Being a good programmer vs. Having a good health

Iren Korkishko on August 12, 2019

My husband is an amazing programmer. He now works primarily with Python, but made his way through Ruby, Angular, being extremely interested in Go, ... [Read Full]
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At the end of the day health should be our number 1 priority. Only when it is gone do we really miss it and from the sounds of it your husband is going to be a very unhealthy man as he ages. It is imperative that he works out and gets exercise otherwise your later years are just going to be miserable.

Personally I work out 2x per day (weights at lunch, boxing in the evening) I appreciate this is not sustainable for everyone but there is basically no excuse for not spending a few hours a week to improve your quality of life.

 

Make appointments for him at the gym. Put it on his calendar, turn off the WiFi 10min before the appointment. I hate that, but it works on me.

He's probably doing a lot of reading. Google (the verb :D) health stuff on his phone regularly, so he will get these articles suggested along with all the programming related ones. He'll hopefully develope a sense for his health.

Do some sports yourself and let him know how good you feel about it.

He can be lucky, to have someone to take so much care; health is really important, and sitting is killing you (as well as sugary drinks, replace his Coke and RedBull with green tea or Puh Er tea).

 

Oh, he loves Cola so much! I hate when he drinks it :) And about turning off the WiFi - that is too risky, because he hates when he's forced to do something (and the negotiations do not help). Stubborn man! But I once conferred him to make make some yoga at home. He tried, he liked, but soon he forgot his intend, and we turned to the beginning point...

 

What helped me get off of Coca-Cola was switching from Coke to Diet Coke and then to Coke Zero and then to water. It's so addictive that for some people only a progressive way of getting rid of it will work. That worked for me and I really do not miss the taste of Coke.

I also used Loop - Habit Tracker to keep track of how many days in a row I did not drink a Coke. Having a visible track record is very important as you start to want to avoid breaking the chain by keeping up the habit.

 

Maybe you can agree on one no-computer/internet day per week, e.g. Sundays. Or an internet-fasting for one weekend every month. I have the feeling, that programming is addictive, thus there will always be a pain if you can't do it for a day or two, but one can un-learn that addiction.

 

Here's what works for me:

I always carry a notebook (as in pen & paper) with me, so I can record any programming ideas. Even if I won't record any (and most of the time I don't), it gives me comfort that I could if I wanted.

A bit less often I pack in a laptop. Again, I'm not likely to use it during a trip, but having it gives the sense of easy reach again.

A visit to nerdy social events (programming language group, for example) is always a great excuse to go out as well.

 

Thanks! That might works. Especially I love the idea to encourage him to participate to programming camps and conferences.

 
 

@Neil
Just listened through all of it. Some great advices for all developers or in general for all people who like to obsess about their work in there.

I can relate to a lot of things you are talking about and for me a good balance-creator is travel, sports and community. I love programming though, so I always need to make sure I don't end up in an obsession loop and force myself out here and there. Also for me it always helps, to take some time before starting to work, and try to think about my intrinsic motivation about my upcoming tasks.

@Iren
I really hope, that you can give your husband the right support. Reaching out the way you do is already a great step you do. I hope, he will listen to all the input given here and understands, that by doing so, he is just feeding into being a more productive developer and a more balanced person in the end.

<3

 

I understand that you are worried about his physical health. Of course it's super important. But maybe you need to worry first about his mental state. The symptoms you describe depict somebody who is just trying too hard. He needs to understand that balance is a very important discipline to learn. Balance is everything. May I suggest some good talk or maybe even counseling?

 

I do understand the need to take care of his mental health, I do. And we even tried once. I hope to talk him out, and then to talk him to a specialist, who might be more convincing then I am.

 

If he insists on staying at his desk, it would be a good idea to make it as ergonomic as possible (although, it would probably keep him at his desk even longer). Ergonomic chairs, sit/stand desks will prevent damage the neck/spine/shoulders. If he wears glasses, blue filter lenses would help if he doesn’t do any front end/colour critical work. Maybe an under desk “bike” or treadmill.

If he’s up to it, schedule in a no-excuses weekly walk (other activities available) for you both. He’ll know it’s coming so he can wrap up his code/learning. He can always continue after if he really wants 😓

 

He's having an ergonomic chair and table (and special glasses). But it doesn't help. I think to suggest him at least to try working standing? What do you think?

 

For sure. 15-30 mins per hour standing should help with the issues around sitting around all day. I have a foam pad to stand on so my feet don’t get sore. I know people to have gotten balance boards to burn a couple calories as they stand

Thanks! I hope we'll try this way soon. At least, this is the smallest step that might be having a good impact.

 

It is so important to stop and smell the roses, invest in some nice bikes and hit the trails, maybe a weekend off the grid camping. I found a Sunday soccer club to join that keeps me moving and social with other professionals in my field.

 

Find something he finds interesting.

There are lots of interesting things, like Airsoft (I personally love it) or medieval fight. Workout without any fun tends to be boring, especially for someone who's not used exercise.

Talk with him about it and show interest in join with him.

 

Well, we both love PS and Nintendo. And animals. And programming. I'd like him to visit more conferences (at least this is a kind of activity too). So I'll try to get him involved in the live of the community.

 

This is going to be unpopular, but you can't change him. He's an adult, he gets to make his decisions about how he wants to spend his time. Your job is to decide whether this is something you're willing to accept.

If the prospect of getting ill and not being able to take care of you and your family doesn't motivate him, I'm not sure anything you say will have an effect. It will just drive him further away from you because you're trying to control him. No one likes someone trying to control them.

In fact, that might be why it's getting harder and harder to distract him from the laptop. He doesn't like it when you tell him what he should do, so he's avoiding you.

I know you have your husband's best interest at heart. You love him. It hurts you to see him like this. But trying to control him doesn't work. You've tried, it doesn't work. If I knew how to help you control someone else, I would be the richest person on the planet.

It's time to have a close relationship with him as he is right now. From there, you can influence him.

 

I've found that changing tasks that needs to be done into a game works surprisingly well.

I can be in the form of an app, stickers on a sheet, excel file... List what needs to be done (gym, chores, etc...) and assign rewards and bonuses to each.
Make sure there is a list to complete, since we humans like to see progress visually.

At the most extreme case you could even reward computer time for each task completed.

The list doesn't need to be long, it just needs to exists. You can also take part into this activity too! Don't forget to split the list into smaller tasks when needed.

Good luck!

 

Thank for the advise, mlaj! But unfortunately, small tasks are taken as a waste of time and he doesn't like when it's something he is forced to do.

 

Depends on what it is he likes about programming, I guess... If it is the creativity and problem solving, it is possible to find this in other places as well. This is my driving factor, and I have found the same aspects in martial arts. Here you can find fast and slow styles to match his overall mentality.

If it the computer he loves, then build around it. I have a timer kicking off every fifteen minutes, getting me to switch between sitting and standing. If you want to go all the way, there is the possibility of getting a desk treadmill. They are quite popular and will net you about a 10k walk during a normal work day

 

For people who live really sedentary lives, it's much harder to get them to go the gym. I was like this previously.

What I've done is make it very easy and convenient for myself to get in quick bursts of exercise.

For example, I keep a pair of weights next to my desk. I also, because I work remotely, have an exercise mat permanently rolled out on my floor. Whenever I see the mat, it sends me a subtle signal that I should do some exercise.

Because I have the tools in front of me, it's very easy for me to just do five minutes of bicep curls or of you sets of push ups and crunches.

In fact, this was kind of a gateway for me. After about 6 months of doing this, I started craving more exercise and do in fact go to the gym regularly.

 

This is a good advise, Alan! Thanks so much!

 
 

I was like that also and then I got a dog. It forced me to go out to walk at least 3 times a day.

 

I think that might be a good solution. Besides, we love animals. Once my husband said that he'd like to have a dog. But now we live in quite a small apartment. I hope when we'll move to a bigger one, we'll have a dog, and he'll become more active.

 

Take breaks throughout the day and exercise. Pay attention to your diet as well. This will make him even a better programmer.

 
 

What? I love this man, I want him to be healthy. For me, and for our future. If I was so easy to give up, I wouldn't even start this discussion. And I don't understand people like you who suggest such terrible things. Besides, I was asking about how to help him, not about should I be with him or not.

 

Love is truly something but when it comes to care taking a grown person, you should question yourself.
Divorcing is kind of a blunt statement but I've written it after reading your responses on people's advice; you tried many of them already but nothing worked (at least in the long term)
What I want to say, is just have some self-respect. If you think the case's worth it, go for it.

I am speaking as someone being in your husband's shoes. I just put my girlfriend/fitness/other things above/along programming (which I truly love as well)
It's just a matter of prioritizing.

P.S. In relationships, in many cases people are not willing to change. If that is true with yours, you may have to ultimately accept him for what he is...

If you mean accepting those suffer he feels every time with his spine, stomach, head and neck - I will not accept this. I'm going to do my best for him to stay a great programmer, but to become a healthy man. I am going to make him understand the causes and take some actions.
If I hadn't succeeded yet doesn't mean I should stop trying. Maybe he just need a unique approach.

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