A working girl's guide to finding your fit
I’ve more than doubled my compensation over the last eight years. Not because I got any smarter or savvier—but because I got fit. Does the very idea of “fitness” make you audibly groan? Yeah, I hear you. Before I make my insanely compelling argument that will totally convince you to get a gym membership, join ClassPass, or whatever, you should know—I wasn’t always the “fitness” type. But here’s what changed.
My fitness (or total lack thereof) backstory
On New Year’s Eve 2009, I was with a couple of my best girlfriends and their families when our electricity went out. The mishap made for the perfect winter holiday night in Boston, with charades and board games with our kids by candlelight, followed by a group New Year’s resolution share.
These gals, who were/are all in great shape, run all sorts of races, do triathlons, and other crazy physical endeavors, committed to more amazing races, additional tough triathlons, and new crazy physical challenges. When the circle share landed on me, I said proudly, “I’m going to have more fun!,” eschewing the whole idea of exercise and downplaying the value of health and fitness. I thought, “We’re all living too long anyway…why prolong it during the older years that are torturous?!...Plus, life’s best years are too short, so why spend it in voluntary pain and discomfort and sweating?!”
At the time, I was what my youngest sister would call “skinny fat,” meaning I was relatively slender and looked ok in clothes, but really had no shape, and was neither strong nor healthy. I spent too much time sitting at my desk, relaxing in our living room beanbags with our kids, being sedentary on planes and airports for hours on end, eating and drinking too much, and just having more than my fair share of decadence traveling on the road. Frankly, the last thing I needed at that point was “more fun.”
As I awoke the next morning on New Year’s Day, my lameness ate at me and I realized it was time for a change (sing it with a pubey Peter Brady voice like my junior high sons would now!). Anyway, my kids were about about 5 and 7 at the time, and they were emerging out of the prepare-for-it-like-its-war years as increasingly independent little dudes who didn’t need me as much - no diapers, no sippies, sort of compliant, super active and fun. Meanwhile, my husband and I were starting to be old farts and realized age and gravity were the most formidable of foes!
It was all of these factors and events taken together that led me to pick up the phone and call the closest gym to our house on New Year’s Day. I got all four of us a family membership and we headed over for our inaugural visit. With that call and first visit to the gym came a new era for me, a new world order, a complete watershed point of no return. To be honest, I never in a million years thought I’d stick with the whole thing. Like the gillions of well-intentioned New Year’s resolutionists who commit to bettering themselves every year, I was confident that I’d end up yet another sad statistic. There wasn’t a shred of evidence that I had any of the ingredients – grit, resolve, commitment, focus – to see it through, to really challenge myself, to stick with it through tough times and constraints to make it a core part of who I am and how I live my life.
Fast-forward 8ish years and I truly can’t imagine life without it. Being fit and having everything that comes with it are an integral part of my DNA, my day-to-day, and the way our family lives. I rarely miss a day because I relish what it gives me every time - both in the moment and afterwards through the residual gifts the experience enables all around it. Whether I’m on the road and shuffle into the hotel gym at 5am, or hit our local fitness center after a long day of calls, or hang with my husband and boys on the weekend playing 2-on-2 basketball in our driveway, being fit has become core to who I am. And better yet, it’s become central to how our family spends time, both individually and together. As a shared interest, it connects us every day and has helped make me somewhat relevant as the only woman in a super male, sports-focused, locker room-ish house.
A couple of years ago, I had a guy in a hotel gym at 5am say, “you must be either a cop or a spy…which is it?!” Just like my college roommates said, “you were the LAST person we ever thought would be successful!” I never imagined in a million years that I could evolve my skinny-fat self into someone that would get posed that question. My point is that if I can do this – work and working out - anyone can. I’m so grateful for all of it and everything both have given to me – both internally and externally.
With that probably excessively long personal story as a prelude and context (figured some of you might relate to my fitness Pygmalion tale at some level), I’m excited to introduce Women@Work(outs)! There’s no shortage of fitness advice out there from a huge myriad of sources – some targeting women and some people in general. Some focus on eating, some on broader lifestyle choices, health and wellness, etc. Despite all of that, I had several women of all shapes, sizes and ages suggest this was something we should include as part of the broader Women@Work platform, particularly given its importance in creating and cultivating your personal brand and powering your effectiveness at work. Just like men, babies and fashion, fitness definitely isn’t a new topic. There’s plenty of content and advice out there, but most of it doesn’t get specific about how to manage and optimize each to maximize your personal advancement as a working woman. My experience has been that in the journey to maximize your own economic advancement and self-reliance, there’s truly nothing more critical while being completely in your control and actionable.
To get us started thinking and talking about the topic, I wanted to pass along a list of guiding principles that may not be for everyone, but have worked well for me. I learned all of these from the best – my most admired colleague, coach and friend who encouraged me to write Men@Work and start this whole Women@Work initiative. A former professional athlete, he’s the one who really taught me how to work out like a pro. I would NEVER in a million years know how to be in shape with my work-family lifestyle if it weren’t for him. I would NEVER have stuck it out all this time if it weren’t for him. Everyone needs someone to show them the way, and that’s what he’s done for me and through this platform, I’m hoping to do the same for you.
Finally, this whole Women@Work(outs) thing is a massive opportunity for collaboration, idea sharing, good crowd sourced stories and more. I hope you’ll be in touch with questions or suggestions or advice. This is a great topic and I’m excited to engage with everyone on it. Let me know what you think - what are your favorite workouts and tips?
Give me 20!
Guiding principles for finding your fit
There’s no shortage of fitness advice out there from a huge myriad of sources – some targeting women and some people in general. Despite all of that, several women of all shapes, sizes and ages suggested this topic was something we should include as part of the broader Women@Work platform, particularly given its importance in creating and cultivating your personal brand and powering your effectiveness at work. Just like men, babies and fashion, fitness definitely isn't new, but most of the content and advice that exists don't get specific about how to optimize your fit factor as part of advancing your personal success as a working woman. We wanted to get specific. My experience has been that in the journey to maximize your own economic advancement and self-reliance, there’s truly nothing more critical while being completely in your control and actionable.
To get us started thinking and talking about the topic, I wanted to pass along a list of guiding principles that have worked well for me. I learned all of these from the best – my most admired colleague, coach and friend who encouraged me to write Men@Work and start this whole Women@Work initiative. A former professional athlete, he’s the one who really taught me how to work out like I know what I'm doing. I would NEVER in a million years know how to be in shape with my work-family lifestyle if it weren’t for him. I would NEVER have stuck it out all this time if it weren’t for him. Everyone needs someone to show them the way, and that’s what he’s done for me and through this platform, I’m hoping to do the same for you.
Complete your own fitness formula - with or without equipment
Garanimals! Maybe a few of you older, wiser gals like me might remember the beloved kids' apparel brand from the early 70s featured at Target? How cool were those?! For you younger gals that missed this hit trend, Garanimals was a mix and match clothes "system" based on cartoony versions of different animals that indicated what tops and bottoms could/should be worn together. Pick your favorite Garanimal and assemble a group of pieces that are guaranteed to go together. Let the mixing and matching begin!
Garanimals has become one of my favorite buzzword bingo terms, so I'm pretty excited to be able to apply it here.:) The Find Your Fit Matrix included here is meant to provide you an easy to use at work reference tool for creating your own Women@Work(out) puzzle that will have all the pieces you need to complete your picture. Because other times you might have access to equipment and sometimes might have to get creative and scrappy, I've included a model tailored to each scenario. By my math, this simple matrix gives you more than 15,000 possible workouts if you combine these in different ways. I bet even Garanimals couldn't do that!
Print it out. Keep it in your bag. Get active any time, any where.