November is NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month. It’s so exciting to spend a whole month working diligently on a novel, or whatever your project may be (I did a NaNoWriMo one year working on essays, another on articles). But NaNo can take it’s toll on our overall health and well-being, as writers are notorious sitters. Our legs cramp up and get super tight, but we peg away on our keyboards.
This year, I encourage anyone participating in NaNoWriMo, or if you have an office job where you sit all day at a computer, play attention to this workout and try it for yourself. Sitting is the new smoking. Not that smoking is no longer bad for you, but research is showing how prolonged sitting is detrimental to our health.
Our bodies aren’t built for sitting all day. When we sit, our calorie burning decreases, and cholesterol levels naturally rise. Our metabolic rates go down significantly.
For me, personally, when I sit for long periods of time, I can physically feel my legs tighten up and my muscles cramping. I fidget in my seat, changing my position, but the only real cure for me is to stand up and move.
The best way to combat the effects of sitting all day? Break up your sit periods. In fact, several small bouts of stretching, exercising, and taking breaks from sitting throughout the day can combat the damage of sitting more than one trip at the gym. These sitting breaks can be simple trips to the restroom, or grab another cup of tea. But why not add some pep in your step and burn some extra calories?
Exercising while you work or write will help boost creativity, help you focus, and clear your mind as well as keep you healthy. It’s a win-win, so what do you have to lose?
For today’s workout, set a timer when you are sitting at your desk for 15-20 minutes. Whenever it goes off, perform one of the five stretches, one of the five movements, one of the five exercises, and then another stretch (same stretch or a different one, doesn’t matter). Rotate throughout the day, or repeat ones you especially enjoy, feel good, and help boost your day the most.
- Flamingo Stretch- Stand up or hold onto a pole for this stretch. Lift your right leg, bending it behind you, while reaching your right hand to hold your foot in your hand and stretch it to reach your butt. Hold here or lean forward to lengthen the stretch. Release your foot and switch sides.
- Squat Hold- Squat as low as you can in a wide stance. Place your elbows between your knees and press out to stretch.
- Pigeon– Sit on the ground or a mat and arrange legs as shown in photograph below. One leg is straight behind you, the other is bent at the knee and tucked in front of your body. Gently lean forward over the front leg. Try to sit both butt cheeks down on the ground. Alter the angle you are leaning until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds on each side, longer if possible
- Good mornings/ Giraffe Reach-downs– Stand with your legs wide apart. Place arms straight out from your side. Twist your hips to face your right leg. Bend at your hips and reach your right foot with your left hand. Your right hand should reach overhead to the sky. Unhinge to return to standing, and repeat the other side. Maintain a slow, controlled pace throughout movement.
- Hippy Knee Huggers– Stand in neutral pose. Lift one leg and hold it with both arms, hugging it as close to your chest as you can manage. Hold the position for a count of 3 and release. Raise the other leg and repeat.
- Standing- side to side motions
- Up and down a flight of stairs
- Stationary movements- jumping, butt-kickers, push-ups on your desk, etc
- Variation movements- skipping, jogging, butt-kickers, high-knees, etc
- 20 Glute Bridges– Lay on your back with your feet together on the ground and knees bent. Place your hands either on the ground beside you or behind your head. Keeping your feet on the ground, lift your butt and lower back off the ground. Use your glutes to raise your hips as high as you can and remain stable. SLOWLY lower your body back to the floor.
- 20 Dips- Sit on the floor in front of a chair or bench. Place your hands on the edge of the seat. Place your feet in position where you are comfortable- the closer to your body, the easier it is- choose your level. Keep your arms at a ninety degree angle while on the ground. Press into the seat of the chair and straighten your arms to lift yourself off the ground. Pause at the top and lower yourself back to the floor.
- 20 Upside Down Beetles-Lay on your back with arms and legs held straight up in the air. Alternating arms and legs, bring your right arm and left leg down to the ground, and back up, then your left arm and right leg down and back up. Count each side or both together as one repetition.
- 20 Chair or Air Squats- Stand in front of your chair (if doing chair squats). Stick your butt out, keeping your chest up and knees driven out. Lower yourself to the seat of the chair. Try to lift yourself back up as soon as your butt hits the chair, again, driving your knees out and keeping your chest up.
- 20 Bent-over Rows- Leaning against a chair or bench with one hand, hold a weight (dumbbell, water bottle, whatever) in the opposite hand. Keep back straight and place one knee on seat. Hold the weight at the bottom with your arm straight. Then lift the weight to your chest (as seen in picture).
When you finish your set, reset your timer and repeat throughout your writing session or workday.
If it helps, try to pair movements with what you need to do for work. Do you need to go to the restroom? How about instead of going to the one thirty feet from your office, you go down or up a flight of stairs and use the bathroom on a different floor. Getting another cup of coffee? Do some stretches or exercises while waiting for the coffee to brew. Walk to your co-worker’s desk rather than send an email. Jog during your lunch hour. Create a small writers’ wellness break station with your writing group. Lead them through a series of stretches or exercises every 20-30 minutes.
Boost your creativity and get the most out of NaNoWriMo. Take care of yourself and watch your writing soar!