After seeing the reception a recent comment received, I chose to make this its own thread with the hope of reaching more people.
Fitness is an incredibly important thing in life, both the elements of it you can see and those that you can't. It's also something easily ignored and definitely not spoken enough about.
People paint too bleak a picture of your ability to exercise (or generally run your life) while a junior in banking.
Yes, it's true that the job is incredibly demanding, particularly if you're in a competitive group. It's true that the hours are unpredictable, that you'll be surrounded by a mix of sycophantic, self-serving, narcissistic jerkwads, and that your mental and physical health will be under constant duress.
What's also true is that there are easy, manageable steps you can take to maintain control in your life and exercise some discipline around health.
Your hardest adjustment to make will be the sedentary lifestyle. You go from walking across campus, playing ball with your friends, whatever lifting schedule you might have been on, and the caloric burn from whatever sex life you led as a college senior to a human blob parked in a chair for 12+ hours daily.
This is countered easily.
(i) Adjust your diet. Weight control follows a simple formula: [calories in] - [calories burned] = [gain/loss]. Also important is what you eat. Be mindful not only of your caloric intake but also of what its made of.
Cut the processed, packaged foods that are loaded with MSG and chemical preservatives. Eat as much raw food as possible. If you struggle with this because you don't know how or where to procure healthy foods, it's gotten easy enough with the advent of fast-casual health franchises. Stick to the basics and crush Juice Press and Sweetgreen. Before you immediately go "Oh my God, I'm not a chick, I'm not "juicing" bro," just try it sometime. All of Juice Press' stuff is delicious, only about one-fifth of what they offer is something you'd really raise your eyebrow at.
(ii) Exercise the right way. This has two components: what you do for exercise and how often. You need to be really efficient in terms of time, try to put your body under a level of stress, and hit your major muscle groups. Said simply, you need anaerobic exercise (Google this). I mean this with no offense, but aerobic work like jogging, swimming, or the treadmill is going to make negligible or no impact for the majority of people in banking. The exception would be those with an extremely high metabolism or a strictly ectothermic body type.
You want either HIIT classes (or their self-directed equivalent, no need to think that this can only happen at Tone House or Barry's) or a solid self-designed program rotating across the major muscle groups (e.g. one day each on legs, chest, and back where you're blasting squats, bench, and deadlifts for 30-40 minutes).
For frequency, shoot for 4-5 weekly. If you hit both weekend days (easy because even in groups with awful hours, you at least control your schedule those two days) you're halfway there. If you hit three out of five weekdays, you're at a 5x weekly schedule.
This is massive. Regular anaerobic exercise is amazing for you. It lowers cortisol (the silent killer in your body), improves your resting heart rate, gives you better mental performance, can help combat moodiness or depressive symptoms, helps you sleep better, benefits your sex drive (and performance), and obviously helps fight fat and build muscle.
(iii) Maintain a sleep schedule. Yes, it's banking, the hours will be both unpredictable and demanding. That doesn't mean you can't exert some control over how you make the time for your body to recover.
Snag the low-hanging fruit. Make a habit of prioritizing sleep. Try one month of going straight to bed when you get home. Coming back after an entire day sitting on your ass in a chair and sprawling on a couch or your bed to watch Netflix is not conducive to your health. It's easy to let an easy night at the office where you got out at 9:30 end up affecting you just as negatively as a rough night where you left at 1:00 if on both nights you're falling asleep at 1:30. Don't let your weekend days ruin your sleep schedule by sleeping in past noon; you fall asleep too late the following nights and start your work week with a slight sleep debt that then accumulates across the week.
Internalize that you own your life. Work does not define us. No matter how terrible your personal situation is, how many (or few) people depend on you for the paycheck you earn, how much social fallout you think you may endure, it is just a job. It's a place that takes your time from you and gives you back money in exchange.
Find some mental practice that helps you center yourself: breathing, visualization, meditation, music, or anything else. Practice this any time you find yourself struggling. Also practice it when you're not struggling; you may find that the dividends are richer when you aren't under stress.
Take this idea of ownership and look for how you can implement it in your work. Be respectful.
This doesn't mean you grumble at a bad staffing. It means you figure out whatever tangible learning that staffing will provide, maximize your understanding of it, and after it's over, tell your staffer over coffee how strong a learning experience it was, both on its own merits and for how well you now know it isn't something you enjoy too much.
It means that when you get the classic "Fw: RE: RE: re: FW: Re: Corrected numbers" at 8:50pm, instead of raging internally or letting another sliver of your soul slip into permanent oblivion, go back to your mental practice and center yourself.
I found that all these things are self-reinforcing. When I ranked my order of priorities in life, self-care came first. That meant that I exercised first thing in the morning nearly every single day. On the days I didn't, I left in the middle of the day to exercise. Some people found it strange at first, but I backed it up with solid work product plus some candid conversations with people about my willingness to stay late, start early, or do whatever was necessary to get the job done as long as I could dip away for an hour a couple days a week. It didn't hurt my reputation; it actually helped. I received direct feedback that my proactivity and 'maturity' having those conversations was appreciated.
To sum it up, exert some ownership and also acknowledge that people are reasonable and manipulable. Don't do dumb shit (eat poorly, sleep poorly, exercise ineffectively), commit to fitness if it's an actual priority for you, and back up that commitment with good communication and work product. Your seniors care about getting the best work out of you. If you demonstrate that that best work comes when you take care of yourself, they won't make any noise.
Good luck. Remember, it ain't nothing but a peanut. We're all gonna make it.
Mod Note (Andy): top 50 posts of 2017, this one ranks #46 (based on # of silver bananas)