Getting Fit

If you're reading this column, you probably work most of the day behind a computer, amidst high stress, with your butt glued to a meshy office chair. Which means there's also a good chance you're overweight, or could benefit to lose a few pounds. I'm afraid this describes me.

I used to keep in shape -- until my son was born three years ago. I quickly found it impossible to schedule serious exercise into my life while raising an infant, being a husband and working as a marketing executive at a tech start-up. For three years, I've averaged six hours of sleep per night (or less), the bare minimum -- a recipe for weight gain and heart problems.

Then our daughter was born, and that made exercise matters worse. My only salvation (and barely) has been my daily speed walks between our home and the commuter train station --  about a mile each way. A few months ago I felt I'd hit a low point both mentally and on the pudginess scale. That was reinforced when my doctor suggested it wouldn't hurt to lose 10 pounds.



So was my New Year resolution to go on a diet? No. New Year resolutions are declarations for failure, so I kickstarted my new health plan the day before last Thanksgiving. I love food and didn't want to hold back too much for the holidays, nor did I want to feel gross and sorry for myself.

My New Health Plan

  • Three full-body workouts per week at the gym, with an emphasis on conditioning and cardio, not brute-force muscle building. 
  • Complete at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on alternate days, when I'm not doing full-body workouts.
  • Eat several mini meals during the day, and only light snacks in the early evening. (I've been stuffing an ugly canvas bag full of munchies for the office.)
  • Get at least seven, preferably eight, hours of sleep per night, no less.
  • Stick with it.

Results and Observations So Far

  • With my muscle building going at a much faster rate, I actually gained three pounds. However, my belt size dropped from 38 to 34.
  • My appetite and energy levels have skyrocketed.
  • I'm mentally healthier, or least I feel that way.
  • People have commented that I look better.

Sacrifice & Scheduling

Adopting a health plan like this requires discipline and sacrifice -- and a lot of scheduling savvy. I can motivate myself to do anything, but the tricky part is scheduling and prioritizing time with parent and work responsibilities. While I've been in the habit of working nights until midnight or 1 a.m., I've been stopping hard at 10 p.m., so I can get some rest and be at the gym by 5:59 a.m. I get home from the gym by 7:15 a.m., so my wife and I can get ourselves and the kids dressed and fed by 8 a.m. Then it's off to the office. With half my colleagues in India (9.5 hours ahead), it's easy for meetings to be scheduled very early in the morning or late at night. Therefore, I've blocked off times on my work calendar to dedicate room for exercise and sleep.

Dealing with two toddlers and a busy start-up, I find my system doesn't always work. But it does most days, and it's forcing me to be even more selective with my time. Meanwhile, the added time pressure and heightened mental acuity seem to make me more efficient and effective. I suppose the worst outcome is that I'll feel better and live longer.

How do you integrate fitness into your busy life?

17 comments about "Getting Fit".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Tami Damiano from, January 15, 2010 at 1:44 p.m.

    I find working out at the gym during lunch at least twice a week is the only time I can squeeze in a workout. I have a 5 year old, and I also volunteer at his school on my lunch hour (the school is thankfully only .75 miles away), so I run to and from twice a week. Since I'm normally at my desk all day, just some perfumed body powder and slapping my hair in a ponytail can keep me from "offending" anyone until I get home! :) I love working out at lunch, as it truly helps me stay alert during that afternoon LULL.

  2. John Jainschigg from World2Worlds, Inc., January 15, 2010 at 1:51 p.m.

    Laugh! I had the exact same experience this year, triggered by looking at photos of myself prior to the arrival of kids (now 6 and 9). I may not have carried them to term, but OMG OMG, having kids totally destroyed my figure. (In the context of also being a sedentary tech-geek and working the classic 20-hour day.)

    Good luck keeping to your program!

  3. Paul Marcum from GenMouse, Inc, January 15, 2010 at 1:55 p.m.

    Max - thanks for sharing - same boat here: start-up + 2 kids under 4 = 15 extra pounds (love of food could probably be added to the equation).

    Have lost 8 pounds since Thanksgiving, here's how:
    1. I started walking to work, ~5 miles (live way uptown, work in the village), almost every day. My knee, blown out in a yard sale at Stratton a few years ago (pardon the ski-geek lingo) has been acting up which keeps me from running. An hour+ of walking is just as effective and combining it with my commute keeps it from being a scheduling challenge (even waking up at 6 doesn't guarantee a window when dealing with young kids).
    2. I bought a WiThings scale. For those unfamiliar it allows you to track your weight on your iPhone, PC and tweet your weight. Beyond having to keep myself honest as my scale broadcasts how far I am from my goal whenever I step on it, the encouragement from all of my oldster friends on Facebook has been fantastic...

  4. Betsy Kent from Be Visible Associates, January 15, 2010 at 2:01 p.m.

    Max, Just don't put demands on yourself that you know will be too hard to keep up. We sometimes get discouraged and don't feel like doing more.
    I just wanted to say, being a guy, you have such an advantage because you can lose weight and build muscle so much faster than a woman. So, keep that in mind! You don't have to work as hard at it as we do!

  5. Greg Alvarez from iMeil, January 15, 2010 at 2:06 p.m.

    A sad true story. While I am not married nor have any kids, I started what I call "a smart weight plan". It consists on having 30 mins series --or less-- during the day, without a fixed time to do it. And did a 'desperate' research to know what calories are and how they impact the body... since then I eat any thing I want, but limiting the calories amount... why calories? Because they are the 'trouble maker' on body weight condition! The result: I am wearing again those jeans I used to 10 years ago (yeah! just imagine what more else is on the closet)

  6. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., January 15, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.

    Bourbon, cigars, sex - who has time for food?

  7. Joelle Kaufman from BloomReach, January 15, 2010 at 2:21 p.m.

    There's a ton of research that daily exercise makes your brain sharper (see for a leading researcher). Encouraging time for intense exercise is good for our companies. Like you, balancing parenting, business leadership, non-profit leadership, marriage and sleep is hard. I made a commitment in May 2009 that I would re-prioritize (less TV was the primary sacrifice) and exercise at 6am. So far - so good. I've lost 16 pounds, 2 pant sizes and I feel great.

    And I make sure that I'm home for dinner and homework because that keeps me sane. I can work from home after their bedtime.

    Good luck with your new effort and I wish you more and more balance in your life!

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 15, 2010 at 2:23 p.m.

    And your wife? Who takes care of the kids when she goes to the gym at 6am?

  9. Randy Fenton from SurfShelf, LLC, January 15, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.

    Great post, Max, our stories are very similar... I have a 2-year old daughter and another due in April, and I run my own business.

    It's hard to juggle everything for sure, but as you suggest, the benefits of exercise are enormous. I love the stress-relief it brings!

    One trick I use is that I do my light work (like morning emails) on my treadmill using my SurfShelf portable treadmill desk. Disclaimer: This is my business! I whip out my emails, watch a few sports highlights and my workout is done for the day.

    If you would like to try one, I can get you a great discount :) It actually makes working out fun and productive.

    Keep up the great work,

  10. Tracy Williams from IBM, January 15, 2010 at 2:29 p.m.

    I try to get to the gym before work, before the kids even wake up (2 and 4 years). It takes me LESS time to work out and get ready at the gym and get to work then it does should I get ready at home with the kids asking me to feed them, dress them, etc. YES, my husband is home. :-)

  11. Lindsay Rose from imc2, January 15, 2010 at 3:19 p.m.

    I feel your pain. I had a baby a little over a year ago and although I lost the weight pretty easily, I never got back into shape. By the end of last year, I was tired of being a slob. My husband and I started doing Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred DVD (she's the trainer from The Biggest Loser, for those who don't know). It is amazing!! You do three circuits of 3 minutes of strength training, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abs. The whole workout takes about 25 minutes. It's tough, but you can't get a better workout for less time. And for the guys who think they'd never do a workout video, my husband is also a gym rat tough guy and this is kicking his butt. I highly recommend it--and I'm not getting paid to say any of this!!

  12. Marian Mangoubi from Sassy CEO, LLC, January 15, 2010 at 3:41 p.m.

    Great post. I feel your pain. I have a 17 month old daughter. I find that if I don't work out in the morning before work, then it doesn't happen. I usually try to do about 45 - 50 min cardio and 20 - 30 min weights each day. And yes, like you, I have actually put on weight but lost inches all b/c of the weight training. I wouldn't give it up though as I look and feel great.

    PS - if you want to try out some new routines, check out my friend's site -

  13. Tim Mccormick from McCormick Fields, January 16, 2010 at 12:51 p.m.

    My all time favorite health and fitness routine entailed jogging a sound mile to the local 'Burger King', carbing up, and walking back home every Saturday morning. It worked for me. Now I just surf on stress, that doesn't play out so well. Staying away from commercial saturated TV programming does help. Great article Max. I just might have to repost it after I get my daily ___________.

  14. Brandon Sutton from, January 16, 2010 at 1:31 p.m.

    Thanks for the topic Max. Interestingly, I read this yesterday in between sets at the gym on my iPhone. :)

    I have found that making a commitment to working out keeps my head in a much better place, which ultimately helps me work better. I've tried a variety of times and techniques to keep myself motivated. Most recently, I've been going on lunch breaks in the middle of the day, and as Tami mentioned, it helps me stay alert in the second half of the day. I feel much better about myself, and my energy level is definitely higher when I'm exercising regularly.

    Similar to you, I didn't make a 'resolution' to work out more in 2010. I actually started getting back into the routine in early December, and have been to the gym every day in January so far. It's not a resolution - it's what I'm doing. Every day in January.

    Keep up the great work!


  15. Susan Breidenbach, January 16, 2010 at 4:48 p.m.

    Thanks for your inspirational post! Just a couple of comments: More is not necessarily better with regard to sleep. Studies show that people who sleep 6.5 to 7.5 hours per night live longer and have fewer illnesses than people who average less OR more than that. Rather than go to 8 hours, keep it to no more than 7.5 and take a short nap in the middle of the day. Studies also show the benefits of mid-day naps.

  16. Maxine Grossman from Twist Image, January 18, 2010 at 10:06 a.m.

    6 days a week? Very ambitious! I thought I was good at 3/week. :)
    Have you tried Crossfit training? I've recently started and its amazing. It involves brief (< 30 mins!), intense workouts, a different routine each time to keep your muscles guessing, and logging your results, which keeps me motivated. I'm more fit than ever with less time in the gym.

    There's also a new product out called ShaToBu targeted at busy women who want to get more exercise out of everyday activities. Its a shaper with resistance built in, so you exercise as you walk.

  17. Stephanie Yang, February 26, 2010 at 2:45 p.m.

    Max, love how honest you were about your 'pudginess.' In an industry where we tout transparency, we're not too revealing about our bad eating and health habits. Just got around to reading your post and I want to keep cheering you on.

Next story loading loading..