Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Desk Job/Student Life & Staying Fit

So I've heard time and time again that working at the office or getting a "real job" is what often leads people to poor health habits. People's results usually end up spiraling into some vicious cycle of of weight gain and lack of motivation. The stereotype is that starting in her 20s a woman will gain about a pound or two per year until menopause... That adds up pretty quickly! However, defying everything that most people always told me about getting that desk job, I managed to get in the best shape of my life during a period when I was juggling a really demanding internship (aka. the desk job), completing my MA (so a full course-load), and maintaining a social and home life. So it's not impossible! I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but I'm just trying to highlight that it's not difficult to maintain a certain way of life if you choose to make it a priority. So what was the trick? Here are a couple pointers I've come up with:

1) Walking as much as possible: It's easy to take the bus or drive the car to work or class every day. You don't notice how big a difference walking to where you need to get to makes until you don't do it anymore (trust me)! I was lucky enough to be living in the hilly part of downtown DC when I was doing this, so I walked to campus on the days I had to go to class (a good 2 miles), walked from the bus/subway to work (1.5 miles), or walked some combination of both those distances on my split days. Walking also gives you the opportunity to de-stress after a day's work or get pumped up for the day ahead!

2) Eating right: This is probably people's biggest issue. For me, going into the office actually gave me the most regular and healthy eating schedule ever. When I'm at home, I generally tend to eat whatever, whenever because food is always there in the kitchen calling my name. When I'm working or in class, I have to plan out my food, causing me to eat "just right." After an energizing breakfast at 8am-ish, I made sure to always have lunch around noon before I got too hungry, have a light snack around 4 if necessary, and have dinner early enough to leave time for overnight digestion. If you eat enough and at the right times, you tend not to over eat because you don't go too long without eating and you'll never have energy/blood sugar crashes! Also, whenever you're confronted with those office parties, open buffets, or meeting snacks, you're a responsible human being, just say no or control your portions. No one will hold it against you.

3) Not compromising my workouts: Sure I was tired when my 9-5 day came to end, sure I got lazy when I spent a whole day in classes and just wanted to go home, but I also knew how energized I felt after a workout so I never skipped them. Whether it's first thing in the morning or once your workday is over, take the time to get out there and sweat in whatever way you see fit. Though you may feel physically tired after a good workout, it's building your body to be stronger and more capable to take the next day head on. Of course, psych yourself up with whatever workout you choose. The start of that crazy period of my life was also when I did Gina's 12 week Summer workout plan. Because someone had already laid out the workouts for me, it gave me something new, fun, and fresh to get excited about every day because I never knew what to expect!

4) Sleeping: Don't compromise your sleep! I definitely got 7-8 hours of sleep every night and it worked wonders to have enough stamina to get through the tough days. Sleep is vital to give your body its much needed recovery period. Only after a certain amount of sleep are many of the hormones that rebuild your physical and mental systems released, so if you short change yourself on sleep, you'll be missing a key piece of the puzzle!

5) Staying away from coffee/caffeine: With sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise, I pride myself in being the one Doctoral candidate that has never pulled an all-nighter or been a regular coffee drinker! I've never seen anyone get useful results from the stuff... Health-wise, it's a stress inducer which isn't so great for cardiovascular health. It's also very dehydrating, and most people already don't get enough water to begin with! Being acidic, coffee also causes your body to go into organ protection mode by producing fat cells. Oh, and it's also an addictive substance...

6) Drinking water: I know I can't stress this one enough, but it's because it's just that important! Why? You're body is mostly made up of water. Water helps carry nutrients to your cells, flushes out toxins from your organs, lubricates your joints, and keep your tissues moist. Dehydration inhibits all your basic functionings and more, and yet it's so simple to avoid! Easiest thing to do is get yourself a good stainless steel water bottle and bring it everywhere! (I have 1.2 liter Klean Kanteen that I refill once every 3 hours-ish. I opted for stainless steel over plastic so you can avoid the whole plastic-toxin leakage issue.)

If you do all those things, you'll have the motivation and energy to finish all the papers you have to complete and you'll never have to skip a night's sleep or reach for that desperate cup of morning coffee ever again! If I did it, you can do it too! Good luck :)

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