Running a business is demanding. But eating well, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep all help us to be more productive.

Business owners are notoriously bad at looking after their health.
We can be bad at scheduling breaks and find ourselves eating on the run.
Thinking about business often keeps us awake at night.

We asked Charlie Hart of Charlie Hart Fitness to answer questions on how to get fit and stay fit for business.

This is a transcript of a conversation in the Drive The Network Facebook Group.

How to get a good night’s sleep

Andrea Joyce What are your top tips for restful sleep? I really struggle to switch off.

Charlie Hart The most common problems are as follows:
1. Caffeine past 2pm
2. Blue light before bed (any screen but mobile phones are the worst)
3. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every night.

Emma James Getting up at the same time each day, even at weekends, made such a massive difference for me.

Rachel Extance Not taking the phone upstairs with me at night made a huge difference to me. We used to charge them by the bed. Out of sight, out of mind. Really helps.

Move more regularly

Andrea Joyce Exercise is my sanity. What I often wonder Charlie, is should I do a stretching routine and a plank every morning or just wait until I can blast it all in the gym?

Charlie Hart I believe stretching as often as possible is better than doing it all at once. We were built to move all of the time not just for an hour per day. Supple leopards don’t need to warm up, they just sprint!

And you can never do too many planks.

Rachel Extance Following on from Andrea’s question, I’d like to know more about stretching. I’m not flexible at all. Where do I start?

Charlie Hart This video has some great tips!

Rachel Extance I like this and I can completely see this should be part of my daily routine. Planks. Hmmm… How do you gradually get into being able to do the plank?

Charlie Hart Planks are a tricky exercise at first. What I don’t show in that video is a kneeling plank. Do the same but on your knees (making sure to lift the abs and lower the bum). It doesn’t matter if your plank is only 10 seconds long to start. As ever practice makes perfect.

Another great exercise for those building up to a plank is a deadbug.

How to tackle the laptop slouch

Ann Hawkins What advice do you have for people who are sitting at a desk all day? Are short bursts of activity better than none?

Charlie Hart A sedentary lifestyle is a big risk to your health. Your body is designed to move and almost all of your organs depend on movement to work effectively. You should aim to walk as much as possible but also regularly. I believe short bursts are better than a single long burst. Ideally you should move every hour or so to allow the blood to fill the limbs and for waste products in the body to move. This will also aid the digestive system, the cardiovascular system and elevate your mood.

Stretching and exercises that stress the muscles and lungs are the gold standard, but you don’t need to drip with sweat to reap the benefits.

Rachel Extance Following on from Ann’s question: any advice for helping us get rid of the laptop slouch?

Charlie Hart On top of movement, posture is critical. Setting your work space up in a sensible way will really help but it will also take a considerable amount of conscious effort. You should aim to aline your neck and spine, tighten your abs and open your airways.

Ann Hawkins Many years ago I learned The Alexander Technique. I was taught to imagine my body was attached to a thread that came out of the top of my head and my body was perfectly balanced and straight, hanging from that thread.
Also learned how using the tummy muscles strengthens and supports the back. (Especially important when you’re nursing / carrying babies!)

Charlie Hart Ann Hawkins I love that trick! Once you have ‘balanced’ this way you should try to breath deeply into your abs without lifting your shoulders.

The ‘core’ muscles do support the back, especially when combined with mild tension in your bum muscles. Give it a go right now.
1. Stand up tall
2. Tighten your core muscles by pulling your belly button to your spine.
3. Squeeze your bum like your pinching a coin.
4. Breath deeply
Note: Don’t strain your muscles, just make them work a tiny bit. Do you notice any relief in your back muscles?

Your abs are more than just your tummy muscles

Charlie Hart Think of abs like a tree trunk. Your front, back and sides are in a constant push pull fight to keep you upright but you also need to think about the legs, shoulders, chest and bum muscles. There’s a picture here which helps: http://plantnews.net/2016/09/how-to-fix-anterior-pelvic-tilt/

Not an ideal image, but it helps to explain how different muscles can change our posture in different ways. The 3rd image (sway back) is the most common as the bum is disengaged, the hips are tight and upper back muscles are doing a lot of work.

You will be amazed how much better your back can feel with just simple practices. Helping people live pain free is one of the greatest joys I find in my work!

How to eat well

Ann Hawkins Charlie, we’ve touched on sleep and exercise, what about eating well? Are you a calorie counter / carb bandit / something else?

Charlie Hart Eating well is a tricky subject to cover in a group because everyone will have very devise needs and tastes. My biggest goal regarding diets for most people is to CUT OUT THE RUBBISH! If you regularly eat sugary processed foods, simple carbs (bread, pasta, oats etc) and drink booze this is your main problem in terms of health and well being.

That being said, here are a few rules of thumb for dieting:
1. Be consistent. Its not good eating well 3 months out of 12 and yoyo dieting. Make changes you can live with for life.
2. Eat more veg and drink more water.
3. Learn to control your cravings and stop your self before (or during!) a binge

Daljit Virdee I believe most people want to eat healthier, but the barriers to that are a combination of time, money, availability, and taste.So, what would you advise for those who like a hot, tasty meal (especially in the winters!), but are very busy Drive members, and who don’t have the budget for a personal chef? 😉 Also, if then buying lunch outside, we either end up with sandwiches (simple carbs), or cold, wet, often soggy, salads; neither of which taste amazing, but it’s a case of “that’ll do”… What to do?

Charlie Hart In order to maintain a healthy diet you have to be willing to put in the work and make time for it.

Your actions need to match your ambitions. If you want to eat healthier you might have to eat foods outside of your current diet and sacrifice some flavour (or the fact its warm) in order to do this.

Another option would be intermittent fasting. When I first started personal training and my diary filled up, I would worry about when and what I would eat on busy days. My solution? To skip lunch or breakfast in order to create more time and eat a larger meal later on.

Good, fast choices from supermarkets include:
Packets of cooked chicken
Seed and nut snack bags (avoid the sugary ones!)
Salads, although they can be soggy 🙁

Ann Hawkins SOUP! Soup is the answer! So easy to make, so cheap, so amazingly warm, spicy, full of flavour, full of vegetables, lentils, pulses and anything that takes your fancy. Make it really thick and chunky or smooth and creamy (without cream). Easy to warm up in an office microwave or take it in a flask. You can have a different flavour every day. Make it in big batches and freeze in portions. I love soup! Follow with some fresh fruit and you’re sorted 🙂

Would you like to know more? Get in touch with Charlie Hart.