The great thing about physical training is that if you show up consistently and do the work, you get stronger. Today was the first test day for my deadlift in years. I was successful with my target of 142.5kgs, the total amount of weight I currently have in my gym. This is not the heaviest I have ever lifted, but probably one of the most satisfying. I am older, lighter by at least 12kgs, and running higher mileage than ever but still able to move a ‘reasonable’ amount of weight. I am stronger in the bench and pull-ups than ever before too. More importantly, my body feels good.
At the start of the year, I set myself a challenge to take my training seriously. I do not have kids or other heavy commitments outside of work other than being a responsible adult and husband. I have taken advantage of working from home and no commute to train two times per day for much of the year, adding rest where needed. I have used this time to work on ticking off some strength standards as well as running faster. These include 100kg bench press, 13 strict pull-ups, I can perform solid reps of dips, press double 24kg kettlebells overhead for ten reps, and many others.
Despite two good training sessions per day, usually a 6+ mile run, in the morning or since the weather turned, at lunch, and a strength and mobility session in the evening, I have looked fit and healthy but not great. Part of this is my insanely sweet tooth, lack of discipline in my eating, and ready access to my kitchen at all times. Still, part of it is something most people working from home since march will be familiar with, I spend the rest of the day sitting down. About six weeks ago, I wanted to make some changes to what I do outside of this 60-90 minutes per day of exercise to try and look as good as I feel.
James A Levine defines Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) as ‘the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.’ NEAT is your general level of activity; the walking from your car to the office, taking stairs over the lift, and walking to someone’s desk instead of sending an email. If you are a knowledge worker and have been working from home for the last nine months, your NEAT has probably taken a swan dive, and your body has suffered for it.
I have been artificially adding back into my life this general activity. I started with an idea from Percy Cerutty; set of 10 sit-ups or more when I first wake up and then 5 minutes of activity to get my heart rate up after sleep. This 5 minute has been anything from some push-ups and squats to light kettlebell work, some stretches, or my latest choice of a few upper body movements with an exercise band.
Next, I started hanging from a pull-up bar for 30 seconds three times during the day. Once these were habit, I took an idea from the Gymfit newsletter and started to add short 4-minute movement breaks between meetings or after a couple of hours of intense work. The movements might be a few stretches, some bodyweight movements like 20 press-ups, some planks, or even a little sing and dance to Hey Jude by the Beatles. GymFit suggests setting a timer every 45 minutes and adding one of these breaks, but I have started to put my meetings to 50 minutes instead of an hour and use the few minutes between to do some movement.
Tomorrow, wake up and do a set of 10 sit-ups. Repeat every day for 200 days. After the first few days add one 30-60 second plank after your shower and before you work. Commit to adding movement breaks randomly and without planning. Your body will thank you.