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Remote Life: Making Exercise a Priority

A five part series written for remote professionals who want to take their life and careers to a new level. This is Part Three in the series.

This summer I took my fiancée on a bike loop from the town of Golden, Colorado, south through Red Rocks, and eventually east over a foothill called Dinosaur Ridge. It was her first longer ride (20 miles) on a road bike.

I remember our conversations later that day as her body settled into a subtle, euphoric ache. She would say, “I feel high.” I would laugh because I understood her meaning.

When we push ourselves to the physical brink, our bodies settle into an active recovery phase. We might feel sore, but we also feel satisfied, relieved, and even-minded.

Movement When Remote

Despite a brief hiatus after injury a few years ago, finding something to be competitive with has always been of interest. But beyond that, what I’ve realized over the years is that the act of moving always makes me, simply put, feel better.

Being a modern remote worker has presented a unique challenge both mentally and physically. We have “the world at our fingertips” and yet, it’s up to us to go explore that world. It’s up to us to push our own limits with the sudden freedoms far out of reach from most of our peers in more traditional industries.

The lovely thing about remote work is that we can travel, explore, and move about without too much hesitation or long term planning. But it’s also easy to settle into a routine, sit at a desk for 10 hours a day, and consume our way into oblivion, isn’t it?

Being in the remote landscape forces us to get real with our bodies, and for many that’s a difficult task. Our culture is so heavily influenced by advertisements for quick fixes and lackluster food choices that it would seem there’s no alternative to sitting all day long, eating poorly, and watching TV from 6-11pm each evening.

But, there are alternatives. Each one of us can create our own alternative to the mainstream trend, and it’s up to us to take the first steps towards that change.

Head First

I’m always impressed with a new face at my neighborhood crossfit gym. This person made a choice: to put it all on the line, and to step into the light. They’re walking into a physical situation that, in all honestly, they’re not ready for. But onward they move (head first) and it’s neat to see.

Perhaps it’s more meaningful because I remember when that was me, and I know what that process looks and feels like.

A little more than three years ago I decided to make a change to get moving again. After the knee injury that took me down and out in a consistent fashion, I needed someone yelling a little bit for me to get the work done. A physical wakeup call of sorts.

As you might imagine, I was crushed. I could barely get through workouts, pregnant women were completing the movements with more speed, and my mind was a blur 5 minutes in. But those nights after working out, and in the days following, I felt my body changing. It was getting stronger, and I also felt more mentally tough, too. In other words, I knew if I could suffer through that workout, I could definitely handle a bad client situation.

I’m sure the same goes for those new faces who I see get stronger each week. Just recently a new face said to me, “I was last... but finished.” I said, “You won’t be last for long.”

I’ve heard time and time again that people who are physically active are more emotionally put together, and when I made that change, I started understanding why. As the weeks went on, a transition was taking place from within.

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Getting Personal

Make it personal to you. For where you want to be and for what you want to change. Stick to that motto, and forget what you think everyone else expects you to do.

For me, crossfit was a decision I made surrounding strength building, but I was also attracted to the community that seemed built in to the classes. Because I was getting more into cycling at the time, too, it was a nice balance with my time in the saddle (predominantly solo). I was blending cardio with strength, pairing alone time with group time.

Beyond these decisions, I took a hard look at my physical structure: my muscles, my skeleton, my mind, and so forth. I literally went into the doctor for a torso x-ray and neck analysis, knowing that “remote life” can take a toll on the body. During those evaluations I found out that I had minor spinal arthritis, which was unsurprising after 20 years at a computer.

Taking the exercise concept a step further, I finally hopped on the stand desk bandwagon and gave it a try about a year ago. Mostly for posture-sake, I’ve since found that the standing desk reduces shoulder and upper back tension.

Yes—my feet and legs tire more, but my issues come from poor posture, neck pain, and an occasional migraine. Standing throughout the day, without question, has greatly lessened those issues. I’ll take sore feet over a pinched nerve any day!

No doubt exercise has surfaced in different parts of my life throughout its history, but what seems to be the common thread is to continue “doing” even if that doing changes over time.

For you, too—what are the things that get you most excited to do physically? What about something you want to try out? Surely something comes to mind right now. What are you waiting for?

Making Time

As remote workers, we don’t have an excuse to not move our bodies. Most of us made a conscious decision to leave the commute and the cubicle to make more of a work/life balance. So how are you spending your time? It doesn’t have to take over your life.

For example, I’ll typically hit a class roughly three times per week, usually at 5pm. I’ll work until twenty minutes out and head into the gym. I work out and socialize for an hour, potentially doing a little assault bike ride afterwards, and be out in 90 minutes.

Bike rides vary other days of the week, but if I get out for a lunch or post-work ride, my actual riding time won’t be more than an hour. Again, let’s call it 90 minutes. After that, I’m back at home, present with my life or the rest of the work day that’s calling my name.

Weekends are another mindset entirely—go ham, I say. Do the big hike, get some friends together and crush an epic bike ride, hit the slopes, or throw the kiddos in the stroller and walk downtown all day. Especially when weather allows, it’s my opinion that weekends are for both extreme efforts and extreme relaxing.

I love extending myself physically one day, and taking the time to completely veg-out and catch up the other. Do the big adventure, then do the movie marathon and enjoy a day full of naps.

Pushing your body to limits you thought impossible starts to show you that you’re made up of a lot more than you originally thought. Pushing your body above and beyond makes relaxing all the more enjoyable, too. It’s funny like that, but it’s true.

Starting Now

Like the topic of nutrition, there are a lot of people and quite a few products trying to tell you what you need to eat or what you need to do to feel better as a human. In actuality, the best thing you can do is just to get started—right now. Make a couple decisions that make sense to you, and go for it.

In the same way you make decisions for how to treat your body with a particular way of eating, figure out what it’s all for. Is it for yourself? Maybe that beau you want to end up with? A baby on the way soon? Hold on to that purpose.

With the weather turning in your favor, there is no excuse, and that’s a good thing. Get out there! Meet new people and push your body until it can’t be pushed any longer. Then rest, rinse, and repeat

Next in the Series

In part four of this series, I dive into how building relationships can make or break a career, as well as ways I’ve found success with my own personal approach to networking.

The Complete Series

Remote Life 1: The Art and Struggle of the Daily Routine
Remote Life 2: Nutrition for the Remote Workforce
Remote Life 3: Making Exercise a Priority
Remote Life 4: Networking as Relationship Building
Remote Life 5: The Remote Worker’s Guide to Travel

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