The Official 3 Birds’ Guide to Healthy Office Living

woman lifting weights

Note: this image is a reasonable representation of the general fitness level at 3 Birds.

Springtime in the South lasts about as long as an ice cube in a warm glass of sweet tea, which means that here at 3 Birds we’re swapping our cardigans for tank tops and catching a glimpse of our less-than-tan-and-toned arms for the first time since we slipped on a cocktail dress for the office Christmas party.  While staying slim, trim, healthy, and happy is a life-long and year-round endeavor, it often rises to the forefront of our minds around this time of year. The question, of course, is how to stay healthy while sitting at a desk all day—especially when we all know that the 9-to-6 day all too easily turns into a 6-to-12 once you factor in kids, traffic, errands, and the rest.

An informal survey of office diet and fitness habits reveals that these are, unsurprisingly, just as personal as the cream-to-sugar ratio in that morning cup of coffee. What works for one person may not work for everyone.  To keep it simple, Tom from content offers the following maxim: “Keep vegetables in the fridge! Get outside at lunch! Take a walk when your butt’s in a coma!” If you’re short on time you can stop here.  Need more details?  Never fear; we got ‘em.

Munching on Birdseed

Many of our officemates mentioned foods they avoid eating more often than those they try to include, although both are important to maximize nutrition and minimize empty calories. On our office’s list of dietary no-no’s:

  • Alcohol and caffeine.   This is obviously a personal choice and not an office-wide policy, as the constantly blinking “low water” light on the office K-cup coffee machine can attest. Simply paying attention to your body’s natural responses here should indicate how much of these substances your body can handle. If skipping your morning cup of coffee brings on a splitting headache, that’s your body’s gentle reminder to cut back.
  • White bread and other simple carbs, although a box or two of fresh Krispy Kremes has been known to mysteriously appear at the office in the early morning hours. The fact that the lid is usually closed may be for “out of sight, out of mind” reasons, but I usually find it only adds to the allure.  As our resident account manager/certified personal trainer extraordinaire, Adam, points out: “Your body does not require a lot of energy to sit at a desk all day.  There is no need to have excess carbs, as your body will store it as ‘energy’ (read fat).” It is important, however, to bring sufficient fuel to work with you for 10+ hours away from home.  Lunch, yes, but also snacks as well to keep your body nourished. Otherwise, you’ll be so hungry come lunchtime that the convenience of the corner McDonald’s becomes all-but-impossible to resist.

While your body may not need much fuel sitting all day in the form of calories, it does need plenty of water: 8 or 9 cups a day.  Hate keeping track?  Keep a 32-ounce Nalgene on your desk in plain sight.  Fill it twice and done! Other tips and tricks from around the office:

  • Pack plenty of healthy snacks to keep you going during the day.  Our creative department recommends the following: “carrots, fresh fruit, Jell-o, and low-fat cheese snacks.” That sounds pretty smart, but they ended their list with beer and ice cream sandwiches, so be sure to take their advice with a grain of salt.
  • Plan ahead on the weekends to have healthy food at the ready all week long. I often cook a big pot of steel-cut oats on the weekend and reheat them all week for breakfast. They’re delicious topped with banana, Greek yogurt, and almonds or nut butter.  I’ll also make a big pot of (whole grain) pasta salad or soup and boil a dozen hard boiled eggs so that bringing healthy breakfasts and lunches are a simple matter of throwing everything into Tupperwares in the morning.

Flappin’ Our Feathers

Of course, keeping a body nourished and well-fed is only half the battle.  All vanity aside, research has shown time and again that sitting all day is not good for us, which is why a member of our development team says “I stretch legs/hips/back/shoulders every few hours.  Office chairs can wreck you quickly.” Others take a walk around the block to give peepers a break from the constant glow of the computer screen. “I try to periodically give myself something different to look at by going outside and walking around the block.” Other than taking time for walk and stretch breaks, how does the 3birds’ staff fit a workout into an office schedule?

Our Content Coordinator, Tema, points out that the main thing is to “try to squeeze in your workout at the same time every day so it becomes a routine. I always try to get mine in during the lunch hour. I like it because it breaks up the day nicely. Plus, I always feel refreshed and better focused for the afternoon.” We could all take a page from the busiest bird of us all, Kristen Judd, who says: “Everyone knows I am crazy.  I get up at 4:30 so I can run outside when it’s warm enough with a headlight on so I can see or go to the gym…Even though it sounds like an ungodly hour, I am less tired if I get up at that time and get my heart rate up than if a log a couple more hours of sleep.” While we can’t all be quite so ambitious, other morning exercisers mentioned going for a run, going to the gym, or my personal solution, working out at home to the free workout videos on Hulu.com’s Health and Wellness channel first thing in the morning.

Afternoon exercisers book it to a local gym or yoga studio during lunch break (one of the things we love about our downtown Chapel Hill location!) or bring their bike to work for a lunchtime ride. Office lunch breaks have been known to consist of a pickup basketball game or a long walk up and down Franklin Street.  Still others head to the gym straight after work or take a run once they get home.  The bottom line? Do what works best for you and your schedule! Your back will thank you after sitting in a chair all day.

When all else fails, try the following circuit workout, courtesy of our creative department:

1.  10 minutes jumping to conclusions.

2.  15 minutes running off at the mouth.

3. 25 minutes lifting the lid off Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

4. 25 minutes jogging your memory for inane pop culture trivia.

5. 15 minutes stretching the seat belt across your belly.

6. 10 minute cool-down after accidentally listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio.

Repeat as necessary, or until it’s time to go home.  In all sincerity, nurture your health as much as you nurture your career. Not only will your body thank you, but so will your family and co-workers.

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