DeskFit X Pomodoro — The origin story.

I’m currently in career transition from fitness to programming — from working primarily with my body to my mind. For most of life up until now I’ve been spared the tyranny and corporal destruction that comes from sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week. Up until now, I’ve only had to deal with the fallout of those professions as clients came to me — a personal trainer — with bad backs, tight muscles, excess weight and all over-all physical de-conditioning . I’ve incessantly barked at these clients about the importance of movement and not being tied to their desks all day long. But alas, here I am, a new member to the desk-bound and destroyed.

I always knew this transition from being professionally active to sedentary was going to be one of my biggest challenges, along side a new kind of mental grit. I found however, I was completely consumed by my new passion, glued to my computer for hours on end while I tried to solve a basic coding problem. I forewent hydration, sustenance and toilet breaks for extended periods believing my solution and salvation was just around the corner. I was wrong, of course, and tunnel vision and brain fog set in, along-side rage and soul-crushing despair.

I faithfully use the Pomodoro method everytime I sit down to code.

Thankfully, early on, I was introduced to the Pomodoro method and realized it’s utility immediately. For the uninitiated, the Pomodoro method is a tried and tested productivity tool. Essentially, it’s an interval timer: You work at a task for 25 minutes unusually followed by a 5 minute break, but every forth break being a longer 25 minute rest period. At first, it almost seems counter-productive to takes so many breaks so often when, you think, you could just power through and get it done faster. However, unlike our computers we are not machines. And these methodical and forced breaks have helped me, and many others, stay sane, and thus able to focus better and longer. I highly, highly encourage anyone who’s stuck at their desks all day to adopt the method, if they don’t have one in place already — especially if you’re engaged with mentally rigorous work.

I knew it was imperative that I step away from my computer on the breaks, get up and stretch my eyes out the window, get some breathing room for my head and move a little to get the blood flow back to my legs. While I was so committed to my studies, I was struggling to carve out the time to do a good workout — which usually took me about an hour. But clever me, I realized I could do a set of a single exercise in my 5 minute breaks, and even more on the longer breaks. So I started doing that and it served the dual purpose of getting my workout in and giving my brain a break. I have to say, it works very nicely!

Actually, more than nicely, I think it’s the f**king best idea I’ve, perhaps, ever had! I fantasized about bringing this program I was calling DeskFit into workplaces and start-ups all over Toronto, then the world. Me as a trainer, kicking programmers’ asses in their breaks. I’d fix their bad backs, increase the company’s productivity and get filthy rich and famous. Get my autograph now!

The home page, the work page and the move page.

So when the time to make my first JavaScript project in Juno’s Web Development bootcamp I naturally opted to make the app of my fantasies. Over about two weeks I coded up an app I’m calling “DeskFit X Pomodoro”. It’s a Pomodoro app, similar to many you can already find in the app stores on online — with one big difference. When the bell sounds for your break, you are presented with a video of a simple movement to perform. I’m very proud of what I’ve made, but as mentioned, it’s my first ever complete JS project so it really can’t be that good, or at least it’s likely has lots of room for improvement.

A sneak peak into some of the code, if you’re into that kind of thing.

On the code side, the app uses Sass for the CSS and while I’m no designer I’m really proud of the overall, simple and effective design. The app, of course, is fully responsive, looking good on any size screen. jQuery handles the DOM manipulations, user inputs and event handling. Being a timer, I used JS native timer methods, which proved to be highly stressful and problematic for me, but I eventually sorted it all out after hours of googling through tears. The GitHub repo has about a million commits, which I did from the scary terminal line so that’s another pat on the back for me.

On the fitness side, the movements are simple all-levels ones, meant to counteract the damage of sitting for prolonged periods. Far from giving you the beach body of your dreams the movements focus on stretching your hips, correcting slouchy posture, engaging the core and activating the glutes you’ve been sitting on for far too long. I filmed the movements myself at home on my phone and uploaded them to YouTube, a process I was well-acquainted with from my online fitness instructor days. A stretch goal I have is to include different levels and intensity of fitness built in. Say you’re a beast like me and going stir-crazy because your code sucks, you might opt for the advanced option that has you doing crazy plyometric stuff — and your downstairs neighbour complaining about their loss of life enjoyment.

An easy and effective stretch to counteract all the sitting down.

The app currently is more a proof of concept and proof that I can code a bit than an actual tool ready for use. But even without it, I encourage you to sneak some movement into your seated work day. You’ll thank me.

In the meantime, you can see (and even use, though it’s limited in some respects) the app here, or see the code base on my GitHub.

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