📅11 September 2014
Share this article:

Editor’s note: This article is the fourth in a series that covers the issues of exercise and the workplace.

Dear Working Athlete,

When I’m at work I find it difficult to maintain “healthy” lifestyle choices. There is always junk food in the break room and I have a hard time turning it down. What’s the best way for me to continue my healthy choices while at work?

–  Tempted Athlete

Dear Tempted,

Everybody has a different idea of what is healthy and what isn’t, however if living and eating healthy (based on your definition) is something you’ve decided to do, then there are some lifestyle changes that are helpful for success.

Self-discipline is a major challenge working-athletes encounter on a daily basis. Having to set aside time in the day to work out and (attempting to) eat healthy are some examples of these challenges in self-discipline. However, these things can be easier to handle with the right amount of support.


Full-time employees spend about 8 hours, or one-third, of their day at work. If you don’t consider the number of hours you spend sleeping, then work takes up a majority of your time spent awake. You are around coworkers for most of the day and so it is important to find support in your goals from these people.

Coworkers that are supportive of your goals make it easier to achieve. It’s not easy declining a coworker’s donut offering or a fast food run, but it is easier if you and others have the discipline to say ‘I’ll pass.’ There will always be people that will comment on your choices, but as long as it something you want to do, then their comments should not matter.


Try to remember why you decided to maintain an athletic, or healthy, lifestyle and stay focused on it. There are many distractions at work that can lead people to deviate from their goals and sometimes it’s easier to stay on track with a good support system.

Having a coworker, or coworkers, with similar goals can help you say “no” to the empanada and donuts in the break room, and encourage you to bring exercise clothes for after the work day ends. Knowing that other people in similar situations are able to accomplish these little things on a daily basis can help boost your motivation to do the same.

Women's National Basketball Teams Derin Santos avoids work 'junk food temptation.

Women’s National Basketball Team member Derin Santos avoids work ‘junk food’ temptation.

Quick tips for an ‘athlete-like’ work day:

  • Bring a refillable water bottle- Staying hydrated is important for athletes, especially if you plan on exercising after work. Also, having to refill your bottle throughout the day forces you to get up and walk around. 
  • Pack lunch or eat lunch with a coworker with similar eating habits- It’s hard to eat healthy when you’re eating next to someone with a big burger.  Eating with someone that also eats healthy is easier and less tempting. Packing lunch also prevents you from going out to get unhealthy, convenient food. 
  • Walk to a nearby restaurant during lunch- If you are going to eat unhealthy, you should probably walk to that restaurant if within walking distance. Make it a reward for surviving the heat. 
  • Make exercise a social event with coworkers or friends- Plan to go for a run, cross fit session, zumba party, pickup game of basketball, etc. with you coworkers or friends after work. This can transform the dreaded task of exercising into a social event that you anticipate. 

Until next time, stay active.

-The Working Athlete

The Working Athlete is better known as Derek Mandell. Derek is a two-time Olympian and brings a refillable water bottle to work.  


Share this article: