Don’t Let Office Work Ruin Your Hard-Earned Gains

Whatever they may be…fitness gains, weight loss “gains”, body recomposition gains, movement quality gains, performance improvement gains.  Hopefully not these kinds of gains. 

As human beings, we’re designed to push, pull, carry, and generally move for most of our waking hours.  This is ideal from a health, longevity, and performance standpoint.  However, this can be problematic if the way you pay your bills involves 30+ hours per week of working in front of a computer. 

In past videos, I’ve introduced the concept of “the other 23 hours”, very strongly plagiarized from inspired by Kelly Starret’s “no days off” philosophy.  Respect, bro.

In short, the work you do in the gym is only a piece of the puzzle which yields the ultimate output of how you look naked feel and perform.  What we do during the other 23 hours of the day (sleep, stress management, non exercise movement, diet, etc…) dramatically affects how we recover and adapt to our training stimulus.  You’re an athlete 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…so if you’re going to train like one you better be damn sure to live, recover, and adapt like one.  Throwing down a 3:00 Fran and pulling a few heavy deads doesn’t give you free license to stay up until 4 AM playing Halo crushing Totino’s and mountain dew, at least not if you’re expecting to improve.  This post is NOT brought to you by Totino’s.  Paleo cuz tomato sauce, right?

In thinking through the plight of the modern, desk-bound athlete, I find myself giving patients and clients advice which falls into 2 distinct, albeit interconnected, categories. 

  1. Move More

The best position is the one you leave most often.  Aim to create a work station that promotes constant movement, fidgeting, and frequent changes in position.  The “ideal” would be something like a treadmill desk.  However, seeing as how you probably don’t work for Google, you can still probably rig up a setup that’s better than sitting for 8 hours a day, 5 days per week.  Personally, I’ve found success with a stand up desk, a cheap stool, a yoga mat, and a lacrosse ball.  I’ll likely record a video at some point in the next couple of weeks, but in short that combination of implements gives me a wide variety of movement and positions from which to do desk work.   I can-

  • Stand and weight shift side to side
  • Stand on the mat and roll my feet out with the lax ball
  • Sit on the stool L leg down R leg up
  • Sit on the stool legs reversed

I’ll either rotate through these positions intuitively, changing as I start to feel uncomfortable, or I’ll set a timer to go off every 10 minutes to remind me to shift how I’m sitting or standing.  In this manner I’m not staying in any one position for too long of a time and not giving my body the opportunity to become too accustomed with a particular static posture.

  1. Optimize Position

Sometimes we’re forced to sit in a chair for prolonged periods of time in order to get s$%t done.  It’s hardly ideal, but it happens.  Strategy number 1- change your work station and environment per the guidelines above for MOST of your work.  Strategy number 2- if you MUST sit for long periods of time, do so in the least “damaging” position possible.  Consider-

  • Having both feet flat on the floor
    • This may mean using a box beneath your feet if you’re a shawty
  • Having your back in contact with, and supported by, the back of your chair
    • Specifically, I want your mid back to be in contact with the back throughout a whole breath cycle
    • Avoid lumbar supports and other such devices to move your back away from the support.  If you’re sitting, it’s okay for the curve in your low back to lessen.
  • Arm rests so your neck and shoulder muscles don’t have to stay active to make sure your arms stay attached to your body
  • Periodically shifting slightly more weight onto your left sit bone, as most folks will tend to “hang out” on the right a bit more, especially when deprived of movement
  • Every 10 minutes taking 10 or more seconds to be visually aware of your periphery and surroundings
    • This helps to reduce eye and neck strain

I’ll likely record a video of the above steps and the “idealized” sitting position sometime soon to give a better visual.

In closing, we can’t all be professional athletes, but we can surely take steps throughout the work day to minimize the negative effects of sedentarism and desk/computer work.  Now go get those GAINS!

-Coach Tim (also Dr. Tim, PT)