Editorial: Counteracting a Desk Job

Garden statue photo by 4175959 on Pixabay

Back in late September I managed to overextend one of my hip flexors (via slow, controlled motions) to the point of a multi-day painful limp. I’d fallen out of my exercise and stretching practices over the summer and been sitting nearly all day long at work. The process of getting back into shape wasn’t fun, but now that I’m well in the habit again it’s fine and the benefits are huge. I thought I’d write about the prongs of my plan.

As with anything like this your mileage may vary, and you should consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This has worked for me and my particular circumstances and I present it in the hopes that it could be helpful or at least inspirational to others.

1. Work out regularly and stretch daily.

My exercise is walking the mile to and from work (total of 40 minutes, 4-5 days per week), working out 20-30 minutes before work 4 mornings a week, and at least 30 minutes of something (walking, elliptical) each weekend day. I do the morning workouts to add weight lifting and more-intense cardio to the mild cardio I get otherwise.

After work I stretch – and I can tell the difference when I don’t, even though I’m not holding the stretches for a particularly long time. The important ones are chest and hip flexors, though I also do hamstrings and calves. I do them all in a doorway, using it for resistance for the chest stretch and balance for the hip flexor stretch.

2. Stand for a while after warming up your body and watch your posture both sitting and standing.

In my anti-desk-job exercise reading, one article pointed out that if you exercise before work, your body is healing and regenerating in whatever posture you put it in at work – good or bad. My reaction to that is to try to stand for the first hour at work, since tight hip flexors are my particular area of concern. I have a sit/stand desk so it’s generally not difficult (except that at first it felt like a penance).

Of course, whether sitting or standing you can have poor posture. Mind your shoulders, abs, and the tilt of your pelvis – along with everything else I found myself standing in a sway-backed position.

3. Fold in specifically anti-desk-job exercise at least occasionally.

You can find many anti-sitting workouts online, including these four that stood out to me: Boston Workbar (most recommended of the lot), SparkPeople, The Art Of Manliness, and Bodybuilding.com.

I ended up writing my own, focusing on mobility and strength exercises and keeping the stretching fairly generic (since I also do it at the end of the day). I have two routines that I alternate between for a week out of every month or so. Both start with a 10-minute cardio video to warm up; afterward I stretch thoroughly, making sure to hit lower and upper calves, hamstrings and glutes, outer hips, quads and hip flexors, chest, shoulders, back, and triceps.

Here’s my routine – except for a few notes below I’m leaving exercise descriptions to the links above.

For a nice 30-minute workout do 15 reps of each exercise, per side if applicable, or 30 seconds holding the planks, plus the video and stretching. For a 45-minute workout, do a second set of 15.

Monday/Thursday Tuesday/Friday
Video: Slow & Steady Burn off 10 Minute Solution’s Carb Burner (why: reaching and twisting) Video: Standing Abs off Kathy Smith’s Tummy Trimmers (why: dedicated balance work)
pull head backwards
hip hinge with rear tap
shoulder shrugs
fire hydrant
half-kneeling chop
static lunge or split squats or sliding reverse lunge*
one-arm rows
glute bridge with weight or one leg straight up
shoulder wall slides
drinking bird*
leg swings
neck rolls
shoulder rolls
hip circles*
elbow plank
elbow side plank
weighted side bend
grok squat

* Sliding reverse lunge is a rear lunge where you slide your foot back instead of stepping back. If you’re on a hard floor, put a towel under your foot; if you’re on carpet, use a paper plate.
Drinking bird is my name for what Boston Workbar calls single-leg hinge to anterior tap and most people call single-leg deadlift.
Hip circles are a la Bodybuilding.com and probably the single best takeaway from that routine.

Happy New Year!

Garden statue photo by 4175959 on Pixabay.

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