“Butt in Chair”.
How often are we told that this one simple act precedes the act of writing.
After a few days away from my desk, the top subject line in a long list of unopened emails was along those lines: “You Write by Sitting Down and Writing”.
Because, well, I can’t sit.
Without getting into the gory details, I had surgery this week in the general area of the gluteus maximus—anyone who has ever taken yoga will know the location when I say it was on the sit bone. Nothing serious, but oh so inconvenient!
It’s like anything we’re blessed with in this life; we don’t realize how good we’ve got it until it’s gone.
In my case, I’m really missing the regular function of my … butt.
Today, now that the “surgery hangover” has worn off, I’m ready to engage in my usual activities and I have come to realize how much of them involve sitting.
So, when my husband left for work this morning, I started playing with my options and ended up with this temporary standing desk.
Here I stand. And I don’t like it.
But it has got me thinking because, truth be told, I’ve been sitting too much.
It’s as if the universe decided it was time for extreme measures, giving me no choice but to get up off my butt with surgical intervention.
Is Sitting Really the “New Smoking”?
Over the last few months, my husband, friends, doctor and yoga teacher have all been saying the same thing: get up and get moving.
“I’m working!” I say, “I don’t realize I’m doing it. The time just flies by!” It seems getting into your flow can be both good and bad.
You may or may not know that I quit smoking over two years ago. Now it seems I’m doing something new to shorten my life.
My husband wanted us to invest in a standing desk and I was all for it, up until now.
This short-term work-around experience has just saved us $300+ because we’re not buying one; standing and writing don’t mix, at least not for me.
In fact, I’m not sure this post is even coherent because I’m standing. My writing brain feels “off”.
Someone should do a study: the link between the writing area of the brain and the butt.
As another writer so eloquently put it after trying to write while standing:
The standing desk helped me stay focused for certain tasks like answering email … But when it came to tasks that required a bit more focused thought, like writing, I was distracted. … And better work is the main priority for any desk I create. ~ Mikael Cho
So, while continuing to stand (did I tell you I don’t like it?), I googled and now feel reassured and armed with new resolve.
You Can Sit, But You Just Have to Move
Sitting is not good or bad, any more or less than standing or moving.
What makes any of those things good or bad is the extent to which we do or don’t do them, so getting a standing desk and standing for hours on end will simply create other problems. Just ask anyone with a career in retail.
In the end, what is most important to me is that I remain healthy so that I can do the work I’m here to do in this lifetime, and do it to its optimum.
Nothing half-assed (pun intended).
So, as writers, what does that look like?
A Blue Zone Writer’s Day
Let’s be honest, even if you have a horseshoe up your butt (yes, I’m a little butt-focused at the moment) and you can write full-time, no one writes eight hours a day. (If you do, please send me an email and tell me how you do it!)
So, when you’re not writing or doing the dozens of other things you must do in your day, you have to make the time to get up and move!
If you love the gym, that’s great.
If not, you don’t have to be a super-athlete to get the activity that your brain and body need.
Studies conducted in areas they call “blue zones”—locations around the globe where people live longer and healthier—suggest that it’s more about creating a lifestyle in which we incorporate movement.
The “blue zone people” don’t go to the gym. They don’t even own a treadmill. Instead, they perform regular, low intensity physical activity because of the way their lives are structured.
In Okinawa, Japan, they sit on the floor and have to get up and down 30 or 40 times a day. In Sardinia, Italy, they live in vertical houses and are constantly climbing stairs. Their land also requires a lot of tending in order to grow the food they need.
Now, even if you don’t write full-time, let’s pretend that you do. Here’s all you need to do to become a “blue zone” writer …
If you write for 4 hours a day, that leaves 20 hours. Take 8 out for sleep, another 3 for meals, plus another 3 for your chosen recreation and entertainment, and you are left with 6 hours in your day.
I know, this is a very simplified formula … but it makes a point: 6 hours!
All we really need, according to multiple studies, is 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) of walking per week. With 42 hours (6 x 7) available each week, I’m guessing we can pull that off!
But, if you can’t do that … or you just don’t like walking … here are some other good suggestions:
Work with your feet up. It helps your circulation and, if you sit at a 135 degree angle, you’ll be taking the pressure off your lower back.
Do air squats. It seems they’re one of the best ways to release enzymes that breakdown the production of fat in your body, while also improve circulation in your legs. I’m going to start doing them while I wait for my tea to brew. Check out what the city of Sochi did because they recognized the health benefits of air squats. When they hosted the Winter Olympics, they offered a free train ticket in exchange for 30 air squats:
Stretch your hips. I do this when ever I do yoga, but you don’t have to take a yoga class if that’s not your thing. Because we sit a lot, we can so easily develop tight hips and stretching the muscles around your hips will help your lower back and help keep you mobile as you get older.
Take the stairs. I am now resolved to do what I’m going to call a “double climb”: every time I need to go from one floor to the other here at home, I’ll go up and down twice. It’s a small thing, but it’ll add up. If you live or work in taller buildings, just skip the elevator more.
I could go on, but I won’t. I’m tired and I’m still standing … and, if I haven’t said it enough yet, I don’t like it.
If you do, please share. Or, if you’ve found a great way to incorporate movement in your day-to-day, I’d love to hear about that too.
One last thing … I just want to remind you that my survey & book giveaway remains open until June 23rd and I’d love to learn more about you and how I can help you. You don’t have to enter the giveaway to submit the survey, though the books are pretty good so why not?
Now I’m going to go lie down … because I can’t sit. If you can, it’s a beautiful thing. Enjoy!