Swolmodoro: The Conceptimage
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Swolmodoro: The Concept


I'm working on a pomodoro app that prompts you to exercise during your breaks. If that sounds cool and you want to be notified when it comes out, fill out this form.

Need I say more?

Wait...a tomato app?

Well, I guess I do need to say a little more. If you haven't heard of the pomodoro technique, it's a productivity system for focusing that was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1990s. Cirillo found that if he took a short, 5 minute break after 25 minutes of intense, deliberate, work he could get more done in less time.

He named it the "pomodoro technique" after the tomato shaped timer he used to keep track of his focus sessions. And since then, it's been widely recognized and has led to tons of apps, books, and research papers that claim its efficacy. I first learned about it from a professor in college.

It might sound too simple to be that effective, but I promise it really works. For me, I think it's because:

1. It makes me set intention for my time.

It's the same reason a to-do list is so helpful: I have to consciously think about what I'm going to get done. The timer is just added secret sauce. There's a saying I really love that goes, "Work expands to the time allotted". So, setting timers creates a time-box for myself and an intention to get as much done as I can before the timer goes off.

2. It utilizes my unconscious brain.

If you've ever been working through a hard problem and suddenly woken up with the answer or had it seemingly soak into your brain while in the shower, you know what I'm talking about. Our conscious, active brain gets tired. And cracking the whip or drinking coffee to power through is counter productive. Resting and taking breaks allows our unconscious brain to sift through our thoughts in the background and enables us to come back to a task with fresh perspective.

But why exercise?

Some people might say that exercising during the pomodoro break renders that time no longer restful. However, in his recent book, Rest, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang talks about how exercise is an extremely effective form of mental rest that has the added benefit of being very good for the rest of our body.

So, having short bursts of exercise might actually be better at resting your mind than quickly watching 5 minutes of your favorite anime.

But, is 5 minutes enough exercise?

Well, I guess that depends on your goals. My main goal with the Swolmodoro system has really been to just get my body moving.

As a remote software engineer, I spend an obscene amount of time just sitting at my desk. And more and more research comes out every year to say that being motionless (whether sitting or standing) is really bad for you. The new prevailing advice regarding working from home and postural health is that, "Your next posture is your best posture". In other words: move more.

So, for me, getting up every half hour to do a set of pushups, back wall slides, pull-ups, glute bridges, or leg raises is less about getting a six pack and more about staying mobile and building overall fitness.

How's it been going?

For me, really great! I have seen a significant improvement in my overall posture, strength and physique over the past 4 months. But more than that, I've started to think more about my health. Swolmodoro has become a keystone, healthy habit that's led me to build others.

For instance, because I exercise more during the day, I think more about exercise. So, when I realized that 5 minute chunks during my day was definitely not enough time to get my heart rate up and build cardiovascular strength, I did some research into really efficient forms of cardio, bought a jump rope, and started skipping for 15 minutes every other day during the week.

And mentally, I feel a lot better about my body. I don't feel like it's this amorphous blob that carries my head from room to room. Instead, it's a thing I've grown to appreciate, nurture, and at times be impressed by. Swolmodoro as a system has just made it easier for me to focus on work and fitness.

But...I don't work from home?

Yeah, sadly I feel like this system only really works in an environment where you're by yourself for most of the day. It's a lot more acceptable for me to randomly start doing pushups during the workday because there's no one else around. Yet another reason I feel so fortunate to be able to work from a second bedroom in my house.

But, as working remote becomes more and more accessible, I think more people will be able to throw an exercise mat behind their desk chair and have at it when they want to take a break.

Why an app?

I was doing Swolmodoro sessions for about a month before I had the idea of making it an app. It really came out of necessity because I started to see results from moving more, but was too lazy to keep a spreadsheet of rep counts or sessions completed in order to track my progress.

Plus, I've wanted to learn React Native for a long time now and this felt like a great problem to solve while learning something new.

This sounds cool! Can I try?

Yeah! The beauty of this system is it's really easy to test if it works for you. All you need is a timer and a list of exercises to cycle through. Here is a great resource I've been using from a creator I love called Hybrid Calisthenics. But try stuff out and make it your own.

And if you do, please email me - cause I wanna hear what worked, what didn't, and how we can help you work smart and move more.

Until next time.

Drew Lyton
Drew Lyton
Saturday, December 4, 2021

I'm a software engineer, ex-founder and writer who cares deeply about creating a better relationship between technology and society. I'm currently writing a book about early stage entrepreneurship.


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