Four Pillars: Exercise, Part 3

A few final thoughts on exercise. Bear with me.

Beyond doing a single workout each day, I also recommend finding ways to stay active throughout the day. For example, squeeze in some pushups and situps during a mid-morning or afternoon break. Or doing some stretching. And these exercise breaks are immensely useful when you’re feeling less motivated / lower energy (no caffeine or sugar required!). And yes, I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t just drop and do push-ups in my grad student cubicle farm! What will my office mates think?!?” Ya know what? Here’s what they will think, perhaps behind a bemused smile: “Wow, they are bad-ass, doing pushups in the office!”

Another way to avoid sitting on your ass all day: a standing desk! Yes, there is some pushback about whether a standing desk is really all that much better than sitting all day. But I can say from personal experience that I definitely feel better when I stand at least some of the day. So I recommend you at least try it out. Especially when you’re studying for quals and chained to your desk every day for weeks on end. I started by just finding a giant box and putting my keyboard, mouse, and monitor on top. When I got tired of that arrangement, I ran up to IKEA and purchased a (relatively) cheap coffee table that fit nicely on top of my desk, which I used for the rest of my time in grad school. I then finished the ensemble with a nice standing mat bought online, which dramatically reduced fatigue when I stood for longer amounts of time. Not using a standing mat is perhaps the biggest mistake people make when trying standing mats, and I’m convinced the main reason people stop. I also recommend standing on your mat with barefeet or socks only – seems like it provides more support for me, and your mat will last longer. Net out of pocket cost was less than $50.

Finally, if you have a lengthy walk across campus to get to your office, cherish that walk! Beyond the fact that it’s another built-in physical activity for your day, it’s an excellent opportunity to get your mental juices flowing in the morning and wind down after a long day at the office.

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