The holidays tend to be a real struggle for me with over-indulging and putting on a few pounds, with the promise to myself that I will work it off in the new year… but it never quite works out that way.
So, I’ve decided to stick to my low-carb eating through the holidays because I know that by eating this way I can at least maintain my weight. Although it can be momentarily hard to turn down more than just a bite of all my holiday favorites, I love experimenting with low-carb recipes and making healthier versions of all my favorites. In fact, as I’m writing this I just pulled some low-carb hoagie rolls out of the oven for French dip sandwiches and they are MONDO tasty. Also, over Thanksgiving I had a low-carb s’more that was incredible, and my dad made some amazing monkfruit-sweetened hot cocoa that was even better than the sugary stuff!
Along with eating the way that makes me feel best, I’m trying to get back into an exercise routine as well. Let me be honest here: until this month, I had not exercised since May. I despise it. The thing is, I know I need it, and I always feel great once I start and especially once I’m finished.
My goal for December is to build some exercise habits that will hopefully carry over into 2020. I have committed to a 10-minute yoga session (my favorite is @SarahBethYoga) and 100 weighted squats daily, and 10,000 steps on my off days.
But after a few days I’ve realized just how sedentary I am. Wearing my step counter for the first time in months shows me I’m barely breaking 2,500 steps per day, so to hit my step goal I’ve been spending 1+ hours on the treadmill every night.
I honestly didn’t realize quite how sedentary I was. So I decided to brainstorm some ways that I, a writer who spends most of my spare time curled up on the couch with my laptop, could be more physically active throughout the day. It’s SO important.
Even one exercise session can boost your energy and mood, slightly improve your focus and memory, and ramp up your calorie burn. However, the compounded benefits of exercising regularly are pretty amazing: increased insulin sensitivity (this is a GREAT thing), a higher resting metabolic rate (which means you get to eat more… sign me up!), increased muscle mass, stronger bones, better mood, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, I could go on and on.
So, let’s get to it: here are 5 ways that us sedentary freelancers (or anyone really, but this article is geared towards people who work from home) can be more physically active throughout the day!
1. Start your day with some physical activity
One way to give your step count a boost is to start your day with some physical activity, like the 10-minute yoga I mentioned above, or even walking in circles around your kitchen while the coffee kicks in (totally have done this before). It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, complicated, or time-consuming.
In fact, the thing I love about yoga AND walking aimlessly around my house is that I don’t have to put on shoes. Sometimes putting on shoes is just too much to ask.
If you have time to do a full-on workout, more power to you! My 4-year-old has a very accurate “mom’s awake” radar that keeps me from being able to do that right now, but I am looking forward to working out in the morning one day again.
Regardless, at least do a little bit each morning to set the tone for an active day. I’m committing to waking up 10 minutes earlier every day to do a short yoga session.
2. Use the Pomodoro technique to your advantage
The Pomodoro technique is a way to increase your productivity by forcing yourself to focus on one single task for a set amount of time (typically 25 minutes). During this time, you are not allowed any distractions: no phone, no Facebook, no TV, and hopefully no uncooperative children.
After the time is up, you take a 5-minute break where you physically remove yourself from the workspace and do something mindless, like watering plants, unloading the dishwasher (I’d rather pull my own teeth), or looking at memes. Basically, you want to give your brain a break.
Lots of writers use Pomodoros as a way to power through writer’s block, distractions, and procrastination to just get some words on the page. However, you can also use the break period as a way to boost your step count and get in some very purposeful physical activity. Here are some of my suggestions for using this little break to your advantage:
- Take a brisk walk around the house, or – even better – outside
- Do weighted squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell
- Do a 1-minute plank or wall-sit, and if you’re anything like me, spend the other 4 minutes recovering from doing a 1-minute plank or wall-sit
- If you’ve got a kid to keep entertained, have some cheap hula hoops or jump ropes handy, and that 5-minute break can be something fun and physically active for y’all to do together
- If you’re really struggling with whatever project you’re working on, sob deeply – it really engages the core
3. Make your workspace more movement-friendly
I have NO personal experience with this one. I’m still a part-time writer with no home office, so I write at the dining table, on the couch, or in my bed. But one of my biggest priorities in the coming year for my writing business is going to be getting a dedicated workspace set up that is conducive to both productivity and physical activity.
Luckily, standing desks or standing desk attachments are pretty accessible now. It looks like you can get one with decent reviews for about $80 on Amazon, and that will probably be my starting point.
Additionally, you can get a balance ball chair, which is a better alternative to an office chair. Balance ball chairs promote better posture and can help decrease lower back pain from sitting too long. In addition, they encourage “active sitting” – or moving while you sit. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Be fidgety
My husband’s nickname for me is “RLS” (restless leg syndrome) because I’m a chronic fidgeter. I can’t keep still. Typically it’s tapping my foot, but I’m also a relentless pen-clicker. If there’s a clicky pen in my hand… it’s getting clicked. And if it has a clip, I’m gonna fiddle with it until the clip pops off and flies across the room, usually during church, or in a meeting at work. Happened a lot in school, too. All my pens look like this:
Luckily, there are no downsides to fidgeting unless you’re married to someone who is constantly driven crazy by it! While fidgeting is far from exercise, these tiny micro-movements throughout the day can give you a very slight advantage over being completely still at your computer desk.
So… drum on the desk. Tap your feet. Dance at the computer. Click the pen… especially if there’s no one listening. You click that pen to your heart’s content.
5. The obvious one: workout regularly
Yes, it’s obvious but also so so so difficult for me, and I’m sure plenty of other people too. Between my full-time job and commute, my freelancing career, my 4-year-old, cooking supper every night, cleaning the house, staying on top of laundry, and getting the minimum amount of sleep I require to function… I have let working out fall by the wayside for far too long.
But this is one that I’m just gonna have to buckle down and do, and I recommend the same to you. Unfortunately, most of us (especially if you do any kind of home-based freelance work) aren’t getting the physical activity that our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were able to get just from living their lives.
Life in 2019 requires so much less physical effort than in generations past, which is why we need to make ourselves be physically active.
So while “power through it and get it done,” may seem trite, that’s just what we gotta do.
Thankfully, once I get started I enjoy my workout and find the motivation to finish it. It’s getting started that is the hard part.
Just remember, your exercise does not have to be extreme, or even daily. Start small and work your way up. 30 minutes, 3 days a week is a great starting point.
I hope these 5 tips have been helpful for you, especially during this time of year when it’s so easy to say “Oh, I’ll get started next year.”
If you are living a sedentary life (talking to myself here also), it’s too important to put off any longer. Get moving!