Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Developers Life - The Importance of Physical Exercise

In the previous blog post, I discussed the importance of getting enough sleep every single night. For this post I want to emphasize the importance of physical exercise. I’m writing these words after having run approximately 15 kilometers. This I do three times a week, every week, throughout the whole year with only a few exceptions. And the reason for this is pretty obvious. Since I started running back in 2007, I never felt better.

As software developers, we basically sit at a desk whole day churning out code. The only form of physical movement we get is when we drag our bodies to the coffee machine, the water cooler or the vending machine when we want to get a snack. This means that we don’t get to burn as much calories as other people who have professions that involve more physical labor. For some of us, this is one of the many reasons why we chose this profession in the first place. I know I did ;-). Unfortunately, our text editor skills don’t cause us to burn any calories. What a bummer!

During my childhood, I practiced several sports like soccer and judo. But when I started going to graduate school this all stopped. I slowly gained weight over the years. I didn’t have any physical exercise for about fifteen years. But at some point, around September 2007, I just bought myself some running shoes and started running short distances twice a week. Since then, I stopped making excuses for myself and improved my physical shape and my overall health. I learned so many valuable lessons, which led me to write this blog post.

In hindsight, I can’t even remember what the actual tipping point was for me. What I do know is that this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. How do I keep this up? Quite frankly, this has always been the easy part. I started out by reserving 20 minutes in my agenda twice a week. I made some decent arrangements with my spouse and family about how and when. After settling on the best time frame, I treated these “appointments with myself” as non-negotiable. Now I reserve 1 hour and thirty minutes three times a week. I try to schedule all other appointments around these blocks of time. Again, have a good talk with your family and try to come up with the best possible time frame. I can’t emphasize this enough.

I can only encourage everyone who spends his days behind a desk to get some physical exercise at least every two days. Try choosing a sport that you actually like but also make sure that there is a low barrier of entry. This way you can get up and running in not time, and I mean that quite literally :-). You can also start out with some small and simple habits like taking the bike instead of the car for short distances, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. … and pick up on some more physical exercise along the way.

A professional software developer not only takes care of writing good code, but also takes care of himself.

Until next time and happy exercising!