Saturday 12 June 2010

Fighting Fit

Picture of the cast of Muscle March

When I was planning my new life as an indie developer, I promised myself that one of my cornerstones would be regular exercise. It sounds like a strange concession to make. Surely being a successful, self-employed designer only requires eighteen-hour days, and an intravenous drip of coffee right? Wrong.

Before founding Stargazy Studios I spent five years working in finance, one of the most brutal white-collar industries in existence. As with any job that lacks a finite goal, I could pour everything I had into its vacuum and it would still turn around and ask for more. The difference between the finance industry and other sectors is that being wrung dry isn't optional, it's expected. I've been to the edge of office-chair endurance: sleep deprived, palms sweating from the stress, and muscles atrophied from the lack of activity. I can tell you that this is an unsustainable way to live, and creativity and productivity quickly become alien concepts in this environment.

Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software, devotes slot three to "taking care of yourself" in his Three Tips For Getting Started In the Indie Gaming Biz. He's been making a living creating games since 1994, so if you don't trust me, then take it from him. It's common sense that fighting mother nature is a front too far when you need all your firepower to craft an exceptional new game.

If you're working from home, the obvious solution would be to get your shorts on and run in a big loop for 45 minutes. Unfortunately running bores me to absolute tears. I grew up taking my dose of exercise playing sport, and no matter how hard I try I just can't get revved up about pounding the pavement. Lifting weights, however, tickles the competitive part of me that running wouldn't dare. With this in mind, I thought I'd share my compact workout schedule with you in case you ever find yourself in the same boat.

If you are new to lifting weights, selecting a suitable regime can be daunting. I've adapted a recommended workout from to form three, one-hour sessions, that can all be completed around a standard foldaway bench. This means that with a short stop at Argos and a bit of Gumtree searching, you can throw together a frugal alternative to a gym membership that you can tap any time you like.

Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 6 reps
Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps
Dumbbell Bent Over Row: 3 sets of 6-10 reps
Barbell Military Press: 3 sets of 6-10 reps

Dumbbell Lunges: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Lying Tricep Extensions (Skull Crushers): 3 sets of 6-10 reps
Dumbbell One-legged Calf Raise: 3 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Upright Row: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Standing Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets if 6-10 reps

Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 6 reps
Incline Barbell Press (15-30 degree incline): 3 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Upright Row: 3 sets of 6-10 reps
Dumbbell Squat: 3 sets of 6 reps
Dumbbell Shrugs: 3 sets of 6-10 reps

Check out for technique pointers, and an explanation of the muscle groups being worked with each exercise. You should be able to lift the first set of reps comfortably, the next should be a struggle, and if you're consistently lifting the third set it's time to up the weight. Don't worry if you can't nail all three sessions in a week. Two is still good, and one will ensure that next week's are not such a mission!

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