Since I was a teen I have always cared about fitness. Over the years, my level of motivation has changed as I have aged and entered into new life chapters. After I turned thirty, I started to realize that I need to stay more on top of how I take care of my body. Over the last five years, I have battled with acid reflux and an underactive thyroid. Due to general business and just being tired, I have let myself slack on staying fit. My eating habits have been less than desirable as well. I have not put on much additional weight over the last several years, but I have not improved in any way either.
A couple of weeks ago, I started going to bed earlier so I could get up and go to the gym before my family gets up for the day. This was and still is a struggle, but I have been able to get a good workout in at least 5 days each week for the last two weeks. Over two years ago, I purchased a few weights for my office and occasionally would work out from my office. I never worked out very hard at my office because I did not want to get sweaty or be uncomfortable. I don’t have a shower here. Today, I decided to challenge myself to do a simple workout every hour at my office to get me up out of my chair or from standing in place. I have a desk I can stand at and spend about half of my day standing at my desk versus sitting. To keep accountable and to challenge myself, I started blogging about my process at http://owod.fit. The idea is that I will do a workout-of-the-day at my office that is something anybody could do with limited or no equipment. You can follow along with me at the new website.
I hesitated using the acronym WOD, which has become synonymous with the Crossfit movement. I think Crossfit is a good thing, however, I also think that it has opened the floodgates to improper form and potential joint/muscle damage by those who do not take the time to learn proper form. This is not the case for all Crossfitters, but what I see on Instagram and Facebook is a good indicator that Chiropractors and Orthopedic Surgeons have a bright future.
I am not following Crossfit, nor do I plan to. I am simply using the acronym WOD, which stands for Workout-of-the-day, which was around far before Crossfit was a thing.
Last year I decided to start eating clean which resulted in me eating vegan for about 7 months. I felt that something must be wrong with me because I was having stomach issues that my doctor could not find an medicine could not treat. I have never been a fan of taking medication and less I absolutely have to so being on stomach medicine for almost a year without any real results was starting to really bug me. I decided that what I needed to do was go back to the basics and remove all potential foods that could be causing problems. Eating clean is not easy in the world we live in today. Everything has been touched by chemicals or some sort of treatment. I am not good at preparing my food in advance so most of the time I was eating foods that could be prepared quickly or came from a box.
Years ago I cut out most fast food and soda as I know that those foods are no good at all. I felt like my eating habits were good. When I compared my eating habits to others, I felt like I was doing pretty good. Going vegan is basically what I did for 7 months and I still eat more vegan than not. About a month or so ago I started having meat once or twice per week. I still rarely eat dairy. Now that I am noticing results, I plan to move closer to a full vegan diet without plan to end it. What started as a test to see if I could fix my stomach issues resulted in me learning a whole lot more about my body that I was not even thinking about.
I have struggled with running since I basically got out of high school. Once my bike was no longer my main mode of transportation I became rather sedentary. Though I have always worked out and tried to be active from time to time, I was not being as active as I should be and was not feeding my body properly. When I turned 30 and had my first child, I really started to notice issues with my body internally. I developed bad acid reflux that not only made me more sedentary but also effected me mentally. I was not ready to slow down, I was only 30. I knew that I had not given my body the attention it deserved in my 20’s but I was not that hard on my body during those years. For a few years I let myself believe that I was just slowing down and might not ever get back to where I was.
A few years ago, in an attempt to regain stamina I had not been able to find since my very early 20’s I started running. I used the Runkeeper app to track my progress and it was pretty sad. I would walk for about 1/4 mile to warm up, then run for 1/4 mile and be out of breath. I would walk for a while and try to run again and barely get another 1/4 mile out of myself. The last time I remember being able to run for 10 minutes straight was on a treadmill when I was about 20 years old and even making it to 10 minutes was hard for me. After going running about 5-6 times over the course of about 2 weeks my legs were so thrashed I could not concentrait from the soreness. I had my Chiropractor and a Massage Therapist work on my legs which were full of trigger points and very tight tendons. This was very disheartening for me as I felt I had let to much time go by not having taken good enough care of my legs to be able to run. Even my lungs would burn after running for more than 5-10 minutes. I felt that my whole body was fighting against my desire to run.
Two weeks ago I was at a conference in Seattle. When I am at conferences out of town I tend to work out a lot because I don’t have anything else to do in the early mornings or evenings. Because I was staying 1.5 blocks away from the water I decided to go for a jog. To my surprise I was able to jog for quite a while with out experiencing any pain. Knowing that I was going to be on my feet all day at the conference I did not push myself very hard. Even with that mindset, I was able to put down 2.8 miles at an average pace of 13.5 minutes. I was walking and jogging at what I was hoping would be a manageable pace that would not kill me. I was really quite surprised at the fact that I had no pain in my legs and knees. I could have jogged another 2.8 miles and increased my pace if I had wanted to. While in Seattle, I walked a lot and ran two more times. When I got back home, I went for a couple of runs. The first run was 2.4 miles at an 11:40 minute per mile pace and the second run 2 days later was 4.6 miles at a 12:17 pace. At this point I was really surprised at what was happening. I would get home from a run and ice down my knees, shins and ankles preparing for the worse. I would eat some food and take some ibuprofen just to make sure. I was expecting to break down or have issues at any time, but I have yet to do so. All I want is more.
Yesterday afternoon I ran just shy of 6 miles with an average pace of 10:26 and then woke up this morning and rode my mountain bike for 11.5 miles at a 3:54 pace. It’s 4:30pm and I feel like I could go run another 6 miles if I wanted to. It’s crazy, almost unbelievable. Besides pleading to God asking Him to fix whatever is broken with my body I believe the answer came in my decision to eat clean. There have been a few times that I have fasted in an attempt to grow closer to God and I feel that I have relied on Him the same way through my decision to eat clean.
As I mentioned before, eating clean is not easy. We go out to eat a lot and it is hard to find vegan friendly food in my area. When I was in Seattle for those few days it was easy to find restaurants that only served vegan and clean foods but not in Modesto, CA. I have found that at most restaurants you can modify what they have on the menu and make it work. There were times I would just eat a salad with no dressing because that is all that I could make work while eating out. Some of my family treated me like I had a terminal illness because I told them I was not eating any meat or dairy. It’s almost unheard of around here especially coming from a guy who has a 55 gallon meat smoker in his back yard. I love meat and I like it medium rare. I love cheese on pretty much everything. For a while it was a difficult transition.
There are right ways and wrong ways to eat vegan. Grocery stores have vegan items you can buy. For a while we were using vegan ground beef which is basically veggie protein to make tacos and stuff like that but I would still feel bloated or have acid reflux issues. Even though many of those products seem healthy, and for the most part they are, they still had something in them that my body did not like. Regardless, I was eating a lot cleaner than I was prior to my decision to eat vegan. Though I did not lose any weight or notice any physical changes on my outside appearance I continued on.
The first time I noticed any difference was when I went on that jog in Seattle and then later read about clean eating and recovery times in a book called “Eat Run” by Scott Jurek. I had read “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll, but was to early into my vegan diet and had not started jogging again. My goal in reading these books was just to find out what extreme athletes like this were feeding their bodies to be able to sustain that level of endurance. I never imagined myself being able to run again, I had mostly given up on running altogether. Now that I have been able to log a few miles gaining speed with each attempt, I have realigned my goals with my new found enjoyment. Never did I assume I would be able to enjoy running. Now I am planning to attack some goals I set for myself a few years ago but was assuming I would never be able to achieve. I plan to run a 10k in the next 30 days and run a half marathon in the next 90 days.
If you can relate in any way to how I have described my struggles, I suggest giving clean eating a try. Some people can tolerate the chemicals and toxins in most of the food out there but many of us can’t. I surely can’t handle them. They only explanation I have for being able to once again run and bike as often as I have been with out any pain is the change in my diet. I am actually excited about this change in my life and new discovery. Running is something I can do that I can measure and can only be done with my body. God willing, I will continue on this path in an attempt to endure more and care for my body even better. Though I have slipped a little bit over the last month with my clean eating regimen I am going to get back to where I was and strive to eat even cleaner than I was before now understanding it’s positive effect on my body.
As I mentioned above, I have some goals I feel I can put on the fast track to achieve. I need to focus more on the foods and fluids I put in my body. I want to track how my body performs not just in miles traveled or average pace. Once I have a better handle on eating cleaner and vegan I would like to attempt to eat raw. I like to measure, I am an analytics junkie. The more data I can gather the better. I look forward to achieving new goals, setting personal records and then working to break them.
Many of the fitness blogs I read were talking about how unhealthy it is to sit at a desk all day long. Since I started designing websites full time back in 2005 I have spent the larger portion of my day in a chair behind my desk. Since having my first child I have been able to make it to the gym much less. My wife is a stay at home Mom and my son is there with her, so I want to be home with them when I am not working. In the past I would justify sitting all day by spending a good 2 hours 5-6 days per week at the gym. 2011 has not been a kind year to me as far as time spent at the gym goes. This is what prompted me to move to a standing desk. Now that I have been at it for 30 days I thought it would be good to report my findings.
Click the photos to view them larger. Sorry for the horrible iPhone photos. I did not think to take nice photos when beginning this journey.
I have found many good things and bad things about being behind a Standing Desk, however some of those things may just be specific to me. I will first outline how each week went and then recap my findings below. If you have spent any time behind a standing desk I would love to hear about how it went for you in the comments section below.
The First Week:
The first few days of standing my legs got tired. I noticed that my body was burning more calories per day as I found myself more hungry around each meal. During the first standing week I sat on a stool about 20% of my work day. During this week I was very busy and moved around a lot which made it easier for me to be standing.
The Second Week:
During this week I was very busy with app reviews for Dailyappshow.com. This meant that there was a lot of round tripping between my desk and the app recording station. I sit on a stool while I record the app video demos which are about 3-5 minutes in length each. At my standing desk I probably sat on the stool about 15% of the time and stood the rest. I also started noticing that my ability to focus on a project for long periods of time was a bit more difficult but I figured it was due to how busy I was with the app demo videos.
The Third Week:
This was another busy week with app demo videos. I also had several meetings outside of my office and a few meetings at my office so I had some mixed sit down time while driving and being in those meetings. I don’t recall using my stool at my standing desk at all this week. I also added in a 2×3 foot Anti-Fatigue mat (Amazon Link). It took me a few days to get used to the mat because of it’s texture, however I did notice an increase in overal comfort. This mat was easier on my knees through out the day. I also noticed that I would lean on my desk a lot to take pressure off of my legs. I started thinking about how my back had not hurt at all during this process of standing for 8 hours a day, sometimes longer. My productivity was still a bit distracted as I was very busy working on small projects. It was hard for me to attempt to start a larger project. At this point I was not sure why. I also had a wedding this week, a very long 12 hour day of shooting. I felt that my legs were good to go and not even tired at the end of the 12 hour day. My body and mind were tired but my legs were good.
The Fourth Week:
I finished up last week strong. I actually had some items sitting on my stool and did not use it once. I was standing for 100% of the day while at my desk. The only times I sat was at home and in my car. I made it to the gym once this weekend and being that it had been a month since my last gym visit I was surprised at how much leg stamina I had while doing normal workouts I typically needed weeks to get into after lapses this long in gym visits. I noticed that my leg strength was improved. Standing at any time was no big deal. I never looked around for somewhere to sit, I was fine standing, unless everybody else was sitting.
Thoughts on a Standing Desk for fitness and general well being:
I believe what I had read. Standing as opposed to sitting all day is much better for health. You don’t burn but a few calories sitting down but when you stand you burn around 800+ more calories per day. This is a huge increase in activity during those times I was not making it to the gym at all. If you do not have any issues with your legs then I suggest a standing desk over a sitting desk. Don’t worry if you have to use a stool and start off standing in moderation. I attempted to go from all day sitting to all day standing from the start. I decided to take sitting breaks rather than breaks to stand up from my sitting position. Overall I did feel healthier. I am not sure if I lost any weight. I have always fluctuated in weight depending on how active I am, how I am eating and the stress levels I am currently undertaking. It is hard to determine if anything works for weight loss because all of the stars must be aligned for me to really make change happen.
When at home I got much more enjoyment out of sitting because I had spent my entire day standing. I could really relax at home when sitting on my couch or laying in bed.
Thoughts on a Standing Desk for productivity:
I mentioned how things went from week to week so you could see how my productivity was. Notice how I was really good with short term tasks and I didn’t really complete any long term tasks in one day. I truly feel that the standing desk gave me Task ADD. I was unable to just knock out an entire website project in one day like I used to be able to. I had to break it up into chunks or I wouldn’t get it done. In my current office I do not have enough room for a sitting and standing desk so I actually removed the sitting desks to place standing desks for myself and Ben who works with me part time.
I had this realization that my productivity style has completely changed today and Ben confirmed that he feels the same way however he didn’t really notice it until I brought it up. It is really hard to say if this is the same for everybody but I feel that it makes sense. When sitting you are not worrying about much. You don’t have to balance yourself, you don’t feel like moving around and you don’t get as restless. Standing in one place makes me feel like I have to move around more. I am even changing windows on my computer much more often. I have one display but I use Mission Control or what used to be called Spaces on my Mac to have the applications I am using open across multiple screens. I feel like I have ADD there as well. I switch through screens more often and have to see what is going on in each app rather than focusing on one for any particular length of time. It is quite possible that standing has just brought out the fact that I have some form of adult ADD but I think it is just a restlessness that is brought on by standing in the same spot for long lengths of time.
Most people who have standing jobs are moving about. When I used to work in retail at any given time I was behind the cash wrap, in the stock room or out on the floor. When I had my own store I was packaging shipments, working on motors, talking to people, placing orders and doing all sorts of other activities that all took place in different spaces. At my current office, my computer is at my standing desk and that is where I would spend most of my day. To be honest the only reason I feel I have written as much as I have right now is due to the fact that I am sitting on the stool instead of standing.
Angles: I also noticed that the angles of using a keyboard and trackpad from a standing position is much harder on my hands. It is much more of a bind on my wrists then before. This may also play into the lack of ability to work through longer tasks such as writing code. At a sitting desk I used to write code for hours on end with out stopping for more than a drink of something. At a standing desk I find myself switching to something else so I can stop typing and most of the time I do it subconsciously.
Standing Desk vs. Sitting Desk:
I believe that everybody should at least try standing. I would not suggest that you make the switch until you have tried it for at least a week and can see how it effects your productivity and of course your body. We all want to be healthier but we also need to finish work and get paid. I moved out my sitting desk when I started this so I have adapted to my standing workspace. I really wish that I had the room for both. I believe that for longer web projects that I would be better served by sitting a comfortable position while I write code. I plan to look for a good bar height chair so I can recreate my sitting desk environment for when I need to concentrait on projects for a long period of time. I will however continue to use my standing desk because I know that it is better for my body.
If you are in a job where you are behind a computer all day with out moving, a standing desk may be kind of hard for you. It will be much easier if you can have tasks separated by space or location as opposed to one space such as your desk. I found myself most productive when I was able to move to different locations and handle a task away from my standing desk. When I came back to my standing desk I was always more productive for the first hour.
We were created with the ability to move about which is why I am left wondering if we are designed to stand in one place. If standing was so productive why would sitting ever have came into the picture?
Let me know if you have tried a standing desk or considered it. What are/were your thoughts and concerns? I would love to hear more about what others have experienced so I can determine if I am just crazy or if there really is something to this.