Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Stay Flexible, Avoid Injury

Wearing IllumiNITE's Long Sleeve Piper Tee
and Running Tights keep me comfortable and
fashionable while I work from home
I feel like roadkill on the side of the road that has frozen solid. Ugh! In hindsight, it was inevitable that I would throw my back out this winter. Before the bitter cold settled in, I’d been pretty good at keeping active, despite the pandemic keeping me at home most of the week. But as the months got colder and my reading chair and afghan got cozier, it became more difficult to motivate myself to get moving.
Wrist stretches help my hands and
 arms from cramping up

For the past month, my shoulder has been hurting. It finally got to the point that it woke me up every time I tossed or turned while I slept, and trust me, I toss and turn all night long. Long story short, I eventually threw out my back, which spasmed for three days, which in turn caused new pain on the left side of my neck, back, and arm—all in addition to my right shoulder pain.

“It sucks getting old,” I told Mike.

Truthfully, the issue isn’t that I’m “getting old.” The issue is that I drastically cut back on minor
everyday routines that kept my body limber and strong. I didn’t realize that these little routines had such a great impact on my body’s well-being. I’m seeing a physical therapist now, and the words "you're a complicated situation" came out of her mouth. Not good. She can't seem to find the source of the pain. I can. It's call being a sloth. So now, I'm reimplementing all those little things that kept my body limber in addition to the new stretches she wants me to do each week.

Standing Desk and Fatigue Mat

Don't judge! No one can see
my slippers on Zoom!
Tree pose keeps
my posture straight!
For years, I’ve had a standing desk at work. It took some getting used to. But after slowly adjusting to standing one hour a day to three hours a day and so on, I found myself standing at home during activities I’d normally sit for…like standing against the wall while reading a book or standing in the kitchen while paying bills, my laptop sitting on the counter. In other words, it didn’t take long before the “standing” part faded away from the “desk” part—the same way we don’t really acknowledge the “sitting” part. 

I've got to remember to lessen up 
throughout the day!
I cannot promote a standing workstation enough. Whether you work from home or not, look into purchasing a standing desk. They aren’t as expensive as they used to be. Mine, which takes up the width of my office, was under four-hundred dollars (I like a lot of surface space). Don’t have the space or funds for a standing desk? There are various ways to create one. Before I bought mine, I placed my laptop on the counter and raised it up with books so that it was eye height. A separate keyboard and mouse kept it all ergonomic. If a standup workstation isn’t an option, look at your workstation setup and make sure it’s ergonomic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration share great tips on making sure your computer workstation is safe. 

I'd be lost without my fatigue mat!
A fatigue mat is essential to standing all day. It absorbs the shock to relieve pressure from your back and knees. Just remember to buy a fatigue mat that is at least half-an-inch thick, though I prefer three-quarters-an-inch thick. There are a number of stretches you can do right at your desk, whether you’re standing or sitting. Healthline shared some tips in their article Stretches to Do at Work Every Day.

Stretch, Move, Exercise

Working at a standing desk makes stretching a mindless activity, and I often catch myself in the middle of a stretch before I even realize I'm stretching. Simple movements like standing on one leg with the sole of the other leg on the ankle or calf (often called tree pose) really helps me gain better balance and engages my core muscles. Then I’ll cross my leg over my knee and “sit” into it (variation of a pigeon pose). I also perform neck, arm, and hand stretches throughout the day so that I don't stiffen up or wake up the tendinitis in my wrist. 

I loved going to my gym at work!
My Savannah Tee kept me cool
while I worked up a sweat!
But then I got lazy; sitting in my reading chair all day prevented me from performing these small but effective stretches, which I‘m sure added to the current state of my stiff and sore body.

There are also a number of strength-training exercise routines that can be done right at home. The plethora of YouTube channels and pay programs out there are endless. My sister swears by Beach Body. I like to stick with old school moves, such as sit ups, pushups, leg lifts, etc. I look forward to slowly incorporating those back into my routine once my back is properly healed.

Water Cooler Breaks

Staying cozy and bright in IllumiNITE's Love Tee
and Powerstretch Capri
while I strengthen my core
Do people still say water cooler anymore? I’m seriously dating myself. I am getting old! When I worked in an office, I took way more breaks than I do now that I work from home. I refilled my water bottle multiple times, got up to get a snack from the breakroom, which was always on a different floor, walked to colleagues' offices for a quick chat—work-related or not—and took daily walks at lunchtime. 

But working from home provides no real distractions, and since we’re all working remotely, we check in on Zoom. I often find myself eating lunch in my chair during yet another Zoom meeting. I forget to refill my water bottle. Forget the snacks…what snacks? There’s no one to bring junk food into work anymore since work is my house and Mike and I eat whole foods. I have to remind myself that water cooler breaks can still happen, just more conscientiously. 

Set timers, alarms, or reminders on your phone to take quick breaks throughout the day. After thirty minutes—60 max—walk away from your workstation, even if it’s to check the mail, throw in a load of laundry, or do ten jumping jacks or two minutes of a Spotify dance party. Refilling that water bottle is a good excuse to break from work—and will help keep you hydrated. Hydration further aids in preventing muscle injury.

Daily Walks

Miss my daily walks!
IllumiNITE's Colorado Jackets keeps us
warm and dry!
Photo credit: © Matt Francis
When I worked in an office, I took daily walks…even in the dead of winter. It was much easier to get out there in the cold when I did so with a group of colleagues. Mike and I rarely have the same meeting breaks so we were walking first thing in the morning or right after work. But the shorter, colder, darker winter days did not make leaving our cozy home appealing, especially after a long day's work. Where's that afghan? 

It's time to schedule those walk breaks again. Cold weather never stopped me before. It’s amazing to think that simply sitting all day and staying inside could have such a damaging effect on my body. But it has, and then some! I noticed that being more sedentary has also increased my irritability and darkened my mood, which in turn has made me more lethargic and unmotivated. It’s so easy to fall out of habits, but much harder to get back into them. 

Reminder: I will be able to fully stretch again! 
Especially in IllumiNITE's Comet Running Tight!
Photo credit: 
© Matt Francis
I feel so foolish that I let myself slip so far into sloth mode that I can’t even touch my toes anymore. Was it that long ago that I could drop my hands down to the ground and grasp the earth with my palms while my legs held perfectly straight? I must hold faith that I can find my way back to the Sera who could just spring into a fifteen-mile run without thinking twice about it on any given day. I will find my way back. There’s no use beating myself up for falling so easily back into a slump. It’s more important to focus on getting back on track to the healthy lifestyle that keeps me limber and happy. Reimplementing these everyday routines is a good start. 

What do you do to keep your body flexible and strong? Leave a comment below. I'd love to incorporate new ideas into my everyday routine.

Don't forget! You can get 15% off your IllumiNITE order with my discount code RunBrightly15, including the items shown in the pictures on my blog!

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