Last week I had a wonderful vacation across the USA. We started in Vancouver, drove through Washington to camp in Montana, then spent 3 days in Yellowstone National Park. One more night visiting Mount Rushmore and camping nearby, followed by a lovely 4 days in a hotel in Minnesota for a family wedding. Afterwards we drove 30 hours to get back to Vancouver in time for my Women on Weights Level 1 lifting program.
It was a fantastic trip! We saw elk, bison, fox, goats, pronghorns, geysers, waterfalls, and have some great stories about seeing a Grizzly bear up close.
Although everything about the trip was fantastic, I did arrive back in Vancouver feeling sluggish, anxious, lethargic, and most of all I had felt like I had gained 10 pounds of water weight because my body was so swollen and bloated from sitting in the car for so long! We drove straight back, minus stopping for short food breaks and sleeping at night, which meant a full 3 days on the road. There wasn’t much we could have done about the trip back, because we were on a timeline. My job is so active, that I often don’t spend more than a few hours sitting still all day, and so this was a big change for me.
I know most people in society do work in jobs where they sit most of the day, which is who I am writing this blog for today.
It is so important for us to move around for all parts of our body to work well. I found this FANTASTIC video online that describes how the components of our body stop functioning as well when we sit all day.
But here’s the thing, it’s one thing to recognize that something is bad for your health, it’s another thing to really FEEL how it is bad for your health.
This is what I felt on this trip. I felt my body swell up, making me feel like I gained 10 pounds. I felt my breathing become shallower, I watched my mood change, I saw my body stiffen, I saw my appetite change. I noticed I lost about 50 % of my flexibility in just 10 days.
Since being back it has taken me 2 days and about 3 hours of exercise and plenty of vegetables to get back to normal. I feel looser, less swollen, more alert, happier, and my heart and lungs are pumping like normal again! That’s all it takes! A few hours of movement and good food can start to counteract some of the deleterious effects of sitting all day.
So I want to encourage you. Maybe you can’t physically feel how all that sitting is damaging your body, because you are so used to it and it’s become a NEW NORMAL for you. Why not start today creating habits in your life to get you up and moving around more.
To get you start on MOVING more during your workday, here is a handout I have prepared for one of my Corporate Lunch and Learn Presentations last year. It’s about ‘exercising’ and moving around at work! Pick out what you like and works for you!
Exercise at Work
Stretches- get up as much as you can and hold these stretches! Combine them with a phone conversation if you can 🙂
Posture slides on the wall
Stand with your butt, upper back, head, shoulders, wrists, and elbows against the wall. Slowly stretch your arms up above your head without letting your elbows or wrists come off the wall. Only go as far as you can without coming off the wall.
Stand in front of your chair with your feet hip distance apart, toes pointing out 10 degrees to the side. Sit back and down onto your stationary chair. Engage your glutes, track your knees out to the side, and come up to standing. Ensure your core is strong, back is neutral, and you are pushing into the tripod of your foot (heel, big toe, pinky toe). Don’t let your knee track forward of your toe, and keep your chest upright.
Stand a few feet from a wall with your toes together, up on your heels. Your hands are directly in front of your shoulder. Keeping your body flat, bend your elbows and bring your forehead to the wall. Your elbows should not be in line with your shoulders, they should be back to your side at a 45 degree angle. Exhale and push yourself up off the wall.
- Standing tall take a large step forward, plant all aspects of the front foot into the ground.
- Ensure both hips, feet, and shoulders are pointed forward throughout the entire motion.
- Bend the back knee and lower it towards the ground. Keep your shoulders and torso over the hips so that the weight drops down, not forward onto your front leg.
- Ensure your front knee stays behind the front toe.
- Ensure you are taking a large enough step (the back knee should be behind the hip).
Shadow box/fake jump rope/football feet/pump arms!!
– Try a combination of punches with each arm, some skipping with your ‘jump’ rope and some football shuffles (with bent knees and a forward posture run your feet as fast as they can go). Do either of these for 30 seconds every once in awhile to wake yourself up and get some blood flowing again after sitting for awhile. This could be embarrassing if you get caught, so just have fun with it!!
- Seated one leg extension and lift
- Sit Tall, extend one leg in front
- Engage the quad and lift the leg up and hold for 5- 10 seconds
- Calf raises
- Stand either behind your chair or close to a wall.
- With your heels behind your toes raise your heels off the ground and back down 10 times.
- Point your toes out for another 10, and then point them in for another 10.
- Stationary knee lifts and holds (from seated, or standing).
- Whether seated or standing have good posture and then engage your lower abdominals. Without adjusting your back curve or moving your upper body, draw your knee up and hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Neck muscle pushes
- To wake up the neck muscles periodically throughout the day you can get yourself into a good head posture, and then gently press on sides of the head, front, and back while gently pushing in the opposite direction with your neck.
Shoulder blade retractions, squeezing back muscles.
- While seated in your chair squeeze your shoulders blades back and down using your shoulder blade muscles, relax and repeat.
- Glute squeezes
- While seated at your chair engage one glute at a time, or both. Hold with maximal engagement for 5-10 seconds.
The concept of myofascial release is that each of our muscles is surrounded by fascial tissue. We need to not only stretch our muscles, but also release the surrounding fascia that gets tight and as a result limits range of motion throughout our entire body. You can think of this as similar to deep tissue massage. Now you can be your own massage therapist on a daily basis! You can use a tennis ball, or you can contact me if you would like to purchase some more technical equipment. Use the ‘freestyle’ technique when rolling, find the ‘tricky’ aka painful areas of muscle adhesions and dig in, tearing up that tissue. Spend more time in these areas than the less ‘tricky’ areas. Never roll on bones, major nerve or blood supply areas.
Specific areas to roll include down near the heel, arch of the foot, up and down the length of the foot, and up and down the width of the foot. This is very important especially if you wear high heels all day.
Dig into the area between the spine and the shoulder blades all throughout the thoracic spine. You can use one tennis ball or two taped together. If you use one tennis ball put it in a large sock so that it doesn’t slip out from behind your back. You can also dig in closer to the base of the neck into the lower neck muscles.
Pin the myofascial ball between your chest muscles and the corner of a wall. You can change your arm position for different effects. Make sure you are pushing your body into the wall. Dig in nice and close to the front of the shoulder, and close to your chest bone.
Place the tennis ball under your thigh; dig into the back of your leg. You can do a few things here. #1, roll that ball side to side along the width of the back of your leg, up and down the entire length of the leg. #2, you can flex and extend that leg, while digging the ball into one spot of the muscle. #3, you can roll around and dig that ball into the entire length of your muscle that runs from your glutes to your knees. ‘
This can be done in a chair, or on the ground, or up against a wall. Dig the myofascial ball into all areas of the glutes to open up the tissue. Particularly effective will most likely be the upper outer quadrant of the glutes.
Dig a tennis ball into the area where your shin bone and calf muscle meet. Drag the ball up and down the length of the calf. Next, put the ball underneath the calf muscle and smash around. You can perform it as seen in the bottom photo, or seated with your leg brought in towards your body at a 90 degree angle and resting on a surface and smash the calf this way.
I hope you got some helpful ideas for staying moving at work, and as always, pass this along to someone you love who needs some ideas for getting moving at the office!