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Wellbeing with Jess: staying healthy as a digital nomad

Split Tech City

Split Tech City

30.11.2021.

We think about a lot when we talk about living a digital nomad lifestyle – traveling and all the logistics behind it, getting to know new cultures, managing work on top of that. However, to be able to live your nomadic life and successfully balance all the traveling, enjoying yourself, and working, digital nomads should take into account their wellbeing.

Jess and FIT&FKD

That is why we sat down for another chat with Jess Gillespie, one of the internationals living in Split. Those of you who follow the work of Split Tech City might remember her detailed insight into the wellbeing of entrepreneurs she shared with us during the Global Entrepreneurship Week. Because she also works with digital nomads, we are certain that she has some very helpful advice on how to take care of yourself to be able to enjoy your nomadic lifestyle to the fullest.

Aside from experiencing burnout herself, Jess is now working as a personal trainer and does her best to help others not reach that breaking point. Because of that, she founded her wellness brand called FIT&FKD: “For those who are feeling physically FKD or mentally FKD and looking for a balanced approach to getting FIT.”

Arrival to Split and changes that brought

When she came to Split from the UK, Jess also experienced some changes caused by the cultural and lifestyle shift that made her alter her approach to work and include digital nomads in the array of people she is helping out with FIT&FKD: “Coming to Split has allowed me to interact with a wider range of people and I now work with both men and women aged between 20-80 years old, all of whom have different fitness levels, lifestyles, interests, and goals. When planning a training program, I need to consider each of these factors on an individual basis to ensure I give the right level of guidance and support to each person.

I’ve also learned to readjust my approach for those living the nomadic lifestyle – those either passing through or staying temporarily as digital nomads. The needs of these clients are mainly focused on accountability and consistency and I now use an online platform called TrueCoach which helps me stay on top of everyone, whether they are in Split or elsewhere.

I’d also like to add that Split has an amazing community of wellness practitioners – chiropractors, ayurvedic practitioners, yoga and meditation instructors, nutritionists, mindset coaches – both locals and foreigners, who have been instrumental in helping me develop my skills as a fitness coach.

My intention with FIT&FKD has always been one of a holistic approach – emphasizing the importance of not only physical fitness but mental fitness too.

Back in July I organized and co-hosted the first Wellness Workshop at TheWorks coworking, the aim of which was to collaborate with other health professionals in Split with a focus on mind, body, and spirit. Listening to others share their wellbeing journeys and the techniques, strategies, and tools they have used has been a great learning experience for me and hopefully those who attended. The event has been so well received and a 4th workshop has been held recently.”

One obstacle she faced with her work here in Split was the weather. To be more precise – a very dry summer full of heatwaves. However, even that obstacle was surpassed – with a little help from the local community: “When I first arrived in Split I was running classes on the beach and in the park. As the peak of the summer approached, it became too hot and too crowded to continue.

To continue training clients, I formed some key relationships, which allowed me to move classes indoors to TheWorks coworking and 1:1 sessions to the gym at Spartan Gym. I even utilized the sea and developed an aqua aerobics class for those who still wanted to keep training outdoors throughout the summer.”

Split as a healthy city for digital nomads

When it comes to Split as a city for digital nomads, Jess immediately pointed out some benefits that all nomads (and locals, to be honest) should utilize to maintain their wellbeing: “Split is a walkable city meaning you don’t need to get in your car to visit a friend or run an errand. Not only does this help with increasing your daily activity levels, but it also encourages you to get out in the fresh air and soak up the vitamin D on our mostly sunny days. We’re also really lucky in Split to have Marjan Park and of course the sea right on our doorsteps.

Being able to easily connect with nature is a fantastic way to reconnect with ourselves and helps to calm the mind.

Finally, I would say that the pomalo (English: slowly) attitude helps us to take a step back, a deep breath in, and relax the shoulders down – yes we still have deadlines but they’ll get done…bit by bit.”

Now that you’ve gotten to know Jess a bit more and she set us on the right course to discuss the wellbeing of digital nomads, let’s go through the questions we wanted to ask her on the topic of keeping fit and healthy while on a digital nomad journey and hear some detailed answers from one who knows all about it!

On everyday life in Split and staying healthy

What are your suggestions regarding everyday life in Split that you think might be useful for digital nomads trying to stay healthy and fit while living here?

“There are so many things to do in Split as an active person. The city has some great gyms which offer reasonably priced monthly and day passes – check out Spartan Gym if you’re living in the old town. TheWorks coworking also has its in-house gym facilities if you’re looking to kill two birds with one stone. If you’re on a tight budget and looking for some free ways to train, there are also loads of outdoor training spaces in beautiful locations such as Bačvice beach and Marjan Park (Google search: Split Calisthenics), and of course, running along the Riva is a great way to see the city and get fit.

If you’re struggling with motivation I’d suggest signing up for a group class. Once you commit to a class with other individuals with a similar set of interests you’re more likely to meet and make friends with locals, expats, and people like yourself. FIT&FKD runs group classes for all fitness levels every Tuesday and Thursday at 8 am.

There are also several donation-based and paid Yoga classes available – check out Yoga 22 and Yoga Hrvatska who give weekly classes in English. If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, there are some cool spots for climbing and instructors ready to show you the routes – southern side of the Marjan Park and Omiš are both places to check out.”

How to prepare for the digital nomad lifestyle

What about those who are just starting to consider this lifestyle or are preparing to begin their digital nomad journey – what advice would you give them on how best to manage to explore new worlds (geographic, culinary, etc.) and keep themselves healthy?

“There are loads of reasons we love to travel and want to live the nomadic lifestyle – meeting new people, learning about different cultures, seeing new landscapes, tasting new foods…nothing beats it! In the same way that we think about these things when planning a trip, it’s also important to create clarity when it comes to our health.

Be prepared and ask yourself these questions ahead of time:

  • What’s your goal – is it to lose a certain amount of weight or learn a new skill?
  • When do you want to achieve said goal?
  • Why is important to you? Why now?
  • How will it feel to achieve it?

Once you’ve set your goals, make a plan.

Think about what activities you enjoy doing and how much time you realistically have to dedicate to them – there’s no point in saying you’ll run 3 times a week if you don’t like running and only have time to train twice a week. Are there sports clubs or teams you could join? Where’s your closest gym?

If you don’t have much experience in training or you’re concerned you will struggle to stay on track, you may benefit from having a personal trainer. Not only will they be able to teach you the right way to perform specific exercises but they will also ensure your program progresses as you do. Furthermore finding a trainer who does in-person and remote coaching can be a really useful way of starting (or re-starting) your fitness journey as you will be able to continue even when you move on to the next place.

Keeping track of your progress physically and mentally is important to raise your awareness so you can be clear on what is working and what isn’t. This also plays a huge role in keeping you motivated as you’re able to view your achievements in a tangible way.”

Getting back to being healthy as a digital nomad

What advice would you give to people who are already well underway in their digital nomad journey and are noticing that they might have overdone it – what is the best way to go back to a healthy lifestyle while not losing any of the freedom of exploring a new place and all it offers (food, experiences, etc.)?

“First of all know that it’s never too late to get yourself back on track. Start by bringing some awareness to your current habits by noting down your daily routine including any physical activity you’re doing and food/drinks you’re consuming. Pay attention to things like tiredness, hunger, irritability, bloating, mind fog, and the time of day these things come up.

Having this information is a great starting point and will give you a clearer idea of where change is needed. Perhaps you notice you get bloated when you’re not drinking enough water. Using this as a building block you can then choose one or two new habits to implement each week/month.

Be mindful to not try and do everything at once as you want these changes to be realistic and sustainable based on the lifestyle you enjoy having. Once you feel confident you can maintain your new habit, challenge yourself to something else.

And remember the 80/20 rule – if you are consistently doing something 80% of the time, you can let yourself off the other 20%.”

A common problem for all digital nomads

While working with digital nomads, have you noticed a common problem they all have when it comes to wellbeing?

“Being location independent can create an element of stress and anxiety, especially when combining travel with work. When everything is new, keeping a routine can be difficult and this is the biggest problem I’ve noticed for digital nomads.

My advice is to take your time to settle in and give yourself the chance to relax.

There’s a lot of comfort and advantages in that. Once you feel mindfully present with yourself and your surroundings you should try to create some routine within your days/weeks. Doing this for a while can really do wonders for your mental health and is why I would suggest staying in one place for at least a month at a time if possible.

The other thing for me isn’t just limited to digital nomads but all workers who feel they “don’t have time to exercise”. Although I understand the complexities of people’s lives, the way I look at it is – you wouldn’t go days without brushing your teeth, so why would you go days without looking after the rest of your body.

Without our health, we have nothing – full stop. Find the self-discipline.”

Top five things to do for digital nomad wellbeing

In the end, please give us the top five things you would like any digital nomad to do for themselves to make their journey enjoyable, as well as healthy?

“Here we go:

  • Get in shape – Not only does physical activity lift your mood and keep you energized, but it also eases symptoms of stress and anxiety, improves self-esteem, and reduces brain fog allowing you to focus and learn quicker.
  • Create a routine – As hard as it can be, sticking to a routine can make a huge impact on your wellbeing. Schedule training sessions and breaks like you would a meeting and be strict with yourself to stick with it. Make sure you also have a healthy routine with meals by setting aside specific times to eat. This will ensure you give yourself the time to pick the right type of food and don’t skip meals or end up overeating due to hunger.
  • Set boundaries – We need time to unwind and reset to keep our mental health in check. Make sure you give yourself downtime from your phone and laptop and arrange calls and meetings at reasonable times – concerning the time zones you’re working in. Try to keep weekends free by turning off email alerts and putting your laptop away. This is the perfect time to connect with other people and enjoy the beauty of your new location.
  • Get enough sleep – Work, traveling, socializing…it all requires a lot of mental energy. We need to make sure we’re getting enough rest to allow our body time to recover. Creating a solid bedtime routine can help with this. Start with some self-care an hour before bedtime – make a cup of herbal tea, have a bath, take off your makeup. Make sure your bedroom is a calming space, preferably a dark room and at a cooler temperature. Finally, avoid using any of your devices before bed – the blue light that is omitted messes with our circadian rhythm.
  • Don’t forget to socialize – It’s really easy to get caught up with work and spend your evening working and making money, but it’s a slippery slope. As a digital nomad, it’s very easy to get lonely – so don’t miss the opportunity to meet people. After all, you’ve chosen to be somewhere new to experience the place and these kinds of social connections can be the best moments in life.”
Be “more FIT, less FKD”

And there you have it, nomads! Some of the things mentioned above seem like a no-brainer, but let’s be honest with ourselves: we’ve all been guilty of ignoring them and doing the opposite from time to time. It’s in human nature to need some reminders occasionally. That is the reason we got Jess on board for this chat about nomadic wellbeing.

We are very thankful for the time Jess took to share this valuable insight! If anyone is looking to be “more FIT, less FKD” – feel free to contact Jess!

Photos by: Aaron Truax for FIT&FKD

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Split Tech City

We are the first formal association of Split’s tech community which includes companies, associations, institutions, meetups, and individuals.

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