As bloggers, our minds and bodies are our most valuable and vital assets in our business. So it's important to keep them in good shape with some blogger self-care. Surrounded by food and staring at devices all day can make that a challenge! In our Healthy Blogger series, Sondi Bruner shares information and practical strategies to keep you in top form. This month she shares strategies to get moving and keep active.
At first blush, you might assume I have a killer volleyball serve and can make a great lay-up. Here's the reality: my coordination, reflexes and overall sportiness are akin to a gangly giraffe fresh from the womb. I was once described by someone as “the most athletic-looking yet horribly unathletic person I’ve ever met.” Exercising and staying active is always something I’ve struggled with, especially when it’s so easy to skip the gym and binge on Netflix.
That’s how I know if I can participate in a healthy lifestyle, anyone can.
Whether you’re a natural athlete or, if like me your steady C’s in junior high gym class lowered your class average, regular exercise can be challenging to fit into a busy schedule. Food bloggers can feel extra pressure to move because hey, we develop recipes and eat all the time — and if we’re not actively eating, we’re thinking about our next meal. Not to mention all the other demanding tasks of life including family, parenting and more.
To help you exercise and stay active, I tapped into the prowess of a couple of fitness experts with great advice about how you can incorporate exercise into your food blogging life.
Getting Started: Find Your Why
Scrolling through Instagram snapshots of glorious mountaintop sunsets or sweaty smiles at the finish line may lead you to falsely believe that there's a "right" type of exercise and you're the one doing it all wrong — kind of like the exercise equivalent of FOMO. The truth is, any activity that gets you moving, whether it's a short walk or something more vigorous, is going to be beneficial. Even household chores can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by 24%. Pick a type of exercise or activity that you like, as you'll be more likely to commit to it in both the short and long term.
Once you select a purpose that's relevant to your everyday life, you'll have clear focus and motivation.
Jen Walker, a certified personal trainer in Cumberland (a small town on Vancouver Island), recommends focusing on the "why" behind your exercise. Once you select a purpose that's relevant to your everyday life — anything from being able to walk up the stairs without gasping for breath, run around the playground with your kids, easily lift those cast iron pans or having the freedom to participate in the outdoor activities you love — you'll have clear focus and motivation.
"As a trainer, the last thing I want is someone dreading to come and do exercise," she says. "It’s more motivating when you know why you’re doing it — it’s going to keep exercise exciting and keep you accountable. I recommend finding something that you enjoy doing and connect it to an activity outside the gym, so there’s a means to an end. And being strong for the activities you love is a great place to start."
Note that she didn't list "burning calories" or "fitting into skinny jeans" as primary motivations for exercise.
While maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight is a valid (and common) goal, in Walker's experience exercise goals that are solely focused on the aesthetics usually aren't satisfying for clients in the long term. Choosing how you want to feel — strong, energized, clear-headed, focused, et cetera — is often more helpful.
Going Outside or to the Gym
We're fortunate to live in a beautiful country where there are many outdoor opportunities for exercise. Getting outside is a free (or low cost) exercise option. Walking or running are simple alternatives to start with, as are hiking or biking. Depending on your interests, you may enjoy water sports, golfing, tennis or camping.
Given that many places in Canada have cold and brutal winters, ensure you have the right gear to keep you safe, warm and dry for outside exercise, or take advantage of the outdoors during the warmer months and transition your workout inside as it cools down.
Walker points out that public classes, whether at a gym, boutique studio or local community centre, are a great way to commit to regular exercise. People are often more likely to stay accountable when they've signed up and paid for something, or if they've joined with a friend who's expecting them to show up. Classes also help you learn from the instructor and give you the opportunity to have an objective expert take a look at your form; once you've learned the basics you can transition that knowledge to solo or home workouts. Plus, public classes provide a social aspect, something introverted bloggers can find useful.
"The group atmosphere when getting started is a supportive, awesome community to be a part of," Walker says. "There's a good energy, and you'll likely work harder."
Working Out at Home
Home workouts are a convenient and flexible way to maintain your exercise goals. Ashley Gibson, a Toronto-based health and fitness coach, has worked out at home for years and adores it.
"Working out at home has become a game-changer for me, and has allowed me to be the most consistent I’ve ever been with fitness," she says. "I can set my own schedule, do any routine I want to do, wear whatever I want, and there’s no one else around to get in my way or hog the equipment. It also removes a whole bunch of excuses, because you don’t have to leave the house to get it done."
There are many exercises you can do at home that only use your body weight or minimal equipment (see below for recommendations). Some basic home exercises are:
- Wall sits
- Climbing stairs
- Crab walking
- Glute bridges
- Tricep dips
- Jumping jacks
Other exercises like dancing, Pilates, yoga, kickboxing, or jumping rope can easily be done at home and adapted to small spaces. Again, the key is to pick something you enjoy so you'll stick with it.
Best Exercises for Food Bloggers
As food bloggers, we spend a lot of time at the computer, scrolling through our phones and posting on social media, and curled around a camera trying to capture the perfect shot. Walker recommends focusing on exercises or stretches that will:
- Open up your chest
- Strengthen your core
- Strengthen and stretch your back and neck
Being aware of your posture during your daily activities (especially while at the computer) is important, too. Pay attention to how you're sitting at your computer — notice if you're pitching forward, try to sit up taller and plant both feet on the floor.
"If you work out in perfect form and then hunch over the rest of the day, it’s going to set you back," she says.
Incorporating Exercise Into Your Workday
You don't need to do a 60-minute high intensity workout daily to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. You might find it helpful to incorporate activities throughout your regular workday. In your office, you could experiment with standing desks (there are many simple ways to "hack" one) or replace your chair with an exercise ball for part (or all) of your day.
Set a timer on your computer or phone to take regular stretch breaks, do a few planks or lunges, or take a walk around the block. Evidence indicates that walking increases blood flow to the brain, which you may find helpful if you're stuck on a creative problem.
Stand up and walk around while you're on the phone, or suggest in-person walking meetings with clients or colleagues. You can easily grab a cup of coffee or tea and conduct your meeting on the go, and take notes on your phone if needed.
Basic Workout Equipment
Both Walker and Gibson contend that home workouts can be easily accomplished with body weight only or low-cost equipment. Some basic essentials are:
- A good pair of running shoes
- Yoga mat
- Resistance bands
- Dumbbells (you could even use water bottles or canned food in a pinch)
- Jump rope
As you hone your workout, you may decide you need further equipment, like a pull-up bar, medicine balls or kettle bells. The bulk of my daily activity involves walking the dog, so I recently started using a small backpack with light weights — they're basically like sandbags — for further resistance a few times a week, and I try to sneak in some squats while Daisy is sniffing away or we're waiting at intersections. It's a great way for me to maximize the activity I'm already doing!
Electronic Tools: Exercise Apps and Gadgets
There are a wealth of online tools you can use to help you exercise. Fitness apps, step trackers or phone pedometers can help you follow your progress and stay motivated, while Youtube workout videos offer variety. Gibson likes to use Beachbody on Demand for fitness classes, looks to Pinterest for ideas and also uses Spotify fun workout playlists.
There are a number of subscription workout sites you can purchase, depending on what you like to do. They usually have trial periods where you can try the site for free and see if it works for you.
I personally enjoy doing yoga at home, but don't always feel up to taking a long class. I like using an app called Down Dog, which allows me to do short flows of varying difficulties — anything from restorative yoga to power flows. This helps me consistently participate in an activity I enjoy without feeling inferior to the hard-core yogis.
Staying Motivated to Stay Active
Outlining specific goals for yourself and selecting exercises you find fun can help you stay on track and remain excited about what you're doing. You may want to seek an accountability buddy or group that will give you extra support (or nudges) if needed.
"I find it very motivating to connect with other like-minded people who are working towards their own goals — community is key," Gibson says. "I run monthly groups for people to stay accountable and motivated, and also connect with a lot of people through social media who are also passionate about working towards their fitness goals."
As there are a multitude of health benefits to exercise, Walker says that noticing and appreciating those benefits can keep you inspired as well.
"Exercise has this negative connotation to it, but everyone who exercises knows that you feel good afterwards," she says. "It increases energy levels, you think more clearly and are more focused. If you’re focused on creative work, you’re going to need that mental space."
Finding the Time
You already know how to schedule your time; it's just a matter of prioritizing exercise into the mix.
As a food blogger, you likely have an editorial calendar with your content mapped out, schedule regular social media posts, cook and prep recipes, organize photo shoots, meet with sponsors, collaborate with fellow bloggers, invoice clients, browse cookbooks or other food blogs for inspiration and respond to reader comments and emails — not to mention all the other life tasks or chores you share in your household. You already know how to schedule your time; it's just a matter of prioritizing exercise into the mix.
Walker and Gibson both like to work out first thing in the morning, which sets a positive tone for the day and gets it out of the way so you can focus on work you need to do. However, if early mornings don't work for you, pick another time that does. Gibson also suggests working out in intervals if that helps you get it done: perhaps a 10 minute yoga flow when you wake, a walk at lunchtime and some core exercises in the evening.
Exercise is just like any other habit; you need to practice it and commit to it.
"The more you exercise, the easier it’s going to be to do it on a regular basis," Walker says. "It’s a habit muscle; if you work it on a regular basis — both figuratively and literally — it’s just going to become something that you do."
When working out at home, Gibson suggests eliminating distractions, especially your phone. Switch it off or put it on airplane mode (if you're not using an app to do your workout) so you're not distracted by incoming emails or Instagram comments.
At the end of the day, exercising and staying active isn't just about your fitness goals: it's also a way to take care of yourself.
"No one ever thinks to themselves, 'I really should have done something else with my time' once a workout is done," Gibson says. "Exercise is an awesome form of self-care, which means that you’ll be equipped to be a better blogger, a better parent, or just a happier human."
- 5 Tips to Ensure A Healthy Body and A Healthy Biz
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Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer, food blogger and author of Simple Superfood Smoothies, The Anti-Inflammatory Diet in 21, The Candida Free Cookbook and Action Plan, co-author of The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Action Plans. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. She is also the head program coach for the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com.