Today’s guest post is by Marianne Wells. She’s been teaching yoga for 30 years, training yoga teachers, and offering retreats.
The New Year is here! For many of us, New Year’s resolutions follow a similar pattern: we create an ambitious goal only to give it up within a month or two because we aim way too high and want instant results.
If your plan is to be more active and live a healthier lifestyle, it is imperative that you start with small goals. Teeny-tiny even! Success is all about making very small changes – much like the tortoise and the hare. Change of any kind starts with modest adjustments in your daily life.
The Not So Great Excuse
Now think about it, where do you spend most of your time? Other than at home, your answer is probably at work. Even the most sedentary job can be thoroughly draining and at the end of the workday, you are done. It’s easy to justify your inability to be more active and take better care of yourself when your job takes so much out of you.
Your foray into a healthier lifestyle does not begin with a five mile run on day one! When you’re in the habit of slumping at your desk for hours on end, taking a break to stand and stretch is a good first step. A very small but important step.
A healthier, more active lifestyle is a great goal, and one that you can work toward, starting with very small changes like these:
Comfort is Key
It’s difficult to be motivated to get up and move around when your clothes are binding and uncomfortable. Wear clothing that allows you move without restriction. Office appropriate clothing that contains stretch fabrics (elastane, Lycra, spandex) is no longer difficult to find, even for men. Some retailers offer personal shopping services and if you ask, they will help you find clothing that is both comfortable and adheres to your company’s dress code.
Recent studies have found that that mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1-3%) can impair energy levels and mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance. Due to the proliferation of news about the importance of staying hydrated, a water bottle on the desk is now a very common sight. If you’ve made it a habit to drink water during your workday, great! But you might want to consider downsizing your water bottle to something so you’ll have to get up more frequently for a refill.
Yoga at Your Desk
Yoga is great for flexibility, tension relief, and with practice helps you learn to live lighter, and be more present and focused. You can do some poses and stretches quietly at your desk – you can do some of them while you’re on the phone. Follow Rachel Brathen’s easy to follow yoga sequence that you can do at the office.
Email Replies on Foot
Email – a great advance in technology that encourages you to stay seated. Get up and walk to the office, cube, or desk of the person who sent you the email. This may not be possible in some cases, but when you can, consider having a face to face discussion with your colleague. This give you an opportunity to get up, walk around the office, and give your tired eyes a rest from staring at a computer screen.
Walk This Way
If you are in charge of planning a meeting, or are invited to a meeting with a colleague or two, see if you can get your small group to have a “walking meeting.” This won’t work for all types of meetings, but if it’s a discussion with a small group of people, it can be done. Before you spring this on your colleagues, do some research on How to do Walking Meetings Right.
Make a Scene (Or Not)
Moves that require jumping, squatting, punching, kicking and general flailing about will indeed get noticed by your office mates. Perhaps you can do more strenuous exercise at the office but you’ll have to be the judge of what you can get away with and what might get you called into HR for a lecture on appropriate office behavior. If you want to do higher intensity moves when you take your short breaks, see if you can find a conference room or a more secluded area.
The Sitting Challenge
Trading your desk chair for a firm stability ball will help improve your posture and balance and strengthen your core. If you’re new to this, don’t worry – practice balancing on the ball and completing tasks for a couple minutes at a time. Once you get used to it, alternate between your desk chair and the stability ball throughout the day for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Your core muscles will thank you!
Supports and Reminders
You can tell yourself that you’re going to take regular breaks and get up from your desk, but until that is an established habit, chances are, you’ll get bogged down and just won’t do it. An easy and inexpensive solution is the Pomodoro Technique – use your phone timer to break your workday into time blocks that include a five minute break. Use those five minutes to stand, stretch, take a brisk walk around the office…just move. After four consecutive working time blocks (with the 5 min break built in), take a longer break of about 15-20 minutes and do something active during that time.
As you work on making small changes, focus on every success that you achieve along the way. Once you start making progress and begin to change your habits, goals that once seemed unreasonable are now your new, achievable goals. Baby step by baby step, you’ll work toward a fit and healthier lifestyle.
About the Author
Marianne Wells has been teaching yoga for more than 30 years and has dedicated her life to the study of yoga. She offers yoga teacher training and retreats through which she has helped launch the careers of hundreds of yoga teachers and studio owners around the world.