As a marketing executive, part-time writer and full-time fitness junkie with a touch of unofficially diagnosed ADHD, sitting for extended periods of time in front of a laptop screen can sometimes feel like a punishment created for high-level criminals and sociopaths. As such I’ve gotten creative over the past several years of my professional life in developing strategies to work through my sitting-anxiety and ever-nagging agita.
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Now, I fully recognize that most individuals are not as stationary-averse as myself. But I also know that many people, desk-jobs or otherwise, underestimate the benefits of movement on productivity and alternative options for better postural alignment (and overall well-being and sanity) by removing oneself from the abyss of the swivel chair and blue light more often. The following are a few simple options to get your body and cognitive juices flowing. The only caveat is that you have to be be willing to think outside the cubicle, willing to look a little strange, and be creative with your desk tools.
Below is your quick-reference itinerary to staying nimble throughout your workday.
Office Workout Cheat Sheet
9:00 am: Take the frickin’ stairs! Better yet arrive arrive early and do five-times double-step interval climbs. (Climb up two-steps at a time and run back down). Feel free to use the semi-private back stairwell of your building if this is an option for you. Additional challenge? Do this with the added weight of your work satchel/shoulder bag/port-manteau/whatever your means of carry. No stairs? No problem. Walk briskly around the block.
9:15 am: Promptly reward oneself with a cup of coffee after if you haven’t already downed a Venti Americano Misto like myself. Caffeine and morning activity will rev all your systems, both cognitive and physical.
10:00 am: Hit the salle-de-bain for some washroom wall-sits. You did of course just down a coffee and at least two cups of water of course as you’re also being super healthy and hydrated. (Look at you, rockstar). Proceed to place your back against the stall door and until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold it. (The wall sit, that is.) Beginners; 30 seconds. Repeat thrice. Advanced; one minute. Don’t overthink any other washroom goers analysing your foot directionality from beneath the stall. It’s all for the cause and your glutes will thank you.
11:11: Make a wish.
11:20: Standing e-mail blast. If you don’t have the privilege of working periodically from a super-forward thinking start-up such as myself, which offers standing desk options, find a spot to stand and use your phone or preferred hand-held device and answer emails from a standing position. Walk around if possible and get some additional endorphins released to keep your brain focused.
12:10: Pre-lunch mini workout. If you can’t actually make it to your nearest fitness purveyor, and aren’t yet the corner office head honcho with a mobile trainer, fear not. Here is your quick and easy mini workout that will get the blood pumping before your mid-day fare.
- Use the base of your building’s back stairwell. Proceed with two minutes of elbow-to-knee joggers.
- Drop and do 20 push ups.
- Run up and down the stairs three times.
- Perform side planks; 30 seconds to a minute each side.
- Finally; the piece-de-resistance; grab your fully-packed satchel/shoulder bag/port-manteau/whatever, with both hands and perform twenty reps of single leg deadlifts. (My creative uses of heavy bags to work out in gym-less situations could be an article in it of itself).
If you are particularly self-conscious of being discovered mid exercise and feeling like a complete office-oddball, perform the push ups, perform the set minus the side planks and pushups. Although if you’re strategic you could simply find a spot with enough space from the entryway to give you just enough time to gather yourself upon hearing the door open and pretend to be mid-phone conversation and in a hurry down the stairs in the event of discovery.
I have on multiple occasions transitioned mid-burpee to cool stroll like nothing’s happened at all. (Think Hugh Grant being-caught mid-dance party a la Love Actually).
12:40: Eat, Pray, Love. Or just eat. (Preferable a healthy lunch including at least one vegetable varietal). Think of one thing you’re grateful for before you eat.
2:00: Take a brisk walk. Listen to your favourite song, or if you’re really swamped take your phone and do whatever work you can on this device while you break. (This is usually where I’d throw in some laps of travelling lunges. Envision my head bobbing up and down from an outside window- but I understand if you’re workspace doesn’t offer quite the same privacy as mine.)
3:15: Grab a heavy object and do some bicep curls. Could be that handy workbag. Some sneakily-stashed hand weights. A fax machine. Whatever works. Just get the upper body activated. Stand straight with your shoulders rolled down and back. I usually envision myself getting stronger as I do this. Good for the mind and the body as you finish out the day with gusto.
4:10: Hit the little girls’ or boys’ for some washroom air-squats. (I have to credit Tim Ferris for this idea; if you have yet to discover him and his many physiology hacks he is fantastic). In the stall, squat down until your legs reach that 90 degree angle again, and then stand straight again. Perform three sets of twenty reps if time permits, and/or your boss isn’t beside you making you feel inherently awkward.
5:00: Walk! Take this time for yourself to turn your phone off, close your laptop and re-group. (Even if you have to finish that important project later in the evening). You at least need half an hour away from that blue light. Gather your thoughts and breathe, thinking about expanding your diaphragm and letting go of all inevitable stressors of the day. You. Are. Awesome. (Repeat this mantra if you wish).
And so there you have it. Alter as needed, add, subtract and most importantly, be creative. We’ve all heard the Goodlife adage; your body craves movement. And you know what, it’s true. My best ideas have actually been conceived while I’ve been running or walking. Even if you don’t feel it in the moment, more often than not, if you push past that initial inertia and get out of that chair, you’ll feel inherently better. More mentally engaged. Physiologically energized. And the emotional catharsis will probably surprise you.
So get moving, my cubicle dwellers. Just make sure you pack some extra deodorant in that portmanteau.