Growing up in Australia, I was always active: swimming, playing sports, dancing — you name it, I did it. I continued to have a healthy lifestyle all through college, and even became a certified Pilates instructor, teaching athletes how to improve their game using muscles they didn’t know they had.
Then I got my first desk job, and it hit me: It’s really difficult to stay healthy when you work at a desk all day. That realization is part of what motivated me to found Fitspot Wellness with my co-founder Jon, a company that helps people get healthier at work. Today, we offer on-site workouts, educational workshops, stress relief services, and more to companies across the country.
But building a business from scratch is not easy. I’ve learned that there’s an insane amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a startup, from hiring to ensuring that our wellness services are running smoothly. I often work 12 hours (or more) days and have missed out on weddings, birthdays and weekends.
As anyone knows, spending that much time staring at a screen, skipping meals and not allocating time for self-care, isn’t doing your body or mind any favors. Since health and wellness are so important to me, both professionally and personally, I’m determined not to let my health (or sanity!) fall by the wayside as we continue to grow Fitspot. Through much trial and error, I’ve learned what works for me — and for our clients — over the last few years. Here are my top tips.
1) Stretch It Out
We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. While I don’t think my desk chair is literally going to kill me, I do believe that adding a little movement to your day is essential. I take a stretch break two or three times a day to do a few of these simple stretches at my desk. Sometimes, I’ll invite my coworkers into the conference room and lead a longer stretch sessions (or dance breaks) to ease our tense shoulders and backs.
2) Meditate in the Morning
As you probably know, the benefits of meditation are nearly endless—from lower blood pressure and improved sleep to less stress and anxiety. That’s why I try to do 10 minutes of meditation, usually using the Headspace app, every morning. It helps me tune inward and start my day on a calm, peaceful note before heading into the chaos of the office. It does take time to see the effects of practicing meditation daily but I have found that these mindful moments help me stay centered and make better decisions throughout the day.
3) Hire a Coach
I have regular coaching sessions with a leadership coach (who I treat like a therapist) who helps me become a better leader and helps me tackle the areas I’m working to improve, such as giving clear directions to my team; requesting help from team members; or learning how to give better feedback.
4) Schedule Regular Workouts
Even though I can’t exercise every day, I try to get in a solid workout four times per week. I rotate between yoga and stretching to high-intensity, butt-kicking kickboxing classes, and I am always up to try the newest fitness trends—from pole dancing to pilates on a surfboard. If I don’t get in my workout, I know I won’t feel as accomplished and centered at work and won’t sleep as well at night, so it’s essential for my overall mood and well-being. I also try to take most phone meetings outside to walk around and breathe in some fresh air.
5) Write Daily To-Do Lists
Every morning, I start my day by writing a fresh to-do list on pen and paper, carrying over any remaining tasks from the day before. The act of crossing off items at the end of the day is beyond satisfying.
6) Drink Tons of H2O
As anyone in the office will tell you, I’m always refilling my water bottle from the filters in the fridge (confession: I am guilty of not refilling the near empty Brita). Staying hydrated is so important at work, helping boost energy levels, fight fatigue, and even improve my focus. Plus, filling up throughout the day always give me a good opportunity to chat with colleagues in the kitchen.
7) Delegate As Much As Possible
Even though I’m a control freak, I know that in order to be successful, you have to trust people to do their jobs and let them prove that they’re capable. After all we’ve hired the people we’ve hired for a reason.
8) Surround Yourself with Smart People
Speaking of people, I always try to hire people who I can learn from. As a founder, you have to be highly aware of your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. And that’s where the “company you keep” comes in: I’ve learned you need to hire people who are better at certain things than you are so you will constantly learn and develop your own skills. Never stop learning.
9) Order What You Can Online
This has been a time (and life) saving hack: I order office essentials from Amazon Prime (everything from toilet paper to coffee cups) and use Instacart to order groceries for the week. I sometimes use a meal delivery service for dinners during the week so I don’t have to worry about cooking when I get home from a long day. I do not do well when I am hungry so I always must have food on hand.
10) Meal Prep on Sundays
Over the weekend, I make a variety of food that I can pack for work over the week ahead — oatmeal for breakfast, or roasted veggies, chicken, and grains like quinoa or rice for lunch. It saves me a ton of time during the week, and helps me make smarter choices at lunch, instead of going to the delicious but unhealthy restaurants across the street.
11) Get a Standing Desk
I switch off between sitting and standing all day long. When I sit down, I make sure to adjust my monitor so I’m not straining my neck to look at the screen, preventing aches and possibly pain down the line. I also find I focus better and think more clearly when I stand.
12) Schedule Monthly Dinners
I don’t know what I’d do without my supportive group of girl friends who are also in the startup community here in Atlanta. We go to dinner or drinks at least once or twice a month, where we talk about big (and small!) wins we’ve had, drink some wine and have a good gossip. You tend to lose your social life when you’re running a business, so it’s important to talk about other things besides your work.
13) Watch a Good Netflix Show
Running a startup, I don’t often turn “off.” My mind is always racing onto the next project or step for the company, but sometimes, I can sense that I simply need to unplug and simply decompress. I do that by reading a great book or streaming a show on Netflix. My current faves: Wild, Wild Country or Better Call Saul (I’m only on Season 3, so don’t ruin anything for me).
Sammy Courtright is co-founder and COO of Fitspot Wellness, a corporate wellness provider that’s making workplaces more active for more people.