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Get Up Off That Thing!

I was in grade school when my mother bought our first personal computer. It was an Apple II/c and I eventually learned key passages of the user manual quasi by heart. The one that fascinated me the most was a paragraph in the back, where they talked about accessories you could get for your computer. I would read about this thing called a modem that allowed you to connect with other weirdos like yourself [myself] and I’d go all dreamy-eyed.

Fast forward to 2019 and like a growing segment of the world population, a good chunk of my entertainment, a non-negligible amount of my socializing and nearly all my income is secured via this series of tubes. All I need is power, a decent ‘net connection, and all systems go. I could theoretically hike to the top of the Morne Laselle and bang out translations so flawless you’d get a tear in your eye.

In theory.

In real life, it means my work commute is a 10 foot walk from my bedroom door to my [not-so-little] desk corner in the living room.

So I, like untold numbers of freelancers, have to put in thought, deliberation and a bit of self-trickery into staying hearty and hale. In the absence of stairs to climb up, or photocopiers to take a brisk walk to, how does one stay as limber of body as of mind? How do I, like Janelle, get the vim to last forever and the vigour to dance all night?

Oh, let me count the ways…

Take a Break…

My first tool is my work break timer, Workrave, an open source title that I’ve used for over 15 years. You can set up two kinds of breaks, both of which lock down access to your computer for amounts of time to your liking. If you’re ultra-disciplined you can also set it up to lock down your computer completely for the day. (Not my Netflix-infused life, I can guarantee you that!).

Workrave has a built in sequence of recommended exercises meant to relieve the most frequent desk bound worker ailments: eye strain, tension in arms and shoulders, etc. Over the years I’ve gleaned my own resources here and there to add a bit of variety. I am forever indebted to the Workrave team – but those exercises haven’t changed since 2003…

… Or Break A Sweat

Those strategies have been helpful in keeping the worst of the kinks and knots at bay during the workday. The larger challenge remains of committing to a sustained and regular workout. What’s a freelancer who’s a natural homebody and who doesn’t play any team sports to do? I’d tried many a formula to rope friends into being virtual workout buddies (including inviting folks to join Fitocracy) – but nothing seemed to really take.

Until WhatsApp.

The default messaging app of the Global South, it seems to find its true meaning with its groups feature. Not too long ago I decided to leverage my WhatsApp peeps and finally get the workout buddies I so longed for – and it worked! The winning formula was tackling as a group workout challenges from sites like POPSUGAR or Buzzfeed. I heartily took on the role of team cheerleader-slash-taskmaster.

Ti pa, ti pa

Working out is great – but your body still needs to actually walk a certain distance per day (2 million years of evolution as nomadic/hunter-gathering bipedals will do that to ya.). So, how do I “force” myself to get those steps in? StepBet! For me, it’s the perfect carrot and stick solution. You put an amount of money into a pool (usually around $30-40) and if you don’t make your daily step goal just for that week – YOU LOSE ALL YOUR MONIES!!!

No walky, no money.

The leftover pot is split between the app and the other players in this pedometer-enhanced Darwinian endeavour. Despite the name you’re not actually gambling, since results aren’t left to chance but are based on your own will to get up and talk a brisk walk.

With this app I’ve gone from almost completely stationary to putting in 8-14k steps per day over a matter of months – while making a smidge of beer money. Yes, I love the positive impact StepBet has had on my health. Its echoing of the Haitian community finance strategy of sòl (similar to West African tontine) warms the cockles of my better-beating heart.

So that’s a quick roundup of my tips and tricks for not letting my body fall into complete and utter disrepair. One day, I’ll be able to win crip walk marathons alongside the best of them…

Serena Williams doing a Crip Walk
Serena Williams doing a Crip Walk

How do you keep that body moving? Tell me everything in the comments…

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