The journo’s workout plan
by Cassidy Herrington
The textbook qualities of a successful journalist we’re often told are the obvious ones: curious, independent and determined, to name a few.
But a few underlying health-related attributes make those fundamental qualities possible. A journalist needs to be agile, energetic and responsive – sounds a bit like a cunning Olympic speed skater, right?
Before I started my current job as a full-time reporter, I was freelancing and teaching Pilates classes. I lived and worked in stretchy yoga pants. My routine was effortlessly active and balanced.
One month into my new job, I started to notice some changes to my health, energy and well-being. My shoulders began to round slightly forward in a seemingly perpetual state of on-deadline-typing posture. My energy levels tanked throughout the day. I felt I needed to wheel around an IV bag, swollen with double-brewed espresso, to keep me buzzing. I lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling, while my mind hummed with Tweets, headlines and assignments.
I was fully immersed (or so I thought) in the work I most enjoy, but it was costing me my vitality.
So I laid down the law, and made my health a priority. While this may seem selfish (okay, let’s be honest, it is), my productivity soared. I was promoted during my fourth month, and my job description subsequently doubled.
With a sturdy health-first infrastructure in place, I manage to stay calm and resolute.
Here are a few changes I’ve woven into my routine that keep me alert, poised and relaxed – even under unnerving pressure or deadlines.
- Protein-dense snacks. I keep beef jerky and almonds in my desk drawer. Protein doesn’t cause sudden drops in blood sugar, and it keeps the body satiated longer than a carb-rich granola bar. You can thank me the next time you have to cover a breaking story around dinnertime.
- A large, refillable water bottle/jug/mason jar. Keyword: refillable. Keep rehydrating those cells all day long.
- Swap out the office chair for a stability ball or standing desk. This is a constant reminder to engage your core (abdominals) and draw your shoulders back. Good posture is imperative. Proper alignment means optimal organ function, therefore, a better quality of life.
- Take the stairs (obvious).
- Bike to work. Some days, my morning commute may be the only chance I get to exercise, and it has become the highlight of my day. Plus, the optimal on-the-street perspective is an advantage for journalists: it could help you spot a story that might otherwise go unnoticed. For example: “Why so many potholes?,” Why is that home boarded up?”, or perhaps, “Was that the mayor who just passed me on a unicycle?”
- Finally, set aside time to disconnect. Ten minutes is all you need. I recommend the app, Headspace, for a guided, end-of-the day meditation. You can also set up push notifications to remind you to take a deep breath, stay present and remember — life is good, as a journalist.
Cass Herrington is the host of WNIN’s All Things Considered and The Trend. Follow her on Twitter @CassHerrington.
Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the publics right to know either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.