I hesitate to take issue with Jason’s Sacrifice your health for your startup — particularly after his wife gave her up-close-and-personal. His main point is dead on — we need to unhealthily obsess over our creations. But take this too far and your productivity drops off the cliff.
As founder of a run/bike app startup, I can write off my workouts. I have a ready excuse for squeezing in a little “sweat equity” — I need to get in shape to know my customers’ issues. However, I also know firsthand that exercise increases total productivity. I avoid colds and I have more mental staying power. Plus, I have a better attitude when I don’t resemble shtik fleysh mit oygen (Yiddish for a piece of dead meat with eyes).
Technology startups can be horrible for your body. Not mangle-your-arm-in-a-press horrible. But we have all sat in front of a computer for hours on end, tapping on the keyboard and lost in thought. Your only movement is reaching for the can of Mountain Dew or grabbing the bag of chips. Maybe you tear yourself away long enough to call for pizza delivery.
Perfect for veal, not so much for humans. It wasn’t always this way. Joel Spolsky notes that in times long gone, programmers got washboard abs while waiting for the compiler.
Think about exercise in light of a situation we’ve all faced: all-night coding sessions. Remember the all-nighters you pulled, heroically pumping out code until dawn to make a big deadline? Seemed like you were getting lots done while you took a bullet for the team. The truth is your programming was probably awful. Even a few hours’ sleep would have prevented your spaghetti mind from dumping spaghetti code. The worst part: as you got more sleep-deprived, the better the whole idea looked.
Workouts are the same – as you drop further into sloth, inactivity seems smart. Only the uncommitted have time for exercise, right?
Exercise is pretty useful for anyone in a startup even without the health and stamina benefits. Just as your best ideas appear while you’re soaping up in the shower, elegant solutions spring up when you’re out running. Your mind is searching for something to think about besides your body’s pain. And while you don’t have a pen in the shower, you can always use your cellphone if a brainstorm strikes during a run.
Let’s say you’re ready to start an exercise regimen. What next?
Some of us already know how to work out – we’ve just given ourselves license to be lazy in this one area. If you’ve never been in shape, start gradually. Choose an activity you already enjoy (biking is my favorite). Regular exercise is far more important than going Charles Atlas overnight. Couch To 5K is a great place to start.
A little goes a long way. You already knew you don’t have time to train for a marathon. Maybe get in a quick run before work – you’ll feel great all day. Or inch up to a hundred pushups while prepping for a sales call. Zen Habits has a detailed list of exercise hacks to help ease you into the habit.
The critical thing is to just get started. Close your door, wipe the crumbs off your pants, and give me ten pushups now!
What are your fitness tips? Leave a comment and join the conversation.