Since I started running my editing business full time, I've been sitting a lot more than I used to. I spent the majority of the day on my feet at my old job, so I never really had any back issues before. But now that I sit in front of a computer all day, I've been dealing with some pretty nasty upper- and lower-back pain. Even though writing is just about my favorite activity to do in the world, lately it's been just a little less fun because it can feel quite physically painful. I never really thought of writing as a sedentary job, but it totally is.
My father has pretty significant back issues, so this is a problem of mine that I wanted to nip in the bud. Taking editing/writing breaks (see step 6 of my work from home tips) and moving around certainly helps, but honestly you can only take so many breaks in the day before you start killing your productivity, and plus, it doesn't really fix the underlying problem, which is a lack of flexibility.
At the beginning of the summer, my upper-back pain was the biggest issue. It felt like someone was driving a knife between my shoulder-blades. I adjusted the ergonomics of my desk, and that helped a little, but not completely. Eventually, I did some research and found that tightness in your chest muscles is what actually pulls your shoulders forward (especially for desk-workers), which causes the area between your shoulder blades to feel tight and painful. Thankfully, it's very easy to solve. I used this gentleman's website as a guide for correcting bad posture and found it very helpful, particularly stretch number 7. I do that one daily, and it has made the pain between my shoulder blades completely go away. I've also noticed that my shoulders look much less rounded. Win-win :)
But as soon as I fixed that issue, the pain just migrated into my lower back. After editing all day, I'd stand up and feel like an old lady hobbling around. Everything felt so stiff.
For whatever reason, my thoughts instantly turned to yoga as a solution. I've done some yoga in the past, usually whenever I happen to belong to a gym (right now, I don't), and I've always enjoyed it, though I've never practiced very regularly. Now that we have internet again, I decided to check out some Yoga videos on YouTube - and have LOVED IT. It's made a huge difference in my back issues.
My favorite is the Yoga by Adrienne channel. She has a really nice blend of vinyasa (flow/strength) and hatha (stretching/flexibility) routines. I really like her teaching style, which is more relaxed ("no yoga-robots"), not too woo-woo, but also just woo-woo enough to help me feel focused on the breath (and not mentally ticking through my never-ending to-do list).
After trying meditation off and on over the past year, and feeling like it wasn't really helping me as much as I wanted it to (for whatever reason, it seems to kill my creativity), I've found that yoga works a lot better at improving my mood. In addition to feeling calmer, I also feel a lot stronger. Even doing mundane stuff, like cleaning the shower, is easier because I'm just better at moving around on my hands and knees. I've always been a very inflexible person, but even I can tell that my flexibility has significantly improved.
Anyway, for you writers and desk-jockeys out there, seriously, consider adding a yoga video to your daily routine. Or, do some sun salutations while you watch TV with the family. I do that quite a bit now and it feels so good to get that body moving around.
Yoga + Writing = :)
I've mentioned it before, but there's never enough time to do it all. Here are the things (outside of work) I try, or ideally would like to do every day in order of importance:
-Interact with my husband and animals (talk, hang, play, etc.)
-Clean and Cook
I usually only get as far as Clean and Cook at the end of the day, which is too bad because I really do enjoy playing the piano, I like to meditate, and I miss painting, but clearly I just don't value them enough to make them a priority over exercising or writing.
Some days I don't even get as far as Exercise, others, not even to Write. I try not to beat myself up about it, but I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient so I can make it a little further down the list.
My number one time hack? I've stopped going to the gym and I've stopped running.
That may sound like I've given up on exercise, but it's just the opposite. Travel to and from the gym was just too much wasted time, and frankly, the cardio machines never felt like a very good workout to me. Also, I noticed that the more I was running or working out on a cardio machine, the more weight I was gaining, which sort of defeated the purpose and made me more stressed to lose weight. I'd run more but it only created a positive feedback loop which made me fatter and more over-scheduled than ever. (Why did I gain weight from running? Short answer, it makes me ravenously hungry. I'd run, burn maybe 300 calories, then come home and inhale 600 calories more. That's a net gain that adds up over time. I've never been fatter than when I was training for a marathon).
Realizing that running was not working as a primary exercise tool, I finally stopped and just focused on taking good long walks with the dog. I also got this pedometer and made sure I hit 10,000 steps, but didn't worry about doing any more than that. I'm learning to shoot for "good enough," not super-human. I feel exercised, but my appetite also feels normal and healthy, not famished. Win-win.
Most importantly, I started strength training every day.
I'm always at my slimmest when I strength train, and I finally realized it doesn't have to take very long or be such a chore. You don't have to buy fancy equipment or a gym membership; you just have to do a little bit every day (kind of like the habit of writing).
Each day I do 10-15 push-ups, 24 tricep dips on the stairs, 24 bicep curls with a pair of 5 lb hand weights, a 1.5 minute plank, 30 squats, and 24 overhead side reaches with the weights again. That's it. Sometimes I distribute these exercises more in the morning, sometimes more in the evening, it just depends on my schedule that day. It takes at most 10-15 minutes to do this routine, but I do it EVERY day and I feel stronger than I ever have in my life.
I'll also combine exercise with family time. The dog gets walked for an hour, twice a day between my husband and I. Often, we'll walk longer together. Some evenings, my husband will also do the strength exercises with me.
Anyway, I'm still struggling with this time issue, but making some small progress. Exercise doesn't have to monopolize hours of my week, nor does it have to be totally sacrificed to do the other things I love. An active lifestyle (walking, gardening, a little strength training) is more than enough.
Do you have a good time hack?
Writer, editor, scientist.