Running, for most of us, takes up only part of our day. The remainder of our day is filled with work and family. We often are so keen to analyse our running and training, but we forget to look at the rest of our day and how it affects our body.
Ergonomics is such an important aspect to address especially for those who spend long hours working at a desk. As runners we need to be mobile and ensure that we are flexible enough for our sport. Prolonged sitting can result in tight hip flexors, back and neck, as well as hamstrings.
I can’t change your job, or the amount of time that you need to sit and work but I want to suggest some ideas and exercises to integrate into your day to enable your body to remain flexible and less likely to get stiff after a full day’s work.
Chair to desk height
Ideally when sitting on your chair, your knees and hips need to be at 90 degrees. If your hips are higher than 90 degrees you may place more pressure on your lower back. If your hips are at 90 degrees but your feet are not able to reach the floor, use a small stool or even a solid box so your feet are supported. Sit back into your chair so your back is supported by the chair and the muscles are not continually working to remain in a neutral position.
Your arms should be able to relax on your desk with your shoulders in a neutral position and forearms supported. The keyboard or laptop should be placed so that you are not stretching your arms out, but have them in a comfortable position. I’ve often suggested the use of a mousepad as you are then aware of where you need to place your mouse, without stretching your arm too far out.
When you look at your computer screen, your neck should be in a neutral or a slight nod position (10 degrees down). The screen should be in front of you, not at an angle, to prevent constant rotation.
Another option is to look at making a standing desk for your work space. This is something I personally use and find really useful, especially if you are more comfortable standing than sitting.
I strongly recommend that every 30 – 45 minutes you set your alarm on your phone, or watch, as a reminder to get up and do some movement. This breaks the pattern of being in one place – even a good position – for too long and enables the muscles to change their position and increase blood flow.
Some basic exercises could be gentle neck rotations, shoulder shrugs, thoracic – mid back – rotations or even just standing up and changing your position from what it has been. It’s also a good opportunity to have that water break or possibly get some fresh air. The idea is that it is a short break – just a few minutes – to change your body’s position and allow movement. It will also help with concentration and give your eyes a rest from continually looking at a screen.
If you are in a job that is standing continually, another option is to have a small stool available and you alternate putting one foot onto the stool, while you stand. This changes the position of your back and leg and gives your body an alternative position.
Our body’s’ love movement. Keep them moving regularly and it may prevent that stiffness and tiredness that we can feel from a long day at the office.
Dawn Nunes is a Physiotherapist with over 15 years experience. Her passion is to help everyone lead an Active lifestyle preventing and rehabilitating injuries. She is also known as “Physiotrailrunner” and enjoys blogging about the local trails. Find out more about Dawn here.