Sooner or later, most of us who work in an office eventually complain about sitting behind a computer. That’s not all. Contributing to the 8+ hours of physical inactivity, family chores, or commuting, is a lack of time for exercise, either before or after work. Running low on time makes trips to the gym a challenge, and unhealthy food choices a real temptation.
I interviewed Nina Chou-Ellis (pictured at left), a personal trainer and nutrition advisor at 24 Hour Fitness in Burbank, California. Chou-Ellis helps people with desk jobs from turning into achy, whiny, slumping blobs (which is what I feel like at times). I contacted Nina so that she could help shed some light on how to do a good job with your health while continuing to do a good job...at your job.
Q. You have been a personal trainer for more than five years, but prior to that, you had a desk job. What did you find to be the biggest challenge to staying healthy while working behind a desk?
A. It is a challenge to muster up the motivation to do a workout after a day at the office. In my case, after only a few weeks I started to experience lower back pain, which affected my entire right leg down into my foot. After a day behind my desk, I felt stiff and without energy.
Q. What were eating habits like in your office?
A. For the majority of my co-workers, lunches were catered at least three days a week, and there was a fully stocked kitchen with plenty of junk food. The free food made it easy for temptation and convenience to prevail, and eat whatever was on hand. But I have a motto: Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to eat it! Less healthy choices often result from eating out, versus bringing your own pre-cooked meal.
Q. What is the biggest complaint that you hear from your clients who work at a sedentary job?
A. If it’s not chronic lower back pain or some type of lower back issue, then it’s typically a neck and/or upper trapezoid-related problem.
Q. Making time for the gym is difficult. Can you offer some solutions for someone with a busy work schedule?
A. If you know that a day at work interferes with the self motivation to exercise, then hiring professional assistance can be a good decision. For some, making a financial investment to engage a trainer provides the necessary discipline. An appointment equals accountability. Often, just having a gym membership won’t cut it. Over 60% of gym members without trainers only use their membership once a month or less.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges that prevent people from eating a healthy diet?
A. Refusing to cook at home. Or convincing themselves they don’t have the time. If you have time to go to a restaurant two to four times a week, you have two to three hours at least once a week to prepare and cook all your food for the week. YouTube posts videos on cooking in bulk. Note that the majority of the videos are made by physique competitors, however they can be done by anyone who strives to consistently eat healthy. It’s way easier than it sounds, but its a great way to stay on track with your diet if time is a factor. Food prep and cooking food in bulk was the only thing that kept me from eating all the free unhealthy food at my former desk job. It may help you stay on track to a healthy lifestyle, and limit you from making poor food choices.
Q. How do you stay motivated to eat healthy and stay fit?
A. I set goals. They are specific, and I create a plan to achieve those goals—otherwise there is no measure of accountability.