(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
The Deskjockey Warmup
Last week, we tossed around the idea that, as far as our bodies are concerned, we're always training. If you're about to spend 6 to 12 hours sitting at a desk, that makes you one serious athlete! Try giving yourself the following warmup daily for a week, and see how it affects you. As always, I'd love to hear how this works for you, so hop on over to Facebook and leave a message on the wall, or give me an update at your next session!
To begin, sit in a chair with both feet on the floor, knees over ankles and shoulders over hips. Take a few breaths and notice what's happening in your body today. Where are you most comfortable in your body? What's feeling really good? Where do you notice tension, discomfort or pain? What is your general energy level? Now that you've checked in, let's get moving:
1) Slow Head Turns: As you do this exercise, imagine that every turn of the neck initiates from between your shoulder blades on the back and from the middle of your sternum on the front. Imagine your neck "starts" at those points. Keeping the chin parallel to the floor, exhale and slowly turn your head to the right as far as you can with ease. On an inhale, return your head to center. On the next exhale, turn your head to the left as far as you can with ease. Move slowly with your breath, and complete 20 total repetitions, or 10 turns in each direction.
2) Shoulder Rolls: Let your arms rest at length, hands hanging at your sides (you may need to scoot forward on your chair to allow this). On an inhale, begin rolling the shoulders slowly up towards the ears, then exhale and roll them back toward your spine and then inhale forward and up again, making a big circle with your shoulder joint as you breathe. As you move, ask yourself: Could I keep performing this movement, with any less effort? If yes, keep on moving and reduce your effort a bit! Repeat 20 times.
3) Wrist and Hand Warmup: With your arms at your sides, or with elbows bent and hands in front of you, begin slowly rotating the wrists in big circles away from one another. Perform at least 10 rotations and then reverse the direction of your circles, now rotating the hands towards each other.
Next, hold your right arm out in front of you in a "stop" gesture, and gently pull back on the right fingers with your left hand, stretching the hand and forearm for 2-3 breaths. Then, keeping your arm in the same position, allow the right wrist to bend and the fingers to relax toward the floor. Use your left hand to gently press the top of the right hand back towards your chest, and hold for 2-3 breaths. Repeat both forearm stretches on the left arm. When finished, shake your hands out several times, or do a few more wrist rotations.
4) Outward Reaching Shoulder Rotations: Take your arms out to either side of your body at shoulder level, and actively reach through your fingertips throughout this movement. Drop your shoulders away from your ears while keeping the arms and hands level with the shoulders. On an inhale, rotate at the shoulder joint to turn the palms up toward the ceiling, and even slightly back (if your shoulders do that with ease). On your exhale, rotate from the shoulder joint to turn your palms down, facing the floor, keeping your elbows level with your shoulders. Breathe and repeat, rotating in each direction within your comfortable range 10 times.
You should feel pretty warm by now, so rest your hands on your thighs, take a few breaths, and check in with your body again. How are you feeling? As you go about your workday, feel free to repeat all or part of this series during short stretch breaks, to relieve tension, reinvigorate your body and refocus your mind. (By the way, this one's great for post-travel tension in the upper body, too!)
Happy holidays, dear clients! Wishing each of you healthy, happy times. Be well.
Certified Yoga Teacher
CI-Certified Personal Trainer
Licensed Massage Therapist
What are you training for?
Whether you recognize it or not, you're in training!
If recent data are to be believed, we are all spending way too much time training ourselves into pain and bad posture. Let's say that our body doesn't discriminate between "good training" and "bad training". Let's say that our body views all of the activities we spend lots of time performing as "training". Meaning, our body will become skilled at performing these activities as efficiently as possible, regardless of whether that's ideal for our long-term health. Let's say that what we do consistently with our bodies is what the body views as our program.
If our greatest number of hours is spent sitting slumped in a chair staring at a computer screen and we don't have a good deal of muscular strength and endurance in our back and abdominal muscles to support good alignment, our bodies will have to adapt. An efficient way to maintain that position over many hours is to "turn off" spine-stabilizing muscles in the abdomen, breathe in a shallow fashion and high up in the chest, and jut the head forward so that we can read the screen when we're tired. To a non-discriminating, efficiency-minded part of our body, getting really good at this makes sense, because we're likely to keep asking our body to do it. We'll pay for this, however, in lost energy, a diminished capacity to breathe fully and into our bellies, with neck and shoulder pain, headaches and a lumbar spine which lacks responsive support. What's a desk jockey to do?
Most professional athletes and coaches utilize the practice of cross-training: adding low-risk exercises and activities to develop weak areas and promote well-rounded balance and strength in the system. Consider yourself an athlete, regardless of your current level of physical fitness! What areas of your body need daily movement, exercise and stretching in order to balance the effects of your training? What movements - even those that are traditionally thought of as "good exercises" - might you need to discard from your current personal workout plan or movement practice? Why might you do that? Well, if an exercise or a stretch mimics the movements you're already doing way too much of, is it really healthy or helpful to you? Do you need to become even stronger in a hunching-forward movement (i.e. traditional sit-ups, some pushups)? Likely not!
Several newsletter episodes back, I spoke about my fondness for prescribing passive chest stretching on a half foam roller to my clients. The reason I'm so fond of this is that my clients tend to really like the way it feels, and so they do it. And because they do it on a regular basis, it works! So, that's one tool to combat the text-neck epidemic you read about in the articles I linked to above. Other tools may vary depending on individual bodies and lifestyles, but might include active chest stretches, and exercises to strengthen the back and all of it's supporting musculature (without repeatedly flexing/hunching the spine). Another intervention, which we can all implement immediately, is to hold our phones at eye level and read or text from there. Find good posture, and then alter the activity to fit it!
Perhaps this will get you thinking differently about how you're using your body, and perhaps you'll get a new idea or two about how to promote balance for yourself. If you need assistance looking into solutions to the questions above, I can help you! Move Well sessions do exactly that, and if you mention this post in the notes when you book your first Move Well session here, you'll get $15 off!
Now that you know you're an athlete, watch for next week's newsletter for professional instructions on how to warmup for your daily training. And if you're already doing a good job balancing the effects of your training - BRAVO! Keep up the good work, and enjoy feeling your best as the payoff!
Wishing you each a vibrantly healthy week! Be well, dear clients!