Health Bottleneck | Customers, Etc.
What to do when the bottleneck is your health
I returned from a family vacation last Monday after having spent a week on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean. The trip had been planned for more than a year—well before I left FullStory and started at Saltbox—and was a welcome moment of relaxation and togetherness with my family.
The vacation hangover was rough. Although it’s always an adjustment to get back into the swing of things at work after time off, this time was especially difficult. I was struggling to feel productive and wasn’t feeling motivated to do my best work.
On Wednesday, I got on the Peloton for a short 15-minute ride to try to “reset” my exercise routine. I couldn’t do it. At three and a half minutes in, I ended the ride early. Peloton has a feature that asks you why you stopped. “Wasn’t feeling motivated today” wasn’t an option.
When I got to my desk at our office on Peachtree Street, the sense of malaise had worsened. I just wasn’t feeling like I could do my best work. What’s worse, I knew without a doubt that if I would have exercised, I would have been in a much better state of mind.
What could I do?
Back to basics
As I sat at my desk, I decided to start journaling. I admitted to myself that my health was at one of its worse points in a decade. I was struggling to even feel motivated to exercise. What’s worse, I felt like I didn’t have time to exercise. That insight gave me pause. I had been working hard at both work and school but physically felt worse than I had felt in a long time. Then I remembered it hadn’t always been that way.
Back in 2011 when I started working at Fog Creek Software, I took advantage of their generous gym membership to sign up for CrossFit. I wrote about this in my post on asymmetric benefits:
Fog Creek also provided a few “lifestyle” benefits which I was eager to take advantage of. “Free gym membership” was one of them, which paid up to $150 per month(!) for a gym membership. For where we were at in our life, this was an unheard of amount of money to pay for a gym. The most I had ever paid was $19/mo for Fitness 19.
With a “high school gym class” level of fitness understanding, I was never particularly fit or healthy. I had heard about CrossFit, but never considered it too seriously because of the cost. With a $150/mo budget for a gym membership, I could afford to try it out. Before the end of my first week at Fog Creek, I had signed up.
During my first CrossFit class, I had to take a break and sip water while sitting against the wall to avoid passing out. This was not a difficult class! I was just that out of shape. One of the coaches gave me a ride home. But I kept coming back. I finished the “foundations” series of classes and started going to regular classes. I lost weight, added muscle, and started doing things with my body that I had never thought possible.
As I sat there at my desk reflecting on that period of my life, I remembered how I felt. I had settled into a routine where I would work out first thing in the morning, shower at work, and begin my day a bit early. After a full day at work, I would leave around 5 and take the subway home. I remember how amazing it felt to show up to work in the mornings after a hard workout. My thinking would be sharp and I would feel incredibly motivated.
My journaling brought me to an interesting inflection point. The vacation hangover notwithstanding, the evidence was clear that I wasn’t doing my best work. My thinking wasn’t clear and my motivation was low. When I examined what had brought me to that point, it was clear that my health was the bottleneck for my ability to do my best work. I knew that going to the gym—specifically CrossFit—had helped in the past. Was that what was needed?
Making a change
I struggled with the idea of going back to CrossFit. Where would I get the time? I’m still relatively new in my job and I have a full load of classes as part of my executive MBA program. I already feel like I don’t have any time to give. But if I’m not doing my best work with the time I do have, something has to change.
I looked up the hours for CrossFit Brookhaven1, which is ten minutes from my house. They had both a 5:45am and 7am class. I decided to sign up for a trial and committed to the 7am class the next morning.
When I showed up to work on Thursday morning, I felt amazing. I was facing the same pile of work as the day before, but felt motivated and empowered. I hadn’t felt that way in some time.
I’ve since joined as a full member at CrossFit and signed up for Noom to rediscover healthier eating habits. I know there will be some bumps along the way, but I’m confident this was the right move.
This isn’t an endorsement for CrossFit. I chose it because it was familiar and more importantly, I knew what results I could expect. I knew that if I invested in my health, I would feel motivated and more productive.
The takeaway from this newsletter is that if you recognize your health is a bottleneck to your productivity—and more importantly, your happiness—do something about it. It’s worth saying no to something else so you can say yes to your health.
CrossFit Brookhaven is at the same location as what used to be CrossFit One Degree Elevated. I had been a member at One Degree Elevated for 2 months before the pandemic set in and I cancelled my membership and switched to rides on the Peloton when I was stuck at home. The Peloton was amazing during the pandemic, but I’ve struggled to be motivated to get into it lately. Why?
One thing I’ve noticed is that when I feel an increased pressure from work or school, it can feel hard to really get into a workout on the Peloton. Not that I haven’t been able to get there before with Peloton, but with my current level of stress, I’ve been struggling. With CrossFit, the social element combined with a time on the calendar when the workout happens makes for a strong motivator. It’s much easier to leave the stresses of life behind when you’re focused on a hard workout.