Why you CAN'T work like Elon Musk and stay fit at the same time.
Elon Musk is a household name by this point, everyone knows about the PayPal co-founder turned rocket designer, carmaker and much more.
And he deserves the recognition. His company Tesla is one of only two American carmakers to avoid bankruptcy (the other being Ford), and he designed the first few rockets of his other company, SpaceX, himself.
In Silicon Valley, the incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs, there is a saying; "Work, sleep, family, fitness and friends. Pick three".
When you work like Elon Musk, you don't have the option to pick three.
How much does Elon Musk work? Well, he frequently clocks in 100 hour work weeks.
And that's worked for him, in a way. It's hard to argue he's not successful, he's made three billion-dollar companies in his lifetime and every few months or so he breaks one record or another.
But there's 168 hours in the week, after 100 hours of work, 68 hours are left.
If you sleep 8 hours a night, 7 days a week, you're sleeping for 56 hours a week.
But Elon Musk doesn't sleep 8 hours a night.
He sleeps about 6 hours a night on average.
I'm not here to say you shouldn't try to emulate Elon. He's clearly a visionary, he's clearly an inspiration to us all, I won't argue that. What I will say, is that this lifestyle isn't so compatible with health and fitness.
If you're looking to be healthy, fit and to develop your body, Elon Musk is not the man to look up to.
For one, sleep
There's a lot of reasons we need sleep, but in terms of fitness, when we get good quality sleep, our body produces growth hormone.
Growth hormone is essential for muscular growth, and you'll get the best bang for your buck when you're sleeping well. Not just sleeping long, but sleeping well.
I put together a small checklist for sleeping well on our blog post about DOMS, which you can read here.
In short, it is:
- Keep hydrated, but do not drink right before bed.
- Keep a good airflow.
- Keep a good temperature.
- Develop a simple routine.
Secondly, sleep is when our body repairs itself best. There are four 'stages' of sleep:
Stage 1: The transition period from being awake to being asleep (lasts 5-10 minutes).
Stage 2: Body temperature drops and heart rate slows (lasts 20 minutes).
Stage 3: Muscles relax and blood pressure/breathing rate drops.
Stage 4 (REM sleep): Dreams occur and eyes move rapidly.
When we enter stage 3 and 4, our muscles relax and the blood supply to them increases, leading to muscle repair. This is also where our growth hormone is released, and where most of our energy is restored.
Not getting the sleep you need when you're working out puts you at a serious risk of injury, as your muscles will be unable to repair themselves in time for your next workout. You'll also suffer the effects of DOMS to a MUCH larger degree.
Finally, your immune system is boosted during sleep, meaning a longer and higher quality sleep pattern will lessen your risk of illness, which can seriously set you back when working out.
To make sure you get the sleep you need for your fitness and health, budget 8-9 hours to spend in your bed at night, sleeping or not, and follow the sleep checklist above.
Never mind sleep, if you're spending all your time working, then you're clearly spending none of it working out!
Generally in fitness, you can perform full body or split workouts. If you're splitting, you'll probably be working out 5-6 days a week for an hour each day. If you're doing full body workouts, you'll probably be working out 2-3 times a week for around half an hour.
3 times a week for half an hour isn't much to ask, but after warming up and down, and with a short rest after the workout, we'll say it takes an hour per workout.
While three hours a week might not be a lot of time, if you're working 14-16 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, and you have a commute to deal with, along with a morning and night routine, it's doubtful you'll actually be able to carve out the time to work out, at least not consistently. Think about it - are you really going to be able to go to the gym after an 18 hour shift? What about before a shift when you're living on 6 hours of sleep?
If you've ever had to work 60+ hour weeks, staying up late in the night having to get work done, you'll understand the struggle of staying fit in these circumstances. Here are some things you can do to stay fit in those trying times:
1: Perform HIIT workouts.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) consists of a workout where you perform very vigorous exercises in a short space of time with little rest. It is often used as a substitute for longer forms of cardio such as running, swimming or cycling. For more information about the effectiveness of HIIT, plus some mistakes YOU might be making in your HIIT workouts, we have an article here.
2: Don't set fitness goals that you can't handle.
If you've got too much work to do, if your sleep is off the rails and you can only take a 10-15 minute break a couple of times a day, don't try to increase your one rep max or the number of pushups you can do in one set. The time to advance your fitness goals is a time where you can dedicate sleep, rest and proper nutrition to them, not when you're swamped with work.
3: With that in mind - Try to stay afloat.
What I mean by this is; aim to keep yourself steady in terms of fitness, and don't let your progress dwindle away. If you've been able to break 20 pushups in a set, it will be crushing to find that, after a couple of weeks of neglecting your fitness for work that you can only do 15.
While you should definitely follow the second point and not aim for unreasonable advancement, try to do the minimum amount of exercise that will keep you where you're at, so that after your project is finished or you've finally completed that backlog of errands you're not any worse off.
People like Musk are visionaries, and they do a lot of good in the world. That being said, being Elon Musk isn't just a full time job, it's a life-commitment, one that leaves little time for much else. If you want to achieve your fitness goals, you can, but just like work and friends, your physical fitness needs time and energy put into it in order to thrive.
If you've got any questions, you can ask them below or reach out to us on social media and we'll give you free advice. We'd also love to hear YOUR fitness stories. How did you manage to stay fit during an intense time in your life? Tell us your stories!