Healthy Habits for the workplace
Before I became a personal trainer, I spent 10 years in finance and law and saw some questionable habits and guilty of some of them myself, so I know all about the challenges of getting fit and healthy in the office. If you had a late night watching the latest TV show, you might have a sleep in and in your rush skip breakfast. Worst case scenario you drive all the way into work, slightly better is driving to the station and taking public transport. Once in the office you grab a quick bowl of cereal and sit down to check emails. This sugar high doesn’t last long and you’re out the door once your morning deliverables are completed to grab a coffee and muffin/toast/banana bread for a snack. Back to your desk and hunched over the keyboard, shoulders rounded, neck craned, slouched down. You bang out some more reports, and as it gets closer to lunch time your boss drops off something urgent that will delay your break, and put the kibosh on your lunchtime run. So you open your drawer and pull out a “healthy” muesli bar to tide you over. Finally, you’re able to get a break, but you’ve forgotten to pack that healthy lunch so it’s off to the food court to get something quick, cheap, easy and hopefully slightly healthy. It’s a nice day so you’re in the park, watching the other office workers run around or work out in their active wear, and you promise yourself that you’ll get out early and get a few kilometres in. Back to the office, there are some meetings to attend, emails to respond to, some office gossip to catch up on, and before you know it 6pm rolls around and you are just too exhausted to run after work, and besides you have to rush home to get dinner on for the kids. After your torrid day, you might have a beer or glass of wine or two over dinner, and then once the kids are in bed you crash on the couch and zone out.
So let’s recap – You’re sitting in your chair for a good 6 or 8, maybe 10 hours a day. You try to eat healthy but you’re eating all the wrong snacks. You want to exercise but work piles up and you don’t get the chance. You’re stressed from deliverables to clients and demands of the higher ups. Does any of this sound familiar?
Let’s look at some little things you can do to correct these.
Sleeping in – your body is very sensitive to changes in sleep habits, so try to sleep and wake up at the same times. Each person is different, but you should get 6-8 hours sleep each night.
Skipping breakfast/carb loaded breakfast – whilst there isn’t necessarily any evidence for breakfast “kick starting the metabolism” there is a great benefit in eating a protein heavy breakfast. It satiates the body for longer and removes the blood sugar crash and therefore reduces the need for a mid-morning snack. Eggs, Greek yogurt, nuts, oats, cottage cheese, are all great quick breakfast options.
Incidental exercise – make this the most important thing in your day! Walk to public transport, get off a stop or 3 earlier and walk to work. Rather than sending an email that may or may not be read, and certainly not prioritised by colleagues, go and speak to them in person. If you’ve got a meeting on another floor, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Not only will you get lots of exercise, you will get to meet and build stronger interpersonal relationships with colleagues.
Stay hydrated – one of your best friends when it comes to incidental exercise is your water bottle. Whether small or large jugs and glasses, there are benefits. Large means you drink plenty of water as it should be right next to your screen and in your face, and therefore you need to stand often and go pee. Small means you drink lots, and stand and walk to refill and go pee! Tea is a great alternative as well and has lots of health benefits. If you take one or two lumps, try to reduce this over time.
Office snacking – we all have that one colleague whose drawer is infamous for its selection of chocolate bars, lollies, chips and pretzels. It might even be you! I had a colleague that would get coffee and banana bread EVERY morning! If you do need snacks for that extra boost to get you through the day, make sure they’re healthy – natural nuts and seeds, veggies and dip, fruit slices and nut spreads (I love apples with peanut butter). If you do have things like crackers or chips, keep them to an occasional treat and put them into a bowl or plate to limit your grazing.
Meal prep – no need to spend your whole Sunday cooking and prepping 15 meals for the week. Make a larger than usual (healthy) dinner, and pack the leftovers in Tupperware containers. There is evidence of trace chemicals leaching into food when reheating, so transfer to a plate or bowl when microwaving. Or you might cut up some fresh veggies and pack a can of tuna with homemade dressing on the side. Just remember to bring it with you to work! You’ll save some calories and plenty of money when you skip the food court.
Birthdays and socials – I encourage my clients to fill 80% of their diet with yummy and nutritious food and stay well hydrated. If the vast majority of your intake is lean protein, loads of colourful veggies, complex carbs, lots of herbal teas and water, you can still enjoy yourself the other 20% of the time! Have a small slice of cake guilt-free or a beer or two on a Friday night, so long as the rest of your week has been pretty good.
Make time to work out – my personal preference when I was working in a office was to hit the gym first thing in the morning. It forced me to sleep and wake up earlier, and I would get a great energy boost to last me throughout the day. By working out before you get to the office, you would never get bogged down by deliverables or urgent requests. However, if mornings aren’t your bag or not feasible due to getting the kids off or long commute, then book in your lunchtime sessions in your calendar. Your colleagues will see that you have your sessions when they try to book a meeting in, and if you head out at the same time a couple of times a week, your boss will (hopefully) get used to your routine too. Evening sessions are a bit tougher, as you’ve been working ALL day and sometimes the last thing you want to do is go for a run or hit the gym. Something simple like getting changed into gym clothes at the office just before clock off time will be the impetus you need, and eat a high energy snack like fruit and nuts to get you through.
Healthy dinner prep – if you’ve got a partner that is already preparing dinner as you’re on your way home, that’s the ideal situation. Make sure that it’s healthy and easy, with plenty of protein and vegetables, and a small amount of complex carbohydrates. Otherwise, there are plenty of quick and simple dinner ideas that are tasty and nutritious. My personal go to’s are grilled steak/lamb/chicken/fish and while resting I pan fry thin slices of vegetables, or a quick stir fry with loads of vege and chosen protein and steamed rice. Use a variety of simple sauces or spice mixes to keep the flavours changing and interesting. There is some evidence that a glass of red wine or two can have health benefits, but the same cannot be said for beer or white wine unfortunately. Needless to say, a glass of hard liquor isn’t great either.
Get an early night – what are you really doing between 10-12 at night that’s productive? If you’re getting more exercise, then that’s ok 😉 However, spending those hours watching the latest TV release or movie probably won’t be really necessary. Managing your stress levels plays a major role in achieving health goals, but watching TV to relax at the cost of quality sleep is not a value proposition. Especially if you’ve been diligent and exercised that day, sleep is the time that your body takes to repair your muscles and get stronger.
At the end of a couple of months you’ve built a repertoire of healthy lifestyle habits, do you think you will be closer to achieving your health and fitness goals?
Alan is a personal trainer with over 10 years experience in the corporate world. Get better educated with Velocity Fitness, and develop a consistent workout routine with Velocity outdoor group training sessions. Available at Hyde Park and Wentworth Park, these offer great value by providing Personal Training technique and correction tips in a small group setting. https://velocityfitness.com.au/classes/timetable/