Wednesday, January 16, 2013

3 ways to help your sedentary body

A friend and fellow writer recently posted this question on our Catholic writers' listserve:
I am looking for your input, specifically your comments on my recent blog post that deals with the challenges of having a very sedentary job: freelance writing. When you spend 5-8 hours a day sitting at the computer, it is easy to lose good posture and to suffer from backaches and muscle tension... Is it necessary to sacrifice the body for writing? Please share your tips as I am desperate to know what they are!
If you found yourself nodding as you read her statement, you're not alone! Her question prompted an avalanche of sharing, advice, and suggestions.

Because I've developed a chronic/auto immune condition the past six or so years that affects my joints, I've had to not only address this question, but also to take it seriously.

My first big surgery was on my spinal cord/neck five years ago, when I had cervical spine surgery and fusion on my C-4 and C-5 vertebrae. I can't afford NOT to pay attention to my body when I sit to write for hours to work on any project.

So, if you need to reevaluate your work environment to help your physical needs, here's
3 suggestions to get you started:

my Diego

#1,  get up every hour and stretch, walk outside, check out your garden, look at the clouds, whatever… I have a great Siberian Husky named Diego that puts his head on my leg and reminds me to go out and play. And by the way, WAY TO GO to all of you who walk regularly, do yoga, etc!

#2,  be attentive to your position AS YOU WRITE -- in addition to sitting up straight, the rule for your spine is that your legs should be perpendicular to the floor. Read about this subject and take it seriously. There are lots of gadgets to help, but from my perspective the most important thing is to notice, be aware, of how you work in order to assess how to make your environment help you.

Here's a great visual guide to office ergonomics from the Mayo Clinic. 

#3,  If you are going to invest in something, and you have neck issues -- invest in a split keyboard that "opens" your shoulders by positioning your hands/arms further apart than a regular keyboard, easing the pressure on your neck. The one I have is called a Kinesis freestyle, and I use it with something called an Ascent that raises it in the middle for comfort. It took me a while to get used to it, but it has made all the difference. Here's a picture of my keyboard:

One final thought to ponder -- I don't believe that we have to "sacrifice" our body in order to pursue our vocation as writers. That's not godly behavior. Our loving God clearly wants us to be mindful of our mind, spirit, and body. As St Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians:
"...perfect in holiness… May he preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul, and BODY, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." [1 Thes 5:23]