Many Lighthouse Labs bootcamp grads have said that bootcamp is one of, if not THE, hardest things they’ve ever done. Learning to code 12 hours a day for 10 weeks straight is likely a challenge for almost anyone! Attending bootcamp takes determination and grit, but self care is just as important. It can be easy to fall into bad habits like skipping out on sleep and not eating well. However, staying healthy while attending bootcamp will actually help you succeed - here’s our how to guide.
Prep for Code, Prep for Life
Before attending bootcamp, you need to complete your Prep Modules. Another type of prep that you should strongly considering is prepping your life as much as possible before Day One. We like to think of this as “setting up a structure” that helps you get into healthy habits that will lead to your success in bootcamp. Once bootcamp starts, you’ll need all your brain power for learning code, so you won’t have a lot of time to worry about things like figuring out a proper sleep schedule or cooking healthy meals and putting them in the freezer. However, if you can find the time to do some “life prep” along with your code prep before bootcamp begins, you will be glad that you did!
Get Enough Sleep
Do you have a sleep routine that you normally follow? If yes, then good for you! Keep that up and make adjustments as needed depending on the bootcamp grind. If you don’t have a sleep routine, the time to figure that out is before bootcamp starts. As you work on setting your body and mind into your regular sleep routine you will find it much easier to fall asleep each night, which is going to be beneficial when you have a particularly long day at bootcamp. Numerous studies have been published on how vital sleep is to both learning and retaining knowledge. So, if you want to truly grasp a coding concept, it all starts with getting around 7-8 hours of sleep a night. This might seem like an impossible task on some days, but developing good sleep hygiene now can help you make it through the most stressful of days.
Falling asleep can often be one of the biggest challenges after a long day of hard work and coding. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try to limit your screen time once you’re home. Your best bet is to avoid all screens (yes, even your phone) for at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. And while coffee can be your friend in the classroom, it can be your enemy when trying to actually get to sleep at night. If possible, stop drinking all caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks in the early afternoon. Caffeine can stay in your system for 6-10 hours after you finish that last latte, which is why you might be struggling to fall asleep at the end of the day.
Avoid Junk Food (most of the time)
Look, we all know that doughnuts are delicious. But they’re also full of sugar, fat, unhealthy carbs, and generally aren’t going to help you stay motivated for long. During bootcamp, it’s in your best interest to eat healthy foods whenever possible - that way you stay full AND focused. Throughout the day you should be consuming a combination of protein, high fiber starches, and good fats. And, sorry to say, but your parents were right: eating vegetables really is a good idea.
Here are a few quick “grab and go” snack ideas that are healthy and require minimal work to make:
- Veggies (carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers) and hummus
- Mixed nuts / trail mix
- Yogurt / cheese sticks
- Fruit that’s easy to transport: apple, banana, orange, kiwi, and more!
- Protein bars
Also, please don’t forget about water! Staying hydrated throughout the day is equally important. And while sugary sodas might be tempting, water is always your best option to sip throughout the day, not to mention much cheaper. Coffee and tea are great to help you stay alert, but as mentioned above, it’s best to cut yourself off from all caffeine by the afternoon to ensure you get to sleep at a reasonable time. If you’re having trouble remembering to stay hydrated, there are plenty of apps that can help you remember to drink up and even help you track how much you’ve consumed.
Stress Management and Exercise
During bootcamp you’re not going to have much time for the gym, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid any and all exercise. One of the best ways to get moving is by walking or biking to bootcamp. Depending on where you live that might not always be possible. However, you can always get off the bus a stop early and use that time to get in some walking. In fact, going for walks in the morning and afternoon are a cheap, easy way to clear your mind while you stretch your legs. Don’t let things like bad weather be a deterrent, dress weather appropriate so you can get outside and breath in some fresh air. You might also consider walking around the block with other members of your cohort to brainstorm ideas or just as a way to get to know your fellow students a little better.
Managing stress can be a challenge during bootcamp, so see if you can find time for activities like meditation and yoga. You don’t have to sweat it out with a full hot yoga class or find a retreat in the woods to meditate. There are lots of free apps and online videos that can guide you through a short 15-minute yoga or meditation session. Every little bit helps!
Finally, have you been paying attention to how long you’ve been slumped over that computer monitor for? Screen time can be a huge strain on your eyes. And long hours of leaning to look over your code can be bad for your neck, shoulders, and back. Once again, there are lots of apps and online resources to walk you through stretching routines that help with spending long hours working at a desk.
Give Yourself a Break
One of the top pieces of advice that our alumni have said they would give to their “week one selves” is to take more breaks. Yes, this is a bootcamp so hard work is pretty much a given. But if you haven’t moved from your chair in the last three hours, you’ve been there too long! While it might be tempting to marathon through exercises and projects, you will notice the effect this has on your ability to focus, learn, and (most importantly) retain what you have learned.
A Little Pampering Can Go a Long Way
You probably already know something that helps you destress. It can be anything from a massage or pedicure to seeing a live music show or just a simple games night with friends. If possible, set yourself an appointment for your stress reliever of choice for the halfway point of bootcamp. Consider this a way of saying “thank you” to your mind and body for making it this far. Just knowing you’ve got some well-deserved pampering in your schedule can make a lot of difference.
Bootcamp is stressful, there’s no denying it. Aim to get quality sleep every night, eat as healthy as possible, and try to squeeze in exercise whenever you can. By staying healthy during bootcamp, you will see the results in your work and well into your new career as a developer.