It’s been just over two years since we last posted about our struggles to stay healthy while working from home in a remote team.
When we asked you on Twitter for your advice, you did not hold back:
I wrote a script to put my computer to sleep and yell at me to take a walk every X minutes. I usually go with every 45 minutes & just cruise around the house, but also walk the dog a couple times a day. Can’t skip/ignore your displays going black.https://t.co/5yiUVt9GXO
— Dan Manchester (@elseloop) March 21, 2019
Gardening is my therapy, outside, away grpny desk, looking at flowers and bees!
— Rowan (@roweenaweb) March 20, 2019
1. Do not work at the same place everyday
2. Go outside
3. Meet other people (see point 1)
4. Do not work too much (esp. when working from home)
— Marcel Bootsman #WalkToWCEU (@mbootsman) March 20, 2019
In the past two years, a lot has happened so it should be interesting to see how our team’s habits have changed and where we all are with our health.
Let’s start with a look back at my previous goals:
Going into 2017 I plan to continue lifting and really work on my weak areas.
✅ Up until recently, I had been lifting consistently 3-5 times per week since my last fitness update. That’s 3 years of training, which I’m really pleased with! Back in 2017 I moved house and set up a home gym in the garage, which certainly helped.
Gradually as my motivation would dwindle I would buy more equipment to spike my training motivation. This has worked pretty well over the last few years, but my most recent addition (a spin bike) only kept me motivated for a few weeks.
I’ve taken a break off from training over the last couple of months, but plan to get back into lifting now that the weather is improving. You know the saying “suns out, guns out”.
This year I really need to start stretching and I’m going to give yoga a try.
🚫 Epic fail. I lasted a couple of weeks.
On Tuesday evenings I play badminton, which is currently my only form of regular cardio.
✅ I still play badminton every Tuesday.
As the weather improves I need to make a conscious effort to get outdoors more and walk in the countryside.
✅ Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent more time in the great outdoors than I ever have. Lots of hiking, hill walking, and camping trips were had. This year my girlfriend and I also got a puppy, our Goldendoodle aptly named Teddy:
Now that Teddy is old enough I’m walking outside on a daily basis for 30-60 minutes (regardless of the weather). Weekends usually consist of much longer walks. One unexpected side effect of this is that I’m now getting through my book list via Audible.
What I’ve realized is that my motivation to train is very much linked to owning new gear and equipment. But the problem is, that I have to keep buying bigger and more expensive items to spike my motivation level. This year, I plan to purchase a commercial gym, which should keep me motivated for another couple of years. I may also buy another dog but walk them separately to further increase my time spent outdoors.
About a year ago, my family and I moved from living in town to about 10 minutes outside of town. Living in town meant it was quick and easy to get to an indoor track for a run when the weather didn’t allow for an outdoor run (i.e. most of the year). Now that it’s 20-30 minutes round trip to get to a track, I just don’t do it. I’m not willing to spend that time in the car.
And so I bought a spin bike and placed it in my new, spacious office:
It’s a Keiser M3i and I love it. I would have gotten a Peloton bike, but they won’t ship it here to Nova Scotia yet. Thing is, the Peloton app works just fine with the Keiser Mi3 so I don’t feel I’m missing much. I just place my iPad in the holder, start the Peloton app, follow the instructor, and start working.
I had never done a spin class before, so I was surprised by how hard it was and feel as though I still have a way to go to get beyond the beginner classes. It’s been great to fit a cardio workout into my day without leaving the house. I find myself doing spins even more often than I was going for a run when I lived in town.
Although more cardio is great, spending even less time outside is a negative side effect. Before the bike I didn’t spend enough time outdoors, so the problem got worse. I thought ideally I could do work while spending time outdoors, so I decided to build a mobile desk. I bought a small desk off Amazon, added some straps to it, and voila, the perfect walking desk:
In addition to my laptop, there was even room on the desk to take my favorite houseplant for a ride and a water glass to keep me hydrated for those long walks. I found that things moved around a bit, so I used 3M Command strips to stick everything to the desk. Works great! I might even try working my way up to a light jog!
This year, I’ve jumped back into putting my health first. I’ve worked from home for a couple years now and became well adjusted to a fairly sedentary lifestyle aside from walking the dog. I would go through committed phases trying out video workouts and workout apps but always wound up getting bored. I knew the best way to move forward was to take baby steps and slowly build back up the healthy/active habits.
One of those steps involved getting a standing desk. I enjoyed the standing desk but noticed my leg muscles would feel tight after a few hours of standing still. I looked into getting a standing mat, as many standing desk enthusiasts suggest, but on my way out the door I thought “why would I get a standing mat when I already have a perfectly good Dance Dance Revolution mat”. So I dusted off my DDR mat and hooked up my external monitor to a PlayStation. Initially, I set a timer so that every twenty minutes, I could do one song. My skills have improved immensely and now that I know many of the routines off by heart, I can dance and work at the same time. The music is great to have in the background and my multitasking skills have truly blossomed. I’m reaching high scores both in DDR and my health!
Sadly, since my last update at the start of 2017 things haven’t really improved for me fitness wise. I did continue playing basketball until the summer of 2017, but after the summer I couldn’t make the time slot any longer. I’ve started several activities since then including running, cycling and even some home-based callisthenics. However, I’ve not been able to create a proper, disciplined routine with any of them so they just fizzled out.
On the upside, I’ve decided 2019 is going to be the year I get back into the swing of things. So I’ve taken up swinging, literally. Apparently, your arms, legs and back muscles all get a good workout when using a swing (who knew?). It also has the added benefit of forcing me to get outside, spend some time away from my desk and enjoy some fresh air. Plus I get to meet other swingers when I’m out and about. I’m even considering entering into some local competitions (it turns out swinging is pretty popular) to see if I can beat my p.b. of three full rotations on a single swing. I doubt I’ll ever become pro (starting at 31 has its downsides) but who knows.
It’s been all change since we last spoke. My dreams of playing golf almost every week, 2-3 visits to the gym each week, and healthy eating have been slightly curtailed by the arrival of our second child in 2017.
In the absence of lots of free time, when I do get the chance to exercise, I’ve tried to take an optimized and efficient approach. For example, at the back end of last year, I managed to play a couple of 9 hole rounds of golf. 9 instead of 18 holes cut down the time it took, but I went a step further, sprinting between holes to eek out that extra bit of exercise. One round was just over an hour long and I actually shot a good score!
Working from home has also taken on a different form. With the arrival of our second child, my home office was put at risk and I eventually was relegated to a new garden office we had built. However, this means I commute daily across my garden, and spend a lot of the day looking at the lawn and the hedges thinking about what maintenance I need to carry out.
To keep my lawn in the best shape I’ve invested in a pair of aerating sandals, and I have taken to printing out pull request file diffs from GitHub and walking the lawn whilst reading them.
After a few months of doing this, my lawn soil is less compacted and the lawn is looking much healthier. I’ve also found that doing PR reviews in this way, away from the computer, has improved my attention to detail. Win Win.
Since my last keeping healthy update I’d not really changed in weight much up until the beginning of this year when I vowed to lose 25lb at a nice healthy rate of 1lb per week to be fighting fit for summer. This weight loss was to be through simply reducing portion sizes that have ballooned over the previous couple of years, eating better quality foods, and cutting out extras such as crisps, biscuits, sweets and cake, with the occasional treat at the weekend only. It hadn’t worked as there had been way too many little extras and portions hadn’t always been as small as they should. 10 weeks in and I was only down approx 5lb. A stricter control on my diet was needed, so I recently started on the Jane Plan so that I have less chance of veering off course as you can’t cheat on it without noticing! So far, so good, it’s dead easy, the food is tasty, but we’ll have to see if it actually works and changes my long term eating habits.
Otherwise I’ve been quite sporadic in getting exercise, although I have been doing bodyweight exercises and yoga more regularly this year. I’ve always suffered with bouts of lower back pain, but really minimised this since last summer by getting a YoYo standing desk. Popping up the standing desk for meetings or while doing a bit of support for a total of about an hour a day has really improved my back mobility, especially as I tend to stretch a bit when switching to standing.
I have still suffered some back pain though, so now I’ve upped the back mobility improvement game even further. I’ve recently bought an inversion table, slapped some velcro on the back of a wireless keyboard and trackpad, and finally used my engineering degree to build some glasses like Edward’s in The Bucket List. My version of the glasses properly invert the view of my iMac while I’m hanging upside down and working for 5-6 hours a day. This has drastically reduced my back pain and gives my brain extra blood flow while coding. The only downside is the slight vertigo I feel now that I’m 2 inches taller!
Working from home has a lot of awesome benefits but means you can’t “just pass the gym” on your way home. And for me, throwing my workout in my face is the only way I’m going to do it. I first started leaving my yoga mat, resistance bands and foam roller (physical therapy FTW) out in my living room. They were in a corner so I couldn’t go a day without being reminded of the workout I was supposed to be doing.
But there were still days where that self-shaming of walking past my dusty yoga mat wasn’t enough. So I’ve since upgraded. My 1-bedroom city apartment is now carpeted with 600 square feet of yoga mat, and I’ve decided to take a page out of Betabrand and just dress in workout clothes all the time. With innovations like this, my coworkers are none-the-wiser on videoconferences.
And if I’ve just had a workout? Well I’ve hacked together a new feature on Zoom calls where it doesn’t just “touch up” my face, it removes the appearance of sweat and shows my hair as if I’ve just gotten a blowout from an expensive salon (even if in reality, my hair is in a gross sweaty ponytail). See it in action:
“Touch Up My Existence” now in private beta
The only problem I’m having is that friends who come to my apartment tell me that the yoga mat carpeting is “ugly” and “smells weird” and could I “please stop wearing yoga pants to weddings” but I feel like they’re just not as dedicated as me you know?
Wow, it’s been a while since our last update! My only goal for 2017 was to frequent the gym, and that was a massive success. I bulked up a lot of much-needed weight, and got a lot stronger through programs like Stronglifts and Starting Strength. I even purchased the equipment for a home gym with barbells, a squat rack and bench, and a ton of weights (ok maybe not an actual ton but close!).
Then in 2018 everything fell apart. I got bored with working out, lost a good bit of muscle, and overall just got lazy. But I’ve come to realize that despite that, I’m still a lot stronger than I was before and it only takes me a few weeks to get most of my strength back.
To try and stay motivated for the rest of the year, I’m going to be switching everything up. Instead of heavy barbell rows I’m going to do towel rows, because it’s no fun to lift heavy weights. Likewise, I’ll do towel bench, and towel squats. I’m most excited for towel deadlifts – I never did hit that 4 plate (405lb) deadlift, but 4 towels should be an achievable goal.
Since our last update a few things have changed in my fitness journey, but nothing major. I no longer have a home gym but work out at the local city fitness center. It’s surprisingly well equipped with barbells, so I mostly stick to a barbell-based lifting regime. I stick to the big 4 lifts (squat, deadlift, bench, press) for the bulk of my workouts, but do a bunch of other exercises so I don’t get bored. I no longer run much, but in the warmer months I’ll likely get back into jogging and outdoor sports.
For a change this year I thought I’d start to get into weighted yoga. It’s basically the same thing as regular yoga, but you have a partner on your back the entire time. It’s actually really hard as my current yoga class partner Reggie is quite a bit larger than I am! Have you ever tried a downward dog with a 300lb man on your back?
As you can tell from the above updates, it’s incredibly challenging to stay healthy while working from home. We often go to extreme lengths to motivate ourselves to work out and while they work for a time it’s a constant struggle.
Our #health-fitness channel has been pretty quiet for the past couple of years, so we really need to ramp that up and do a better job motivating each other. 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.