Cellphones, computers, tablets. All of these are important tools that help you to run a successful fitness business. But technology can seep into every moment of your life and take over. Do you need to step away from email or give your smartphone a rest from time to time? Discover why you’ll be a better entrepreneur if you explore options for setting limits around technology and just say no to it some of the time.
A Social Trend
Digital detoxing is becoming increasingly popular as a response to tech overload. Here are just a few examples of the social movement that’s encouraging people to take a tech break.
- The National Day of Unplugging asks people to sign a pledge to unplug for 24 hours (running from sundown to sundown) starting on the first Friday in March (http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/).
- The Tech Timeout™ challenge, started by the insurance company Foresters™, encourages families to take a daily break from technology to help spouses, parents and children build stronger bonds (http://techtimeout.com).
- Digital Detox® is a social movement that advocates that a balance between tech use and tech-free time is crucial to the future of humanity (www.digitaldetox.org). The brains behind Digital Detox have even created Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults where all tech devices are banned.
Benefits of Tech Breaks
Face it: Technology can be distracting. “We need to [take tech breaks] for health and productivity reasons,” explains Frances Booth, author of
The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World
(Pearson 2013). “Many people are stressed, overwhelmed by information overload, and struggling with demands to be constantly connected. We need to achieve a better balance.”
Breaks from technology are good for your body. “Personal trainers should take regular breaks to help avoid some of the chronic musculoskeletal changes that can accompany the types of postures and body positions associated with using PC computers, smartphones and handheld computer devices,” says Mary Bratcher, MA, DipLC, life coach and program coordinator for The BioMechanics Method corrective exercise education courses, in San Diego. “For example, excessive computer use rounds the shoulders forward and brings the arms across in front of the torso. Depending on the height of the screen, it can also lead to excessive arching of the neck to bring the eyes up to look at a computer screen or excessive rounding of the neck to look down at handheld devices. These types of habitual postures and positions can lead to chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.”
Making time away from technology can bring joy and purpose. “Tech breaks help me stay focused on what I want to do instead of what the world thinks I should be doing,” says Beverly Hosford, fitness professional and educator in Bozeman, Montana. “I’m a better friend, family member and partner without technology because I can focus on the people I love without interruptions.”
“Doing a digital detox can really help you get back in balance,” says Booth. “When you return to work, you’re also more productive.”
As a fitness entrepreneur or business owner, you are wearing many different hats, from training clients to paying bills to supervising staff. “I am a better manager when I am not overloaded with technology, even though it’s a valuable component of my work,” says Carol Crincoli, owner of Pure Pilates in Providence, New Jersey. “I make fewer mistakes. And I am able to give 100% to my clients when I am teaching.”
Unplugging also helps Lynn Keneipp, personal trainer and owner of Lean and Serene Personal Training in Keene, New Hampshire. “It brings me back to why I do what I do and why I have chosen this career path,” she says. “If I don’t take time to unplug, I can get caught up in the minutiae of making a living, of not saying no and of losing myself. When I unplug, I am a happier, healthier person, and this makes me a better personal trainer. This means I can show up to be of service to my clients. I can also make wise business decisions when I am not tired and burned out.”
Strategies to Try
do you break free from your tech devices? Consider these ideas:
Turn off alerts.
One way to stay focused on your clients is to stop being interrupted by an alert every you get a new text or email. “Turning off new email and text alerts can help keep you on track with not checking email/phones all the time,” says Bratcher.
Separate home and work technology.
Bratcher advises having separate phones for work and personal use and turning off your work phone at the close of business each day (i.e., 5:00 pm).
Likewise, she encourages creating different email accounts for work and personal correspondence and limiting the number of times you check email. “Check your work account only twice a day,” she says. “Otherwise you run the risk of having your life (and business) dictated to by other people and their needs. It is important to put limits on your technology use by instituting some rules that force you to take breaks and give your mind and body an opportunity [for rejuvenation]. You can also enable an out-of-office response on your work email account during weekends or when you go on a holiday, so you have dedicated time to relax.”
Set limits and put important tasks first.
About 2 years ago Hosford noticed how much time being online was consuming. “I felt that I wasn’t productive because I was constantly being distracted,” she says. “When I was personal training 6 hours a day, I would check my phone for email, Facebook, etc., between clients, and that became a problem. I eventually made a no-cellphone rule while at the gym, with the exception of checking for a missed call from a client. It made my day flow better and kept me more focused.”
Hosford took the no-technology rule further to get work done. “I sometimes will avoid technology until I get the important tasks done in the morning,” she says. “It’s amazing how much you can get done when you are addressing important tasks instead of urgent ones that ‘seem important.’”
Eschew tech at night.
Some fitness pros have prioritized being tech-free in the evening. Sheree King, owner of Spice Heath
Fitness in Hobart, Australia, feels that sleep is so important that she keeps her cellphone out of her bedroom. “Having the phone where I can’t hear it is a way to get some downtime,” she says. “I don’t feel any call or text is important enough for me to answer late at night. I check messages first thing in the morning to see if any staff are sick or if clients can’t turn up.”
Most of Gina Howe’s clients train before or after work. “That means my day begins fairly early and can go fairly late into the evening,” says Howe, a certified personal trainer and co-owner, with her husband Brian, of Core Essentials Fitness in Lewis Center, Ohio. “This makes getting enough sleep a challenge. Without ‘turning off’ for the night, I continue to get emails and text messages from clients or prospective clients.”
Plan time away.
Harris Sophocleous, MS, CSCS, owner of SophoFit LLC in Dallas, Wisconsin, says, “Finding time to disconnect from social media, cellphone and the Internet is important to me. My wife and I love to volunteer at local animal shelters, and we use our time there as a way to decompress and release stress. Time with dogs can be very demanding, which means no time for tech distractions.”
You can also deliberately avoid technology for a set period of time. “I’ve done technology cleanses, where I leave my phone off for an entire day and don’t check email either,” notes Hosford. “Nothing bad has ever happened from doing it, so it’s okay. It’s hard to do, but it does promote creativity and relaxation.”
It’s Up to You
“Computer use and engaging in technology are a choice, not a need,” says Bratcher. “Most people mistakenly believe that they must be ‘plugged in’ at all times. People must remember that they are not a 911 operator (and even if they actually are, they aren’t on duty 24 hours a day!). Friends, family and colleagues can all wait until you are ready to respond to their needs. It is important to satisfy your own needs first so you have the time, energy and desire to interact in a healthy and productive manner with others.”
Booth concludes: “Call it what you like: tech cleanse, digital detox, personal reboot, tech break or just plain old switching off, once you try it, you’ll know it’s good for you.”