Head of Interaction and Service Design at @DigitalDWP
Fitness in Design
It goes without question that our profession is one of the easiest in a physical sense. We don’t cut tree’s, move rubble or trek through the urban jungle all day long. Our work is done at a desk whilst sitting on a chair for an unusually long amount of time in comparison to other day jobs. Designers tend not to work from 9 til 5, we either work early to late or late til late. We tend not to be succumbed to the general daily working hours unless you’re very self confident in the way you can step away from your machine until the next ‘working day’ starts.
I would hazard a guess that the majority of people within our industry are probably cooped up inside four walls a little bit too long, too long for our mental state and most definitely too long for our physical well being.
A lack of mental fitness can almost certainly break a designer, it’s like a large dark cloud covering our creative brain bringing us to a complete halt. It can stop our inspiration in its tracks. What almost surely affects our mental and creative ability is our physical fitness. Personally I can directly relate to me being physically fit and my creative peaks against being less physically fit and feeling I’m not doing the best job I could.
My physical fitness enables me to be more awake during the day making me more efficient when I need to be and creative / inspirational when called upon.
It would seem that a few people from the industry also seem to think the same, three names which spring to mind are Jeffrey Zeldman, Chris Spooner and David Perel who all go to the gym on a regular basis. Jeffrey has discussed in one of his Big Web Show’s about the reasons why he started taking more care with his physical fitness, I believe Chris has explained before that heading to the gym or walking his dog Jake is one of the only opportunities that he gets to leave his office during the day. If he didn’t have those things to do he’d almost spend all week without leaving the same building.
Quite a while ago, Andy McMillan, the founder of Build Conference in Belfast started a little food blog. In one of his first blog posts he said that he wanted to lose a certain amount of weight before his next conference and he setup a sponsorship page to give him the inclination to do it properly and stick with it. I thought it was a fantastic idea. Around the same time, I hadn’t been to a gym for quite some time and wanted to do something about my physical fitness.
A short while after I started dieting… thinking that I would be able to lose some sort of weight before I went on holiday. A short while after that I stopped dieting. I had no self-confidence in myself to be able to continue with it, at the time I was quite stressed and that overwhelmed me. I’ve since longed to do it again, but properly.
The day came when I randomly jumped on the scales, looked down and went into instant shock. I was literally at the peak weight which I’ve only been at one other time in my life. I was upset and angry that it had got to that. It is not that I did not know that it was happening but it still came as a shock and I knew something had to change.
I went away and researched how not to diet, I didn’t want to get taken in these so called ‘diet groups’ and I simply just wanted to be healthier. I found that your body burnt calories by itself when you were sleeping so you started at a certain point and if you ate less than your daily allowance then you’d start to lose weight. Sounds obvious?
I went from eating pizza’s, McDonald’s, pub meals and general rubbish to healthier meals like salads, fish and vegetables. I started having pro-biotic yoghurt’s for breakfast, soup for lunch, fruit throughout the day and ending with a dinner of chicken salads. This happened everyday during the working week, I kept to it Mon-Fri. On a weekend I ate what I wanted and still do. I also stopped drinking bottles of coke and sandwiches, I now keep away from bread as best I can. I gave up alcohol and only very rarely now have an alcoholic drink.
I started this new life in June and to date, I’ve lost over a stone in weight without trying. A few weeks ago I joined our new local gym and am going 4 times a week, this will increase over time as my fitness levels increase.
What does this have to do with design?
I feel more creative as I’m happier with myself and definitely happier with my work. That large black cloud now very rarely rears its ugly head which I’m more than happy about.
I truly believe that if you feel that you have the cloud hanging over your head, try to go out and find some sort of physical exercise that you can do. Whether it be joining a gym, running or swimming I firmly believe that you’ll feel better for it. I certainly do.