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A remote worker’s guide to fitness

Table of Contents
I.Working out while working remotely
1. 1.Gyms and group fitness classes
1. 1. 1.Working out while traveling
1. 2.Home Workouts
1. 2. 1.Home workouts with equipment
1. 2. 2.“No-equipment” / Bodyweight workouts
1. 2. 3.Adventure sports
1. 3.How to create a routine of working out at home?
1. 3. 1.Make time for it
1. 3. 2.Optimize for motivation
1. 3. 3.Prepare your workout plan
1. 3. 4.Commit to it
1. 4.Eating and drinking habits while working remotely
1. 4. 1.Things to avoid while working from home
1. 5.Keep in mind before you start
The freedom and independence remote work brings, along with opportunities for adventure and travel - all of this while still making a living - is why workers all over the globe are hopping on the remote work bandwagon.
Having said that, in addition to the many virtues of this lifestyle, it’s only fair and objective that we address the elephant in the room: how freedom, independence, and travel can manifest themselves in a lack of structure and routine. This often results in a health and fitness (or lack thereof) rut that's hard to get out of. What adds insult to injury is the sedentary lifestyle that often goes hand in hand with working remotely.
That begs the question of how a remote worker or remote teams can work around these constraints and limiting factors. The goal is to continue enjoying the benefits of remote work while mitigating any downsides that relate to health and fitness.
Broadly speaking, this article will offer advice for both remote workers with a home base, and those that are location-independent. Both present unique challenges that I hope to help with.

Working out while working remotely

Gyms and group fitness classes

Let’s get the most obvious point out of the way, which is to consider joining a group fitness class or a gym/fitness center.
Of course, if you don’t have access to a gym or you're not comfortable joining one due to Covid-19 risks, feel free to skip to the following subsection; but, if you have the access and the inclination, I strongly suggest pulling the trigger on joining one. Group fitness classes and gyms offer certain advantages that home workouts do not. Let me give a few examples:
  1. Community: For many, working remotely can feel lonely. Joining a gym or a group fitness class is one of the ways in which you can make working remotely less lonely.
  2. Accountability: Another advantage associated with working out with others is that, from a psychological perspective, the presence of others, albeit strangers, holds you accountable. When there are people watching, you want to put your best foot forward as opposed to simply going through the motions. Moreover, observing others around you putting in the hard yards can provide a much-needed shot in the arm on days you might be lacking the energy and motivation.
  3. Responsibility: Speaking of being held accountable, when you know that there is money on the line in the form of your gym membership, you’re more incentivized to get your money’s worth.
  4. Equipment: A gym provides an extensive range of equipment that your home gym probably can't replicate.
Protip: If you’re sold on enrolling yourself in a gym or a group fitness class, to the extent possible, join one that’s relatively close to where you live. Even if you're not feeling motivated to go, it will be much easier to push yourself if you don't have a long commute to the gym.

Working out while traveling

Here are a few suggestions that are specific to remote workers who enjoy location independence  i.e. those who actively travel:
  1. To the extent possible, if you’re staying in a hotel, try picking one that has a gym. Even one with minimal amenities can be great.
  2. Check out the gyms in your area! Most offer free passes/trials, take advantage of those. There are some gyms that even allow a full week free of charge.
  3. Once you’ve exhausted free trials at gyms near you (assuming they were up for grabs), you could look for a membership. If you’ll be traveling to a new location in just a few days’ time, sign up for the shortest membership duration or negotiate a deal with the gym for the duration of your stay at that particular location.
  4. Check out ClassPass - this app gives you access to gyms and a whole host of other fitness studios and classes worldwide. Check their website to see if they operate in the cities you’ll be traveling to.
  5. If you work for a remote company, suggest they include a gym membership as a benefit for your team. This was one of the most wanted benefits last year.

Home Workouts

While the previous subsection was devoted primarily to gym lovers, the next one caters to remote workers who prefer working out at home or those who would at least like to have the option of working out at home available to them.
Digital nomads for whom the concept of “home” is amorphous should not feel sidelined; the tips and suggestions presented below can be applied regardless of what one’s “home” might be.

Home workouts with equipment

At the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, my daily exercise routine comprised a “no-equipment” workout or, at best, a workout with the use of makeshift equipment in the form of household items.
While this routine got off to an absolutely flying start, about a couple of months in, the enthusiasm was superseded by boredom and monotony. I was doing the same limited set of bodyweight exercises every single day.
I decided to set up a home gym which, in hindsight, counts as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This trend of “Home exercise gyms” even reached #2 on the list of Top 20 Worldwide Fitness Trends for 2022.
Having said that, setting up a home gym can be a very daunting idea. Setting up a MINIMALIST home gym, not so much.
By investing in just the following pieces of equipment, I was able to substantially enhance the quality and variety of my workouts, as well as the enjoyment that I derived from working out:
  • Small weights such as kettlebells and dumbbells
  • Resistance bands
  • Travel yoga mat (takes up much less space than a standard yoga mat)
  • Skipping rope
  • Doorway Pull-up / Chin-up bar
  • Foam Roller
  • Ab wheel/roller
These items perform great because they’re all relatively cheap, compact, multi-functional, and portable. You can even bring some of them if you're fully nomadic - a travel size yoga mat and a resistance band won't take up much space in your suitcase. 
Kettlebells and dumbbells wouldn't make sense to attempt to pack but, if you plan on staying at a particular location for longer, you could order these items online upon arriving, use them for the duration of your stay, and either donate or sell them before moving.

“No-equipment” / Bodyweight workouts

The use of equipment is not a prerequisite to having effective workouts. In fact, many prefer bodyweight or “no-equipment” workouts as they can be done anywhere and do not necessitate lugging around any equipment or spending money on a gym membership.
If you’re new to bodyweight exercises, here are some resources to start with:
  • The Body Coach TV is my go-to source for guided no-equipment home workouts, especially ones that are short but intense (high-intensity interval training or HIIT)
  • Sworkit and Seven apps are also great for guided workouts
  • If you’re looking to enhance your mobility and flexibility, Yoga with Adriene might be your answer
  • Instagram & TikTok can be used to find personal trainers outlining their workouts and eating habits, like Natacha Oceane.

Adventure sports

If you’re feeling adventurous, depending on your location, outdoor activities like hiking, running, surfing, and skiing can be great workouts that will simultaneously quench your thirst for adventure.
On a similar note, walking and biking in a new area or city (as opposed to resorting to public transportation) will not only help you work up a sweat but also help you save money and discover hidden gems in the area you're in.

How to create a routine of working out at home?

This doesn't come naturally to everyone. For many, working out at home is an acquired taste. Here's how to get motivated and create a routine of working out at home on a regular basis.

Make time for it

Schedule your home workouts in your diary or calendar at a time that works for you. Telling yourself that you’ll workout “when you have time for it” during the day can be a slippery slope towards missed workouts. Personally speaking, I find that the later I leave my home workout for, the higher the chances that something unforeseen comes my way or my day’s work has drained my willpower and motivation to workout. I schedule my workouts either in the morning or early afternoon. If I happen to feel motivated to workout before my scheduled time, I jump right into it as opposed to waiting for my scheduled workout time to roll in. As Naval Ravikant says, “Inspiration is perishable - act on it immediately”.

Optimize for motivation

As far as the duration of your workout is concerned, do not try to bite off more than you can chew, especially if you find it difficult to drum up the motivation to workout. From a psychological perspective, you won’t dread working out as much if you plan a 25-40 minute workout as opposed to planning one that’s 60-90 minutes in duration. A 25-40 minute workout carried out with a high degree of focus can yield better results than a long unmotivated workout.
Notice when you feel the most motivated to move your body - in the morning, during the day or later in the evening? It's hard to stay motivated to work remotely from home, let alone exercise in the same space as well.
Protip: In order to make working out at home a lot more palatable, you could do two short workouts - one during the 1st half of the day while the other at some stage during the 2nd half.

Prepare your workout plan

Decide on the set of exercises you’ll be doing as part of your workout. When you commence your workout with a plan in mind or on paper, you workout with a lot more intent as opposed to simply going through the motions.
I personally set aside some time before the start of every week to plan my workouts for the upcoming week; but, you could spend a few minutes on a daily basis planning your workout for the day. As long as you aren’t “winging” it, all else being equal, you’ll derive more value from your workouts.

Commit to it

In order to minimize distractions while working out at home, you could keep your phone in another room. If you need your phone for music or guided workouts, turn off push notifications for the length of your workout.
Try to hold yourself accountable. If working out alone isn’t quite your cup of tea and you don’t have a partner with whom you can workout at home, you could hire a virtual personal trainer or online fitness coach who’ll hold you accountable.
Now, let's talk about nutrition.

Eating and drinking habits while working remotely

Diet and nutrition are like politics: everybody thinks they’re an expert on it. I’m certainly no expert, be it a self-proclaimed one or a certified one; thus, I’ll leave it to you to decide how you should be fueling yourself.
Instead, I’ll shed light on certain eating and drinking habits that remote workers commonly fall prey to, and how to avoid them.

Things to avoid while working from home

When working from the comforts of your home, food is readily accessible, which might not be the case when working from an office or a co-working space. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, when bored or frustrated, impulsively reaches out for a treat or two (or three or four). While I haven’t completely mastered the art of not giving in to my impulses, I have become a lot more adept at this than I used to be thanks to these two practices:
  1. When I experience an urge to reach for a treat, instead of acting immediately, I observe the urge and give myself permission to act on it after ~10 minutes. However, after the 10 or so minutes have passed, more often than not, the severity of the urge has waned. Sometimes I even forget about it altogether. Such a technique is commonly known as ‘urge surfing’ - the act of noticing your urges and watching them rise and fall like waves without acting on them.
  2. I rarely keep unhealthy treats at home. That way, even if I experience an urge that feels untameable, there’s nothing for me to impulsively reach out for. Getting my hands on a treat would entail the task of either stepping outside or ordering in, both of which seem too laborious to be worth the reward.
When on the road, the following points might be useful to keep in mind:
  1. If the area or city you’re in is full of restaurants and bars serving a cornucopia of every kind of food and drink, it can be very tempting to eat out everyday. Combine eating out with buying groceries and subsequently cooking your own meals. Your body and your wallet will thank you for it. If your cooking skills are non-existent like mine are, upon arriving at your given location, look up restaurants near your location that serve healthy food so that you know what restaurants to turn to when looking for a healthy meal.
  2. Carry protein bars, dry fruits, and other healthy snacks in your backpack when you’re out and about. You’ll be less likely to buy a chocolate or a bag of chips (read: empty calories) when in need of a snack.
Protip: While I agree that you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet, if you at least maintain a consistent workout regimen you can still enjoy all kinds of food and drinks. Some of those excess calories can help you pack on muscle mass a lot faster. When you’re spending time in new cities/countries, you want to experience the local flavours and cuisines. Thus, give yourself the license to indulge and explore, obsessing over calories is not a great practice for your mind or body. Personally, as long as I am eating healthy about 80% of the time, I feel good about myself.

Keep in mind before you start

In conclusion, do not forget to cut yourself some slack. The remote work lifestyle can take some getting used to, and striving for perfection on the fitness front while acclimating to this lifestyle and juggling everything else in your personal life is not easy.
Be less of a hyper-perfectionist and avoid setting fitness goals that are too lofty, especially if you’re just starting out. Keep in mind that, unless you’re an athlete or a fitness influencer, fitness is not your life; it’s only one part of it. Don’t be too hard on yourself for the occasional missed workout or two. Look at them as breathers for your body and central nervous system.
Lastly, everyone is at a different stage in their respective fitness journeys. No two people have the same DNA sequence or the same set of life circumstances. Thus, it’s imperative that you remember to compare yourself to who you were yesterday, and not to who someone else is today. 

About the author

Anubhav Jain

TV Presenter and Writer
After graduating as an Industrial Engineer, Anubhav spent two years working at Goldman Sachs in New York City before moving back to his home country of India to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a writer and presenter. The key topics he covers are self-improvement and sports. He regards his switch to working remotely as the best life decision he's made to date.