As developers we often do not consider our physical fitness to be important for our work. While not essential, it makes a big impact on our performance and overall productivity. I started with running to improve my health but soon discovered other benefits.
Often it’s not easy to find yourself time for exercise. Knowing it only takes an hour of your time and you come back refreshed, makes it easier to fit in your schedule. Have 5 minutes for a warm up, 30 for a run, 10 post run stretch and you’re still left with 15 minutes for a shower.
Sometimes the day just isn’t going well. Everything you touch breaks, nothing is making sense and your colleague Greg didn’t merge your PR because you used let instead of const. Getting away from keyboard and going for a run can help you focus better when you get back to a given task. You’ll see it with fresh eyes and mind, and it will be easier to focus again. This way you can get much more done than if you try to force yourself to do something you just don’t feel like doing.
Many times I struggled to fix the bug or find a solution to ‘unsolvable’ problem for hours only to figure it out in my head during the exercise. When I’m running my brain is relaxed and my mind wanders to mysterious areas of humanity and life on the earth. If there’s something nagging me in the back of my mind, it naturally dissolves into clear solution or series of small steps to take, that will help me to solve the mystery.
No matter how much pressure is on me it always goes away during the run. Tomorrow’s deadline for impossible task suddenly doesn’t matter at all when you are short of breath and fighting the thirst. Even after the exercise, stress levels can’t compete with load of endorphins in your body.
When you successfully beat stress and have regular ‘top-up’ of endorphins, you become a much happier person. In my case I became more optimistic. There’s no more long term stress that could have a bad effect on my mental health. And after you became happier, you’re more capable of spreading happiness too which will make you more likeable person. Of course there are other causes than stress that can make you depressed, but I found that running helps me cope a little better with anything life throws at me.
If you think morning run means you’ll be drained for the rest of the day, expect the opposite. Your body will wake up much more quickly and the energy will last for the whole day. It might get some time getting used to earlier wake-ups but benefits that come with it are worth it. Eventually exhaustion will catch you up in the evening when it’s time for bed, which guarantees better sleep.
Lot of people say that running is boring and not for them. That’s fine I don't argue with them, I used to say the same. However when I started I found it enjoyable and now consider it part of my routine. There are many ways to keep yourself motivated. I recommend keeping track of your personal bests and try to beat them (shadow race your previous time using endomondo), race your friends times, escape from zombies or if you like beer try doing both!
If you are a runner too let me know in the comments other productivity benefits you have discovered.