There are lots of dads in the startup scene, and perhaps more than anyone else, we need to keep fit while pushing ourselves hard – building a business and raising a family require not just time, but more importantly energy and attention. More on this coming in a later post, but springing from a discussion over beer at the Main Street Daddypreneur Meetup a few months ago, here’s some resources on cramming fitness into a schedule with no slack.
The most important criteria here is that none of the activities require a lot of context switching cost – to spend 30 minutes at a gym I need to drive or bike there, park, shower after, get back home, and maybe pack a bag beforehand. This is over an hour lost for a half hour of fitness contribution, and that’s a waste we can’t afford. I’m seeking activities that can be done at home or work an don’t require scheduling, as nap and meeting times can be unpredictable.
And a disclaimer – I only succeed at about half of what’s below in a given week. But I try to get it done every day, and I try to be flexible and relaxed about what I actually accomplish. If you can add one or two things below to your current week you’ll be better than last week.
High-Intensity Inverval Training
Don’t train longer, train smarter. Using high-intensity intervals, you can jack up your metabolism for 24 hours, and gain the fitness benefits of a traditional cardio workout 4X LONGER. It’s discussed in the AskMen article below how this approach is appropriate for not just cardio but for fat loss and muscle gain. Never spend an hour on a stationary bike again. This is an intense activity, and they say you should only do it 2-3 times per week.
How it works:
A HIIT timer app: http://gummisoft.weebly.com/hiit-timer.html
I love biking much more than running. It gets my heart pumping, gets my lungs gasping, and works my legs until they’re wobbly. And it does it with resistance instead of impact, so I’m becoming more muscular instead of skinny and sinewy (sorry, distance runners). I’m lucky (?) enough to live in a very hilly area of Vancouver so I can jump on my bike and effectively do HIIT by spending 20 minutes pumping up and down the hills near my house, and I return tapped out but feeling amazing. The other great lead biking has over running is that it’s a transportation method! You don’t want to run to your next meeting, but bike there and you’re getting in shape, reducing your carbon footprint, and saving money. I never feel like a part of my city so much as when I’m cycling through it. Bikes can be inexpensive (I have a $500 Norco urban bike of some kind) so there’s little barrier to getting started. Oh yeah, and since this is a Daddypreneur program, don’t forget what a great family activity cycling is, get your kids in love with it early and you’re giving them some good lifestyle habits 🙂
Also, this is very cool, a friend in a graduate program at UBC helped produce this “Google Maps for cycling”, it generates bike routes and includes info on hills and bike lanes: http://www.cyclevancouver.ubc.ca/cv.aspx
Effective Bodyweight Excercise
Save money and time – cancel the gym membership. I love spending time in the gym, trying equipment and excercises that I can’t do at home, but realistically I make it about once a month. Just as I can get better cardio workouts from the HIIT sprints above compared to an hour on an elliptical, so can I boost my metabolism and build strength with a small set of excercises done at home. Put together a program of pushups, bycicle crunch, pullups, and lunghes, for example, and you can tax your whole body in a half hour or less.
For pushups, I strongly recommend the 100 pushup website & the iPhone app that helps me do it on the go. This program does an initial test and then pushes you through eight weeks of increasing workouts to get you to 100 pushups a day. I just noticed that at long last they have programs out for crunches, and squats, so if you want a full-body workout and don’t have time to figure one out, just put those three in a spreadsheet and get started. I think I might do that this afternoon.
While I get mocked by my wife for it’s “Cosmo for men” attitude, Men’s Health is actually pretty good at presenting a variety of body-weight or at-home workouts every issue when you’re looking to mix it up and try something new.
Update 2010-10-26: This report on realbuzz.com lists the most effective excercises for each muscle group, based on research. This is a great starting point for creating a time-compressed full body routine: http://www.realbuzz.com/articles/the-top-10-best-exercises/
Life is crazy. Kids are amazing/stressful. You can improve your focus and mood by meditating for a few minutes a day. I’m trying to make this part of my routine, but it’s hard with fluctuating kid wakeups. When I can fit it in, 5-10 minutes of focusing my mind and quieting the noise does wonders for my mood and energy.
Great post by Alex Payne on his advise for surviving the startup lifestyle with energy and health, including a nice bit on meditation and some resources: Staying Health & Sane at a Startup.
Fit It In
Hardest part! I think there are three principles, that you can use individually or combine:
1) Schedule it.
If you can, set up appointments with a personal trainer. I was never in better shape than when I was seeing a trainer 2-3X per week, not just because she kicked my ass for a solid hour, but because I had an appointment that I was paying for. If you can block this into your schedule and afford the trainer (40-50/hr) it is by far the best option.
If not, scheduling it is still one of the best ways to ensure you have time. Whether it’s 5:30 AM three days a week, or 8:30PM after the kids are in bed, pick a time, schedule it, and think throughout the day about that as inviolable time. Recognize the importance, commit, and you’ll be happy you did.
2) Pick slack times.
No slack times, right? I’m in the middle of an MBA, multiple contracts, with a 1- and 3-year old. And.. And… So I get up at 5:30 to be able to get work done and exercise in before the kids wake up somewhere around 6:30. I started taking swimming lessons this fall, and fit it in after dinner once a week. Get creative with your schedule 🙂
As in the disclaimer at the top, you can’t do it all. If you can, I’m very jealous. Pick one or two things from this list and commit to them for a few weeks. Let me know how it went, and if you have other things that work for you, let’s add them here.