Are you a hard-working professional? Would you like to be in better physical shape? Fed up with wasting money on gym memberships, sports wear, fitness equipment and diet plans? Do you secretly worry about being over weight or getting older and slower? Can’t find the time or energy for regular exercise and healthy eating? It doesn’t have to be that way. You can develop fitness for business. You can be leaner, stronger, and feel more energised without making drastic lifestyle changes or sacrificing productivity.
To be clear, I’m not a medical practitioner. I’m no health and fitness guru and I’ve no great interest in studying the current scientific thinking about weight loss and fitness. The simple exercise, diet and time management routines I’m about to describe is just personal advice I believe will work for others as much as it works for me.
Let’s assume you’ve never given much thought to loosing weight and getting fitter. Until now. Where do you start?
Quality is more important than quantity
The first thing to remember about exercise is, quality is more important than quantity. Swimming is a great all-round exercise if you have easy access to a pool. Sports like tennis, cycling or running are good and will add much needed variety, but they only work certain body parts and if you rely solely on them for exercise it may lead to uneven or asymmetrical development and leave you more susceptible to injury. That’s why I recommend building your fitness programme around calisthenics or body weight exercises.
I believe pull ups, squats, push ups, dips, planks and sit ups are the best exercises men and women can do because they incorporate natural body movements. They require no special equipment (for pull-ups you can use a door with a rolled-up towel placed along the top to protect your hands or buy an inexpensive bar that will fit in the doorway; for dips you can arrange two chairs side by side and use them as you would parallel bars). They have many variants and you can use them to work all your major muscle groups and get your heart rate up in just 20 minutes.
To get the most out of calisthenics you need to do the exercises correctly and safely. If you search Google and YouTube you’ll learn all you need to know about bodyweight workouts in no time at all. Good places to start are the DAREBEE website, Jordan Yeoh’s No Gym Full Body Workout video, and Chris Heria’s How To Start Calisthenics playlist.
Start gently and train progressively
The second thing to remember about exercise is, start gently and train progressively. If you’ve been inactive for a while I strongly suggest that you take a few weeks to condition yourself before starting a calisthenics regime. Condition yourself by developing the habit of moving around during the working day. Walk or cycle to work instead of driving, for example. Stand, stretch and move your limbs every half hour or so instead of sitting immobile at your desk for long periods. Use the stairs instead of taking the elevator. You can also prepare your body for hard exercise by adopting healthy eating habits (see below).
When you’re motivated its easy to over do things. You must be patient and gradually increase the duration, intensity and frequency of your workouts to avoid injuring yourself. Twenty minutes of calisthenics three days a week is plenty. Do lighter exercise such as yoga or walking on “off days”. That way you’ll be giving your body a chance to rest and repair itself.
I recommend the following bodyweight routine to start with –
Pull ups – aim to do 10 while maintaining proper form.
Beginner Tip: use a chair to step up as you pull your chin to the bar. Remember always to hold the pull up position briefly before lowering slowly back to the ground to a count of six. Get rid of the chair when you can do three to four unassisted pull ups with good form.
Squats – aim to do 10 while maintaining proper form.
Beginner Tip: don’t allow your knees to project past your toes as you go down into the squat, as low as you can manage. If you’re struggling to maintain balance try resting your butt against a wall as you squat. Your balance will gradually improve as your muscles adapt to this new movement.
Push ups – aim to do 10 while maintaining proper form.
Beginner Tip: do push ups against the wall or do push ups while kneeling on the floor if you find the standard push up too difficult at first.
Hollow position – aim to hold for 30/40 seconds.
Beginner Tip: Keep your back flush to the floor at all times (your spine should be in a slight “C” shape rather than it’s normal “S” shape). Extend your arms as you bring your knees to your chest. Hold that position for 30 seconds. When you can do that, gradually extend your legs until you can hold the proper hollow position.
Dips – aim to do 10 while maintaining proper form.
Beginner Tip: allow your feet to remain on the floor and take some of your weight as you raise your body up and down between the chairs. Eventually you’ll be able to do dips with your feet off the floor.
Superman position – aim to hold for 30/40 seconds.
Beginner Tip: if you can’t hold the full superman position just raise your upper body off the floor to begin with and gradually progress to raising your legs as well.
- Do this workout on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays (or Tuesdays/Thursdays/ Saturdays).
- Warm up first to prepare your body for the hard work it’s about to do. A few minutes of on-the-spot-jogging, jumping jacks, skipping, shadow boxing, or dancing to some up-beat music will do the job.
- Cool off with some light stretching and have a warm shower afterwards.
- You should notice some improvement in your overall fitness after 2 to 3 weeks.
- When you’re able to achieve the aims for all of the exercises you can add extra rounds. Do up to four rounds with 45 seconds of rest in between rounds.
- Progress to doing the exercises HIIT style – High Intensity Interval Training involves working at maximum effort for 30 seconds and resting for 10 seconds; do that for each exercise and rest for 30 seconds between rounds.
- Always maintain proper form when exercising – don’t sacrifice form to finish quicker or to get in more reps.
The final thing to remember about exercise is, be consistent. It’s easy to fall into the trap of chopping and changing in order to find the perfect workout but you need to stick with a programme if you want good results.
If you’re bored or feeling too tired to work out then you need a change not a lay-off. Take a week or two to experiment with new sporting activities. When you go back to your calisthenics programme try changing some of the exercises. You can incorporate a brand new exercise or bring back an old favourite. Do variations that will work a particular muscle group slightly differently such as reverse grip pull-ups, squats with feet together, one-handed push-ups, for example. Dynamic variations like burpees, mountain climbers, rotating planks and ice-skaters, for example, will add extra intensity to your workouts. Be prepared to mix things up like this every six to eight weeks and you’re less likely to give up on exercising through boredom or burn out.
Quality. Progression. Consistency. Keep these three exercise principles in mind. Stick to them and you’ll be fine.
You can’t out-train a bad diet
As fitness coaches like to tell us, you can’t out-train a bad diet. No matter how hard or how often you work out, if you’re eating processed foods stuffed with artificial additives, sugar, fat, salt, etc. you’re sabotaging your attempts to lose weight and get fitter. I’m not saying you should never eat anything that’s been ready-cooked or dried or frozen or shrink-wrapped or tinned. Just don’t make a habit of it!
Keep it real, keep it clean, keep it simple
Make the effort instead to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs etc. that you can prepare yourself and eat at home. Yes, I’m aware that time is likely to be an issue for anyone who has managed to read this far, but everyone needs to understand that what we put into our mouth alters our bio-chemistry and has an impact on our physical and mental state. When it comes to food you want to keep it real, keep it clean, keep it simple.
- Choose to eat fresh most of the time and eat only when you’re hungry.
- Eat slowly so you can sense when you’re near-full and stop eating before you feel bloated.
- Don’t snack to relieve boredom or feelings of deprivation in between meals – occupy your mind instead with useful activity and avoid sitting still for long periods.
- Avoid passively scrolling on your phone and binge-watching TV because it exposes you to food advertising designed to make you feel hungry.
- Invest in a slow cooker – you’ll be able to prepare a hearty meal with fresh ingredients before leaving the house in the morning and your meal will be cooked and ready to eat by the time you get home in the evening.
Follow these simple food rules and you won’t need to count calories. You won’t have a problem loosing weight and getting fitter. You’ll save money and feel much better for it.
You need a routine
If you want fitness for business you need a routine that allows you to devote at least 20% of your waking hours to achieving your exercise, diet, and other important goals.
Get up early
Many famous entrepreneurs recommend getting up at 5 am or earlier because they get to complete their Most Important Tasks (MITs) when well-rested and clear-minded, without interuption by emails, phone calls and other distractions. Sure, getting up at 5 am probably means going to bed at around 9 or 10 pm but what exactly would you be missing by doing that?
Getting up at 5 am is probably the single most important lifestyle change I ever made. It allows me to meditate, exercise, shower, be creative and eat breakfast before my daily commute. I still get to do the things that matter when I get home in the evening – like dinner with my wife, communicating with family and friends, book reading, and preparing for the next day. I don’t mind having less time for nights out on the town or for binging on Netflix and social media, like I used to when I got up at 7 am and went to bed after midnight.
Quality, Progression, and Consistency are the three exercise principles to keep in mind. Build a fitness programme around calisthenics or bodyweight exercises that will work all major muscle groups. Do light exercise on “off days”, keep moving throughout the day and avoid sitting still for long periods. Avoid the trap of chopping and changing to find the perfect workout. If you’re feeling bored or tired you need a change not a layoff. Experiment with new exercises and activities for two weeks every six to eight weeks to avoid boredom and staleness.
You can’t out-train a bad diet. Make the effort to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs etc. that you can prepare yourself and eat at home. Invest in a slow cooker. Eat slowly and eat only when hungry. Occupy your mind and move around instead of snacking to relieve boredom between meals.
You need a morning and evening routine that will allow you to achieve fitness for business and other important goals. Many famous entrepreneurs recommend getting up at 5 am or earlier. Because they get to work creatively on their MITs while their minds are clear and sharp. Without being disturbed by any of the usual distractions that are likely to arise later in the working day.
If you enjoyed this article or have any wellbeing and fitness tips please leave a comment below.
© 2018 Paul J Lockey