Welcome to the next post in my Boost Health Awareness mini-series, part of the Looking-Glass Translations productivity programme! This week, I interview the very special Sara Colombo on what it takes to be a healthy and productive freelancer!
Hi Sara, thank you so much for agreeing to speak to me today! As an expert on the ‘healthy freelancer’, there’s really no one better to talk to my readers about boosting their productivity through health awareness. First, could you tell us a little bit about your interest in staying healthy? Why is this such an important issue for you?

Hi Marie, thank you very much for inviting me to represent the healthy freelancers out there! ‘Issue’ may actually be the wrong word. I started to play sports really quite young, at about three years old – I think my parents realised it was an activity I really enjoyed, so they supported me. Like many other children, I did gymnastics, classical ballet and modern dance. Later, I turned my passion into a job, becoming a qualified fitness instructor, which helped me to support my studies, travel around the country, and meet beautiful people – friends I am still in touch with and meet regularly.

Although I love sport, and still teach now and then, I eventually had to come to terms with the fact that I also loved languages and communication: I wanted to write, translate, and communicate using different languages. I think my idea of first creating Balance Your Words, then #healthyfreelancer and #tradudanseurs, perfectly sums up the situation; some people just have more than one passion, and though it’s hard when you’re young and all your friends are 100% sure about their future careers, it gets easier when you grow up to understand that this is who you are, connect the dots and strike your own balance.

I was lucky, since I could turn my passion into a specialisation and work on very cool (and informative) projects, write a fitness blog (although training routines and very detailed articles are still missing from my archive, as my time is very limited these days!), and even share my story, like here. So to answer your question, my business and interests are connected – and rather than being an ‘issue’, health is my passion.

 

Living a healthy life is extremely beneficial for business – it worked for me!

 

You not only write about healthy freelancing on your blog; you also publish a regular paper.li magazine called The healthy freelancer. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Balance Your Words is a blog created to unite my passion for freelancing with a fresh, sporty twist. I wanted people to get into the idea that living a healthy life is extremely beneficial for their business, because it worked for me. The blog explores marketing, sport and social media issues, which not only represent three of my passions, but also three very popular topics within the industry.

‘The healthy freelancer’ is a magazine collecting interesting news from the world of fitness – so you’ll find my posts, as well as more professional and detailed articles from what I consider to be the best health and fitness resources. These discuss lifestyle, fitness, and fitness fashion, as well as yoga and nutrition. One of the columns I love most is about online fitness classes: you, a laptop (or a smartphone), and a connection – and the exercise is done. It’s very fun and great for travelling professionals!

I first thought about creating the magazine about eighteen months ago. I was in the lounge of a London hotel waiting for a potential client and the TV showed a commercial on fitness DVDs created for people on the move: no props, no heavy gym equipment, just a mat and your own bodyweight. This type of exercise is called ‘bodyweight exercises’, and I found it really interesting, because freelancers are often too busy to attend a gym regularly and sometimes even skip classes! I wanted to create an online fitness resource for them, and decided to include DIY tips, websites and links. The result is a fresh fitness magazine that every translator can read and enjoy, regardless of their level of exercise.

 

Freelancing requires stamina, determination and positivity – qualities only a healthy lifestyle can provide.

 

We all know that our health is important, but could you explain to us why it’s especially important to look after your health as a freelancer? What particular health challenges do freelancers face?

Well, it might sound a bit ‘common sense’, but we all know that exercise is good for us, our bodies and a positive self-image in general, right? However, freelancing is a very challenging job that requires long working hours, if not working weekends, the ability to multitask effectively (without going mental!), unpredictable happenings that can mess with our daily routine, tight deadlines, and all that jazz. Unlike other 9–5 jobs, freelancing more directly affects our ability to cope with stress, both mentally and physically, while forcing us into an extremely sedentary lifestyle. Long story short: freelancing requires stamina, determination and positivity – qualities only a healthy lifestyle can provide. So it’s not just a matter of weight or shape (I don’t diet to starvation and I don’t exercise to look like a doll); it’s rather a matter of wellness, healthy living, a more determined mind, and a positive business.

Regarding the connection between body, mind and business, I have said many times on my blog (e.g. here, here and here) that exercise is important for our body. However, as studies show (here and here), it also has a positive impact on the brain and some of its functions – like memory, focus and the ability to efficiently cope with stress.

Improvements can be measured in the development of your muscular system, a stronger back and the ability to cope with long working hours while hunched over a laptop. But they will also be evident in your general good mood, calm demeanour, and, above all, new feelings of positive self-awareness and self-appreciation.

Studies have mainly been conducted to evaluate the effects of aerobic activity on the brain, but as you might know, less energetic activities like yoga can also help to improve and change our lives in a healthy and productive way. Indeed, yoga has two benefits, as it works on both your body and your brain. It makes you stronger and more flexible, but also changes your brain, calming it and making it more focused on the present. What’s more, yoga is a very meditative practice that focuses on personal development and helps you to visualise yourself, your goals and your nature.

Exercise is a totally beneficial activity for body and brain, since it produces a general feeling of positivity and determination, stimulates your mind and boosts concentration, making you a more effective and productive freelancer.

© 2015 Sara Colombo

© Sara Colombo

As you know, this is a series on productivity, so could you say a few words on how a healthy routine can increase our productivity as entrepreneurs? Is there any verified evidence of this?

I think I’ve already answered this in your previous question, but yes: science shows that exercise positively influences our brain and mood, which makes us more active, quick, and focused, and also improves our memory. All these things increase our productivity levels and help us to work faster, maintain a good attention span and face chaotic days in a more organised way.

I think that fitting a new ‘routine’ into a busy week can also be beneficial for our organisational skills. Finding the time to exercise forces us to re-examine our priorities, which might mean cutting out unwanted activities or speeding up other processes. It also helps us to realise how much time we waste, while enabling us to re-jig our agenda and become a bit pickier about our hobbies and unwanted, annoying chores that simply waste our energy and make us feel bad.

Speaking of productivity, I’m a bit techie and have recently bought the new Nike+ FuelBand SE, both to track the intensity of my training sessions, and to monitor my sleep activity. It’s not a must and won’t perform miracles, but its results highlighted a series of fitness problems and helped me to optimise my training time, which also affected my work schedule (i.e. train less but better, and don’t waste precious minutes!).

 

Be determined – as a fitness person, and as a business owner.

 

What tips could you give my readers for gradually boosting their health and productivity?

First, remember that a healthy lifestyle begins in the kitchen: don’t overeat. Don’t believe people telling you that tiny breaks are good to help you focus more. If you keep food on your desk you’ll end up eating it all and wanting more. Avoid sugar, drink water and if necessary, ask an expert. Then also take into account the fact that exercising can be hard in the beginning, so choose something you like, get a trainer/instructor and don’t worry about quick results. Instead, focus on small steps and track every milestone to the final goal. Setting steps is good to ease the initial stress, but also to make you feel more determined and motivated to achieve your goals.

Regarding your choice of new activity, I prefer mixing gym sessions with yoga and running, because keeping up with a schedule is not always easy for me and I don’t like to skip classes. Consequently, I train with a PT, but also do yoga on my own and run (not that much, to be fair, as it’s not my cup of tea!). The key here is to (a) mix & match to train more and different muscles (speed up your metabolism) and (b) alternate solitary exercise with group activities to give yourself some quality personal time, and enjoy a resourceful hour of meditation (great to boost creativity!) or a more energetic run (de-stress and rebalance!).

I also suggest that you find the right time of the day and never, ever overschedule! The extreme benefit of alternating gym and outdoor or home-based activities lies in the fact that you can easily adapt fitness to your needs – but don’t let passion carry you away! Last of all, be determined – as a fitness person and as a business owner.

 

Finally, a more fun question: what’s your guilty pleasure – something that you do despite it being totally unhealthy for you? I, for one, tend to become engrossed in work and accidentally skip meals (I’m working on this)!

I love beer, but I don’t generally dislike drinking with friends, either. And sushi. I know it’s not considered unhealthy at all, but there is a limit to the quantity of food one can swallow, and when it comes to sushi I tend to overcome that limit quite happily! 🙂

 

Hungry for more tips on boosting your health and productivity?

Wolf these posts down to jump-start your health kick:

 

  • Sara Colombo

  • Balance Your Words

Sara is an Italian-French-English freelance translator and interpreter in marketing, advertising, health & wellness and medicine. She’s also a TESOL teacher and ProZ trainer, and an IAPTI and MET member and speaker. An ITI Bulletin contributor, Sara is an active blogger sharing stories and tips with other freelancers from my website. Fitness instructor, yogi.

 

 

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