So as of late I’ve been dealing with some setbacks in my training. I haven’t been very vocal about it because it’s not a serious injury or anything but it’s worth talking about because it has been some things that have been reoccurring and it stems from the same thing…inactivity. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Chris…you train all the time! How can you be inactive?” Well I’ll be the first one to tell you the 2 to 3 hours of intense training I do 5 or 6 days a week did not negate the 8 hours of the day I was sitting on my ass. Not even with the 2 mobility sessions I was doing on my breaks. For the longest time I had a standing workstation to avoid the problems caused by excessive sitting but due to a location change that was no longer an option. I will say I am back to my normal area and back to standing up at work but unfortunately 6 months of damage had been done. So what happens to a person who sits down all day? Let’s look at some of the problems it causes.
Heart diseaseMuscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggishly during a long sit, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the heart. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, and people with the most sedentary time are more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with the least.
Over productive pancreas
The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that carries glucose to cells for energy. But cells in idle muscles don’t respond as readily to insulin, so the pancreas produces more and more, which can lead to diabetes and other diseases. A 2011 study found a decline in insulin response after just one day of prolonged sitting.
When you stand, move or even sit up straight, abdominal muscles keep you upright. But when you slump in a chair, they go unused. Tight back muscles and wimpy abs form a posture-wrecking alliance that can exaggerate the spine’s natural arch, a condition called hyperlordosis, or swayback.
Flexible hips help keep you balanced, but chronic sitters so rarely extend the hip flexor muscles in front that they become short and tight, limiting range of motion and stride length. Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is a main reason elderly people tend to fall.
Sitting requires your glutes to do absolutely nothing, and they get used to it. Soft glutes hurt your stability, your ability to push off and your ability to maintain a powerful stride.
Poor circulation in legs
Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger. Scientists partially attribute the recent surge in cases of osteoporosis to lack of activity
Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.
If most of your sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to permanent imbalances.
Sore shoulders and back
The neck doesn’t slouch alone. Slumping forward overextends shoulder and back muscles as well, particularly the trapezius, which connects the neck and shoulders.
When we move, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around tendons and ligaments.
People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks. A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominal cavity and, when it tightens, pulls the upper lumbar spine forward. Upper-body weight rests entirely on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.
So you see how many of these issues can be a huge detriment for someone who actively competes in a sport such as Strongman. The biggest problem I was having was in my hips. I kept finding myself tweaking something in my groin area on movements like deadlifts and stones and my entire lower body would cramp horribly starting at my lower back and hips and travel all the way down to my ankles. Of course I’d stretch, roll out and fight through any pain until I felt something that might be an actual injury, or my body warning me of one.
I began taking steps to fix my issues right after another tweak while working stones that led to me now being able to compete in an upcoming Strongman competition. The first one was getting the book Deskbound by Kelly Starrett and learning what I should do to combat the issues that were plaguing me. The one quote that sticks out the most with me from the book is “The best position is the next position”. So I began to move more. Despite my job keeping me stuck at a computer most of the day I found ways to get moving. I drink a lot of water throughout the day and use the bathroom frequently. So I started using the bathroom downstairs which forced me to walk down and then back up 3 flights of stairs. I could feel my head fogging up from sitting and when I did I’d stand up from my chair and sit back down repeatedly. I took as many breaks as I could to move around and kept up with my mobility drills daily.
I made some changes with my training as well. Any movement that requires stability, which is pretty much all of them, I lowered the weight some and began training without my belt or my thick neoprene shorts and focused on core stability and control. So far it has helped although I’m now seeing how much the weakened core and tight hips have held me back. The standing workstation has been in effect for 3 weeks now and its making a huge difference. I still have to remind myself that standing still is still inactivity and remember to move around more often. I’ll also engage my glutes and abs for periods of time while standing. It’s sad to say but after reading how to stand correctly in Deskbound and then doing it I actually find it difficult to maintain posture and breathing for long periods of time. It just goes to show how much damage can be done in a time as short as six months. I can’t even imagine what my co-workers feel like after years of it with no effort to reverse the effects. Since most of them are not even athletic let alone competitors they probably don’t even notice their gradual decline into weakness.
When I took the first job I had at this company I was a welder and fabricator for close to 6 years and this being a Navy shipyard I kept quite active with plenty of strenuous activity in my work day. Not to mention the fact that I still trained every day after work. I took this desk job because I saw may of the guys I worked with have health issues due to the exposure of the elements we encountered. I also understood at that time there would still be plenty of floor time and I’d be all over the ship working with production. For the past 4 years this has not been the case. This is one of the reasons I have made the choice to start my own businesses and open my gym Tier One Viking Barbell. Someplace where I can create an environment based on the identity of strength and make that my job. I know there’s still deskwork to be done and I’m ok with that. It will be offset with my time spent training myself and others who are on the same journey I am. Climbing the ladder of strength one rung at a time. Stay strong everyone!