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When it comes to staying fit, different jobs come with different challenges. Firefighters, athletes and steel workers have to worry about strength training and injury prevention during gym time, but basic fitness is built into what they do for a living.  Things can be different when your job ties you to a desk for 40 hours a week. Being inactive for this amount of time means you’ll need to get plenty of exercise outside of work — gym time. You’ll also need to deal with some social challenges.

Desk jobs often have a social environment where group lunches, potlucks, and after-office dinners are almost as important to your career as what you do during the day. These kinds of events can make it tough to stick to your diet, especially since some people get offended if you don’t try their extra spicy chili or homemade Christmas cookies. Long hours or coming in on weekends can also be stressful, and make it harder to plan gym time.

Many of my clients have desk jobs, and we’ve partnered to come up with individualized programs that work for them. While having these conversations, I’ve learned a few strategies for staying healthy when your job requires you to sit still. Here are some tips that anyone can use.

Prep and Plan For Meals

Any fitness routine is going to involve a meal plan. Exactly when you eat, what you eat, and how much you eat is going to depend on your own personal fitness regime, but there’s one thing I can guarantee: your meal plan won’t include fast food or a plate of fries from the office cafeteria. This means preparing meals ahead of time at home.

It may also mean getting up from your desk to use the microwave, or eating a few, smaller meals instead of a single lunch. Talk to your manager about your lifestyle change, and agree on a system that works for both of you. Since work can sometimes be hectic, it’s also a good idea to set phone alarms or Outlook alerts to remind yourself when it’s time to eat.

Be Ready to Take More Bathroom Breaks

Most fitness plans will involve drinking lots of water, not just during workouts, but throughout the whole day. You’ll need to plan accordingly. When you talk to your manager about meals, it’s a good idea to mention that you’ll be making more bathroom trips than normal. You’ll also need to find a way to hold yourself accountable for drinking water on time. A good way to do that is to bring several water bottles with times written on them so you remember when to drink them. Another way is to just set Outlook alerts or phone alarms.

Make Time For the Gym

Many offices have gyms on site for their employees. If your employer offers a program like this, it can make work-life balance easier. Just throw your gym clothes in the trunk in the morning, and you can hit the gym after work without making an extra trip. You can even get your workout in during your lunch break. If there’s no on-site gym at your office, talk to your manager or HR to find out if your employer offers discount programs at local gyms. Many companies do this, and it can be a great way to get a gym membership for cheap. Even if they don’t, you can take the opportunity to talk about work-life balance and find a time that works for everyone that you can commit to the gym.

This may mean going to the gym before work, or coming in early so you can leave early and get your workout. If you have to work late or on weekends, it can mean leaving the office for an hour to work out and coming back. Whatever you need to do, coordinate with your manager so everyone’s on the same page.

Talk to Your Coworkers

Let your coworkers know about your new, healthy lifestyle. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many of them are supportive! If you’re part of a regular lunch group, talk to them about making meals at home, or eating somewhere that serves food that’s okay for your diet. If you’re going to come to a potluck, let people know beforehand that you’ll only attend if there are healthy food options available. You can even take leadership in this, by bringing a healthy dish and encouraging others to do so. Your manager or HR can be helpful here as well. Companies want to have healthy employees, so they may even offer to help you out by providing healthy food themselves

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

If you spend a lot of time on social media, it’s easy to get the impression that everyone else’s fitness journey is easy. Look at these people, with their perfect lives, perfect schedules, happily hitting the gym every evening at the same time, still full of energy after a day at the office. Remember, social media is fiction. It’s the place where people show the best side of themselves.

But real life isn’t always easy. Real life is full of deadlines, sick kids, and working late. Real life is messy, which makes it that much more satisfying when we succeed at living a fit life. By planning ahead and working with your manager and coworkers, you can have that satisfaction.

See you in the gym!

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