How I keep fit while working from home

Keith Farrell cutting with a sharp longsword. Photo by Daria Izdebska, 2017.

I am often asked how I manage to keep fit while working from home. I am also often asked what I do to train myself to do HEMA better. It is the same answer to both of these questions! Hopefully by sharing my thoughts and approach, it will help other people both to keep themselves a little healthier during the working day, and to see more opportunities to do relevant training for HEMA.

Most of my time working from home is spent in front of the computer, sorting out paperwork and accounting, updating websites, answering emails, doing various forms of advertising and marketing – all the usual tasks that someone running a business for themselves has to deal with on a daily basis. In this respect, it has the prospect of being a very similar situation to working in an office, because most of the day revolves around sitting at the desk working on the computer.


Sitting in one position for too long is a killer. Seriously. So I make sure I’m taking regular breaks. I don’t worry about being strictly regimented (like 10 minutes every hour, or whatever). I just get up and move around from time to time. For example, I drink quite a lot of coffee during the day, so I’m up and down to visit the kitchen at least once an hour. I make sure that any particular mug of coffee is fairly weak in strength, otherwise I’d be drugging myself a bit too much over the course of the day, but having the habit of getting up to make my next coffee does a fantastic job of enforcing microbreaks so that I’m not just sitting there for hours on end.

Just getting up and going to the kitchen for coffee isn’t quite enough to keep me fit, though, and certainly doesn’t give me any useful HEMA training! So I play games with myself.

Sentient equipment

Some days, my kettlebells, Indian clubs, and other bits and pieces of equipment have been known to develop sentience. On these days, they are quite needy creatures, and demand attention whenever I pass them. They can be satisfied quite easily by playing with them whenever I pass.

So, on my way to the kitchen, from any room in the house, I’ll typically pass at least one piece of equipment. That means repetitions! 20-30 kettlebell swings while the kettle boils, or 30-60 seconds of using the Indian clubs to loosen off the shoulders, or 30-60 seconds of using skipping ropes in the garden, or 5 chinups on the chinup bar, or anything along these lines.

The story doesn’t have to make any sense or be even remotely realistic. I just decide that for the duration of any given day, my equipment is sentient and will demand my attention whenever I pass it.

Paying the toll at doorways

Some days, a troll comes to live beside each doorway in the house. As per the fairy tales, trolls always demand a toll before you can pass. Although I rarely have any billy goats to give them, the trolls do seem happy enough if I drop and give them 5 pushups or 5 squats (or a single squat or plank for 30-60 seconds).

Although this doesn’t sound like a lot, I will typically pass through 2-4 doorways to reach the kitchen, and a similar number of doorways to get back to the desk with coffee in hand. Paying the toll of squatting for 30 seconds at each doorway, on a regular hourly basis for 8 or 9 hours during the day, adds up over the course of the day!

Defending the kettle

I keep a variety of swords by the door into the garden, so that I can quite easily grab whatever sword interests me the most at that moment in time and head out into the garden to do some cutting drills.

Some days, when the kettle is boiling, the Minions of Darkness descend on the house to steal the hot water. Needless to say, it is up to me to stand against them and to defend the kettle most nobly while it boils.

So, while the kettle is boiling, I go out into the garden and run through a cutting drill until the kettle summons me back inside. If the kettle takes a around minute to boil, then I can probably do 60-100 cutting repetitions during that time. Again, doing this on an hourly basis over the course of the day leads to quite a good number of repetitions in total.

Email pay per view

Some days, my email client decides it is going to become a millionaire, and changes its service to pay per view. These days suck, because I have to pay 5 pushups before I can open my emails to look at or to respond to anything that might have arrived.

Playing this game is quite an effective eye opener to help you realise just how often you “check emails” during the course of the day. It either makes your arms stronger or means that you get on with other tasks more solidly instead of checking emails every few minutes!


The key thing is to avoid sitting for too long in any one stretch. My drinking a lot of coffee, I am in the habit of getting up and moving around once or twice every hour. By playing games with myself when I get up for coffee, I can keep myself fit, move myself in a variety of different ways, and keep myself entertained.

These games also give me useful training for HEMA. If over the course of the week, I do one or two days where I have to defend the kettle, one or two days where I have to pay tolls at the doorway, and one or two days where my equipment becomes sentient (as well as one or two days where my email client becomes pay per view, which may or may not be the same days as some of the other games), then that gives me a fairly nice workout for the whole body over the week.

I can maintain these habits very easily because they are not difficult. I’m already getting up to go for coffee. I have to go to the kitchen to do that. I then need to wait for a minute or so for the kettle to boil. It’s really not hard to play a quick physical game during that time!

Writing this article has taken about 30 minutes. My mug is nearly empty. So it’s time to draw things to their natural conclusion and then visit the kitchen for a refill. By the way, today, my equipment is sentient. The Indian clubs are currently eyeing me up and looking quite forlorn and in need of attention. I should go and give them some comfort while the kettle boils.

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