Exercising For Developers
Something that is often overlooked...
When you signed up for a coding newsletter, I doubt the word exercise popped into your head.
When it comes to coding, most of us have plenty of stories about staying up all night, drinking 5 Red Bulls, or sitting in a chair for 16 hours straight just to solve a bug.
Exercise is massively overlooked in software development. Maybe this is due to so many developers being in their 20’s or even younger.
Now’s the time
No matter how old you are, if you are a sedentary engineer like I used to be, you need to start working out.
During covid, I would barely leave my house. This is terrible for cardiovascular health.
Enter Zone 2
What should you focus on? Everyone’s goals are different. My goal is to maximize longevity and have as many enjoyable years as possible. If your goal is to run an Ironman or other events, this plan will not be for you. You will need to do a lot more if that’s the case.
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Zone 2 can mean a lot of things. If you google it, some sites will talk about Zone 2 heart rate or perceived exertion. When I talk about Zone 2 exercise, I am referring to a metabolic state in your body.
Zone 2 is defined as your highest metabolic output/work that you can sustain while keeping your lactate level below two millimole per liter (mmol/L) - Peter Attia
The goal is to be as close to 2 mmol/L of lactate in your blood. Figuring this out involves finger pricking, similar to glucose monitoring. However, I have included a couple videos which go over how to estimate it without purchasing one.
P.S. I have one of these meters, so I can confirm, the tips to estimate it are pretty close.
It’s around the effort level of being able to hold a conversation, while also having a hard time breathing. Meaning, it’s fairly easy, but not too easy.
This is counter to many things you see in popular culture. Nonstop HIIT (high intensity interval training) and pushing yourself to the limit every exercise. However, this fails to properly train your aerobic base.
Here’s an in depth video for the nerds out there who want to know everything:
Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death. Doing 4 hours a week at this effort level, you should be able to increase your VO2 max to above average for your age group, and live longer.
The biggest thing I notice after doing this consistently, is a lower heart rate during my sleep, roughly 45-50bpm compared to 5 beats higher with no exercise.
This is the best because you are able to set a wattage level, for instance 120 watts.
No matter how fast or slow you pedal, the resistance will adjust and force you to only put out 120 watts.
Contrast this with a run or bike outside. You will stop for traffic, go slower, then faster.
It’s very hard to stay at a perfect pace outdoors.
You are able to raise your heart rate and effort level to the exact spot that it needs to be for an hour on a trainer, which keeps your body right on the edge of its aerobic output, thus leading to maximum gains in cardio fitness.
If you can’t afford this, another good way to do it is on a treadmill. You can increase the incline so much that a walk or slow jog will get you into this zone.
I find having a trainer at home allows me to fit an hour in each day much more easily, because I do not have to get a lot of clothes ready, or drive somewhere first.
For tips on finding Zone 2 without a lactate meter, see the video below:
If you’re wondering why you should trust the guys in this video, well… One of them is a doctor focused on longevity. The other, has done many things, including training two-time Tour De France winner Tadej Pogacar.
These guys know their stuff and it’s completely backed by science. I highly recommend listening to the full podcast and hearing what they say.
Don’t forget strength
This post has gotten quite long just covering Zone 2 cardio, so I will keep this short. Strength training is very important too. I recommend doing about 3 hours at the gym each week. I personally do one day on arms and back. Another on legs, with the final day on my shoulders and back. If you’re interested in a follow up post about strength training and the machines / reps / anything else. Let me know.
For maximal health, being above average in your age group, you want to do 1 hour a day, 4 times per week of Zone 2 exercise. In addition, 3 hours of strength training is ideal.
I’m not able to hit 7 hours every week. I usually get my 4 hours of zone 2 by Thursday, and I end up missing one or two days at the gym depending on how busy I am.
As I get older, those strength days will become more important as we lose a lot of muscle every decade as we start to get close to age 50.
If anyone is interested in a bigger summary or more in depth information on this subject, please let me know!
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