cross training

Day 9 of 30. I'm at that age where you're too young to consider yourself old, and too old to consider yourself young, which one could say is definitionally middle-age. So as a middle-aged guy, one who spends most of his workday sitting (or standing) in front of a computer screen, and then much of his waking free time involved with a wacky high-intensity sport called jugger, physical self-maintenance has become more and more important so that I can keep doing this thing I love without pain or injury.

In athletics, there's a concept called cross training, and it helps with both general fitness and injury prevention. The idea is simple: instead of spending 100% of your training time on your sport, you want to mix it up. If you're a runner, add some swimming, or cycling, or field sports with quick direction changes - something that works a different set of movements and muscle groups.

If you squint, you'll see this same concept pop up elsewhere. For office workers, part of standard ergonomic advice is this gem: your best position is the next position. Sitting a lot? Get a sit-stand desk, and alternate sitting / standing throughout the day. Move your legs around. Shift your weight, your desk / chair height, make small tweaks. The general principle is the same: as it turns out, our bodies don't love stasis.

Or: work in time intervals (e.g. Pomodoro timers) to encourage occasional breaks and task switches. Usually this helps you make time to shift physical position as well, get up, stretch a bit, make sure you're drinking enough water, all the good things you hear you ought to do.

One thing I love about writing is that it's not programming, nor is it planning programming work, nor is it leading other programmers. Don't get me wrong: I've chosen a career in software engineering because, deep down, it feels magical to me that some letters I type into a text editor can have tangible real-world impact - and even more magical to be part of a team, all doing that, creating an impact that no one person could alone.

But still. I can't spend 24 hours a day doing those things, or even 16. I need breaks, as do we all, and doing literally anything else with my mind is one way to do that - a form of mental cross training, if you will. Writing gives me such a break, as do jugger and cooking and playing piano and other such pursuits.

So maybe I write about software engineering-related topics: that's fine! The act of writing about it is still different from doing it. And maybe in the process I get to reflect a bit, and learn something new about this thing I've chosen to spend my professional life on.

But this isn't just a thing that applies to physical activity, or to work vs. free time activities. It can also apply just at work, in the teams that you lead and work in.

Are engineers in your team getting to learn new things once in a while? Do you make space for engineers to teach and learn from each other, and reward effort spent on that? Does your organisation allow people to flow between teams, to give a change of pace? Do engineers get time to present their work to others, either internally or externally?

Remember: everyone can benefit from a little cross training.