Bringing Health And Wellness Back Into Daily Focus For The Startup Founder

It ain’t no secret, startups will consume ALL of you.

As any founder can attest, you have no time to spare when you are starting a company.  You have no time for hobbies.  No time for friends.  Little to no time for family.

And definitely no time for your health.

Things start spinning so fast it’s very easy to add the “Founder 40” as former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason put it, simply by not paying attention to what you are or aren’t doing and what you are or aren’t eating.

That’s why I recently stepped back to evaluate my life and get my health and fitness back on track.  I realized I was starting to get soft in areas I have never been soft and lazy in ways I never have been lazy.

Given, I have paid at least small attention to my wellness since founding Seconds and in fact didn’t put on the Founder 40, so I am glad to say I am not overweight or out of shape.  I have been lucky to have kept up with a minimal exercise routine and stayed fairly consistent.

But what I did do was probably what most of you have let happen – I started to pay less attention to what I ate, how I ate it, what I drank and how often I drank it.  I started to notice how often we would include beers in our company meetings (all 4 of us) and how waiting 8 hours before I ate again would make me so hungry I would then stuff my face with a huge meal only to feel really full immediately afterwards.

(pro tip, feeling really full is not a good sign of healthy eating.)

I write this because I know most of you deep down are thinking the same thing, maybe even more desperately than I am.  All of us want to improve our health and wellbeing, and knowingly we would make the right choices if we knew how simple they really are.

Here’s a short list of things that I realized I needed to get back into my life.  The key to all of them is how I committed to them just as I would commit to showing up for a new job at 9am everyday if that is what they expected.

It really is that simple.

fruitCleansing

I just finished a 10 day herbal cleansing, the first one I have ever done.  To my surprise, it feels great and wasn’t bad at all.  The cleanse consisted of a fIber drink and multitudes of vitamins and minerals through the day and herbal cleanse pills at night.

In the end, it was a reset of my entire digestive and limbic system, and it’s amazing how I feel my body is a lot more efficient in how it’s processing the foods I eat.

I highly recommend doing a cleanse once every few months.

Eat more, smaller nutritious meals each day

I have re-committed to eating more nutritious and that means eating more meals throughout the day, with each meal being smaller in portions.  Eating better is simply a decision and then an act of commitment to keep that decision.  Once you have established the habit, it’s reinforcing each time you make the right decision to eat well, instead of grabbing a quick bite of crappy and unhealthy food.

I have learned to love fruits and veggies, I make sure I at least have a banana, orange, and apple each day, more if possible.  I drink meal replacement shakes and make sure I have a protein rich snack between meals.  During meals, I am aware of the nutritional value of the food I am eating, making sure I have a protein base (chicken, fish, beans, eggs, etc…) and then add a fruit and vegetable with it.  I also make sure I finish my meal feeling satisfied but not full.  This is key to not overeating and saving on caloric intake, which in the end will result in a trimmed body from weight loss.

Also, drink water.  A lot of it.  More than you think you need.  It’s the wonder drug of life, as hydration makes all other processes work more efficiently.

Simply put, I actually think about the food I put in my body and that makes all the difference.

Don’t drink as much

Drinking seems to be just part of the startup experience.  Every week there are a number of events going on in the startup community where free beer and wine are offered to meetup attendees.  Who can say no to that!

I realized I was drinking quite a bit of beer each week, and heavy beer at that.  I am not a “light” beer drinker either, I enjoy a strong well made Amber or darker beer with more hoppy taste.  And along with the hops come calories, which if you are not careful will start to add up week upon week.

Think about the affect this can have on weight gain – one beer roughly equals 100 calories.  A pound of body fat equals 3,500 calories.  Without even thinking about it, drinking 5 beers is another 500 calories in your system.  Conservatively,  if all you did was drink 5 extra beers each week you will put on almost 10 pounds each year.  Work on a startup for 4 years and you now see how easy it is to put on the Founder 40.

Keeping an eye on your alcohol consumption – amongst many other positive benefits – will help keep the LB’s off.

nike-shoesExercise every other day

Founders are notorious for having little time for anything else in their life besides working on their startup.  Yet counterintuitively, committing to an exercise routine of every other day actually makes you a A LOT more energetic and productive, giving you the feeling of creating more time in your day.

The cool thing is it doesn’t have to be a 2-hour workout every day.  As little as 20-30 minutes, every other day, will do tremendous improvements to your fitness.  I go on a 3 or 4 mile run and do about 15 minutes of strength training every other day and I feel great.

Honestly, I feel like 23 as I approach my 33rd birthday this summer.  Trust me, do whatever you can to get activity 3 or 4 days a week and you will be shocked at what happens to your life.

Walk whenever possible

In addition to working out every other day, I now pay very close attention to getting out and walking to meetings around downtown Seattle.  Yes, I need to leave a little bit earlier for the meeting but it pays off in the end.  It reinforces my active lifestyle, it gives me fresh air, it keeps the metabolism up and burns energy throughout the day.

Get up from my work station at least once per hour

Similar to walking to meetings, it has been proven sitting for long periods of time is very unhealthy.  It’s bad for our posture, bad for joints, bad for our circulatory system, bad for our digestive system and just downright not good for the body.

Making a habit to get up and do a lap, going to the bathroom, talking to another co-worker or whatever you want to do will keep you limber, awake and give you an edge health wise.

To me, it also allows to break up the monotony of the sitting workday.

To all those who say “I need to concentrate on coding or designs” I urge you to simply stand up at your desk, stretch and do some work on your feet for a while.  Also, you will find taking frequent breaks will keep you sharp, alert and might even help you with your work!

Pay attention to how I look and feel

Finally, all this has helped me pay a little more attention to how look and how I feel.  That’s not a bad thing!  We are told to not care about ourselves and not be so self centered about looks and things like that, which in some ways has its logic.

I agree, to an extent.  No need to overindulge in yourself.

But to barrow a dev term, we only build what we measure.  So if you are paying attention to your health and wellbeing, you will start to notice things about it you want to change.  Once you identify what needs to be changed, only then can you start down the process of changing it.  If you don’t pay attention, obviously nothing will happen.  So paying more attention to how you look, dress, how you feel climbing stairs and walking long distances will go a long way to help you become a healthier and more fit individual.

These simple things have really influenced me and my health recently, and I guarantee they will make positive changes in your life too.  All you need to do is make a few small but significant commitments in your daily life.

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5 Ways to Step Up Your Game

I always enjoy sitting back and observing people, thinking about what they choose to do and what they choose not to do.  Here’s an amazing reality – there are waaaay to many distractions today.  And I think most people are actually too distracted to even notice they are being distracted.  Let me put it this way:  If you don’t put in effort to get better every day, you are going to get passed by others who are putting in this effort.  You will lose the race.

Turn off the TV

Watching TV is one of my peeves.  I just think it’s plain dumb.  There really is nothing on that is worth your time, unless you think your time is best spent voyeuring on idiots who complain about their reality/celebrity lives or just argue and swear all the time. Does watching this make you a better person?

I will just say it:  If you find yourself laying in front of the TV each night, you are getting dumber.

Television watching is a passive activity.  It has been proven watching TV does not use enough mental capacity to gain intelligence.   Honestly, I am actually scared we are getting less intelligent as a society, and a lot of it has to do with how we are spending the majority of our time each day.   If you feel you must watch (cause you are addicted) limit yourself to 30 minutes a day and then get on with doing something productive with your life.   Just turn the dang thing off.

Read

I am a voracious reader and it has flat out changed my life.  It will help you learn new things, help with word comprehension, help with writing (more on that below) make you sound smarter than you are, impress the ladies (or men) and get you hired.  Seriously, when you can answer the “what book are you currently reading” interview question with a unique and intelligent response, you will win them over.  Interestingly, the web has made this easier with all the blogs and articles you can read now, even when using your mobile device.  This has been one of my favorite innovations that have come along with the spread of the internet – information proliferation.  It is just everywhere.  And I take advantage of that to get smarter anywhere I can.

Exercise

I get my best ideas when I am exercising.  When I run, I allow my mind to run free as well, spinning ideas and thoughts out at a frantic pace.  This helps me evaluate an idea and determine if it is valid enough to take further.  I can only do this when I have 45 to an hour of “free” time to just allow the thoughts to flow in and out of consciousness.

Exercise is good for your health, but you probably know that so I am not going down that road.  Get out, get some exercise and let your mind run free as well.  It is one of the best ways to have a natural brainstorm session each day.

Be Social

Interacting with others and meeting new people is a great way to raise your stock.  How easy is it to stick to the same comfortable group of friends?  I actually think  most of us are wired that way – staying in comfort zone and only communicate with ones we are familiar with.  Well, if you are looking to progress socially as well as professionally, you need to get uncomfortable and get in front of new people.  Before you know it, they will be your new friends and you will grow your circle of influence.  And you know what, they usually know people who you need to know.

Write/Blog

I couldn’t have told you this a month ago but writing is one of the best ways to step up your game and expand your influence.  Since I have started SoEntrepreneurial and started blogging, I have connected with many different people around the world in the technology industry.   In fact, I just got off the phone with someone in Helsinki, Finland.  We had a great conversation about startups and his new venture I wrote about previously – Founder2be.

Writing and reading go hand in hand.  The more you read, the better you will become as a writer.  This is natural and will take time to come together, but here’s my advice:  get started.  And keep going.  It will open doors you never even knew existed.

It’s time to step up your game.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Roger Smith.