17 May 2010 11 am eastern

Web Design and Fitness

Three times a week I work out hard with a trainer at a gym. It’s like sex. I don’t mean it feels good. On the contrary, it hurts. And I don’t mean there’s cuddling after. What makes my hard workouts like sex is that they’re followed by a spacey bliss in which there is no atom of desire. When I’m lying on that post-workout stretching table, gazing vaguely at the ceiling, Christina Hendricks could sashay by wearing a G-string made of thousand dollar bills and carrying a plate of spaghetti, and there’s nothing I would want from her.

Our industry rewards long hours in the cubicle and for many of us, it shows—especially as we get older.

Sometimes I wonder whether I became soft because of what I do, or chose what I do because it suits a lifestyle in which “physical activity” means answering the door when the pizza guy arrives.

For years I worked out three times a week, but with no results—partly because I didn’t know what I was doing, and the rest because when it got tough or boring, I quit. Hence the trainer.

The good client

My trainer tells me what to do next and I just do it. She’s the expert, I’m the client. I value her wisdom and experience and try to make each session a learning experience as well as a cardiovascular one.

I’m fortunate to have had good and bad clients. I know how to be a good client. The real value of a client services relationship isn’t what happens during the hours when client and consultant work together; it’s about what happens after. Like everything meaningful in life, the client services relationship is about change.

We don’t create taxonomies, layouts, content strategies and templates as a one-time deal, so the client’s content and design can be frozen in amber. We create them so the client has a framework for continuing to evolve their website into the future, with or without our help. Good clients know this. And they also know that, regardless of time and budget, we can’t do everything for them.

They know that it’s better to concentrate on getting a few things right than to try to cram every conceivable wish and feature into their time with us. Trying to do everything is a way to achieve nothing. Focus, concentration and form are what’s important. Consistency is what’s important. It’s all about the process. As in client services, so at the gym. End analogy.

Modest goals, steady commitment

I’m never going to look like Arnold, and that’s not my goal. My goal is to live a bit longer, and to enjoy life more. I already enjoy walking upstairs a lot more than I used to. Even when I’m alone on a Sunday afternoon, I’m more likely to do something physical (even if it’s just taking a photo walk instead of sitting at the computer) than I was two months ago.

And when I do sit at the computer, I’m more alert, more focused, less likely to need an artificial stimulant to get through my day.

There’s nothing special about what I’m doing, except that I’m doing it. Some old friends and some people I work with inspired me by their example. To them, thanks. Also to my ex, who advised me to give myself this gift.

Starting this weekend, I’ll be in Boston for An Event Apart. Travel usually translates to bad (i.e. overly rich) eating, which can undermine a fitness regime. Between creamy Boston clam chowder and the piles of candies and cakes with which our event planner Marci punctuates An Event Apart sessions, temptation will be everywhere. And while I can’t promise to be perfect, I will strive to put my heart before my sweet tooth.

Filed under: Free Advice, glamorous, industry

32 Responses to “Web Design and Fitness”

  1. Ben Bodien said on

    I don’t know, Z. That image you’ve painted now of Christina is going to stick, and it will take some shifting. Thanks for derailing my afternoon’s productivity.

  2. Damjan Mozetič said on

    It’s time for me to go out and have some exercise. Thanks for reminding me, otherwise I would probably just sit here and type all day.

  3. J Cornelius said on

    As someone in this *exact same situation* I can say gum is your friend. I’m partial to Trident Xtra Care… Keep a pack in your pocket and chew like hell when temptation strikes.

  4. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Good tip, JC.

  5. Karla Fisk said on

    Thanks, Jeffrey. You’ve inspired me to take that trainer’s number down from the fridge where I’ve had it for months and actually call her.

  6. Philip Barron said on

    Modest goals, steady commitment, indeed! I have trouble keeping both in mind for workouts, and that works against me.

    Also: Thanks much for introducing me to Christina Hendricks. Had not previously had the pleasure.

  7. Jim said on

    It’s so great that you have a trainer.

    I look at exercise as an ongoing relationship of give and take. If you hit Marci’s snacks – it’s not the end of the world. There are always more steps waiting, more walks ahead. Keep it up!

  8. Brandon Martinez said on

    I made a promise to myself a few years ago: when I graduate college, I’m going to get in shape and lose some weight. Well, I graduated a week ago; where do I stand? As of late, on an elliptical.

    Being the geek that I am, as are you and your many readers, I’ve decided to use technology to my benefit. I recently installed “Lose It!” on my iPhone, and have been watching my caloric intake along with my exercise routine. So far, so good. I’ve already lost 4 pounds, and can last an hour on the elliptical no problem (I just started a week ago; the benefits of being young…). I plan to keep this up; hopefully for the rest of my life.

    Not to be left out, a lot of this encouragement is from my wife. She’s been a health-nut for the last few years (she wanted to look awesome in her wedding dress, was the original reason). Her constantly reminding me to keep going, along with being the one that buys the groceries, helps out insanely.

  9. Jim Summer said on

    Good analogy Jeffrey…

    My trainer tells me what to do next and I just do it. She’s the expert, I’m the client. I value her wisdom and experience and try to make each session a learning experience…

    I wish it was this cut and dried ALL of the time ;~)
    Thanks a lot!
    ~ Jim

  10. DL Byron said on

    Right on Bro and great to hear! Part of the reason I ride a bike wherever I go is to clear the head, an active body, is a healthy fresh, and creative mind.

  11. Derek Featherstone said on

    Great to hear that you’re working out and that you’ve got a trainer. I hope more people read this and confront — head on — the inactivity that our industry seems to reward.

    We should create a new web site award — something along the lines of “This website was built entirely during normal daytime working hours, did not involve any all-nighters, and did not require more than a single cup of coffee or can of soda per day.” Or perhaps the simpler, and to the point: “No web professional was harmed in the making of this web site.”

    Stay active, my friend!

  12. Jeff Croft said on

    Great post! For those of you attached to the computer for hours at a time, might I suggest yoga as a great way to start taking better care of yourself? For me, it’s been amazing. A great way to disconnect — or reconnect, depending on your perspective. :)

  13. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    DL and Derek, you are big inspirations to me.

  14. Stork said on

    If only there was a keep-fit/lose weight routine that didn’t involve anything as strenuous as “effort”… I’d be all over that.

  15. Chris Ota said on

    I agree with Jim Summer, great analogy with trainers and clients. I try to swim 5 times a week and it makes a huge overall difference in attitude (at work and at home). Nice write up.

  16. Diann said on

    Working with computers is known to create a trance-like state. Between that and the state of “flow” – the way hours can disappear when one is doing what one loves, many hours can be lost and patterns of human interaction can change. Social media often moves interactions from real life to a computer screen. I know what all my friends are doing on an hourly basis but see them less. Before I worked with computers I used to test as an ENTP in Myers Briggs. Now I test as an INTP, indicating I have moved from Extrovert to Introvert, at least for the purposes of that test. Computers are an amazing, wonderful tool, but as you say, they are no substitute for exercise or human interaction.

  17. Andy Ford said on

    Thanks for the Christina Hendricks visual. And good luck with the other stuff.

  18. adam said on

    I think we should have a meet up ! and do one lap around central (6.2 miles)or prospect park (3.5 miles)on sundays’ ! i’ve been running now for more then 10 years ! about 40 miles per week ! you know what they say , health is wealth ! and also the core is very important !

  19. jeffgtr said on

    Congratulations Jeffery. Getting into the routine of exercise is painful but worth it. I’m glad you have a trainer. I went for a year thinking I had an exercise routine. Then I signed up with a trainer for a couple months. The first day I was amazed at how I had not been working at it hard enough. I thought I was going to die. Reading your posts I know exactly how you feel. Working in front of a computer all day is about the most unhealthy thing one can do. Glad to hear you’re doing something to counter that. We need you around for a very long time!

  20. Mike said on

    I’ve been lifting weights on and off again for 8 years or so. When I made it to the gym after work, I trained hard, but getting there was difficult. 2 years ago I started going to work early so I could take a longer lunch and workout in the middle of the day. It was the best thing to happen to me in a long time. Now it’s in my schedule, and I’ve gone 4 days a week for the past 2 years. I love getting out of the office for a bit and having my evenings off! I recommend everyone try some type of exercise.

  21. DL Byron said on

    And reblogged on Bike Hugger.

  22. Brain Rule #1 said on

    Brain Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.

    http://www.brainrules.net/exercise

    John Medina’s “Brain Rules” is a great read,
    and his site is really informative.

    Two of the worst environments for the brain in
    regards to working and to learning? The cubicle and the classroom.

    Why exercise is the closest thing to a magic bullet:
    1. strengthens muscles and bones
    2. reduces risk of Alzheimer’s by 50%
    3. improves long-term memory’
    4. improves reasoning
    5. helps regulate appetite
    6. bolsters the immune system
    7. helps problem-solving
    8. decreases risk for diabetes
    9. helps treat depression
    …and more.

    Highly recommend this guy’s work;
    it’s informative, fascinating, and gives
    you a sense of awe at what’s inside your noggin.

  23. Christina Hendricks Gallery said on

    You lost me after you started talking about christina hendricks to be honest.

  24. John Lascurettes said on

    I’m still available to give you a tour of Portland by bike if you’re ever out this way and you pick up the commute by bike thing that you mentioned at AEA Seattle. I can point you to some tips on getting around with your daughter by bike too. I take my son 4 miles across town to kindergarten by bike.

    Bikes aren’t all spandex or messengers. There’s the whole Dutch chic thing going too. http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/

    Keep it up, that quality of life thing.

  25. Morten Brunbjerg Bech said on

    I used to go to the gym at least 3 times a week for around 10 years. Then I had a couple of kids, time got sparse and I felt I had to quit lifting the weights. Started to put on the running shoes instead, which was great for a while.

    However, I started to realize that running didn’t do the trick when having to work in front of a computer all day long. I was beginning to develop a kind of mouse injury, my forearms starting to hurt. So about a month ago, I went back to the gym and the weights, and the pain in my forearms “magically” disappeared within a couple of weeks.

    Point is, that there are other downsides to computer work than obesity. It sounds crazy, but you can actually get injured by sitting still too much and too long. Only thing that helps is to strengthen your body, if it’s not already too late.

    If you don’t punish your body, your body is going to punish you. So get off the couch and go to the gym.

  26. adam said on

    Only 48% of Americans say they meet the federal recommendation for exercising half an hour most days of the week, and the actual percentage is believed to be much lower. Exercise researchers estimate that nearly all sedentary people at one time or another have resolved and failed to maintain exercise programs.Some studies by other researchers have suggested that after eight weeks of regular exercising many people can settle into a long-term habit of working out.Unable to push yourself to exercise, i can call you weekly ! aimed at motivating the sedentary with a surprisingly simple technique—an occasional telephone reminder. lets do it ! wow i think we have a new idea ! who’s in ?

  27. New York Single Man said on

    That takes so much discipline right there especially when travelling. I believe if you keep up on what the gym instructor is telling you I believe that you will do just fine.

  28. John Angus said on

    Derek, You are really on to something.

    “This website was built entirely during normal daytime working hours, did not involve any all-nighters, and did not require more than a single cup of coffee or can of soda per day.”

    Can someone get a site up or some type of certification to reward sites that people didn’t kill themselves on? Is there a movement here? People for the Ethical Treatment of Techies!

  29. Evan Skuthorpe said on

    You write so well. If you ever fail at web design I’m sure you could have a career as a journalist.

  30. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    You write so well. If you ever fail at web design I’m sure you could have a career as a journalist.

    Thank you In my youth, I wrote for the Washington City Paper and The Washington Post.

  31. Top Fitness Gal said on

    I agree, having a trainer helps a lot. It makes losing weight more fun.

  32. Fitness said on

    An additional incentive to invest in your own fitness home gym..this is better and you can save money

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