Back in June, I blogged about taking a temporary “sabbatical” to focus on writing full-time.
Now, into my fourth month of the experiment, I can confirm that it is 1) amazing to have only my story occupying my thoughts from morning til night, 2) sometimes really stressful to have only my story occupying my thoughts from morning til night, and 3) pretty damn hard on the body. Especially the, uh, lower body.
Okay, I’ll just say it… my butt muscles hurt from sitting too much.
As successful as the experiment has proven (seeing as I typed “The End” on my rough draft last Tuesday), it has also been more stressful on my joints and muscles. Before I traded in blazers for sweatpants, I would at least get up to go to the cooler, or walk to the cafeteria with a coworker, or shepherd my students around the hospital. When the weather was nice, we’d walk a few blocks to Starbucks or watch people play Frisbee with their dogs on the quad.
Now I’m just at my desk constantly. I go to the gym three times a week, but those are only 1-2 hour spurts of exercise. The rest of the time, it’s butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard.
So, I’ve been making a point to do a 30-minute stretch routine after every long bout of writing, usually 2-3 times a day. Most of the stretches were recommended by my physical therapist, who helped me get back up and running after I busted my knee in January. I can report that I feel a LOT better after each stretch break, and more energized and focused. And, it’s a nice excuse to get away from that glowing screen!
I thought it might be fun to share a few of my stretches with you guys (and timely, because of NaNoWriMo).
I stretch on a yoga mat, but you can probably just do these on a nice open floor space anywhere.
BUTT AND LEGS
Hamstrings get SUPER tight when all you do is sit all day. Here are a couple of stretches that target these muscles behind your thighs.
Hurdle Stretch: Sit on the floor. Stretch both legs in front of you. Bend the right knee sideways, pressing the bottom of your right foot against the inside of your left leg. Reach for your left toes and hold 30 seconds. You should feel the stretch on the back of your left thigh. Switch legs.
Bed/Sofa Stretch: Standing about a foot away, rest your right heel on the bed or couch. Lean forward and touch your toes, holding 30 seconds. Switch legs.
This is my favorite butt stretch (that sounds so weird).
Adapted Pigeon Stretch: Lie on your stomach. Bend your right knee sideways and underneath you, so your chest is resting directly on it. Stretch your other leg out behind you. You should feel the stretch in your right glute. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs. (Here’s a picture of this stretch.)
These muscles also get super tight from sitting. If you have knee issues, do this on a soft, folded-over blanket.
Hip Flexor Stretch: This is like a kneeling lunge. Kneel on your left knee. Lean forward by pushing your right foot forward on the floor, keeping your back straight. You should feel a stretch on the front of your left thigh. Hold 30 seconds, then switch.
This is a good stretch if you have access to stairs. Hold on tight!
Step Stretch: Stand with both feet together on a step. Holding onto the railing, place the toes of your right foot on the edge of the step, and lower your right heel down. Hold 30 seconds, then switch.
NECK AND SHOULDERS
You can do this while standing or sitting. Be REALLY gentle with these stretches and don’t put too much pressure on your neck.
Side Neck Stretch: Tilt your right ear toward your shoulder. Place your right hand on the left side of your head and apply gentle pressure. You should feel a stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold 15 seconds, then switch sides.
Diagonal Neck Stretch: Same as above, but this time, lower your chin to the right side of your chest. Apply gentle pressure to the back of your head. Hold 15 seconds, then repeat by lowering chin to the left side of your chest.
This one’s perfect if you have access to a doorway. It looks a little strange (someone once caught me doing it, looked around, and said “Where’s the camera?” because it looked like I was awkwardly posing/modeling) but it’s sooo worth it.
Pec Stretch: Stand in an open doorway. Brace your left arm inside the doorway and step forward with your left foot. You can put your right hand on your hip if you want. You should feel this in your left armpit and left side of your chest. Hold 30 seconds, then switch sides.
HANDS AND WRISTS
You can do this standing or sitting. Again, be super, SUPER gentle with these stretches. We’re writers. Our hands/wrists = our livelihood, so you don’t want to pull too hard and hurt yourself.
Palm Out: Stick your right arm straight in front of you, palm facing out like you’re directing traffic. With your left hand, GENTLY bend your right fingers and thumb backward until you feel a stretch in the wrist. Hold 15 seconds, then switch.
Fingers Down: Stick your right arm straight in front of you, fingers pointing down to the floor, palm facing you. With your left hand, gently bend your right fingers and thumb toward you. Hold 15 seconds, then switch.
Reverse: Stick your right arm straight in front of you, fingers pointing down to the floor, palm facing out this time. (Like you’re about to backhand some deadlines.) With your left hand, gently bend your right fingers and thumb toward you. Hold 15 seconds, then switch.
If you give them a try, let me know what you think! (And if you find my directions too confusing, you should be able to find pictures of these online.)