Freelance writers are notorious for hunkering down at their computers for hours at a time, often forgetting to take time to do “healthy stuff” during the day. Working from home is a rather sedentary lifestyle, so it takes effort to stay fit.
A lot of attention is given to people working 9-to-5 jobs and the variety of ways employers promote health and wellness in the work environment, such as free gym memberships and healthy snack options, but what about those who aren’t getting incentivized?
Sometimes we’d rather binge-watch a few episodes of something good on Netflix during a writing break instead of go for a 30-minute walk. There’s room for both, however. Freelancing allows for flexibility that a traditional schedule doesn’t offer.
Just as it takes motivation and self discipline to be successful at working from home, it takes those same qualities to incorporate fitness into the routine. The catch-22 is that sitting too much is not only bad for your health, it’s bad for motivation and self discipline.
Here are some helpful tips for staying active and fit as a freelancer:
1. Manage your energy
If you’re paying attention, your body is telling you throughout the day what it needs and, in a way, creates an innate schedule for you. Energy levels ebb and flow in what’s known as an ultradian rhythm. This refers to 90- to 120-minute cycles during which the body slowly moves from a high-energy-state to a physiological trough.
By the end of the cycle, your brain is signaling that you need to take a break. Physical restlessness, hunger, yawning and difficulty concentrating are the cues. Often, we ignore them and keep working. It catches up as the day goes on and then we hit a wall.
Make it a goal to write for up to two hours straight and take a break. To change gears entirely, go for a quick walk, call someone to chat, listen to music, stretch on your yoga mat, or anything that allows you to disengage.
2. Create a schedule
Unless you create it for yourself, there’s no 9-to-5 regimented schedule to get your work done. Keeping similar hours every day will help you stick to a routine.
It’s tempting to sleep in and stay up late, but keeping strange hours is not good for work quality or your mental health. Pretend you’re going into an office and follow your daily schedule to be the most productive. Don’t forget to take those breaks every two hours.
3. Cardio in the morning
Get the brain and metabolism rolling before you even sit down at the computer, but only if you’re a morning person. Otherwise, the thought of breaking a sweat when you could be sleeping sounds like torture.
You can reap the benefits of a morning cardio session, especially if going to the gym after work just isn’t realistic. According to PLYYOGA Fitness founder and CEO Stephanie Lauren, you have a greater ability to burn fat in the AM.
If you work out in the morning before eating or after eating just a protein bar, you will get greater results [in terms of burning fat],” says Lauren. “American diets are high in sugar. Your body will attack sugar first and then go after fat during a workout. If you work out in the morning, the ability of your body to attack fat over sugar is greater because you haven’t consumed most sugars yet at this point.”
4. Stand up or treadmill desk
The mantra of “sitting is the new smoking” has been around for a few years now. The idea is that sitting for too long is just as harmful as smoking and can lead to type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, even for people who do exercise every day.
If your chair is killing you, an active workstation may be a good alternative. Standing burns more calories than sitting. Sitting can lead to blood pooling in the lower extremities and vein insufficiency.
Studies have shown that active workstations not only have physical benefits but psychological as well. People using treadmill desks were less bored, less stressed and more satisfied than those at seated, standing or cycling desks.
5. Go outside
Even if you don’t like to go to the gym or workout, give yourself the gift of fresh air. A 15-minute walk before you start working is a great way to clear your mind. Take another 15 minutes in the afternoon before the midday slump hits. Being out in nature is especially good for lifting your spirits and relieving stress.
Writing for a living is a skill that takes brainpower and creativity, which is why taking care of your body during the day is so important. The reward of Netflix at the end of the day will be that much sweeter.