Lockdown Diaries Week 6 – At-Home Workers Feel The Stretch
The nation, it seems, is currently divided in 3 distinct groups of people. The heroes – they’re the keyline workers who head out to their jobs each day in the NHS, care homes, supermarkets, bin lorries and probably several other ‘invisible’ jobs that are needed to keep society functioning but that we don’t even realise exist. They're doing a gazillion steps a day right now!
Then there’s the furloughed folks – the ones everyone else thinks are lucky but who are now on rerun 129 of Dave, are contemplating starting a vlog showcasing how many ways you can pleat a dogs tail, and are pining for a broken stapler to fix. Split between the ones training for a virtual marathon on their stairs and the ones who could now throw their back out reaching for their wine glass at 11am.
And then there’s the at-home workers. I’m one of them. I don’t know about you, but I think there has been something quite liberating about being at work in a pair of Hello Kitty PJ bottoms. Writing press releases while mainlining my fifth loaf of sourdough bread is something I could grow to love.
I was chatting to my pal about this the other day and it turns out she’s having an entirely different at-home working experience – she’s fairly senior in a big bank and is having several Zoom meetings a day. And it turns out people are actually dressed LIKE THEY’RE AT WORK! Hair done, makeup on, tie and collar for the boys. What fresh hell is this? Are they all a bit catfish do you think; smart from the waist up but wearing their cleaning leggings with the bleach stain down one leg and still with their winter toenail varnish even though its May?
Whatever your situation, it is safe to say you are probably working in an entirely different way to the one you were pre-lockdown. In my normal office (as it is now known) we have stand-sit desks, purchased 4 years ago after my lower back started calling out to me in my sleep following 20 years of sitting at a computer. Now, I’m sharing a dining room table with a drawing machine, 142 books on baking, wool for our mask-holder project, a half-dead plant and two jigsaws not even out of the sellophane.
Throw in the mental turmoil and general stress of the entire situation and you have a recipe for stiff, tight muscles and an alarming increase in the length of that strange ‘shooosshh’ sound anyone over 40 makes whenever they stand up.
This week, one of the things I did for work was share the Live Active ‘Desk Exercises’ ideas into various groups on Facebook. The irony of completing that task and then bemoaning the twinge in my hip-flexers was not lost on me. I’ve been so busy trying out their 20 minutes workouts and ‘proper’ exercises that I’ve forgotten about the basics. You may well be the same.
Why is this? I think when we started this whole lockdown we all believed that here in Scotland and the UK we’d be back to normal within three weeks. The idea then of having to share a table while you homeschooled the kids, or work from the sofa in your wee flat, seemed completely do-able. Then it was 6 weeks and we all breathed deeply, eye twitching only slightly, and prepared ourselves for the same again.
And now it’s to be 9 weeks – and oh my days if I don’t do something about my descent into a woman who thinks that a good stretch is pushing her 13 year old niece out of the way while grabbing the last brownie then those Hello Kitty PJs will need to become my workwear of necessity – because nothing else will fit!
At first I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so stiff. I’m doing a walk about 4 days out of 7, and I do a couple of 20 minute sets each week. ANd then it came to me - the problem is that my NEAT - that’s non-exercise activity thermogenesis - is way, way down. NEAT covers all the things that expend energy that are not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. Walking to work, taking the stairs, shopping, fidgeting, doing housework etc.
Looking at my life right now - and yours I'm willing to bet - there is very little NEAT going on. I don't walk to my work. I don't stand at a desk for half of the day. I don’t go into town and have a wee nosey in Eva Lucia at lunch time. I don’t walk up to see my mum. I don’t walk to Rodney to do those 30 mins of exercise. I don’t head out to meetings, climbing the stairs to my top floor office three or four times a day. And housework… I mean why even bother?!
Instead, I sit at a table, I do my meetings via phone, I’m eating more than ever (my general diet is healthy-ish but man I can put away a family sized bag of crisps!), I lie on the sofa watching box sets and I read books.
I’m not beating myself up about this – and neither should you – but my body is feeling the end results of it. Niggles, twinges, a weird limp from stiff hip flexers (seriously, what is that all about?) and a sore neck because my work station isn’t properly optimised, are all taking their toll.
And so, in a practice what you preach type scenario, I decided a back-to-basics approach was a good idea.
It just so happens that LAL had started to compile some desk-based activities at the end of February and they are the perfect bite-size stretches for anyone who is stuck inside working - or watching Netflix! - during lockdown.
HOW TO SQUAT
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, chin up and core engaged.
- Hold your arms out in front of you or by your sides – but resist putting your hands on your legs!
- Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground - the best way to describe it is like sitting down on an invisible chair.
- Go lower if you can – as long as you can keep your balance you’re OK.
- If you’re not sure if you’re going low enough, try squatting onto a box that’s slightly lower than knee height. Each time your glutes make contact with it, that’s a rep.
- Stand back up - and repeat!
HOW TO WALL PUSH UP
- Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm's length away with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
Three of your favourite Live Active Rodney instructors are demonstrating core options for beginners, intermediates and advanced levels of fitness.
- Option 1 - Standing Knees to Elbow
- Option 2 - Seated Crunch
- Option 3 - Burpees
In these strange times, everyone's exercise and gym routine has been disrupted. Ensuring that you're fitting a cardio workout into your new normal may seem daunting, but we have a few aerobic tricks to try during your next break between Zoom meetings!
- Do 60 seconds worth of jumping jacks.
Low impact: Raise your right arm and tap your left toe to the side while keeping your right foot on the floor; alternate sides.
- Run or jog on the spot for 60 seconds. Get those knees up remember!
Low impact : March on the spot, arms swinging and knees as high as you can
- While seated, pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds, then rapidly tap your feet on the floor for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Do walk-lunges around the table or up the hall for 60 seconds
- Take to the stairs - two at a time if you need a harder workout! Do this 5-7 times a day.
FEEL THE STRETCH
Stretching exercises are a great way to ease stress - something we could all use right now! They'll also help keep your muscles from tensing up, giving you a feeling of relaxation.
- Sitting tall in your chair, stretch both arms over your head and reach for the sky. After 10 seconds, extend the right hand higher, then the left.
- Let your head roll over so that your right ear nearly touches your right shoulder. Using your hand, press your head a little lower and hold for 10 seconds. Relax, and then repeat on the other side.
- Sit facing forward, then turn your torso to the left and your head to the right - hold for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times, alternating sides.
- Sitting up straight, try to touch your shoulder blades together. Hold, and then relax. Repeat 10 times.
- To ease the hamstrings and lower back, push your chair away from your desk and put your right heel up on the desk. Sit up straight, and bend forward just until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg. Flex your foot for a few seconds, and then point it. Bend forward a little farther, flex your foot again, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
AND : Caroline also has a TikTok video showing you 5 easy yoga poses that you could fit in at lunch time. Check it out here in the mindfulness section >>>
AND : I know it might sound strange but LAL has also compiled a range of chair-based exercises for people who need a slower paced exercise routine. They are great for while you're sitting at your desk or watching telly. Have a look >>>
How Did I Get On?
- Honestly, great! I had forgotten how good a proper stretch feels. It’s like someone has given you a pull and released you with a new burst of energy.
- When I first bought my stand-sit desk I had to set a timer on my phone to remind me to actually switch. I did the same again so that every hour I was prompted to get up and throw in a minute or two of simple stretches or to do some chair-based ones at my desk.
- Hilariously, when Roy handed me back my phone with the photos on it I couldn’t believe how little my body was actually moving. In my head I was nailing the knee to elbow stretch all week but when you see it here I’m miles away! It felt brill though and that’s all that counts.
- Jumping Jacks… Holy Moly that’ll get you going. Simple to do, no major technique needed, just set your 60 seconds and go. It feels a bit like you’re a kid again – you’ll love it!
Like all exercise, once you start you want more. Just a few days at this and I could feel the difference. I’m not even doing every hour but I’m probably doing 10 mins every couple of hours.
- I don’t do all of the exercises every time and I don't do it religiously on every hour; I always do the neck one and the torso twist because they help my weak spots, but I try to mix it up
- I finally got round to ordering a set of wireless headphones so that I could wander around while on the phone without trying to hold it between my ear and my shoulder. Late to the party I know, but what a difference these two small things have made this week.
If you have any tips or ideas for stretches or exercises to do in a few minutes at the desk, please post them on your social and tag them #WeLiveActive.
Follow the Live Active Leisure Facebook page for daily workout ideas every day at 10am.
Have you tried out the At Home videos from other LAL instructors? Check them out on the YouTube Channel here >>
You can read Nicki’s week 1 – 5 Lockdown Diaries on our blog here >>>