7 Tips for Staying in Shape While Working From Home
The COVID-19 pandemic minted millions of new telecommuters, many of whom are trying to integrate their fitness and exercise routines into their “new normal.” On the surface, it would seem that working from home should make it easier to stay in shape, given the scheduling flexibility it offers.
Yet, in reality, working from home often has the effect of extending work hours into personal time, as telecommuting blurs the distinction between the two. Many people are also scrambling to maintain their usual productivity levels as they adapt to telecommuting, leaving little time to prioritize working out.
If your exercise routine has suffered since you switched to working from home, don’t fret. By implementing a few proven strategies and making some small but effective mental adjustments, you’ll quickly find a way to stay in shape as you work from home.
Here are some winning tips, curated from longtime telecommuters and personal fitness experts.
Identify Your Objectives
Setting clear, concrete goals is an essential step in creating a successful plan. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to maintain your current weight? Lose 10 pounds by the start of swimsuit season? Lose 20 pounds by the end of the year? Shed that post-holiday weight?
Identifying a fitness objective is vitally important because it dictates many things about your workout: the necessary intensity, your choice of activity, and its duration, to name three big ones. Without those specifics, you can’t properly integrate a workout into your schedule.
Does Intense Exercise Impact Your Work Habits?
You should also consider how working out affects your productivity, as people react to exercise in different ways. For some, exercise is an energizing activity that doubles as a pick-me-up in the middle of the day. For others, working out wipes them out, leaving them effectively unable to maintain their usual productivity levels.
How does exercise affect you? If it gives you a boost, consider scheduling it first thing in the morning, just before lunch, or as a mid-afternoon break. If it wipes you out, you might want to wait until the work day is over before your daily dose of exercise.
Create a Firm Schedule
When you’re working from home, it’s vitally important to establish a regular routine. For most people, structure supports optimized productivity. Starting and finishing work at the same time every day while integrating scheduled lunch and coffee breaks can go a long way toward recreating an organized, traditional work environment.
The added benefit of creating a firm schedule is that it allows you to build exercise into your work day. If your fitness goals demand a relatively long, intense workout, you can schedule it for your pre-work morning or post-work evening hours. If a quickie will do the trick, you can slip it into the middle of your day with ease.
Pro tip: don’t underestimate the time you’ll need to cool down from your workout, bathe, and change. These tasks can easily add up to half an hour or more, so factor them in when you’re planning your new routine.
Establish Spatial Separation
If you do an indoor home workout, another effective psychological trick is to exercise in a different space than the one you work in. This helps you focus on work when it’s time to work and on exercise when it’s time to exercise, since the respective spaces will be reserved for specific activities. You’ll also save time, as you won’t need to constantly rearrange furniture to accommodate your jumping jacks or push-ups.
Sign Up for Online Fitness or Workout Classes
New telecommuters struggling with self-discipline and self-motivation often find the same challenges carrying over to exercise and fitness. If you’re the type of person who tends to have a hard time functioning in the absence of a firm schedule, then online exercise classes might be just the tonic.
The beauty of online classes is that you don’t necessarily have to join them on a specific day or at a specific time. Most of them are asynchronous, meaning you can engage wherever and whenever you like. Yet, they still add the same sense of structure that traditional in-person classes deliver. An expert instructor will lead you during your workout, which will have a predetermined duration that supports predictable results.
Live classes are also an option if you find the rigid, inflexible scheduling motivates you to participate more often. With COVID-19 closing down gyms across the world, many local personal trainers and fitness instructors moved their services online. See what’s out there in your community if you’d prefer to offer your patronage to local small businesses.
Harness the Power of Technology
Personal fitness and healthy eating represent two of the largest and most in-demand software verticals, and there are literally thousands of apps, programs, and tech tools that purport to make working out and eating right easier. However, they’re not all made equal. Some are better and more functional than others, so factoring user reviews into your research is essential. In general, look for apps that have earned high average scores from a large volume of user-generated reviews.
Essential features you’ll want from a health and fitness app include:
- Effective, easy-to-use tools for tracking meals, snacks, and daily calorie intake
- Personalization options and access to consultants, coaches, and other experts
- Nutrition information and ways to get situational, practical advice for healthy eating and working out
- Links to community features and user resources
The best apps go beyond simply tracking numbers. They provide insights into what those numbers mean, and how to adjust your eating and exercise plans to optimal advantage.
Fill the Fridge With Healthy Snacks
Many people who work from home find themselves wandering into the kitchen much more frequently than they would at the office. The absence of a supervisor’s presence leaves many telecommuters more prone to distraction, and as scores of dieters know all too well, eating is a very common way to fill idle time.
In other cases, flexible daily work schedules mean that eating no longer needs to be confined to a set lunch hour or afternoon break. Instead, you can simply run to the kitchen whenever you feel like it. That can be bad news, especially if you’re already prone to excessive snacking.
The best way to deal with this issue is to have plenty of nutrient-dense, low-calorie, and healthy snacks on hand and ready to go. This makes it far less likely that you’ll turn to potato chips or cookies when you’re looking to satisfy your snacking itch.
Here are some suggestions from nutritionists:
- Carrot and celery sticks
- Peanut or almond butter
- Apples, bananas, and other ready-to-eat fruits
- Fruit salad
- Nuts or trail mix
- Rice cakes
- Grain chips
Pro tip: during the weekend, spend some time prepping food for the week ahead. Head to the grocery store to stock up on healthy snacks, and cut up your fruits and veggies so they’re ready to munch when Monday morning rolls around.
Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hydration helps control weight gain in many ways, not the least of which is helping you feel full so you’re less likely to snack in the first place.
The Last Word
If you’re new to the world of telecommuting, chances are you’re finding the adjustment more difficult than you might have anticipated. As you get used to working from home, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself if you’re not meeting your healthy eating and exercise goals. Cut yourself some slack, refocus your efforts, and put together a concrete plan. You’ll get there!