Peggy Bechko’s 10 Best Fitness Tips for Writers & Other Desk Jockeys

by Peggy Bechko

Let’s face it, we writers are all a bit crazy. We focus so strongly on what we’re writing the world seems to draw away and disappear. Meanwhile, our bodies are locked in position at our desks and we’re just a very short distance away from all sorts of aches and pains.

I’m not saying you have to take time to jump on your bike or run for miles, take up calisthenics or go swimming every day though of course all of that would be good to. Instead I’m going to let you know about a few exercises I know about that you can actually do from your desk.

This is, of course, assuming you have no physical problems, I’m not a doctor, after all. I’m a writer. Do these things with care, all right? Or, don’t do them at all if you believe they could be detrimental.

First, a few comments on things that can happen to the deskbound.

For starters we tend to push our heads forward looking at the screen or papers or whatever. So what? Well, if you do it enough, the muscles in the front of the neck stretch and get overly long and because of that, weakened and the muscles at the back shorten up. Bad news.

Then there’s the spine and what we do to it. The spine needs to have curves and it we slouch a lot the back becomes bowed taking the curves out which will, before you ask so what, cause strained back muscles and maybe tightness in your chest. Then there’re your eyes. Strain can cause watering, headaches and other discomforts. Fun, right?

Writers and other desk-bounds might also experience rounded shoulder, tight hips, tight hamstrings, pinched circulation in the legs and a host of other problems.

So here are a few things we can do about it:

1. Shrug your shoulders. Not just shrugging them, but actually holding it. Sit up straight and bright your shoulders upward toward your ears – moving only those muscles. Hold it for a few seconds, then relax everything. Repeat that a few times. Easy, right at your desk.

2. Get up, walk around, stretch. Every hour is good, more often if you can. Seriously. Pay attention. You can do this.

3. Not ready to get up? Then bounce yourself in your chair by briskly tightening and releasing your butt muscles. It’s fun, do it often.

4. Hey, prop your feet up on your desk when you’re reading instead of typing.

5. Lift each foot and make circular motions clockwise and counter-clockwise. My grandfather used to be barefoot a lot and would use his toes to pick up his shoes. Point your toes and flex your ankles too.

6. Think about a standing desk. I have one and spend part of the day standing and part sitting. A full standing desk can be expensive. I have a Varidesk which sits on top of my old desk and love it. Very easy to lift up & down. Here’s a link — and yes, if you actually bought one I’d get a small (tiny) commission. But heck, I love it and enjoy recommending it. It isn’t cheap either, but it’s less expensive than a full standing desk with all the bells and whistles. Look around. You might be able to find one where you live used.

7. Give your arms, which you usually hold close to your body as you type, a break. Lift one arm, bend at the elbow and put your hand behind your head. Put the other arm behind your back and try to grasp the other hand. Not too easy. Don’t push it, just gently try. And do both sides.

8. For your neck, just move it. Gently, turn it side to side in a slow motion and enjoy the crackle of muscles and tendons as they release tension. Then gently move it every direction it can move, drop chin toward your chest, look toward the ceiling, whatever motion you can think of.

9. Now for the real workhorses for writers – our wrists, hands and fingers. Move your wrists in circles, clockwise and counter-clockwise. Then extend one arm straight in front in a ‘stop’ motion and press with your other hand. The stretch you feel will extend all the way up into your aching shoulder. For fingers, make a tight fist, then spread and stretch them as wide as possible. Wiggle them. Relax, then make circular motions with each finger in both directions.

10. Eyes are last here, but they’re extremely important. We get so wrapped up in our writing, how often do we look away? We even forget to blink. Bad, very bad. Look away from your monitor. Blink rapidly. Focus on something in the middle distance, maybe across the room. Then something in the far distance, maybe out a window. Close your eyes. Rest them. Be kind to your eyes.

That’s it. Just keep moving. Keep your body happy and it will improve your writing as well. One writer to another, these small things will keep your body happy and sharpen your focus. Try it.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.