Accounting busy season is a rough time (for many accountants). For two to three months out of the year, you basically sign your life away and spend your waking hours in an office looking through documents among other things. This includes weekends. The day breaks into small manageable chunks- lunch, afternoon coffee, and dinner. Tears fall. Numbers on the bathroom scale rise. It ain’t all so bad though! Overtime dinner and coffee is expensed on the company so employees don’t need to pay for it. Basically, you save money by virtually having no time to spend that money. Three to five years of this before you move onto a better job with better work-life balance, they say.
Of course, some days were more difficult than others. I’d be back in the apartment anytime between 8PM to 2AM. My birthday was during this three month period and I didn’t finish work until midnight. We did get to eat cheesecake in the office for my birthday, which is a win in my book. What, you think I could have afforded to buy a whole cheesecake on my own? We can’t all have nice things.
Three months later, we got our lives back. During this time, people gained weight, fell out of shape, and developed caffeine headaches on top of being sleep deprived. This took an extra month or two for most people to really fully recover. On my first day off, I slept an uninterrupted fifteen hours. If I remember correctly, I only saw two hours of sunlight that day.
Beyond the sleep deprivation, I felt awesome. I was actually getting stronger and in better shape the whole time. In fact, my wrestling partner felt so light when I lifted him off the ground that I asked him whether he lost weight in the past month or two. The answer was no. Whoa! Here I was, easily lifting people off the ground. Most of these people were anywhere between 20 to 50 pounds heavier than me. Turns out I had gotten stronger and more athletic despite the 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100 hour work weeks. How did this happen?
With lofty goals in hand, I wasn’t ready to accept getting out of shape during this three month period. In anticipation of busy season, I had bought two kettlebells for my apartment. That way, I would save time by not having to walk to the gym. Depending on your choice of gym membership, you could potentially save money this way too. Next, I had to keep things short and sweet. What kind of simple and effective programs are out there? Could I go minimalist and still make progress?
Kettlebell swings fit the bill. My actual workout routine was very simple. All I needed to do every morning was ten sets of ten swings, which took less than 20 minutes. Some days, I would use the 35lb kettlebell instead of the 50lb kettlebell. To add more variability to my workouts, I would alternate between one-handed and two-handed swings. Some days I would only do two-handed swings. On other days, I would start and end with two-handed swings while alternating hands for my one-handed swings.
While certainly not ideal in all cases, this put me in very solid shape. Somehow, my progress either stayed the same or improved in other seemingly unrelated areas such as barbell and bodyweight exercises. Kettlebell enthusiasts call this the “What the hell?” effect. They’ll do something that was previously very difficult and find that they are performing that exercise with ease, similar to my experience with lifting my 200-pound wrestling partner. This can be explained in several ways. One reason for this is that kettlebell swings work out your entire body. As a result of synaptic adaptation, your body becomes seemingly more athletic. In plain English, this means that you got better in full-body motion by performing a full body exercise. This results in seemingly unexpected progress in other areas. Of course, this works particularly well if your kettlebell swing technique is excellent (starting out, mine personally had plenty of room for improvement). Another possibility is that it forces you to fix faulty body mechanics. In my case, I wasn’t engaging my core in my movements, and my kettlebell swings suffered as a result of that. I ended up tweaking my lower back before I realized that I had this problem in the first place. Fixing this deficiency led me to feel much more athletic. It was as if my body was moving in the way that it was supposed to.
After the 20 minutes, I wouldn’t need to worry about my fitness for the rest of the day. Awesome. I had already gotten my first win of the day and I didn’t even get to work yet. Feeling great about myself, I would finish the rest of my morning routine and be on my way.