I’m 24/7 tech guy but also extremely athletic…here’s how I do it:
- Genetics, because let’s not kid ourselves.
- Having physical hobbies.
- Simple lifestyle changes.
- Figure out how to do it lazily!
- …ignore the bad advice out there!
Maybe you’re not a tech worker, you’re just a busy parent. Or simply someone without a lot of time. It’s ok, it still applies to you.
My athletic/fitness background
People ask me all the time how I manage to such a busy tech person and yet still find time to be in shape and be just as passionate in my other non-tech endeavors. They wanted to know if I had some kind of secret or simple tips to share with them. I felt it would help if I share some of my background and things I think are most helpful for non-fitness people.
I’ve been in sports my whole life. Basketball, skateboarding, track & field, weightlifting, boxing, dancing. Dabbled in many others as well. Was also in the US Army. I think this helped a lot to give my body a healthy level of homeostasis (for my unhealthy party years).
Yes, sometimes I lived like a Spartan. Eating perfectly, spending 6 hours a day in the gym working out.
But there were also times when I ate like crap, didn’t work out, sat on the computer all day long…and still kept my six pack. There were times when I ate a whole quart of ice cream for breakfast at work. Yes…some of my co-workers, friends and girlfriends hated me a little bit.
They all argued it was just my genetics holding me together. And there’s truth to it.
There’s also shit that I’m doing that nobody else is doing. There’s also shit that other incredibly fit and busy people are doing. And that’s what I want to share with you today.
Honest Fitness Mentality
Don’t hate yourself.
One of the saddest things I ever see are people who constantly attack themselves for not being more committed to their fitness goals.
- They hate themselves for not following a strict diet.
- They hate themselves for not giving it 100% at the gym.
- They hate themselves for feeling lazy.
I can tell you right now…there are TONS of world-level athletes who hate working out! You think YOU hate crunches? Ha…you don’t even know. Some of you are only doing 50 of them. Pro athletes doing 500-5000 of them. Trust me, they’re hating it for so much longer than you are. They hate them more than you do.
Athletes feel lazy too. So can you. There is zero shame in it. Mentality-wise, there is very little different from yours and the pro athlete’s. Please understand that!
Fitness is a lifestyle, NOT a goal.
The moment you put a number and a date together, you’re destined to fail.
Most people think when they say, I’ll lose X number of pounds by Y date…that it means they either:
- A) actually lose that weight, or
- B) not lose that weight, but still get partial benefit
In reality, all that happens is…
- C) you don’t lose anything because you’ve pushed your procrastination date further back
- D) you workout wayyyy too hard that you can’t sustain it, and you quit
- E) you actually give 100% but still don’t hit your unrealistic goal, and now lose motivation to continue after the date
Either way…all these scenarios are losing scenarios because it’s just the wrong mindset for the results you want. Even if you do hit it by some miracle, you won’t be able to keep it for long. It’s as silly as renting a Lambo for a day. Even if you get what you want, it just ain’t worth the cost.
The real goal for me is that you end up with a physical activity you love doing. Not that you hit some ambiguous number. Everyone’s bodies are different!
Don’t follow stupid shortcut advice.
- Take THIS pill.
- Do THIS routine.
- Do THIS program.
- Do THIS diet.
I think it’s great for you to try different things to see if it helps. But if you’re trying something only to speed up your fitness improvements, you’re doomed to fail. Mostly because it doesn’t fix your underlying problem (of not having a fitness lifestyle) but also because the shortcut methods that do work only wreck your body homeostasis and leave you vulnerable to even worse weight gain or unhealthy balance afterwards.
Please don’t starve yourself. Please don’t do extreme stuff. You cannot punish yourself to success.
Sustainable effort mentality.
There are generally 2 kinds of fitness people:
- The ones who love doing physical stuff every minute of their day.
- The ones who love the benefits of physical stuff.
Obviously, you’re not the in the 1st category since you’re reading this guide.
If you’re someone who only loves the benefits of fitness. That is 100% fine. You can be a lazy fitness person and still be in pretty good shape. However, you have to fine-tune this better. You have to adjust your attitude.
Also find the right fitness coach for you. Do not pick the ALL OUT, 100%, ALL DAY, EVERYDAY crazy militarized coach if that isn’t your personality. It will burn you out so quick! (Even worse, it makes you hate working out; or to see it as punishment rather than reward.)
If you’re a lazy style fitness person, go with a lazy style coach. The one that’s just fun to be around. Jokes a lot, tries simpler things. Trust me on this.
Who are the best fitness coaches?
Stop following motivational coaches.
No offense to anyone but most of today’s fitness coaches are just motivational coaches. Just a bunch of people with only good genetics and very limited training experience disguised by some ABC certification. Their body aesthetic and cheerful attitude appeals to our current generation of physically-lazy people who need to be motivated like a child to do anything physical.
- Let’s go, Rob!
- You can do it, Susie!
- C’mon Ben! One more rep!
Don’t pay them any attention. Personally, I think they’re more toxic and counter-productive to your fitness goals than anything. (Yes, I’m being serious.)
Other than trying to get you excited about something you hate, they just don’t have the right personality to make you fit for the longterm. The same personality that makes someone excited is not the same personality you need to make them stay.
Let’s look at your tech work. What keeps you engaged in it? I assume it’s not the day-to-day bursts of excitement and extroverted energy. You’re here in tech because of something that inspires you from the inside. Challenges you, makes you curious, speaks to your soul.
What does a real fitness coach look like?
Pick your choice…both of these are solid:
- The adventurous friend – who’s always trying new activities and invites you to everything. All you have to do is say yes, and you’ll have a great story by the end of the day. Most likely…everything they want to do seems like too much work, though.
- The old trainer who has seen the world gone by. He or she has coached countless champions and trained athletes from children to post-prime adults. This trainer has a wealth of real-world knowledge, routines that have proven successful across many generation trends, truly sees and knows how to bring out the fire in each individual.
I was fortunate to have both throughout my life.
Stop following the wannabe coaches.
People who love telling others what to do and getting paid for it. Real coaches don’t have fancy systems. They look at you and make up a plan right there on the spot. Everything customized for you.
Careful of sports coaches.
Beware of gimmicky checklists and numbers and shit. If you’re feeling good and doing good, that’s enough. You’re a person trying to get in shape…not a competitor trying to break records. Sports coaches are great for making you passionate about a sport or improving technique…I don’t necessarily recommend them for everyday lazy people.
I like “activities coaches”.
You should think of your fitness trainer as the guy handing out the balls at recess when you were a kid. All he has is toys for you. Today…THIS toy. Tomorrow…ANOTHER toy. Jokes, you laugh, get sore, try something else.
I like circuit coaches.
You go and there’s other people for you to work with and alongside. Make friends. It’s really boring to go 1-on-1 for fitness all the time. The only time I like 1-on-1 coaches is for technical instruction and I want them completely focused on all my technique.
Actionable fitness tips
1. Pick only exercises you like doing.
“No pain, no gain” isn’t true. Cut out the stupid tough-guy motivational quotes. Fitness doesn’t have to be painful. And you don’t have to chase down more painful exercises to feel productive. That’s certainly not how you do your tech work, right? You ever notice how kids are so easily in shape? It’s because their physical activity is all PLAY, not PUNISHMENT.
For god sakes, you’re not a pro athlete (with a competition date). Start off with only exercises you actually like doing. You know what? Just make that a rule for the rest of your life. Only do shit that you like doing. This isn’t about avoidance mentality where you’re empowering laziness.
It’s the opposite. You’re being proactive and hunting out opportunities to find new exercises, by quickly skipping all the ones you hate!
The only reason why pro athletes can get away with doing so many painful exercises is:
- They’re getting paid for it.
- They’re balancing them with ones they like.
- They have higher tolerance for pain.
- They have more dedication to their work.
You know what else you can do? Stop counting your reps. Do a couple. Then do some more (only) if you want. If you’re bored or don’t feel like it anymore, do something else. Seriously, the numbers don’t matter at all. The only metric that counts is that you were in the gym today.
Do you think pro athletes count their reps? Sure sometimes. But when I was in the army, we just went for time. I did sit-ups for 30-60 minutes straight. I ain’t got time to count all that. Who the heck wants to count once you get pass the 3-digit mark anyway? Also pro athletes care more about quality than quantity. And also…lifelong athletes love what they do that they don’t count because they don’t plan on stopping.
Whoever sold you on the idea of counting reps was doing it to make you feel productive. That’s what I believe.
Am I advocating unstructured workouts? No. I’m advocating listening to your body and being more dedicated to yourself than some arbitrary number of productivity. If you feel physically challenged with just 4 push-ups, that’s fine! it doesn’t matter how many you did last week. Or what the person next to you did. You do as many as you want in the moment.
2. Allow yourself to be lazy at the gym.
This is so damn crucial to me. It makes me sad to see people force themselves far beyond their comfort levels at the gym. The only dedication you need for yourself is to be there….NOTHING ELSE!
Stop thinking that you either need to kill yourself at the gym, or you’re a lazy failure.
Please…if you go to the gym and only feel like scrolling through Facebook on the leg machine….that would be FREAKEN PERFECT! I love seeing people having fun and being distracted at the gym.
Hear me out….The gym needs to be your new couch! Sometimes you’re doing work there, sometimes you’re just having fun. But either way, it’s a place you like to be!
I don’t care what you do during your hours at the gym. I only care that you’re there. So dedicate yourself to the spending time at the gym. 2 hours every day, every week, every other week. Whatever works for you. Go even if you’re lazy, injured, sleepy, or otherwise have zero plans whatsoever to work out! I’ll go even in flip flops and jeans just to hang out with my friends.
The dirty secret is that it really works.
- You will get bored of your phone and try a few sets of this or that machine.
- The gym energy might pick you up that day and you suddenly feel inspired.
- You meet somebody you like talking to (creating incentive to return).
Even if none of that happens, you still develop a more positive emotional association for the gym. And it relieves your fear of going there even when you’re not 100%. This greatly reduces your skip days because of “not feeling up to it”.
3. Wear two sweaters and sweatpants.
This is something I learned from pro sports. Wear many layers so your body warms up faster. And you’re not wasting the first 30-40 mins of your exercise just getting warmed up. Working out cold is such a waste. It can even make you prematurely tired before your body has even gotten a true workout. I highly recommend not doing that thing where you arrive wearing only tank and shorts.
Staying hot has tremendous benefits:
- Your body temperature raises.
- Less chance of injury.
- More mobility quicker.
- You FEEL like you’re hitting the ground running.
- I think you just get a better workout when you stay hot than when you’re cold.
Also it hides your body from you so you can get home and take them off and WOOOHOO, look at that pump!
4. Standing desk at home.
Because c’mon now. Don’t sit all the time. Try to work standing up at least 30% of your day. Or even do 15-mins standing desk sessions as a break from all the sitting down.
If you want to be like me, you can stand on a wooden balance board. I mix around between standing on 2 feet, also 1 foot. And then I hold the other foot at different positions. Now maybe it’s easy for me because I’m also a semi-professional dancer. But I think anybody can do it. It seems really hard at first but then your body will adjust, grow new muscles, and it’s actually really fun. I use it when talking on the phone or just looking out the window at my place.
5. Home workouts.
Walk around the block:
- You can take quick 10-15 minute walking breaks throughout your work day. You can also walk to the store (instead of driving) when you need to do errands.
- You can also use those walking breaks to do phone calls or when you need to think about tough decisions. This way you don’t feel like you’re losing “work time”.
Pull-up bar on the door:
- Do a couple every now and then when you go to the bathroom.
- On some days you try to break records (or do 1 or 2 extra).
My favorite are the single cross-bar ones.
Second favorite are the slanted end bar ones.
Least favorite are the rounded cross-bar ones. I feel these are more for smaller women shoulders.
Sit on balance ball or ball chair:
- This will help you maintain core engagement and give you much better posture. There was a time when I didn’t sit on any chairs with a back for 5-6 years. Best posture ever!
- Some people like the ball because you can also lean back and stretch on it and do yoga type stuff.
- Some people like the ball chair because it’s more elegant, smaller size, and feels a little more like a chair while still having the core-engagement benefits.
- My absolute favorite is the double-ball chair where you have to really sit perfectly upright or else it feels weird. It’s too bad I can’t find a link to it. I only tried it at a friend’s house and was never able to buy because I can’t find it online.
Stretch when you read or do dishes:
- I use these moments to stick one foot on the counter or lay on my back with my legs up against the wall or contorted in some other position.
6. Do more weights, NOT CARDIO!
I don’t care who you are. Guy, girl, old man, old lady. Person trying to get buff. Person trying to lose weight. You need to lift weights!
Let’s go over some of the hesitations I often here about lifting weights:
- “Oh, I only want to tone up.”
- “Oh, I only want to lose weight. Not get muscular.”
- “I’m a female and I don’t want to look like those bodybuilders.”
This is my emphatic moment where I get to say, CUT THE CRAP!
It’s widely known among experienced fitness experts that cardio is absolutely inefficient for transforming your body. Yet for some reason, cardio is time and time promoted in the fitness world.
CLARIFICATION: “fitness” is not the same as body aesthetic!
- The term “fitness” just means you are physically fit.
- Being “fit” doesn’t mean you have a good looking body.
- It is possible to be “extremely fit” but have lots of fat!
Cardio exercise is the worst exercise for losing weight! WHY?!
- Because your body is naturally made for cardio.
- Because cardio works out your heart more than it does your muscles.
Cardio is an efficiency exercise! And it only develops further muscle efficiency.
For example. Try running 1 mile each day. What happens on the first day? You’re out of breath, you’re slow. And then you’re super sore for days after.
But what happens by the 30th day? It’s like nothing. You can literally run faster but your body isn’t tired at all, doesn’t get sore. It’s like you made no effort. Well good job, genius. Your body is so much more efficient now that that same workout didn’t challenge you at all.
It’s like asking a rocket scientist to do basic algebra. He/she couldn’t possibly get any mental stimulation from that. Same with your body! The mile you run now means nothing. Heck, you could run 5 miles a day and it would still do almost nothing!
Does this mean cardio is worthless? Nope. Cardio is great for fitness. It gives you a healthy heart. But it will not help you lose weight. At best, you lose a couple pounds initially because doing cardio is better than doing nothing. And then you get almost zero gains after that no matter how much cardio you do.
Can extreme cardio get you super shredded? Yes, but that’s professional-level extreme cardio. Casual cardio won’t do a thing.
Oh yeah, you can stop doing crunches and sit-ups. They don’t burn fat at all. All that pain does nothing for your six-pack. It’s the oldest myth in the book.
7. HOW and WHY to lift weights.
So how does lifting weights help in a way that cardio does not? The first distinction for me is that cardio helps increases your physical ability by improving efficiency of the muscles you already have. Weights (depending on how you lift) grows new muscle.
The beauty of the muscle you get from lifting weights is that it’s inefficient!
- It’s unsustainable.
- It’s inefficient.
- It needs more oxygen.
- It needs more calories.
Did you read the last 2 parts? Those traits are a nightmare for professional athletes trying to build FUNCTIONAL muscle. But for a person only seeking weight-loss or a more aesthetic-pleasing body, it is absolute heaven!!!
The muscle you build from weightlifting makes you tired quickly. This means you can get a full/intense workout in less time. With fewer reps. You get more of a workout with less effort.
The muscle you build from weightlifting also burns more calories (again, because it’s so inefficient). This means your body will burn more calories. This means add 2-5 pounds of unnatural muscle can help you eat away many more pounds of unwanted fat. This extra muscle weight also stretches the fat more thinly across your frame…making it sink further into you and less visible from the outside.
To the women who think lifting weights will make them buff, I only have this to say:
- There are tons of scrawny guys in the gym with far more testosterone than you, and they can’t even get buff no matter how hard they try.
- What makes you think you can get buff so easily?
- Oh and don’t mention the female bodybuilders, we all know they’re taking supplements!
Many people define weightlifting as resistance training. For now, I’m talking about resistance training that’s heavy enough that you can’t do more than 10-15 reps per set. That can be weights. That can be your body weight. Whatever it is…it has to be heavy enough that you can’t do so many reps.
8. What supplements do we need?
I’ve always been a 100% natural kind of athlete. I don’t care for any of that creatine or pills and bottles junk from vitamin stores. As I got older, I do vitamins and green powder and that’s it.
Go for what makes you feel good and gives you energy. Do not go for crap that claims to shred weight and this and that. I dated a pharmaceutical sales rep for years. They have spent billions of dollars on magical pills and they really don’t exist. There is always a risky side effect somewhere. Maybe you lose a little hair or grow hair in places you don’t want. Maybe sex drive changes. Maybe you lose weight now but gain back extra if you stop. Maybe it affects your vision. Maybe it makes one of your organs work extra (liver, kidney, heart). Maybe it creates or exacerbates a pre-existing medical condition.
Most of all, you don’t need supplements if you eat and live consciously. Making responsible health decisions in your everyday is more impactful than any compensations you might find in a bottle.
9. Become a nose-breather.
Nose-breathing is more natural for you body and draws the breath deeper in your body, than mouth breathing. You can look up the science of nasal breathing on your own.
- Mouth-breathing is very shallow. Tires you out more than it rejuvenates you.
- Nose-breathing is deep. Draws air all the way to the bottom of your belly.
I feel the breath activates all of your body and keeps it healthier and more engaged. Many physical activities are drawn from the power of the breath. Singing, dancing, running etc. In fact…the way you breathe can say a lot about not only your physical health but your mental health.
So learn to breathe deeper with your nose at all times. Throughout your day and especially also working out. If you ever catch yourself panting, just shut your mouth and breathe through your nose. You’ll find it also forces you to want to sit up straighter and with better posture.
10. Find a gym that matches your personality.
You’d be surprised how common sense this is to people and yet they never figured it out. My guess is their mind was tainted by movies and inaccurate mainstream media portrayals of workouts.
I wouldn’t even know where to begin drawing the line between reality vs perception.
I imagine most people think of working out as some kind of prison full of torture contraptions that they lock themselves inside for a certain amount of time and emerge as a super hero.
In reality, the world is a gym for the fitness-minded individual. Yes, there are days we go to the gym. But there are also days we go out dancing, rock climbing with a friend, basketball, short hike in the morning, stretching at the park, helping a neighbor move, doing yard work, etc.
There’s no on-off switch. We put it in wherever and whenever we can. We don’t designate one place at our “fitness center” and then chastise ourselves when we don’t make it there. So yeah….technically, the “world” can be your gym.
If you think of a gym as only being a “fitness center”, you’re going to be very limited and feel restricted. I think any place that you see people doing physical things can be a gym. The park, the beach, forest, bowling alley, swimming pool, nearby stairs. There are so many possibilities, I can’t list.
Now all you have to do is find different places with a vibe that fits you.
- Do you like to talk a lot or do you want quiet?
- Music or no music? What kind of music?
- Places where people hangout in groups? Or more alone?
- Early morning places or late night places?
- Do you like classes, circuit-training, or free-flow areas?
I encourage you to try working out at different place and in different environments. You will be SHOCKED what will appeal to you. I’ve seen many instances of people falling in love with new hobbies and places that they never expected to like. It was by accident but then became a life-changing moment.
- Men falling in love with dance.
- Women falling in love with combat sports.
- Grossly overweight people who were shy around fit people but then fit right in after a year.
- People who couldn’t never do a push-up now doing dozens of pull-ups with calisthenics crews.
- People who hated working out alone at home but then found their groove with the right music and workout buddies.
- People who were indifferent about certain activities but then pursued it passionately.
11. Eat any junk food right after your workouts.
If you ever want to have junk food, do it after working out. It’s a great way to emotionally reward yourself for a workout and also your body is most able to break down any kind of food after workouts.
What a truly transformed person looks like
I think it’s important to re-imagine what a fitness success story looks like.
Too many people are focused on numbers-based ZERO-to-HERO type of motivational stories:
- I’m Bob and gain 50lbs of muscle and now have a six pack!
- I’m Jessica and I lost 150lbs in just one year!
Those too me are stupid junk stories meant to sold short-term health products. They often neglect to mention that Bob and Susie probably couldn’t sustain those efforts for too long after.
Here are more realistic fitness success stories.
“I always hated running. I was so slow at school growing up. People made fun of me. But one day I ran in the woods with my dog and it felt great. I don’t know what clicked.”
“I always hated traditional gyms. Not a fan of the people in there, or counting reps. So I tried combat sports for a change. I was afraid it would be too much testosterone but I loved it. The people are so much nicer than I thought.”
“I hated working out but also terrified of more social activities. By random chance, I tried a dance class and I loved it. It’s so social that I don’t even realize the time fly. I’m in better shape and have more friends than ever before.”
“I never considered myself as an outdoors person but that’s exactly what I became. I randomly went on a last-minute camping trip with a friend and it changed my life. Being without electronic devices invigorated me like never before. I escape the city every chance I get now.”
I’m so busy. I’ve got a business. I got family. My parents need a lot of attention. I can never find any time for myself. I was never into yoga but I got invited to a different kind of studio down the street. I go there before work on some days after work on others. For some reason, it re-energizes me like nothing else. I leave feeling better than I did going in.
You just have try different things.
It’s like eating at different restaurants. Once you know more about your body, you soon know exactly what activities you want to try next. You’re always excited to try different things. It’s like you’re no longer that non-techy person afraid of computers. You want to try more software and features.
You want to know how I can tell when someone’s truly transformed their lifestyle…it is ALWAYS these same words:
- OMG I LOVE IT! I WISH I KNEW ABOUT THIS TEN YEARS AGO!!!
It’s always that. It’s never about them meeting some fitness goal defined by a weight number or lines on their abdominals. They love their newfound passion so much more than how their body looks.
Don’t get me wrong. They appreciate how different their body looks. But it becomes so normal to them that they sometimes forget how out of shape they used to be. They don’t even identify with “that person” anymore. Their joy in life is waiting until their next chance to do that new physical activity…no mention at all about superficial body changes.
How to find new activity groups.
I highly suggest checking out Meetup or local Facebook groups. You will be surprised how many super-active techies there are. Playing frisbie, volleyball, hiking, rock-climbing, even doing combat sports. And these are totally high-functioning super successful business owners as well. It can actually be a totally unexpected networking opportunity and develop new potential clients/partnerships you might not have had any other way.
Anyway…get off the damn computer and go have fun out there. It’ll be better for your body AND your business! 😉
I find diet extremely crucial to maximize productivity. I live in Israel, right? Today I went to have a plate of the best hummus in the country, a local restaurant right next to my home. I convinced myself I’d only eat the hummus (garbanzo beans mixed with olive oil, tahini, fava beans, spices, egg, parsley), but alas! That warm, freshly baked pita bread next to the hummus made my mouth drool. I said fuck it – just a small bite with the hummus. I ended up devouring the entire damn thing. Now. even though I was post-workout (did some kettlebell swings and military presses) and figured the insulin spike would handle the carb-load, my energy levels ended up tanking, and I simply couldn’t work afterwards for hours (was in bed tired as if its midnight, even though it was noon). This in contrast to normal days (where I’m fairly low-carb – 35-75g a day), where I can focus and concentrate and work for 15 hours sometimes, not a second of low energy. Time to sleep now, love ya Johnny! Nice post
It’s totally true. Diet can give you energy or make you crash, or a bit of both. 🙂
Best article on tech fitness.