Decrease your bottom line: A roadmap for freelance fitness

Did you know that freelancers are especially prone to depression and back problems? That's something I learned from financial adviser Amy Keller of Della Monica and Associates when I interviewed her about disability insurance last year. It’s not surprising, considering all the time many of us spend alone in front of a computer screen. Weight gain is also a problem for many of us.

So I've decided to launch a new category: Fitness and freelancing. For the first installment I knew I had to line up longtime friend and colleague—and now marathon runner—Amy Schneider of Featherschneider Editorial Services. Amy regularly inspires our little band of colleagues on the Freelance Writers and Editors Google group with her tales from the road.

Thanks, Amy, and welcome to the Feast!

The more time we freelancers spend in our office chairs, the more we increase our bottom line—financial and physical! That was certainly true for me—until I committed to improving my health. I joined a weight-loss program, took up running, and lost 75 pounds. Yay me! Here are some tips I learned on my journey to freelance fitness.

Two must-dos and a really oughta

Change your diet. The key is not temporary diets but long-term, permanent changes in your habits. Portion control is important; so is making substitutions you can live with (such as skim milk for 2 percent, or veggie thin-crust pizza instead of deep-dish meat-lover’s). If you work at home, you have a kitchen at your disposal and don’t need to rely on vending machines, fast food, or remembering to pack a lunch, so build on that advantage. Weight Watchers worked for me; I committed to attending meetings even when deadlines loomed. If meetings aren’t doable for you, try a free online resource such as SparkPeople, Lose It!, or MyFitnessPal.

Exercise. “But I have deadlines!” Hey, if you have time for Facebook, you have time for exercise. What better way to clear your head between work sessions than to go out for a bike ride, put in a workout DVD, or hop on the elliptical? Best part for freelancers: You can hit the gym when it’s less busy or do your outdoor workout when the weather is most comfortable.

Be a joiner. Social isolation is the freelancer’s bane. So get out there! Join a running club, as I did, or register for a 5K run/walk. Take a class. Join a gym. You’ll meet energetic people who share your new interest and will keep you motivated. And you never know which of your workout buddies might need help with her thesis or the company newsletter.

Yeah, but . . .

How do I get started? One step at a time. You might start with brisk walks, or the first in a series of workout DVDs, or a beginner fitness class. You can add intensity and time as your stamina and ability improve. The important thing is to choose an activity that you will enjoy.

How do I maintain a fitness schedule? The same way you maintain a work schedule! If you take a class, the scheduling is done for you. If you’re exercising on your own, put your workouts on your calendar. Keep a fitness log to note your progress. Most important: Remember that you are doing this for YOU. Don’t let other commitments get in the way of your new healthy lifestyle.

How can I work out in short amounts of time or in a small space? The rule of thumb is 30 minutes a day, but you can do three 10-minute sessions if that fits your schedule better. In 10 minutes you can go for a quick walk, do a routine with a workout video, or get out the hand weights for a few reps. Many home fitness machines are designed to fit in small spaces or fold up when not in use. How about a mini trampoline?

How do I keep from getting bored? Mix it up! Cross-training is good for your body and keeps things interesting. Try swimming, dancing, cross-country skiing, biking. Many activities can be shared with friends and family during leisure time. I need silence when I’m editing, so I love to rock out to music while I exercise. Some bookworms might enjoy audiobooks instead.

I’ve read that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Amy J. Schneider has been a full-time freelance copy editor and proofreader of textbooks, trade books, and fiction since 1995.