Desk Job Exercise: 4 Tips for a Runner-Friendly Workstation

Looking for some desk job exercises to support your running goals? 
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😭If you're a runner with a desk job, I know what it's like. I work from home at a computer most of the time.
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🏃‍♀️While runners generally have an active lifestyle, that five, 10 or even 20-miler won’t make up for sitting eight hours a day in a static position staring at a screen.
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But you don't have to quit your desk job to be a better runner.
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✅In this article, you'll learn FOUR ways to move more, sit less and create a runner-friendly workstation.

💀Runners beware: The dark side of sitting at a desk

Sitting at a desk for prolonged amounts of time could wreck your:

  • Neck
  • Spine
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Possibly the entire kinetic chain

Prolonged periods of sitting day after day can even affect your health, increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, lower life expectancy and interfere with running, according to the following studies:

⚙️So what's the fix for too much sitting?

One answer is to invest in:

  • An under-desk treadmill, elliptical, bike or walking pad
  • A treadmill desk
  • A motorized standing desk
  • Just to name a few…

However, not all of us, including myself, are interested in:

  • Spending 100s of dollars on a new desk (my father-in-law built my desk, and I love it!), especially when it’s relatively simple to make your own standing desk with things you already have at home
  • Walking, running or biking while working—I’d rather save those activities for my outside exercise break

Instead, while working at my computer, I prefer to:

  • Move in a variety of ways
  • Change positions frequently 
  • Add a component of self-care 
  • And move lightly and easily
  • Maybe you will (or do), too...

⏱️Runners: How many hours do you sit per day?

For starters, let me lay the framework for my personal active workstation and work environment.
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Important factors:

  • I work from home, which allows for lots of freedom in how I design my work space. 

I have three jobs:

  • Job one: managing guest information for a local bike tours vacation company that operates multi-day trips in 30 destinations and 24 states, plus Cuba, nearly 300 per year
  • Job two: writing for WeeViews
  • Job three: teaching yoga (the business side is done on a computer)

All of this adds up to a full-time workload, and more during peak season, of desk time. 

👋Can you relate?

As a runner, I value movement, and I think you do, too.
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Thus, over the years I’ve developed an active at-home workstation, with the mission of preventing sedentariness and all of its negative side effects.
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Looking for some desk job exercises to support your running goals? 
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Check out these FOUR tips to move more, sit less & create a runner-friendly workstation.

Desk job exercise for runners: How I set up an active workstation

Want to create an active workstation to help you move more, sit less to support your running goals?

Here's what I did...

  • I made a DIY adjustable standing desk using books and an old metal crate.
  • When I go from standing to sitting, I simply take the computer off the crate and the mouse off of the stack of books, or adjust the book stack.
  • Therapy tools and props live under and around my desk, all in easily accessible places. 

👉The most important elements of my active workstation

I alternate between:

  • Standing
  • Sitting 
  • Kneeling (sometimes)
  • And moving to the floor with a laptop

I switch to using the non-dominant hand (my left one) with the mouse. 

  • Even so, I still use my right hand more often, so I try to create balance by using my left hand to eat and brush teeth.

I take walks + exercise breaks

  • I  walk away from the computer every 20-60 minutes to do house chores, cook, eat, etc. 
  • I take an outside exercise break to run… or bike, kayak, swim, ski, lift weights on my porch… the point is, I am getting fresh air away from the screen. If it’s a rest day, I lay out in the sun, read outside, or if it's cold, I stand in the cold for a minute or two.

🏃‍♀️Desk job exercise for runners: It's time to get active at work

The following are lists of the things I do while working at the computer. Keep in mind that:

  • I do not do them in any particular order.
  • It changes every single day. 
  • Sometimes, I might do five. Sometimes, I do nearly everything. 
  • Keep in mind that sometimes my active workstation ideals go out the window, especially during peak bike tour season, and I find myself hunched with my face inches from the screen, sitting askew, realizing I haven’t moved for two hours. 
  • When this happens, I don’t chastise myself. I begin implementing movement again. 
  • After all, the work’s gotta get done, and there’s something to be said for getting into a flow state while doing what you love, whether it’s running or earning a living. 

🏃‍♀️1. Desk job exercise for runners: Standing

Here are some tips for working at a standing desk:

  • Rock back and forth from heels to toes
  • Lift the four little toes while pressing the big toes down into the floor, then switch, lifting the big toes while pressing the four little toes down. Do as many reps as is comfortable. 
  • Spread the toes apart
  • Contract the arches
  • Heel lifts, with external, neutral and internal rotation of the feet
  • Stand barefoot on a Shakti Mat 
  • Wear Toe Separators or spacers
  • Stand in a hot Epsom salt foot bath
  • Roll out the soles of the feet with a small ball like a golf, lacrosse or tennis ball or the TRS Supernova 2.0, 120 mm
  • Do Tandem Stance 
  • Hold a foam roller or yoga block between the lower, middle and upper calves and lower, middle and upper inner thighs - squeeze the block, hold it or bend one knee while straightening the other
  • Contract glute muscles and hold for a few seconds for one to as many reps as possible (AMRAP) once an hour, or maybe once a day
  • Tie a heating pad around the front, sides and back of the hips with a scarf
  • Do hip circles
  • Do slow butt kicks standing in place 
  • Lift one leg to the side then the other
  • March in place
  • Wear ankle weights during any of the above movements
  • Place a TENS Unit on the low back or or on any niggles
  • Put silicone cups along the spine or on any other niggles
  • Stand on one leg and lift the other leg to the side to prop the shin on the desk for a standing supported pigeon pose while actively engaging the leg muscles, only if the ankle does not sickle and it DOES NOT feel like an intense stretch or send pain to the ankle, knee or hip.
  • Stand on one leg and lift the other one to the side so that the heel rests on the desk and the leg is straight while engaging the muscles on the front of the leg, if it isn’t a strain or doesn’t affect upper body posture.

🏃‍♀️Desk job exercise for runners: Stand on something like a balance board or yoga block

Here are some tips for using a yoga block or balance board like the MOBO or BOSU with a standing desk:

  • Balance on a MOBO Board or any other balance board
  • Do foot rocks with the MOBO Board
  • Do tree pose either on the flat ground or while standing on a block, BOSU, pillow or MOBO
  • Stand on a balance board of any kind: I stand on the ball side of a BOSU Balance Trainer and then the flat side (caution - do not wear socks on the flat side!)
  • Stand with one foot on a yoga block or stack of hardback books and move the free leg to the side, back and front, then make small, medium and big circles with the free leg
  • With one foot on a balance board, yoga block or stack of hardback books, do hip hikes
  • Wear ankle weights during any of the above movements

🏃‍♀️2. Desk job exercise for runners: Modified sitting

If you don't think standing all day is practical for your work day, you can minimize the effects of sitting like this...

  • Change the type of seat. I switch between the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair and a regular desk chair.
  • While in a regular desk chair, place a small mobility ball like the TRS Supernova 2.0, 120 mm or lacrosse ball under the hamstrings and straighten and bend the knee, swing the leg from side to side, or keep it static. 

Rearrange yoga bolsters and/ or a yoga block on a wide office chair to alternate between sitting:

Sit on the exercise ball like you would a surfboard or horse, in a straddle with the knees bent on either side.

  • Switch leg positions on the exercise ball - get creative and do what feels good and easy.

🏃‍♀️3. Desk job exercise for runners: Kneeling

Here's another way to avoid sitting in a chair while working at a desk:

  • Kneel on pillows or yoga bolsters and take one leg straight to the side like you would in gate pose and switch.
  • I kneel less often than standing, sitting or lounging on the floor 

🏃‍♀️4. Desk job exercise for runners: Work on the floor

Here's another way to take a break from working at a desk:

  • I take my laptop to the floor to work on my belly while propped up on my elbows, similar to Sphinx pose.
  • To make Instagram posts or yoga playlists on Spotify with my phone, I also move to the floor to sit upright with the legs in a straddle...
  • Or I lie on my back with my legs straight up like legs up the wall pose, with or without a wall

Final thoughts: Sit less, move more & create an active workstation

When I leave my active workstation to go for a run or other activity, I feel light and free in my body...
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...as opposed to getting up from an extended period of sitting, which causes me to feel stiff and slow to start.
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I hope you’re inspired to create your very own personal active workstation. Some tips:

  • Start small! 
  • Choose one habit and stick with it for a week, like simply alternating between standing and sitting, or vowing to get up every 20 minutes. 
  • If you’re ready to dive right in, add as many as you’d like!
  • Get creative - maybe what you do at your desk differs from my lists - that’s great!
  • DIY it as best you can with what you have at home. Unless your work is paying for treadmill desks for everyone - then, by all means, embrace it! 
  • Regardless of your approach, the key to making a sustainable active workstation is to be open and curious and find what works for your unique work environment and life situation. 

Your body, health and next run will thank you. 

👇Runners: How do you combat sedentary activity?

Share your tips in the comments.

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...

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