Why strength training will make you a better developer
4 min read
Having trained consistently for a bit over a decade, I've come to believe that some physical training experience is an incredible asset as an IT person. Some of the upsides are fairly obvious, but others are a bit more unintuitive.
But let's get the clear downside out of the way...
Finding the time
Exercising requires setting some time aside, even more so when you want to do it consistently. Dialed-in sleep is even more important than exercise so sacrificing your sleep to get exercise is a very bad idea.
For me working out in the morning works quite well. It gives me more energy for the rest of the day and it allows me to spend time with my 2 kids in the afternoon/evening. It also doesn't require me to interrupt my work and allows me to go to sleep easily. Training in the evening hurts my schedule because I'm amped up and I can't sleep.
It's fairly clear that living longer is useful and that it's easier to work without back pain, so I won't go into that. Like most IT people I also have some trouble with impostor syndrome and getting a bit of confidence boost from being fit is quite welcome.
Supplementation and carryover to overall life
There are some basic supplements you'll come across when considering strength training. One of them is creatine and it is extremely well-researched and is overall pretty awesome. It can even make you smarter and improve your brain health with literally no downsides. Omega-3 (which you would be taking to help with inflammation) will also help with memory.
So while an extreme bodybuilder lifestyle of blasting steroids and other substances will completely wreck your health and well-being, dipping a bit into supplementation which is something that seems to naturally happen when you exercise is something that can help tremendously with IT-related jobs.
I've found that good memory can be an absolute game-changer to make a difference at work. Doesn't matter if you're working on a new project (where good memory will help get onboarded and productive faster) or if you've been working longer on a project (where good memory will pay off big time because you have a huge pool of knowledge to draw from).
Patience and humility
Rome wasn't built in a day and your body won't be either. In the beginning just "showing up" for training can be difficult. With time, progression will start to hit diminishing returns. If setting training goals like calisthenics moves or goal lifts there will come a time when you have to work for a very long time to get somewhere.
It took me around 6 years to be able to overhead press my body weight (a bit over 90kg). In terms of IT, consider how long you'd be willing to work on something before giving up. Exercise will teach you to keep at it and overcome periods where progress may seem slow or even receding.
It has also taught me to not compare myself to others (exercise progress can be insanely specific and prone to genetic predispositions, especially when considering bodyweight moves). This is something that helped me better relate to others in my day-to-day job. Exercise makes this very easy to understand, and I don't dwell on things I can't change but focus on what I can do to improve the status quo.
When unable to progress in a calisthenics skill or lift it is paramount to determine the "weak link" to break the plateau. Finding the weak link is something that can in fact be more difficult than actually fixing it! This helps on the job when dealing with feedback or criticism. Imagine being positively excited about criticism because you know how valuable this will be to further your experience and career!
Focus and time to think
Training helps me think about my upcoming work. It can be exhausting, sure, but I find that during and after exercising my mind can wander a lot and explore ideas. Sometimes I'll spend all evening worrying about a problem at work I don't know how to solve, just to get a really good idea during training, stretching or while showering afterward.
Meditation probably works just as well, but for me so far, a nice strength training session is by far the easiest way to get to this magic state of mind where I can focus on something without any distractions.
Your mileage may vary of course - I'm not a big fan of group workouts and spending time on social media while training.
As you've probably been hearing for most of your life, exercising is good for you! But in my opinion, it is something that can help your career as well. Positions with any semblance of creativity or concentration requirement will greatly benefit from it. I also outlined how strength training (which I practice as a "single-player" activity) helps me interact with co-workers.
So why not give it a whirl like Stefan and try leveling up your mind and body?