As a collegiate athlete and cs/math double major, I am frequently appalled at the level of slovenliness and torpor that many of my fellow students allow themselves to sink to. I suspect that if they knew the physical pleasure of having a fit, balanced body and lifestyle, they would change their habits.
Bad Geek Habit #1
Erratic Sleep Schedule
How many time have you seen someone walk into class after a big programming assignment comes due, with a jumbo coffee and a dippy grin on their face, proud that they've "pulled an all-nighter." Usually this is because of some delusion that they've "conquered the night," or done something similarly heroic, instead of just catching up after weeks of laziness, harming their health, andn usually doing sub-standard work.
Procrastination is like masturbation; it's a lot of fun, until you realize you're fucking yourself.
Solution: make a point to work out every morning, before classes or work. Don't skip; if you skip more than three or four sessions per year (aside from your scheduled day off per week), you are kidding yourself about your level of commitment.
Commitment to an athletic schedule clears up this particular immaturity. When you have to be up and sweating at 5:45 a.m., the books close no later than midnight, and you make time for a nap midday. You separate the chaff out of your day, getting enough sleep becomes a habit, and your scholastic/career work doesn't seem so all-consuming.
Bad Geek Habit #2
Pizza, burritos, fast-food and treats from the vending machine. Typical geek fare, yet people wonder why they are getting sick all the time, when they go days without coming face to face with a fruit or a vegetable.
Solution: do aerobic exersise five or more times per week, and keep track of your performance. You will notice a difference in your capabilities between a pizza-and-beer diet and one composed of lean meats, loads of good carbs, dark salads, and fruits (five a day).
After a few weeks of aerobic work (like 60-100 minute sessions on a bike, running, rowing on the ergometer, jumping rope, or whatnot), most people crave bananas and bagels instead of Mars bars and Jolt; your body is telling you what it needs.
Bad Geek Habit #3
This comes in a few flavors. Many geeks don't feel comfortable around or attractive to the opposite sex. A lot have a negative body image.
Physical achievement can do a lot for geeks and their confidence. Many of us grew up as "98 pound weaklings", or on the other end of the spectrum, were overweight. And later in life, as a reaction, we create and adhere to a culture that is indifferent to physical exertion at best, and downright hostile to it at worst.
Solution: set some goals, and achieve them.
"I'm not intimidated by this person/project/paper/speech; I know I can achieve what I need to. I can run a 38 minute 10k; I'm a tough cookie, I don't buckle."
Tips for Aerobic Training
- Choose something you like, and stick to it. Occasional cross-training is great, but about two-thirds of your workouts should be the same activity, to keep you focused and goal-oriented.
- Hydrate adequately. Very few people drink as much as they ought to, and unfortunately, thirst is not a great gauge for fluid intake. (By the time you are noticeably thirsty, it is too late, you are already dehydrated.) Most coaches recommend taking a half liter of water prior to working out (17 ounces), and another half liter during the first 30 minutes of exercise as you begin to sweat. After the first 30 minutes, a few mouthfuls every 15-20 minutes is advisable.
- Challenge yourself. Make goals, like running a half marathon, a six minute mile, or running all the stadium steps in under 30 minutes. The Spandex and tanktop crowd of Stairstep enthusiasts aren't as likely to look forward to their workout as a woman on a mission.
- Work out for at minimum 45 minutes continuously. Cessations of one or two minutes to retie shoes or take a swig of water aren't anything to worry about, but you should aim to keep your heartrate elevated for close to an hour in order to train your heart and lungs effectively. With a good Walkman and tape, and after a few weeks of working out every day, an hour seems like a breeze.
- Be consistent. Set a schedule (say 6 days on, 1 day off) and stick to it.
- Don't neglect you legs. Squat, leg press, leg extension, and the like are far from glamour lifts; they might not do much for the goal of looking good on the beach and "scoring" with the "honeys." Strong legs, however, will give you the supporting musculature to avoid injury while running, playing tennis or squash, or doing just about any sport. Leg lifting isn't just for muscleheads and football players. You can use lower-body resistance-training effectively for any sport.
- Get the appropriate amount of rest between sets. In order to build strength, you need to lift close to the ultimate capacity of your muscle. In order to life close to capacity, you need a lot of phosphates in the muscle. After a tough 8-12 rep lift, you are going to be depleted of adenosine triphosphate. After a minute of rest, you have replenished less than half of what you've used. After 2 minutes, about two-thirds. After 2.5 minutes, you are up to about 90% and are ready to lift again. For large muscle groups (latissimus, gluteals, quads, leg biceps) 3 minutes between sets is a good rule of thumb.
- Get adequate protein to support your workout. Recommended intake is between .5 and .9 grams of protein per pound of lean body weight. (If you have 15% bodyfat, take 85% of your total weight, and this is your "lean" body weight.) A three ounce serving of chicken breast is 25 grams of protein, 120-130 calories, with almost no fat.
- Get enough rest. Don't stress the same muscle groups more than twice a week. In fact, once a week can be more than adequate to build size and strength.