Trapped in a COVID Cave? Get Some Exercise!

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June 24, 2020 by Mark Hammerstrom

I get it.  This has been a long ‘lock-down,’ quarantine, or whatever you want to call it. 

Even though I have been working remotely for quite a few years, there are times I admit to feeling like I am bouncing off the walls.  Especially now when we still have so many restrictions on our outside activities.  This feeling is something I have likened to being “Trapped in a COVID Cave.” 

We all need human interaction and this COVID pandemic has challenged our patience and forced us to adapt to new ways of doing things across the board.  Even with the country opening again, no doubt many of these changes are here to stay. 

In particular, while there are some jobs that just can’t be done virtually, it does seem that businesses are now seriously revisiting the feasibility of having their workforces ‘shelter in place’ on a regular, business as usual basis.   Better tools and processes are developing with an eye towards a serious implementation of a better work from home model.  We will see how this all pans out, but I don’t think the working world as we knew it will ever fully return.

That all said, the question I am often asked is: “Do you like working remotely?”  And my answer is yes, I do. 

I found many advantages to it.  I enjoy having my own workspace that is comfortable and that I can adapt to my needs instead of fitting into a predesigned workspace.  I like the idea that my schedule is open enough to allow me the flexibility to deal with other life challenges while still being productive.  Minimizing distractions, I feel more productive and my work time is better spent on things that matter than things that don’t. 

Yet there are certainly disadvantages.  Fortunately, I am one who likes to work on my own, but many do not, and the lack of interaction can be very hard to adapt to.  It can be hard, too, to separate personal issues from work issues and avoid the distractions that come from working remotely.  Certainly, it takes a good amount of personal discipline to stick to the task and not go get another coffee and brownie. 

I have found that putting up certain personal guardrails can help.  I make sure that members of my household know when I am working and when I am not so to avoid unwanted distractions.  I set my own specific work hours so that not only do I get my work done, but I also avoid the tendency to work all the time.  Setting boundaries like that help a ton.

One thing I did notice right away, though, is that I need to ensure that I get regular physical activity.  I have had a personal physical fitness regimen in place for many years, even when I worked in an office environment.  Yet I found that the office environment did have one other distinct advantage:  I got up and moved around a lot.

The office I used to work in was kind of ‘U’ shaped, so if I had to go to a meeting, or just go find a co-worker, I had to get up and walk a good piece to find them.  That provided good physical motion and an excuse to do MBWA (Management By Walking Around).  Once I started working virtually, that activity ceased and my ‘Dad Bod’ started to reflect that.

I have had to make it a discipline to get some exercise each day.  That can be in the form of a regular work-out routine, yard work, or just a long walk in a park or around the neighborhood. 

Like any physical activity it does take discipline to make sure it happens.  I find it way too easy to not get out of my chair often enough to even just move around for a bit.

Recently I began to receive newsletters from the “Silver Sneakers” program.  And, yes, I am a man of a ‘certain age’ so they are directed to people like me.  Yet lately I have found them to be very helpful in creating a basic exercise structure for those of us who are working remotely. 

Their approach is simple:  just move. Get up and do some basic things every day to keep a base line of fitness.  One of the recent newsletters highlighted four exercises we should do every day, regardless of our age (read it here).  You don’t have to train for a marathon or bench press twice your body weight.  These exercises will keep the key muscles in shape and form a base to build on and can be done in just a few minutes at various times of the day. 

 So here is what they suggest we do several times every day:

  1. Sit to Stand:  We sit a lot working remotely.  Sit to stands can keep our leg muscles flexible and strong and help our balance.  Simply stand in front of a sturdy chair with your feet spread about hip and shoulder width.  Then sit down by slowly bending your legs, pushing your hips back into the chair. Don’t just flop down though.  Then use the back two-thirds of your feet to balance and stand up.  That is one rep.  The suggestion is to do ten of these, then two or three sets per day. Once you are comfortable doing these, use a lower chair or do conventional squats.
  • Tandem Stance:   This is a great exercise to help improve our balance.  Simply stand with your feet together, bracing your core muscles.  Hold onto a wall or something sturdy for support, then put one foot in front of the other, imagine you are balancing on a tightrope and hold that position for 30 seconds.  Then switch the positions of your feet.  When you feel confident you have mastered this stance with support, try it without support.  You can add light weights in each hand as well.
  • Farmer’s Walk:  No offense to farmers here.  They are probably some of the fittest people on the planet!  Basically, we need to walk every day.  This exercise helps train your upper body and core muscles.  Using a light weight in each hand, stand tall with your hands at your sides, palms in.  Place your feet hip-width apart and brace your core muscles.  Then slowly walk forward for 30 seconds, then back in the other directions.  Not as easy as it looks!
  • Single Leg Stand: This can help our overall coordination and balance.  Stand tall with your feet together and brace your core muscles.  Hold on to a wall or chair for support, and then lift your right foot off the floor so you are just standing on your left foot.  Maintain good posture and hold for 30 seconds. Then switch feet.  As you feel confident, point your foot in front, then to the side, and then straight back.  Do that for the whole 30 seconds if you are comfortable.

Keep in mind deep and steady breathing is very important for all of these exercises!

A few simple things can make a big difference in treating “Covid Cave.”

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image provided by: pixabay

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