golf clubs either. I have however walked quite a bit while exploring the beautiful area around our home in Somerset. We joined the National Trust, and have spent many weekends travelling to stately homes, castles and gardens in Somerset and Devon, spending whole days walking around their grounds and surrounding villages soaking up the history. It’s been a great way to get to know the area, walking is an excellent way to keep fit, and the fresh air and beautiful views good for the soul.

Once we’re finally settled in our “forever home”, I fully intend to make improving my health a priority. In fact, my whole family are on board, my wife and daughter are both eager to improve their health too. My daughter wants to get back to cycling and swimming with me, and we’re all intent on upping the walking further too. I’ve been dabbling with yoga, but not got into the habit yet, I’d like to make taking time out for a bit of yoga a daily thing. And I will find a squash club to join, and maybe a golf club. Diet will improve, that’s already in motion with the entire family, we’ve cut the junk and are eating less but better cuts of meat along with more variety in our vegetables etc. That’s not to say we’re not allowed the occasional cream tea when out and about though!

Jeff

The struggle continues for your ol’ pal, Jeff. According to Withings, I’ve lost about 10lb over the last year, which is a start but not nearly the level of progress that I need to be making. So my overarching goal in 2017 is to do at least 3 times better than I did in 2016 in regards to weight loss. Besides the health benefits that I am hoping to gain from this, I’m also getting married towards the end of the year and wouldn’t mind looking a bit less frumpy in a suit.

I did spend most of last year sticking to the gym, I actually ditched the gym membership for a garage-based gym early last year and have quite enjoyed the convenience and freedom of having my own space to do exactly the types of workouts that I want to do, whenever I’d like to do them. I have a power cage, bench, olympic bar, plenty of weight, as well as a bicycle trainer and heavy bag which are all more than enough to get in a good workout whenever I’d like. Unfortunately, I was forced to stop squatting and deadlifting for a while due to some acute pain in my back (I blame sitting more than squatting) which has really set me back on my goals.

Instead of heavy squatting and deadlifting, I’ve been teaching myself how to snatch and clean/jerk with low weights. If you’re interested in weightlifting and never tried your hand at these olympic lifts, I’d highly recommend trying them out (with proper safety equipment and supervision) as they’re quite fun, challenging, and a little bit terrifying to begin with. Additionally, I’ve added about 15 minutes of yoga per-day to my workout schedule which I’m already seeing psychological and physical benefits from, and which I’m hoping will help me avoid exercise-induced injuries in the future.

The last thing I mentioned last year was that I’d like to do some more cycling. While I made a few attempts to get back in the saddle, I really didn’t make much progress and probably rode fewer than 300 miles the whole year. I’m currently aching to get back on the bicycle, but am waiting for a cycling-related injury to clear itself up before I risk aggravating it, but this goal remains the same – I’d like to get back into cycling in 2017 and at least get to the point where I feel comfortable with 50-100 mile road rides again.

Matt

I didn’t have any real fitness goals for 2016, but it turned out to be a pretty good year for me in terms of staying in shape. I think the biggest change I made was going from eating almost exclusively junk food to eating organic food and even fruits and vegetables! That doesn’t sound like much but after a life of avoiding them like the plague, it was a big adjustment. I also cut out coffee, soda, and sugary drinks and now just drink lots of water. It could just be a placebo effect, but I do feel a lot healthier when I eat healthier.

Speaking of feeling healthier, one area I think I did well in for 2016 was keeping my mental health a priority. I made an effort to maintain a good work/life balance, and stopped working or at least changed pace whenever I started to feel a bit burnt out. I also made it a point to leave the house at least once a day, even for something as simple as a driving around or getting a quick bite to eat. As a remote developer it’s way too easy to sit inside and write code all day, but nothing beats getting some fresh air.

The exercise side of things is where I really need to improve. I try to do basic home workouts a few times a week (pushups, situps, squats, etc), but without actually going to a gym it’s hard to see any real results. The lack of results can be very demotivational, which creates this vicious cycle where I need to workout more but the less I do it, the less I can be bothered to do it the rest of the time. So for 2017 I have one fitness goal: Frequent the gym! It’d be great to be in shape for when I get married in August and I think going to the gym on a regular schedule is just what I need to bring my health to the next level.

Pete

This past July I joined the guys at Delicious Brains and started working from home full time, for the first time. It was a welcome change and allows me to spend more time with the family, which was my goal. Chasing 2 young kids around keeps me pretty busy, and surprisingly active.

However, as the guys mentioned in last years post, working from home requires a conscious effort to stay active. It’s easy to just sit all day and not really do anything. As for myself, I’ve been making a good effort the last few years to actually get out and exercise. I have a pretty good gym in my basement, so I try to use that equipment 2-3 times a week. I also try and get out for a run outside at least twice a week, but winter in Ottawa Canada makes that require a high level of motivation!

In the summers I also play softball and this fall I attempted to play basketball ultimately getting sidelined with some injuries.

Which brings me to my next point. This year’s goal is to become more flexible and less injury prone. I haven’t decided if I’ll take up yoga or merely just stretch before working out or playing sports.

I’m normally pretty good at tracking what I eat with MyFitnessPal and it’s helped me lose weight over the last few years. However, I don’t eat as healthily as I could, so that’s something I’d like to work on as well.

Summary

After last year’s post we implemented a #health channel in Slack to motivate each other with updates and progress. This fell by the wayside quickly, and aside from the odd helpful Yoga tip from Brad, it’s remained pretty silent. We need to work on that and keep actively discussing our challenges and successes this year. We also need to be mindful of work life balance and aspects of our mental health, which all too often get ignored.

How do you stay healthy in body and mind whilst working from home – or in an office for that matter? I loves me a good life hack, so if you have any good ones please share in the comments below.

About the Author

Iain Poulson

Iain is a WordPress and PHP developer from England. He builds free and premium plugins, as well as occasionally blogging about WordPress. Moonlights as a PhpStorm evangelist.

  • Philip Solomon

    Great to hear what others are up to.

    One important one for me is to get away from the screen as regularly as possible. I try my best to do that every hour or so.

    Taking a nap. Working from home, I find this relatively easy to fit in. If I have a heavy work load and I’m pushing myself a bit, I often find that after lunch my concentration levels are zero. A nap reboots my brain and I’ve got an afternoon of productive head space available to me.

    Gym work very important and I go 3 to 4 times a week. Particularly enjoy doing cardio work to get the heart moving.

    Yesterday I ordered an adjustable height platform for monitors and KB. For a few years I’ve been standing only, which solved some back issues I’d been having. That worked, however it’s begun to feel imbalanced and sitting down at another desk has been really relaxing for an hour or two. I read somewhere that its possibly good to sit for 50% and stand for 50%. Sounds like common sense as too much of one thing can have its issues.

    Finally, I’ve been having shoulder issues and recently have been looking at http://mybodycanlearn.com/ for some alternative ways of looking at both shoulder and back issues.
    If you’re never looked at Feldenkrais or other alternative approaches, it’s certainly worth a look.

    Oh yeh, I have one beer at the end of each work day as a mandatory health supplement!

    • Great to hear what you do Philip, I love a good nap too, and find the same after lunch. Beer FTW 🙂

  • Mic

    Great discussion!

    Similarly like Ash, I’m currently at a goal to lose 0.2kg to reach again same as Ash but from 85kg down to 75kg.

    **TL;DR Summary for losing weight (fat loss only)**
    – best fat loss is around 40-68% your maintenance calories, without losing muscle
    – Protein first, then fill up the rest with carbs/fat (to not lose muscle)
    – eat clean, as in think of fibre (grassy, nutty, oily)
    – eat your sweets in the evening (it’s tastier!!)
    – eat the most of your day’s calories in the evening (it’s worth it!!!)
    – fast in the morning until lunch time (to save enough calories for the evening. You won’t crave trust me. If you’re hungry, have black coffee, green tea, etc.)
    – I noticed that you work on paleo too? Cavemen eat berries for lunch, and feast in the night!!
    – Drink plenty of water, because it makes you feel good!
    – Use weights when exercising (weightlifting/bodyweight) because you want to use your muscle

    But this is where the cheeky part is. It’s not to simply ‘lose weight’, but to ‘lose fat only, and retain muscle’. So that’s -200g of fat a day. Again, same as Ash, this is through making sure that if my maintenance calories is 2500kcal, then for ‘aggressive’ fat loss this will be 1700kcal a day. I noticed that it has to strictly be not over 1700kcal, or else you easily break the 0.2kg/day streak and only have 0.1kg or even less, and it takes time to again lose 0.2kg/day (about 3 days to gain momentum).

    But the disadvantage to this is if I fill my belly of buffet on special occasions, I easily gain 2kg weight (seems to be permanent!) and start all over again.

    So another thing guys is to be wary of these special occasions. Consume calories but not over your maintenance, so that you remain fat loss.

    Kind regards,

    Mic

    • Thanks for the tips, Mic.

    • Great tips Mic!

      I’m finding intermittent fasting useful, but I don’t do it every day, usually Mon, Wed and Fri, which are training days. I got to the gym about 11 and then break the fast between 12:30-13:00 with a large post workout meal. Like you, I drink water and black coffee in the morning which are key to not feeling hungry. I’ll probably add in a few extra days for a few weeks before going on holiday.

      I have a sweet tooth and often get cravings in the evening. My current go to dessert is 0% Greek Yogurt with a few drops of FlavDrops by MyProtein (tastes like off the shelf yogurts). A square of dark chocolate helps too.

      http://www.myprotein.com/sports-nutrition/flavdrops/10530471.html

      I find that weight loss isn’t a linear process so I don’t worry about the numbers too much from week to week, as long as there’s a general downward trend for the month I’m happy.

  • AndreasSZ

    We closed down our office this year in need of more freedom and a diverse working style. I’ve learnt that when working more from home, activating yourself with exercise becomes crucial. The time away from the screen does not only make me feel better, it let’s process thoughts and ultimately create better work. Thanks for sharing your stories and good luck in 2017!

    • Thanks Andreas, good luck with your change as well!

      I totally agree, thoughts and solutions really percolate for me when I’m walking / driving / exercising. 🙂