January 23, 2012

New project, new me

On Wednesday, I start a brand new project. Along with the anticipation of new coworkers to meet and new work challenges to face, the week or so leading up to a new project also creates a bit of personal anxiety: how will this project affect my health and fitness?

Long-time readers of the blog know that the traveling lifestyle of a consultant has always been a challenge for me. Monday mornings, I wake up at 4:30am just to shower and get to the airport – I’d have to wake up earlier if I wanted to get a morning workout in. Monday through Wednesday nights can be fraught with long hours, heavy team dinners, and a constant dilemma of whether to work out or get enough sleep. Thursday evenings, I spend my time sandwiched into an airplane seat instead of getting my sweat on – and often don’t get home until midnight or later, falling into bed without even taking the time to unpack. With all of these demands on my time, it can be extremely difficult (and sometimes downright impossible) to practice clean eating and get into a workout rhythm.

But just as every project brings new challenges, it also presents new opportunities. The first week of a new project is a great time for me to set expectations with my team and establish what is my norm. As I’ve grown from being a freshfaced first year analyst into an experienced senior associate, I’ve learned that confidence is the key to pulling it off. Where once I made it a point to only leave if everyone else started packing up, I now employ tactics like subtly asking “if there are any other tasks I can take back to the hotel for the night” at 7pm… making it clear that while I’m more than willing to work from home, I don’t intend to stay at the office till all hours of the night. Making a move toward the hotel also helps to elicit thinking and discussion of all the dependencies/ambiguities right up front – so I get the work done a lot faster without having to stop for those interruptions. And if I get the work done faster, that’s time I can put toward sleeping, working out, or maybe even (gasp) some personal time to read, watch TV, or check in with friends/family!

First step: tackling the diet/nutrition front. Yesterday, I finished Heather Bauer’s latest book, Bread is the Devil. Despite the totally sensationalistic title, it was actually a really moderate, helpful, and informative book on diet strategy – how do you deal with everyday challenges (she calls them “Diet Devils”) that are unique to each individual lifestyle? For me, the most helpful chapter was the one for businesspeople who travel and entertain, because not only did she suggest the healthiest choices for different types of restaurants (e.g., American, French, BBQ, Mexican, Thai, etc), but she offered a “stealth option” for when you want to eat healthy but don’t want to make it obvious that you’re doing so. Exactly what I need for team dinner situations! I don’t know that I’m going to be following the “blueprint” she lays out exactly, but I am going to try to aim for her goal of no “Devil Carbs” and only 1-2 “Angel Carbs” a day, since that mindset will minimize a lot of the things that I think typically derail me from eating healthy on the road.

On the workout front, I stopped strength training in December when I took my holiday break, and have been practicing a “mish-mash” schedule ever since. However, I’m much more likely to stick to a workout plan if it is indeed a plan, so I think it’s time that I got back to it. The new goals:

1. Strength training routine three times a week. This was a great schedule for me when I followed Rachel Cosgrove’s plan, because it pushed me a bit harder than I otherwise might have done, but was still totally doable. As far as what exercises I’m planning, I’m going to take a cue from Ms. Kara Goucher – who better to give advice on weight training for runners? She put together a two-session-a-week plan that I’ll be doing three times a week (alternating which one happens twice weekly) and with three sets of 10 reps for each exercise, with max weight to burn out at 10 reps. I liked that heavy weight approach to Rachel Cosgrove’s plan, so I’m sticking with it.

2. Run for 20 miles a week. Back in October, I went for a 10 mile a week goal that I hit pretty successfully, but now that I’m back to marathoning, I think I need to do a little more. I would say I’m probably hitting this now if you factor in time on the elliptical, but to really get into good running shape, I’d like to transition more of those miles to outside and the treadmill. (Of course, whether or not this will really be feasible depends a lot on whether downtown Kansas City turns out to be runnable – there is no way I can steel myself to do 10 miles a week on the treadmill, even if I do the other 10 in New York on the weekend).

3. Finally, I want to make some yoga a part of my routine. Back when I was a freshman at NYU and studying theater, I was required to take a movement class three times a week that began with 45 minutes of yoga – and I was in great shape then. On Saturday, during my few hours in Albany, I took an “Athletic Yoga” class with my mom, and it actually had some of my muscles a bit sore yesterday from the great deep stretching. I’ve heard that my new project is going to be a bit intense (which means lots of hours hunched over my laptop), so to combat that tension, I want to try to incorporate some yoga a few times a week. I’m not going to get more specific than that with the plan just yet, but perhaps even a sun salutation or two before bed every night? Anyone with favorite routines to share, I’d love to give them a try!

Now, off to create my totally Type A workout tracking spreadsheet…


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