I changed jobs about four months ago. I went from working in fundraising and development for a private elementary school to being the Creative Director for a content writing and marketing company. Pretty much my dream job!
So far it’s been absolutely amazing and I love it. I’m constantly pinching myself to make sure that it’s reality.
I’m also constantly pinching myself because my butt falls asleep because I am SO much more sedentary at my new job.
Okay, seriously. I really can’t complain about my job, like, at all, except this one small drawback. At the school I used to easily log 6000 steps a day. Without even trying. Add in a lunch time walk (plus my morning run) and I hit 10k all the time.
At my new job, my commute is a little longer. It’s tacked about 25-30 minutes onto my morning routine–just enough that I’ve had to adjust my runs to weekends and hopefully two nights a week. Plus, I’m at a desk all day. I used to get up, photograph kids for the school, talk to teachers, do laps around the hallways, and I was moving all the time. Now, if I don’t make a focused effort, I may only log 2000 steps by the time I get home at 6pm.
Needless to say, I have definitely been feeling the impact of getting less movement. So, I’ve made it my goal to try to increase my steps as much as possible at work. If you have a desk job, chances are, you’re in the same boat. It’s challenging to move in an office when you’re working hard at a computer all day (if only typing burned more calories).
So, I’ve found a few tricks and cultivated some new habits to help me get in my steps. This is what’s working for me to work out at work.
Yoga Chair & Stretching
My mom gave me a yoga ball chair for my birthday a few years back. When I first got it, I didn’t notice a huge difference, but now I really love it!
Sitting on the chair helps my posture and I notice less back pain when I use the chair. Because you use your core to stabilize yourself, the chair helps you strengthen those important muscles. It also seems to help me be more aware of my body, how I’m sitting and feel more engaged.
I have started periodically doing some stretches–neck, arm, wrist and even a crunch or two (I have a private office) when I need a break. There are tons of simple stretches you can do at your desk.
I’ve only had the desk for a few weeks, but I’m already noticing a huge difference. First of all, yes, standing doesn’t mean you’re moving (obviously) so I haven’t seen my steps skyrocket or anything, BUT standing up while I work helps me feel more awake and alert. It’s a little challenging to type some things while I stand but as I’m editing, researching and doing other tasks it’s great.
Using a standing desk also means I’m more aware and tend to do more micromovement–shifting my weight from one leg to the other and stretching as I stand in position. It reminds me to occasionally walk in place and move around the desk (sometimes I catch myself dancing to music as I work).
Take Lunch Walks
At my previous job I used to take walks diligently every day at lunch. It helped that there was a huge, empty school gym, where I could do laps while the kids were in the lunchroom. I would put on my headphones and listen to a podcast while I circled around the gym. When the weather was nice I’d go outside and I could usually get in a 1.5-2 mile walk during my break.
Now that I’m downtown and in a building without a big gymnasium, the walks have become a little more challenging. I do love walking in downtown Milwaukee, though. The scenery is great, and there’s plenty of spots by the river and Lake Michigan where I can enjoy great views during my walk breaks.
I keep an extra pair of gym shoes in my desk and slip them on at lunch. I’ve been trying to walk three days a week. When winter comes I’m sure it will become more of a challenge, but I’m hoping with boots and a coat I can still keep it up. My backup option is going to be to walk up and down the stairwell (I’m on the 18th floor).
Set a Timer
I set my timer for two-hour increments. I used to set it for much shorter blocks, but I’ve found when I’m really focused on an article, it’s hard to step away and break up my thoughts every 30 minutes or so.
When the timer goes off, I fill up my water bottle, take the long loop around to the bathroom, or just do a circle around our office suite. Sometimes I take the opportunity to venture down to the first floor and grab some almonds from the vending machine.
Setting a timer provides a reminder that I need to get up and walk around. It keeps me from getting too engrossed in my work and discovering 6 hours have flown by while I’ve been stuck on my behind.
Stepping away from my desk occasionally helps me refocus on my work. My work actually improves from the breaks. It’s hard, because I get very involved in what I’m working on. I hate prying myself away and sometimes it feels wasteful. I can’t tell you, though, how many times I’ve stepped away only to come back and catch errors or overcome creative blocks I’ve been hitting when I try to binge-work.
Even if I don’t take a full exercise break, just stepping away from the computer and doing another office activity helps. I try to move as much as possible when I do my filing (picking up one paper, filing it, and then coming back to the desk for the next one).
Sometimes stepping away from the desk gives me the motivation I need to finish strong and get more done during the day.
No Sad Desk Lunch
How many of us fall into the “sad desk lunch” category (there’s a whole Tumblr dedicated to sad desk lunches). We eat our sandwich, hunched over our monitor and dropping crumbs in our keyboard.
Instead, even if you just eat for five or ten minutes, take time to step away from your desk and enjoy your healthy lunch. I usually pack and bring my lunch from home, to save money. So it’s very easy to fall into the pattern of eating it right at my desk.
I’ve made it a new habit to sit on the other side of my desk or step out into our break room or kitchen to eat and take a breather. Again, it helps me feel more motivated, get a few extra steps and be more mindful in my eating.
So, if you’re struggling to get more workout at work try these easy tips. Get in some more stretches, take walk breaks and “step away from the computer!”
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