Working from home is brilliant. I love it. It’s one of my top two work-related choices ever. It’s not without its challenges, though.
One of the main challenges of working from home is remembering to go outside occasionally. Another challenge is remembering to exercise. It’s easy to get seduced by the glowing allure of shiny screens and just one more coffee.
However, earlier this year, I read The Extended Mine by Annie Murphy Paul. It’s a brilliant book, and I highly recommend it if you own a brain and want to get the best out of it. In brief, the book explains why you shouldn’t consider your brain in isolation when thinking about how best to work. Your brain is, after all, part of your body, and they evolved in tandem. What you do to and with your body can massively affect your brain. Your environment also plays a huge factor in your levels of focus, creativity and happiness.
“It’s through exerting our body that our brains become ready for the kind of knowledge work so many of us do today.”
—The Extended Mind, page 52
“Moderate-intensity exercise, practised for a moderate length of time, improves our ability to think both during and immediately after the activity. The positive changes documented by scientists include an increase in the capacity to focus attention and resist distraction; greater verbal fluency and cognitive flexibility; enhanced problem-solving and decision-making abilities; increased working memory, as well as more durable long-term memory for what is learned”
—The Extended Mind, pages 50–51
“Very intense exercise, extended over a relatively long period, can induce a kind of altered state conducive to creative thought.”
—The Extended Mind, page 52
“People who have recently spent time amid outdoor greenery catch more errors on a proof-reading assignment…than do people who have just finished a walk in an urban setting.”
—The Extended Mind, page 96
“People are more creative during and after walking than when they are sitting still.”
—The Extended Mind, page 65
This is highly relevant to my job. Virtually everything I do revolves around creativity and focus. Anything I can do to increase my levels of both would seem eminently suitable.
When you have a (slightly mad) black labrador, you go outside every day. When you no longer have a (slightly mad) black labrador, it’s amazing how quickly you don’t have time to go for a daily walk. It’s amazing how I can make time for a run, but making time to lift weights is almost impossible. It’s as if I enjoy one pastime and not the other.
But I know I need to lift and carry more weight, and I clearly need to spend more time outside. We have a stretch of ancient coastal woodland virtually on our doorstep. (From one of the points on the wooded coastal path, which lies about 500 meters from my front door, I quasi-regularly see dolphins. Epic.) I should be walking in it more often; the benefits, both personally and professionally, are legion.
If only there was an activity that would tick all those boxes…
What is rucking? Essentially, rucking is putting a heavy (for you) weight in your backpack and going for a walk. It can get far more intense than that by the looks of things, but for me, at the moment, that’s rucking.
- Rucking gets me outside (in the woods).
- Rucking gets me carrying a heavy (for me) weight.
- Rucking most definitely counts as exercise.
- Burns more calories than walking (enabling me to drink more booze).
- Strengthens my leg muscles (enabling me to run faster).
- Strengths my back muscles (enabling me to not be the wisened old man my boys seem to think I am).
- Strengthens by core (enabling me to use my abs as an emergency washboard if required).
And it does all that while boosting my creativity and ability to proofread.
So, I’m adding rucking to my arsenal of exercise. I’m even listening to the experts and starting light by adding a 20 lb plate to my bag when I head out into the woods. I’ve obviously got my eye on the 30 lb plate, but I’m going to break myself in properly first. It is harder than it looks.
Have You Rucked Recently?
Are you a rucker? Have you rucked recently? Have you got any tips for me? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.