Taking my first real desk job and relocating to Washington D.C. to start a job with National Geographic was a big life change for me. For my entire adult life up to that point, I had pretty much always had jobs that involved moving, not sitting (except for sitting on the back of a raft guiding), and I had always lived in small mountain towns. I was super nervous about the transition, but hopeful I could find a way to embrace this new life, while also staying happy and healthy.

Thats when I decided I needed to make a change and find a way to enjoy the city while getting myself back into shape. I took a few immediate steps that have begun to pay off quickly and I have found that I can still enjoy city life and stay healthy at the same time. A year has now passed since moving to DC, and I have learned some things along the way. For starters, DC loves its Happy Hours! Just about everyday after a long day at the desk, you will likely be invited to a Happy Hour and find yourself having a great time hanging out with wonderful people and downing a few beers. And while I have never been one to say no to beer, it turns out, doing that everyday in place of that afternoon bike ride or paddle you used to take will put on a few pounds! In about 10 months of living in DC, I gained the adult version of the “freshman fifteen” and started to realize I might have embraced my new city a little too much!

1) Find an Exercise Routine that Works and Make it a Habit

It’s not like I wasn’t exercising initially, but the problem was I was struggling to make it a habit. In an effort to avoid paying money for a gym, my go to exercise was jogging. The problem with that became if it was raining, or cold, or too hot, I’d find myself skipping the morning run.

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For whatever reason (maybe the fact that I was used to running through the forest on trails and not through the city on concrete), I just couldn’t get excited enough about it to go every day.

In an effort to find another exercise routine that would work better for me, I broke down and decided to start paying for a gym/ exercise program. After researching numerous options in DC, I finally chose AmbitiousAthletes, a small group exercise program that promises to kick your butt and keep you having fun at the same time. Given my previous issues with getting myself to run everyday, I ultimately chose them due to this line on their website: “If you don’t notify us that you’ll be on vacation for a week, you’ll receive a phone call from us asking about why you haven’t been in to train.” The ironic part about that is that I love going so much that they haven’t had to call me once! The program philosophy combines strength training and conditioning that keeps me both engaged and challenged in a way that I have never experienced outside of training in my kayak.  I can’t say enough good things about the program.

2) Mix Up the Desk Routine

After a couple of months sitting at my new desk everyday, I began to realize that I needed to mix it up. Sitting day in and day out for so many hours was not doing anything good for my body. My first move was to buy an exercise ball to sit on periodically through out the day. Being able to engage my core while sitting not only helped my focus, but it also allowed my body to at least get a little activity while I was staring at the computer screen.

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About 8 months into the job, I was able to get a standing desk which was a huge score for me. I combined it with a Fluidstance Level Board, which allows me to not only stand at my desk, but add some motion as well. Now, being able to stand, spin, sit on the ball and occasionally still sit in a regular desk chair, provides variety and requires energy which makes being at a desk all day not seem so stagnant. And while a standing desk may not be an option at every office, finding a creative way to add some movement into your desk routine will pay off. 

3) Pay Attention to What You Eat (and Drink)

Coming from small towns with limited restaurant options, moving to the city was amazing from a food perspective. Whatever kind of food I wanted could be found within a half mile radius of my house or office. I found myself trying new restaurants everyday and thoroughly enjoying all the culinary experiences the city had to offer. And while I’ve always been someone who ate relatively healthy, I found myself indulging more than normal, and without the same daily exercise routine, the pounds began to pile on.

Along side starting at Ambitious Athletes, I also started counting my calories and generally paying more attention to what and how much food I was putting in my body. I soon realized that little things, like choosing a burrito bowl and skipping the tortilla at Chipotle, can save you 300 calories. That tortilla alone amounts to 15% of the recommended daily intake of 2,000 calories! The other big find for me by logging calories was in the beer I was drinking. I love IPA’s and I’d rather drink water than drink a Michelob Ultra, so going that direction was simply not an option. But then I discovered Session IPA’s- lower alcohol content, 25-35% fewer calories, but still have that delicious hoppy flavor!

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4) Walk More

One of the great perks of living in the city is being able to walk everywhere. There is rarely much need for me to drive my car (unless its to go kayaking) and my office is only 1.5 miles from my house so an easy distance to walk. That said, after a couple months here, I found myself finding excuses for reasons to take the bus. Not all the time, but often enough. And then I realized maybe the most valuable piece of information of all- on average, for every 2 miles you walk, you burn off the calories of one Session IPA! So if I want to be able to enjoy my favorite post-work beverage, I need to make sure I put in my walking miles each day. That might mean walking to/ from work, or taking Karl (my ridiculously handsome dog) on an extra stroll to our favorite park. I feel like since its wasn’t a heart pumping, sweat inducing exercise, I often overlooked just what an added health benefit walking could be.

So there you have it- my personal journey of adjusting to a desk job and city living while finding ways to maintain better health and still get out and enjoy what DC has to offer. Please keep in mind, I am no expert on these matters, and have just simply been trying to find ways that work for me, though everyone is different and will have their own path and opinion for bettering their own personal health. The takeaway (I hope) is to be aware of your body and look for ways to add more movement and healthier eating into your everyday routine.

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