Running my Schedule
Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I bring my running gear into the office so I can duck out at some point in the day and go for a run. I do this year-round—or try to, barring injury, workload, scheduling conflicts, etc.—donning tights, hat, gloves GORE-TEX running shoes and traction spikes in winter, and tank tops and sunglasses in summer.
Outdoor exercise is, for me, one of the most enjoyable activities I can imagine. These days, I’m lucky that my workday runs allow me to quickly immerse myself in thick woods along the banks of a beautiful river, but getting outside and active was part of my routine even when I lived in congested urban jungles. That said, I’d take a ribbon of loamy singletrack over a cracked concrete sidewalk any day of the week.
Do my runs take time out of my workday? Yes, but I’m a firm believer that breaking up blocks of time spent hunched over a desk, staring at an electronic screen or stuck in pointless meetings, with periods of activity—in nature, when possible—makes you more productive, creative and efficient, thereby negating the loss of time when you could be working through lunch and sitting sedentary under the humming fluorescent lights of your office.
And science backs me up. (As it happens, many studies have shown that an uninterrupted eight-hour workday is actually counterproductive when it comes to creativity. Instead, unless you’re “screwing in widgets on an assembly line,” shorter chunks of creative work are vastly more effective, whatever Elon Musk may think.)
Many studies have shown that an uninterrupted eight-hour workday is actually counterproductive when it comes to creativity. Instead, unless you’re “screwing in widgets on an assembly line,” shorter chunks of creative work are vastly more effective, whatever Elon Musk may think.
The Many Health Benefits of Exercise
By now, it’s scientifically accepted that regular exercise produces benefits beyond simply making sure your abs are toned for beach season. In fact, as stated by Harvard researchers, “If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”
According to Harvard Medical School, “Decades of research have determined that regular exercise is one of the most important factors in warding off cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer, diabetes, and obesity.”
This seems reason enough to lace up your running shoes a couple times a week. But regular exercise doesn’t just keep you healthy and in top shape physically; the mental benefits of regular exercise are also tremendous.
Says the Harvard Business Review:
Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:
Prolonged mental stamina
These benefits definitively make us better workers, as evidenced by the findings of a study undertaken by Leeds Metropolitan University:
On days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. Just as important: They went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.
Making Time for Exercise
For many of us, it’s hard to find time to exercise at all, let alone between eight and five, Monday to Friday.
But the Harvard Business Review nails why most of us don’t incorporate exercise into our workday: “…let’s be clear: What we really mean when we say we don’t have time for an activity is that we don’t consider it a priority given the time we have available.”
Continues the HBR:
Instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.
How to Squeeze in a Work Workout
Outside Magazine shares some useful tips about how to most efficiently squeeze a workout into your workday, including making sure you’re prepared to quickly change into your workout gear when you have the time, and blocking out time on your calendar to make sure nobody books a meeting—that likely could have been an email—when you want to go for a run.
HBR, also, offers solid ideas on how to incorporate exercise into your workweek routine, including—*gasp*—choosing a physical activity you actually like! (I’m lucky that I enjoy running, but I recognize that it’s not for everyone.)
Whatever you choose to do, choose something. Science proves that breaking up your workday with an exercise routine makes you a more creative, more productive, more efficient and happier worker. And that benefits everyone.
My Winter Running Must-Haves
This time of year, when snow blankets my usual running trails, I rely on a couple pieces of crucial gear in order to make sure my runs are still safe, comfortable and fun.
My Brooks Ghost GTX running shoes—a gift from my sister-in-law Kath—are lightweight, insanely comfortable and lined with a waterproof/breathable GORE-TEX membrane. They keep my feet dry even when I’m galloping through ankle-deep snow or slushy puddles.
When the trails are covered in snow and ice, I literally could not run safely without another gift, this one from my sister Sarah: my Kahtoola NANOspikes easily slide on over my running shoes and provide unfailing traction all winter long.
The Outdoor Research Surge Gaiters are light enough that I don’t even notice them, yet keep snow, mud and trail debris out of my shoes and off my ankles on the trail.
If you run in variable winter conditions, I heartily recommend all three products!