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How To Stay In Shape As A Busy Professional- The Pied Piper & The Hummingbird

I'm always banging on about paying the Piper to busy professional clients.

It's always preached to clients who are working in a constant flirtation with "too hard," "burnout," or those who are struggling to deal with the conflicting demands of business and health.

Here's the background of the story:

"Pay the piper comes from the famous 1842 poem by Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The story is about a German town called Hamelin which, after years of contentment, was suddenly plagued by a huge increase in the rat population, probably due to some plague or poison which had killed all the cats. The rats swarmed all over, causing much damage.

Try as they might, the townspeople could not get rid of the rats.

Then appeared a mysterious stranger bearing a gold pipe. He announced that he had freed many towns from beetles and bats, and for a cost, he would get rid of the rats for the town.

Although he only wanted a thousand florins, the people were so desperate that the Mayor promised him 50,000 for his trouble, if he could succeed.

At dawn, the piper began playing his flute in the town and all the rats came out of hiding and followed behind him. In this way, he led them out of the town. All the rats were gone.

When the piper came back to collect his pay, the town refused to pay even his original fee of one thousand florins. The mayor, thinking the rats were dead, told the piper he should be happy if he received any pay at all, even fifty florins.

The pied piper warned the town angrily that they would regret cheating him out of his pay"

Idioms Online

You can find the full article HERE

Here's the video:

In our scenario, The Pied Piper is a permanent resident capable of leading us to good health, strength, and fitness through good habits and decisions.

The harder you work and the more stress you accrue, the higher Piper's price becomes, and the more regularly the Piper needs to be paid.

No one's kids are going to be led away though.

Being overworked often makes the price of good health impossible to pay off. Bad things happen when the Piper doesn't get his money.

Training stalls, habits wane, and gains are lost.

When work takes over your other priorities, more than it should, the system breaks, and overtime, pestilence takes hold.

This makes busy professionals less productive when they work and makes time-off less enjoyable. You'll be sicker, weaker and that's not what we want.

Here is some advice for the hard-working SOBs wanting to take an active role in managing their physical and mental health.

People in Tech

People in tech are often glued to a screen 12+ hours a day.

This results in precious little downtime.

It results in precious little time to look after yourself.

It makes it harder to stay in shape.

In order to recover to a better extent and to have better mental health, people in tech need to schedule sacred, inviolable time away from the screen they stick to.

2 minutes is better than nothing.

5 minutes is better than 2.

10 minutes is better than 5.

An hour of screen-free time?

Ok, now I'm asking too much.

Less unnecessary screen time for people in tech is often a quick win which will take consistent effort but will make an enormous difference to health.

It's hard to detach from the screen in your downtime, but it is worth it.

Combine this with the strategies below and I guarantee you will feel better.

Self-employed/Managing Your Own Hours

James Woods: Is it true you once worked for 96 hours straight?
Apu: Oh, yes. It was horrible. Near the end, I thought I was a hummingbird of some kind.
James Woods: Oh yeah, you know, I studied your old security tapes.
Apu (on security tape: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Apu: In a few minutes, I try to drink nectar out of Sanjay's head.

The Simpsons

My record for PT sessions in a row is 10 back-to-back hours because I am an idiot who has only recently started managing my schedule in such a way that allows me to have decent mental health.

As a self-employed person, you are responsible for your schedule, and in that position, you have to work in time to train and look after yourself.

My excuse?

I thought I was better than other people and "could handle it."

I would tell other PTs to "do as I say, not as I do."

This showed an arrogant disregard for my own sanity. I became the hummingbird. Don't be a hummingbird unless you have to.

If you often say "do as I say, not as I do" I guarantee you need to prune your schedule to prevent overworking to the point where it's impossible to feel anything other than overwhelmed.

The quickest win for self-employed people in relation to their health, therefore, is taking ownership of their schedule and making sure there is enough downtime to manage your health and fitness.

NHS Workers

If you are a busy doctor/nurse in the NHS, schedule your longer training sessions to happen on your days off, especially if you work nights.

If you want to train on days where you are doing 12 hours on/12 hours off, having a bank of short sessions you can smash out in 10-30 mins gives you maximum time to try and maintain a modicum of sanity around an incredibly demanding schedule.

Keep things simple, train where you can, and from my experience of training dozens of NHS staff, get a therapist. You guys are heroes, who are expected to do ridiculous feats of endurance. Don't let the system chew you up.


One of the biggest issues parents face is they suddenly don't have 2 to 3 hours where they can or want to train numerous times a week for approximately 18 years.

Many people fall into the trap of giving up training when they don't have as much time as they used to as they feel training for multiple hours is the only way to train so they might as well quit.

Parents or people with lots of responsibilities get a quick victory by purposely keeping training to 40-60 minutes with a strong focus on training quality. We'll do another post about this as it is a rabbit hole of a subject.

This is a more manageable chunk of time to fit into your busy routine, but you can still get great results.

If you have a weekend day where you have longer to train, you can combine two sessions into one requiring fewer weekly sessions if your time demands increase.

For a quick win when time is at a premium, having a program of short, snappy, high-quality sessions will be a game-changer.

General Advice

-Say "no" more often

Struggle to say no when people are taking advantage of you?

Check-out THIS short article.

-Have Sacred Times No One Violates

Unless there is a real emergency where people are at risk, I train Monday at 1, Wednesday at 3, Friday at 3, and Sunday evening.

These are times no one gets to take away from me.

If your schedule changes every week, you'll need to plan your sacred times as you go, if you have a consistent schedule you'll have an easier time with this.

Design your schedule around your health and fitness for the best results. If your training time is 3rd or below in terms of your priorities it will rarely happen as life and your other priorities will get in the way.

-STOP WORKING SO HARD (occasionally)

Busy, ambitious people often get caught in a cycle of busyness if they are left unchecked.

Are you working hard or too hard? Ask yourself this regularly.

Scheduling downtime from work can help you take the decision-making out of it.

Having someone there to call you out when you are working too hard is great but not everyone is lucky enough to have people like that in their life so you may need the help of data to help you decide on when to take a break.

We'll cover this fully in another article in more depth but tracking things like resting heart rate, heart rate variability, subjective stress ratings via questionnaires, tracking sleep, tracking food among others can give you the data you need to decide to take some downtime.

- Think about what relaxes you and schedule a time for it each week

An architect client of mine finds the bath to be her most relaxing time, so we have her scheduling regular chill time as her job is so time-demanding her relaxation time is often forgotten.

This ultimately resulted in her getting into stress-related back-pain. This is an extreme example, but an example we want to avoid.

Don't forget your chill time.

Schedule it and follow through.

Apply these strategies and we can keep Piper's prices low, affordable and The Pied Piper won't steal your kids.

Being a busy professional AND HEALTHY is a challenge. With the above strategies, you will be more ready to face them.

By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength Coach

Coaching for the overthinking powerlifter and those looking to build confidence in strength training.

Want to get involved with our coaching services? Click HERE to find out more.

Instagram- @theheavymetalstrengthcoach

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