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The Desk Does Wonders

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If you are a hard-working office person then you will find this part greatly useful. I know you probably spend eight hours a day, 5 days a week in front of the computer working your brains off.

Eight hours of butt-numbing inactivity save for your fingers on that keyboard and the typical chitchat with your officemates while the printer is running. That is about to change. But first, here are some tips to making your office environment, workout-friendly!

  1. Clear the clutter from your desk. There is nothing stress-inducing than seeing a desk full of papers, pens and all sorts of stuff. One look at it and you get the feeling of being thoroughly busy most of the time. It is as if you have a mountain of things to do. Sort out the trash form the important things. Arrange paperwork by order of urgency. Prioritize. Keep pens and other writing materials in one place. That way you will not have to search high and low for them every time you need to jot something down.

  2. Open those drawers. I’m sure you have a bar of Hershey’s or a packet of M&M’s hidden somewhere, especially when you need that boost of energy to make up for a missed lunch. Hmmm not a very good idea. I am already counting the calories inside your desk drawer. Give it away. Give away those extra pounds. Give away those extra inches. Anything extra should be shared I say.

  3. Every office has its own water dispenser. Now I already mentioned the importance of water in your fitness plan. So to remind yourself to constantly be hydrated, make sure you have a cup or glass or a bottle to put your water in right on your desk. This way you will think about drinking more the moment you get a glance of that glass!

  4. If you have the habit of hitting the gym after work, make sure you bring an extra pair of gym clothes or rubber shoes. Keep these under your desk to remind you to stick to your workout. This way you’ll have no excuse for missing gym class just because you forgot your sweats.

  5. To combat the need for snacks at work, opt for healthier options instead of chocolate, cola and sweets. Instead be certain you have some dried fruit, yogurt, nuts and juice drinks to get you through the day. Bear in mind that this diet plan doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself. It means you get the same nourishment your body needs in proportion to the activities you do. No excess.

  6. If you have dumb bells or weights, you can keep these in your office too. Hide them in a corner in your cubicle. That way, they will be accessible to you when you have a few minutes to spare.

  7. Once you have cleared your desk of those snacks, promise yourself that no matter what, you will never eat on that office chair. During afternoon breaks, grab a handful of nuts or raisins and get out of that seat. Wander off to your office mate’s desk or walk outside for a breath of fresh air.

Now your office space is almost ready for your lazy workout plan. These simple ways to recreate your lifestyle may be just what you need in order to stay in shape minus all the fuss!

  1. Be creative. Think of ways to move around the office.

    • Take the stairs if you need to go one or two floors up. Never underestimate the benefits of a good climb up the stairs. Give the elevator a break! Test the theory that those boots are made for walking.

    • If you need to talk to somebody in the other department, why not go there yourself instead of making a phone call? As long as you are not too hectic and you have a few minutes to spare, go the extra steps and talk to him/her in person. The telephone may save time but that healthy trot through the hallway may add some more years to your life as well!

    • Park several blocks away from the office. (or any other establishment for that matter, like the mall or your school) It will give you some quality brisk walking. Only do so when you’re early enough before an important appointment or meeting, OK? We do not want you panting like a pig before a major presentation.

    • I know it feels good to act bossy sometimes. Why bother making photocopies when you can ask a trainee to do it for you? OOPS! Earth to reader, this is a fitness plan remember? Get those legs moving, run that errand yourself. That poor trainee will be very thankful, and so will your muscles!

    • Other errands you can do alone can be potential activities to keep you fit! Like getting supplies from the basement (or wherever it is that you keep office supplies like paper, glue, staples, etc.), rearranging office furniture, getting documents from the other departments and the like. Jump on any opportunity you can!

  2. Who says you can never be fit when you are glued to an office desk all the time? Below, I have listed some exercises you can perform while sitting at the office. Do not stress yourself too much. Have a “breather” in between tasks. That’s right, your body deserves a good stretch after all the hard work it has been doing for you. But before starting, remember these points:

    • Do not force it. Muscles may become really stiff especially if they’ve been stuck in the same position for a long time. Avoid forcing your body to stretch.

    • Get started slowly. Make sure you progress with careful movement until you feel that your body is ready for a more intense stretch.

    • Tension is OK. Just make sure you are not feeling any pain. Pain during stretching signals you that something bad is going on. So watch out for it.

    • Continue a stretch that feels good. Do not hold it if it is already getting too uncomfortable. Start slow, remember?

Now here are a few exercises you can do while sitting down. The best part is, they’re so easy you can even do them while attending a meeting, sitting down with a client or listening to a presentation…and nobody will find out! Isn’t that wonderful? Ready? Let us sit tight then…

  1. Point the toes of your feet forward. Bring them further away from your body until you begin to experience some form of tension. Remain in this position for 20-30 seconds. You can do this using one leg at a time. Then progress to two legs once you get warmed up. You need not be self-conscious. Your legs will be under the table or under your desk! Your office mates need not know about it at all!

  2. With your heel resting on the floor, pull your toes as well as your feet carefully towards the body. Continue this position for about 20-30 seconds.

  3. In a circular motion, turn your feet clockwise a few times. Then go the other way. You can do both feet together or one at a time.

  4. Have some fun and trace your name or phone numbers with your toes. You can even make sentences if you like! This way you get to stretch your ankles and your entire foot.

  5. Get a towel, if you have one lying around in the office. Rest one foot over the towel while you are extending your leg. Now slowly push out with your foot while pulling on the towel with your arms.

  6. You can do this one if you have enough space. First, all you need to do is to extend your leg right in front of you. Then you try holding on to this pose for 20-30 seconds or until your leg starts to shake. After that, do the same to the other leg. Once you improve your muscle strength, you can proceed to stretching both legs out in front at the same time!

Whew! Give those leg muscles the benefit of a good stretching session once in a while. In the office you can often get too caught up with deadlines and paperwork piling up. The solution? Make a simple note to yourself. Grab some post-its and scribble down a reminder. Pin it up on your bulletin board where you can see it all the time!

Now, let’s say you work in an office where you have a closed cubicle all to yourself, one that allows you some privacy. We are going to use that to your advantage. There are more exercises you can do in your office provided you have the benefit of a much larger space. Here are some of them.

  1. “The Wall Squat” – Stand with your back against the wall. Then slowly ease yourself to a sitting position, your thighs should be forming a right angle with your legs. Make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this position. Remain this way until your knees begin to quiver. Record the time, this will be your baseline. Do this several times a week, you will begin to feel your buttocks and thigh muscles tighten. You may increase your time to 3-5 seconds longer than the baseline. But as I’ve mentioned before, be careful of straining your muscles too much. Increase your time slowly. Never force it.

  2. “The Tummy Tuck” – whatever position you are in, whether it's sitting down or standing up, remind yourself continually to always tuck your tummy. It’s like consciously putting that tummy where it really belongs, tucked in that is. Once you get used to this, it will gradually tighten your abdominal muscles, making it easier to get those fabulous abs! Tuck it in!

  3. “The Chair Sit-ups” – this is just like your typical sit-up, except that in this sitting position you get to work with your lower body as well as your tummy. As a bonus, it doesn’t hurt your back as much. First, get comfy on your favorite chair or couch (whichever is more comfortable and available to you). Sit at the edge of the seat, with half of your buttocks on the seat and the other half not touching it at all. Next, keep your hands under your head (as in doing sit ups). Then start lifting your legs and buttocks towards your body while bending your upper body towards your waist as well. As I said, this will feel like your typical sit ups only with your legs off the floor. Do this for sixteen counts then rest for 5 counts and do it again. In no time you will shed inches off of your waistline!

  4. “The Wall Push”- If you want to work on those arms without breaking too much sweat, then the four walls of your office just might be the best equipment for you. Start by facing the wall, approximately a foot’s length away. Then, brace your hands over the wall. This position is the same for doing push ups on the floor. Simply pretend you’re upside down. Ready for the pushing? Now do the push ups with your hands against the wall, your weight on your arms. Do this for sixteen counts, pause for a few seconds and breathe slowly. Then do another sixteen. You can do as many cycles as you like but for beginners it would be safer to do about 2-4 cycles. You won’t want to strain those muscles when you still have a few typing jobs at the table.

  5. If you have the kind of desk that’s cluttered with all kinds of paper weights then I have just the job for you. Paper weights can come in the form of marble, glass or wood. They are quite heavy in order to hold down all those pieces of office memos, letters, bills and the like. Get two of those paper weights. Pick the ones that weigh almost the same. Then start your workout. Imagine they’re real weights you use at the gym, your very own office dumbbells! Play a lively tune or use your computer’s media player. If you have an mp3 or IPod you can listen to your favorite songs and get working on those biceps!

  6. “The Desk Squat”- this will work best if you have a sturdy desk, one that’s made of strong material. To begin, remove your shoes if they’re not comfortable enough to support some movement. Next, position yourself in front of your desk, possibly twelve inches away. Rest your hands on the edge of the desk and stand straight. Then, slowly and carefully assume a squatting position with your thighs becoming parallel to the floor. Afterwards, slowly rise up again until you return to a standing position. When you feel your thighs tighten, it means you’re doing the workout the right way! Congratulations!

  7. “Sits and Stands”- OK, lets pretend you’re a person who can never sit still. Alternate sitting down and standing up without the help of your hands. After trying for a few times you will realize what a workout it can be! It challenges your calf and leg muscles to do all the work since your hands can’t support you. The best thing about this exercise is that you can do it while talking to your boss on the phone, or printing out paperwork. You are free to do something else with your hands. Now that’s multitasking in style.

  8. “The EXERCISE BALL”- I’m sure you have seen this one at the mall or being advertised on TV. Well, do you know that this piece of equipment can substitute for your comfy office chair? What is great about it is the fact that you make use of almost all your muscle groups. Staying on this ball requires balance. Your butt, your thighs, your back…you will have them all working together to keep you seated and balanced as you do your office responsibilities.

  9. “Do some ARM-CIRCLING”- give your tired arms a break. First, extend both arms at your sides with your hands formed into fists. Then make circles in the air. Big circles, then smaller circles. Afterwards, extend your arms in front of you and perform the same procedure. Then, give your hands a good shake for a job well done!

  10. “Trunk-twister”- Slowly, take a deep breath. While you exhale, turn towards your left. As you do so, grab the back of the chair with your left hand. Keep your right hand on the arm of the chair. Maintain this position. Then, with your right hand as a support, gradually twist your trunk around. Move it as far as it will go without feeling any pain. Check how far you can go as you peer around the room. When you return to your primary position, be sure to do so carefully. Repeat the steps on the other side of your body. Don’t overdo it. Be sure to recognize your body’s limits. If you weren’t able to go as far as you would have liked, then there’s always room for improvement.

  11. “Hug your Legs” – using your office chair, preferably one that doesn’t have wheels, we will do this perfect leg-stretching exercise. First, assume a sitting position with your butt nearly at the edge of your seat. Place your feet flat on the floor together. Then, slowly lean forward until your chest touches your knees. Afterwards, let your arms hang freely until they reach the floor. Release your head and neck. Now, put your hands behind your legs. Make sure you hold this position by grasping your left hand with your right firmly. This will give your back, neck and shoulders a wonderful stretch. Maintain this pose for a few seconds. Then release by untangling your arms again. You may repeat it as many times as you like.

Feeling great already? Who would have ever thought your office desk could be so useful, right? What I want you to bear in mind is, it’s not the intensity of the workout that counts. More often, it’s the regularity and the consistence of the workout routine that really matters. In more tangible terms, focus on having three or four thirty-minute workouts in a week instead of 2 hours of gym time once a week. Intense exercises that are not always followed through will do nothing for your endurance and total body strength.

Moving your body whenever you can is like having short, little workouts that don’t tend to wear you down too much. Now you have your home couch and office desk as substitutes for gym equipment. No monthly payments and waiting-for-your-turn, no crowding at the gym shower and professional fees for fitness trainers. Cool, right? Easy exercises that are budget-wise and time-saving…way to go couch-person!

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