Next to “the dog ate my homework,” one of the most lamebrain excuses around might be this one: “Work keeps me too busy to exercise.”
To that, we roll our eyes, engage our core and lift both feet off the ground slowly, hold for a breath or two, and lower them.
“Do you have 60 seconds?” asks Dallas-area personal trainer Kristi Dear. “Do you have two minutes?”
Of course you do. How long does it take to heat your leftovers in the break room microwave? How much time do you spend on the phone? Not to get too personal, but how often do you make a restroom trek?
Incorporate just five moving bouts of 60 seconds (or 10 of 30) throughout your day, and by the time you go home, that’s 10 minutes. By week’s end, it’s 50. And you don’t even have to keep a jump rope at your desk or set up a basketball hoop on the parking lot.
“You could hold in a squat when you’re on the phone,” says Dear.
But, she concedes, “People would walk by and go, ‘What?!’”
For a subtler approach, we asked Trina Hall, an experienced registered yoga teacher, and Dallas personal trainer Turner Cavender for in-office suggestions. These moves won’t necessitate a shower, says Cavender, who owns Dallas Fit Body Boot Camp, but “your body is getting blood moving around.”
We divided the tips into three categories necessary for all-around fitness: cardio, strength and flexibility.
• Take the stairs. Obvious? Maybe. But how often do you find yourself waiting for the elevator when the stairwell is just around the corner? Take them two steps at a time one flight, one step the next. Is your cubicle on the first floor? Use the restroom on the second.
• Stand up. Set your phone or watch timer, and every 30 minutes, get your bottom out of the chair. Use the time to assess your to-do list, Cavender says. Or get a drink of water.
“Get the blood flowing. This helps eliminate back problems. When you’re seated for so long, your hip flexors shorten and that pulls on your lower back. The shorter they are, the more pain you have.”
If you’re awaiting a call or a visit from your boss and don’t want to leave your desk, stand up and sit down a few times every half-hour or so.
• Move your feet. Walking to lunch, yes, but also while you’re sitting down. Do so when you’re on the phone, or reading a report.
“Tap your toes on the floor for a minute straight,” Cavender says. Alternate feet, or do them at the same time. Feel those calf muscles?
• Practice your push-ups. Do them against the stairs — if the stairwell is empty and you don’t mind putting your hands where others put their feet. Or you can perfect your push-up prowess against the break room countertop while your coffee is heating, Dear says.
Do them slowly or see how many you can do in those 30 to 45 seconds. Position your hands various distances apart.
• Tone your triceps. Eliminate jelly arms by placing your hands on a bathroom sink or break room countertop behind you. Extend your legs until you are balancing on your heels. Bend your elbows and dip, then straighten, in sort of an inverted push-up. Repeat until it feels uncomfortable.
• Tone your triceps II. For the next two exercises, Dear recommends connecting two large (5 to 6 inches) rubber bands. Hold one end in your right hand. Bending your elbow, let the other end drop behind your back. Grasp it with your left hand. Keeping that hand steady, straighten your right elbow. Do each side for a minute, tightening the tension as weeks go by and the exercise becomes easier.
Dear prefers time to reps because “if I said to do 25, one person may say, ‘That didn’t work,’ and another would say, ‘That’s hard!’”
As you get stronger with this and the following exercise, work on increasing the number of reps you do each minute.
• Strengthen your legs. Put one loop of the connected rubber bands around each ankle. With knees bent and feet on the floor, straighten and bend each leg for one minute. See how many reps you can do in a minute. Make it tougher by doing quick pulses, bending your knee slightly without letting your foot touch the floor. See how many reps you can do in a minute.
For another challenge, start with feet on the floor. One leg at a time, lift the knee to the chest, keeping your back straight.
If using the bands is too difficult, start without them and build up.
• Ease low-back tightness with the Seated Pigeon.
For this yoga move, Hall says, sit straight in your chair. Rest your right ankle over your left thigh. Straighten your spine and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for 10 deep breaths through the nose. Switch sides.
• Stretch shoulders and neck. For this, known as Eagle Arms, sit straight in your chair. Extend your arms at shoulder height in front of your body. Bend your elbows up; put your left elbow in the crook of your right arm. Without letting your elbows drop, put your right hand on your left shoulder, and your left hand on your right shoulder, “like you’re giving yourself a hug,” Hall says. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
For a deeper stretch, take your hands off your shoulders and touch your palms.
“This opens the shoulders, upper back and neck,” she says. “It’s good for the person who sits at a computer, hunched over a keyboard.”