You’ve been working hard in the gym. You have near perfect attendance. You show up early to do your foam rolling. You’re focused during the warmup. You care about your technique during the lifts to make the most of your time at the gym.
But the fact is, you most likely spend only 3 hours at the gym each week. That’s 165 other hours where you’re not thinking about good form and posture.
And when do most people usually slip into bad habits and posture? At the office. Sitting at a desk.
No wonder so many people complain of tightness, aches, and pains despite working hard at the gym. They spend 40+ hours a week at work.
What and how you spend your time at the office will play a big role in your overall well-being and health.
Below are a few stretches and strategies to break up the bad habits people (myself included) have during work.
When it comes to stretching at the office people, most likely think one of two things:
- No way am I doing that stuff at the office and get made fun of.
- I have no shame in what I do to better myself while in the office.
So, below are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways to stretch and stay mobile depending on what you’re willing to do.
Note: You should be able to breathe easily during the stretches. No straining or holding your breath. Most stretches should be held ~ 15-30 seconds. Never stretch through pain.
Neck Stretch: Sit up tall in your chair with your shoulders down and back. Tuck your chin (think about making a double chin). Grab the bottom of your seat with your right hand and try to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
Chest Stretch: Sit or stand tall with good posture. Interlock your hands behind your back and reach as far backwards as you can without breaking the good posture.
No Money Drill: Sit or stand tall with good posture. Your shoulders should be down and back and your chin tucked (double chin). Both arms should be bent at 90 degrees with your elbows at the side of your body and palms up towards the ceiling. Seperate your arms as far as you can without moving your elbows.
Wrist Stretch: Interlock your fingers with your hands in front of you. Make circles with both holds. Start with slow, small circles. Gradually increase the speed and diameter of the circles. Go both clockwise and counterclockwise.
Glute Stretch: Sit tall in a chair with your back not touching. Cross your left leg so your left ankle is resting on your right knee. Try to drive your left knee down into the ground while leaning your chest forward. Keep your back in a straight line as you lean. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring Stretch: Sit tall in a chair with your back not touching. Extend your right leg so it is straight with your right heel into the floor. Bend your left knee so the left foot is flat. Lean forward, leading with the chest. Keep your back straight to feel a stretch in the back of your right leg. Repeat on the other side.
Butt Stretch: Either lean back in your chair or stand up tall. Pull one knee up towards your chest without leaning forward. Repeat on the other side.
Hip Flexor Stretch: Either stand up in a split stance (one foot in front of the other) or kneel in a half kneeling position. Stay tall and upright through your torso. Squeeze your back glute as hard as you can to feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Repeat on the other side.
Scapular Wall Slide: Stand up tall with your back against a wall. Place your feet a few steps forward to keep your lower back flattened into the wall. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and place your upper arms, forearms, and back of palms against the wall. Take a big breath in. Exhale and drive your ribs down while sliding your arms up into a “Y” shape. Inhale and slide your arms back down to the start position. Only go as far as you can up and down while still being able to keep your arms on the wall. Repeat 8-10 times.
Squat to Stand: Stand tall with your feet approximately hip width apart and toes turned slightly outwards. Squat down and grab your toes. Straighten your legs as much as possible while still holding your toes. Pull yourself back down into a squat. Your heels should stay down the entire down and knees pressed out. Your chest should be up while in the bottom position. Repeat 8-10 times.
Wall Ankle Mobility: Stand in front of a wall with one foot a few inches away from the wall. Keep the front foot flat and heel down the entire time. Try to touch your front knee to the wall and then back to the starting spot. Move further away from the wall until you get to the point where you can barely tap the wall with your knee while keeping your heel down. Repeat 8-10 times on each side.
Self Massage: Stand up with your back against a wall. Using a tennis/lacrosse/racquet ball, place the ball bewteen your upper back and the wall. Roll the ball around your back, avoiding the neck and lower back, until you find tender areas (typically the upper back, shoulder blade area). Slowly roll back and forth over the tender areas applying only as much pressure as you’re comfortable with.
Stretching and general mobility work are a great thing to do during the work day. Yet, completely avoiding the bad posture positions will have a significant effect.
Here are some general strategies to help against sitting at a desk all day (while still being a good employee):
Walking Meetings: If you have a short meeting with a coworker, see if you can take your meeting outside for a walking meeting. Studies show it helps boost productivity during the meeting. Plus, walking helps your physical health and gets you away from your desk.
Standing During Phone Calls: This one is pretty straightforward. Anytime you have a phone call, simply stand up. The phone call acts as a cue to get on your feet and away from sitting all day. If you don’t have to be at your desk during the call, you can also walk around the office while on the phone – double win!
Using a Timer: Like the phone call above, having a cue to get some movement in during the day is key to actually doing all the things we talked about above. A pomodoro timer is a common technique to increase productivity while preventing burnout. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work. Once the timer goes off, set it for 5 minutes and use that as your stretching/walking/moving around time. Repeat the 25:5 cycle throughout the day. You can also do a 50 minute work, 10 minute movement ratio if that’s better suited for your job.
Pro Tip: “e.ggtimer.com” is a free online timer that will show a running clock in a tab on your internet browser. It will alert you when the timer is complete. If you type http://e.ggtimer.com/pomodoro into the address bar, the pomodoro timer will automatically start playing for 1 cycle.
Don’t feel like you immediately have to do all of the stretches and each of the strategies above. Pick one or two of them and try them out for a day. At the end of the day, see how you feel compared to previous days.
Let us know how it goes!
Director of Training
Pursuit Fitness and Performance