Science keeps us busy.
Actually life keeps us busy.
It’s easy to let one thing become so big and overwhelming that we allow it to monopolize every moment of our day. Some supervisors and head honchos even encourage this sort of single-minded “commitment” to work. (Note, I’m not singling out scientists here because the mentality is shared in other sectors – law, medicine, business…)
I’ve discovered, though, in order to maintain my focus in the lab, I need some things outside the lab. A major component for me is maintaining my health through what I eat and what I do. Food matters because I need the energy for activity – and because I don’t have the metabolism or stomach of my college years anymore. Activity matters because I can set goals independent of work, it gives me more energy for the week, and I can sink my frustrations over whatever into my workouts.
Ironically food and exercise have often been the first things to slide when life gets hectic. At the moment, I have a pretty good base level of fitness and consistency built, hopefully something that I can maintain, even when intensity in other areas of life begin to build.
In June, I started with the simple goal of getting into the gym and doing something 3 or 4 days a week. In July, I restarted my strength training program. Now I’m weightlifting 3 days a week and doing some form of cardio (at least 30 min but usually 45 to 60 min) at least 4 days a week. Another tweak to add is some sort of regular flexibility/stretching exercise (e.g. Pilates or yoga), so that, say, a tight IT band doesn’t stall progress.
It will probably come as little surprise that I am one of those people who believes in the power of data. Smartphones (and their apps) have made it easier to record data for everyday life, and now that I have a lovely Droid, I am taking advantage of this.
I use JEFit as my weightlifting log. JEFit is targeted for bodybuilding, but it’s simple to adapt for my purposes. There’s a built-in database of typical exercises (including animated illustrations), but I can also add custom exercises from my training plan (currently I’m using The New Rules of Lifting for Women). I can add supersets for alternating exercises, the built-in rest and interval timers keep me on track. The app is pretty intuitive, showing you weights and reps from the last workout alongside the current log as you work through the routine. If I want to look back further, I find the formatting a bit confusing but not unmanageable. I use the Droid appt almost exclusively, syncing to web account mainly to back up data. The big plus of JEFit – I no longer have to remember my paper log, pen, and watch – just my phone.
I’m also tracking calories using Lose It!. Yes, I’d like to drop a few pounds, but the real motivation of tracking food and exercise for me is figuring out if I’m eating an appropriate amount for my activity level, how it’s distributed through the day, and whether the split between macronutrients is reasonable. Lose It! is very intuitive and has a great food database. You can find food by searching or scanning the barcode on a food package. You can create custom foods and (one of my favorite bits) recipes, which you can share with friends on Lose It. The app provides a sleek home page with easy access to your calorie budget and expenditures, a weekly overview of calories and how they fit your budget, and a daily and weekly summary of nutrients. The web service provides even more info – charts for how calories are distributed across meals, tracking of calories burned… You can even download detailed food info for a given day as an Excel spreadsheet. Lose It! gives virtual badges for things like consistent data entry, exercise, etc., and you can join or create challenges, if you like to incentivize health. I am ambivalent on these (even though I found the app through a challenge); for me, the value is in the data. I had suspicions of patterns (e.g. not enough protein, too many carbs, too little food on workout days, too many calories on weekends), but seeing the data is great – and recording everything makes me consider choices more carefully.
Both apps have highly functional free versions (these are the ones I’m using). What are your favorite tools to help keep fit while staying busy?