The majority of us that work in the IT field sit at a desk for extended periods of time every day. Whether it's security, development, or network administration, we generally spend a lot of time at a desk or sitting during meetings. As a result of being so sedentary and combined with the long stressful hours many of us work, there's a higher likelihood that we will pack on the pounds as the years progress.
As for myself, I left the military in the earlier part of the previous decade at a lean 6', 190 pounds. When I got married in 2007. I climbed to about 220 pounds. By 2010, I hit 245. Like many other guys that get married and add a few pounds, I started to make excuses. "I work a lot"...."It's because I eat at night"...."I can't eat healthy on the road"....and the list goes on. Since we moved to the DC area not too long before getting married, I didn't know many people outside of the IT industry. Most of the people I met through work were also techies, and also spent lots of time doing more of the same. While I once had people to play a pickup basketball game with, or head out for a run with, I no longer had the same network of active friends.
Anyone in the security consulting industry knows that work can be brutal. Long hours, tight deadlines for deliverables, crazy swing shift hours (can't test in production during working hours!), and "get it done now" requests by customers can make it challenging to live a normal and predictable lifestyle. As a result, we are sometimes forced to take shortcuts. On the road and juggling multiple tasks? Grab something quick to eat and head back to the hotel to do MORE work. Have to squeeze out an unexpected incident response task because a client was breached? You have to skip that Saturday morning hike you were looking forward to.
I lived this lifestyle for a few years. However, a few things changed in 2011. First, I made friends with some locals in the techie community that are into fitness and healthy living, just like I once was. My best friend from the military days moved to the area, giving me even more of a kick in the ass. It awoke "the old me" and got me back into working out consistently. By working out consistently, other things fell into place. I started eating better. I started sleeping more. And oddly enough, my time management skills improved. Not only do I think clearly these days, I feel better than I have in years and get more done every day. I'm still about 30 pounds from where I once was, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. Before the Spring of 2012, I should be back to where I was while in the military, in the best shape of my life.
The latest numbers suggest that nearly half of America will be obese by 2030. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/28/half-america-obese-2030_n_937906.html . If this study was only targeted towards the IT field, my instincts tell me that this number would be much higher. Visit a security conference or look around your own office, and I guarantee you that we are probably already there in terms of 50% obesity. Combined with the long hours we work, this is shaving years off of our lives.
After considering my own personal situation and the factors that contributed to me getting out of shape, I thought it would be a great idea to create a group for techies to motivate each other to stay fit. You don't have to be a world-class athlete, just a techie that understands the pains of our field and wants to exercise more.
The long-term vision is for this group to spawn off leagues for playing sports like softball, football, or even volleyball. Maybe even some running groups that meet 2-3 times a week. I want people to be selfish and suggest the things THEY enjoy, with the goal of finding someone else that also shares that same desire to partake in the same activity. Post a meetup for bowling, golfing, ultimate frisbee, skiing, or whatever YOU enjoy. If you find a few others that also enjoy it and it encourages you to get away from the keyboard for a few hours to burn some calories, then this group has fulfilled its purpose.
Our first meetup is a hike on September 17. I chose a trail that isn't extremely brutal, but scenic and long enough to be both enjoyable and mildly challenging. I'm also trying to organize a flag football game at the beginning of October.
A few other friends have suggested ideas that they'll post as meetups in October and beyond. Hopefully people use this as not only a chance to get fit, but for a great way to do professional networking across niches and outside of our comfort zones. Network administrators and Java developers don't always get together, but within this group they would have an opportunity to co-exist in harmony!
I really hope this group gets some momentum behind it. This is something the industry needs...much more than new certifications and acronyms next to our names =)