Fitness: A way of life especially when labbing

I could make this post strictly about fitness but it’s beyond that. Fitness truly is a way of life. A lifestyle choice no matter the intensity, nutrition, and the end goals.

Many of us hunker down and adapt to a tunnel vision when deep studying and labbing for a certification exam. The most intensive and prestigious examples tend to be the expert level exams that Cisco and Juniper have: CCIE/CCDE and JNCIE respectively. You see and hear the stories of network engineers hunkering down in their home office and just going extremely hard at mastering all the protocols on the exam blueprints before shelling out the coin for that fateful day. The same applies to those of us early or midway into the journey: Associate-level exams such as the CCNA/JNCIA and the professional-level exams such as the CCNP/JNCIP. Why do I bring these up? Well…fitness tends to take a hit when we bunker down all for the similar mentality of making a sacrifice for the greater good: passing that exam, getting that job, earning that promotion, or getting that raise. The same can be said for those of us that are parents. Kids take a good chunk of our time around the clock. It’s very easy to easily exclude eating good and/or fitness altogether for our little ones and the time and attention they demand/require. I can relate as I previously did the same when dating my last ex. I ended up temporarily stopping my workouts until I changed the scheduling and routine so I can have enough time and energy to take care of her son while she would work. So I could still study and lab, while also honoring my fitness goals. Not easy but worth it! After all, we sacrifice all that we can for those that we love while staying true to our dreams and goals.

I made this same sacrifice a few times and later regretted by either hating the weight gain in body fat or hating how poor my strength or cardiovascular endurance became due to inactivity. Some form of a regimen should be maintained when we work hard towards whichever milestone in our journeys. Let it manifest in the form a certification or just getting projects done at work. No matter the actual regimen, there are plenty of benefits to not kick fitness to the curb while you go hard. Here’s a few:

The common misconception that some of us are led to believe is that an efficient workout has to be 1-2 hours long. Even for those of us that have been active in the gym for years fall into that mindset because we’ve grown accustomed to our routines. A workout can be a brisk 20 minutes long and it’s simply mission accomplished at that point. The other half of equation is ensuring you are eating quality food and snacks; not just fueling your study and labbing sessions with junk food that can easily undo all your hard work in the gym.

Let this be a message to all of you working hard whether you’re in IT or any other field. Let fitness be a part of your daily routine and become essential as getting up to brush your teeth and eating throughout the day. Never tailor your fitness regimen around fad “lose weight fast” workouts or the “get big and strong quick”. Tailor the workouts according to your day-to-day routine. There are many ways to go about it and I’ll share some examples.

I, myself focus on “Powerbuilding” routines. They’re mix of exercises and routines focused on two forms of hypertrophy: Myofibrillar (strength increase) and Sarcoplasmic (muscle mass increase). I then tackle the cardiovascular endurance at the end of the workouts. When life and studies got really busy, I had condensed my workouts to two days with optional extra workout days solely for cardio before tackling the workouts again later on in the week. This idea originally came from a friend and fellow network engineer, Teneyia W. Below is my former routine:

Day 1 – Sunday: Leg routine and shoulder routine.
Day 2 – Monday: Chest/tricep routine and back/bicep routine.
Day 3 – Tuesday: Cardio would be spent using my Crossropes, weighted jump ropes where the weight resides in the ropes themselves which I heavily favor the 10-20 minute routines that had me sweating bullets!
Day 4 -Wednesday – REST
Day 5 – Thursday – Repeat Leg/Shoulder routine
Day 6 – Friday – Repeat Chest/Back routine
Day 7 – Saturday – Rest and/or strictly cardio. Fav for Saturday is swimming in my pool.
Sunday – Restart Day 1

The above routine satisfied two of my goals:
1. Double up on my workouts for the sake of speeding up my strength and muscle mass gain goals.
2. Simplify my routine so I would take less time doing twice as much work liberating more time to lab and study.
I have since reverted to working out one muscle group per day paired with cardio so I can knock them out during my one hour lunches every day but you get the gist of it all.

One other example ties into the Crossrope jump ropes. One of my fav routines is called “Fanfare Friday” which is a 16 min HIIT routine with their 1lb and 2lb ropes along with some calisthenic movements. You go through a spree of jumps with the ropes and bodyweight exercises while having short bouts of rest and enough time to change the ropes after your block is done.

For others that are pressed for time, I echo my earlier points: 15-20 minutes is all you need if you want something quick, just be sure to make it an effective 15-20 mins. Make it a point to move a bit each day. It doesn’t matter if you leave your house and walk around the neighborhood or walk outside of your office after lunch. Getting up on the stairmaster for a few minutes or even going on the treadmill. (Pro tip: Set it on a decent incline and put the speed to something comfortable yet challenging…you’ll thank me later)
Something is better than nothing. I’m not a certified personal trainer as much as I’d love to acquire that one day, but I always tell everyone to pair an effective cardio routine with a basic weight training routine based around compound movements. The well known compound movements aka “The Big 3 Lifts” are: The Back Squat, The Bench Press, The Deadlift. This tip helps because as you’re doing a compound movement, you’re recruiting more muscle fibers in your exercise which then more efficiently contributes to burning more calories, increased strength gain and endurance. You can then supplement with assistance exercises or muscle-specific focused exercises to your liking if there’s a muscle that’s lagging or you want to give it more TLC.

Finally, let’s not forget good ol’ calisthenics aka bodyweight exercises. I personally love doing these at the end of all my workouts but for those who lack a gym membership or a home/garage gym, these are crucial. You can burn loads of calories doing a routine with solely bodyweight. Over time you may need to make them more challenging whether it’s adding more reps, sets, or different yet challenging movements to continue to “trick your body” so it doesn’t get used to routine.

Hope this post was helpful to others. Don’t forget to hydrate! 🙂

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