Writing at a standing desk – one week on

Posted: January 29, 2015 in writing life
Tags: , , , ,
Ikea to the rescue!

Ikea to the rescue!

When I wrote a week ago that I was starting to work at a standing desk, several people said they’d be interested in hearing how I got on. As it’s also been an instructive experience for me, I figured it was time for a quick update.

First up, my neck and shoulders feel vastly better. My habitual slouching or hunching forward is impossible with this setup, which means I’m treating those muscles much more kindly. Less neck and shoulder strain means less tension being passed on into my head, which means no tension headaches and better concentration. It also means that, at the end of my working day, I’m more likely to be able to do something productive and enjoyable, and less likely to be reduced to slumping in front of the TV. It’s been well worth the effort.

That said, there was one significant bump along the way. It’s entirely my own fault, and a useful lesson for anyone thinking about using a standing desk – build up your use gradually, like I didn’t do.

The day I set up the ‘desk’ (actually a cunningly adapted set of shelves) I was very excited. This looked like the perfect way to improve my health. I worked standing for about nine hours, with just an hour’s break in the middle. And by the end I was exhausted. I felt like I’d spent three whole days on my feet while wearing a solid mass of chainmail (a comparison I make based on personal experience and curious hobbies). My feet were sore. My calves ached. My thighs and lower back were stiff and awkward. I had totally over-done it.

The day after my new desk, I was completely exhausted and spent most of the day resting.

Since then, I’ve brought a tall kitchen stool up into the study, letting me alternate between standing and sitting at the desk. I’ll work standing for an hour or so, then sitting for between ten and thirty minutes. I can feel the difference in my neck and shoulders when I switch to sitting, muscles shifting awkwardly like they did when I sat and typed all the time. But I also feel the sweet relief in my legs and give a happy little sigh.

Even over the course of a week, I can feel my endurance improving, meaning I can work standing for longer without wiping myself out.

So on the basis of a week, the standing desk has been a huge boon to my health and my writing, but one that I shouldn’t over use without practice.

I’ll try to remember to provide another update after a month, but if I forget, and if you’re still interested, then remind me. And in the meantime, take care of your posture. Because unlike a nest of angry hornets, good health doesn’t grow on trees.

No, wait, fruit grows on trees, and fruit is healthy. Good health does grow on trees. Curse you poorly thought out cliché!

And now back to work.

  1. jhmae says:

    Sounds promising! My husband is on his feet 40 hours a week – the callouses that man has are epic! I really should do the same – a standing desk – but I think I’ll wait until I’m in lots of pain 😉

    So do you mean you have worn chain mail before? I only ask because husband is making his own right now. We went to a Renaissance Fair last summer and since then, he’s been making his own rings, snapping them together, etc. Has a coif and a chest piece done. When I put it on, it nearly sends me to the floor!

    • I used to do a lot of LRP, particularly fantasy events with plenty of action, so I’ve worn ringmail, and occasionally proper chainmail, on many occasions. There are few greater feelings than getting to the end of an eight hour trek through the woods in metal armour, taking it off and feeling yourself suddenly floating like a feather.

      My mail is currently out of action. When I first got it I was fifteen years younger and slimmer, and it’s become increasingly snug. Last time I wore it was for a battle in the rain. Between the extra layer of fat and my rain-sodden clothes, I couldn’t get the damn thing off afterwards. I spent twenty minutes wandering around camp, looking sheepish and asking strangers to lend me their pliers, then another half an hour slowly and carefully unfastening the links up one side so that I could get out. On the plus side, the hilarious sight of me cutting myself out helped cheer up my friends, who were feeling demoralised after losing a battle in the mud.

      I’ve cut back on the LRP to invest the time and creative energy into my writing, but I’m off to a banquet this weekend, my first event in over a year. No chainmail this time!

  2. mjtierney1 says:

    I’ve always been curious about standing desks, but not because I have any problems arising from the probably atrocious ergonomics at my desk. At a previous company, the guy who was in charge of employees’ ergonomics swore by standing desks and used one in his cubicle. I figure if the supposed expert used one, there must be something behind them.

    • It seems counterintuitive that it’s better not to be sat down, but for me at least it’s doing wonders. I suspect it depends on how good your posture is, as standing up stops some of my worst habits.

  3. “I felt like I’d spent three whole days on my feet while wearing a solid mass of chainmail (a comparison I make based on personal experience and curious hobbies).” — A similar ‘curious hobby’ is part of what caused my brother to have problems with his spine. Who knew that moving around quickly in 60 pounds of armor plus a 28-pound steel helmet could cause minor compression fractures on one’s vertebrae?

    It sounds as if gradually working up to standing all the time is the way to go, rather than trying to do it all at once. I am considering trying a standing desk myself — the top of the shelf over my desk is about the right height, although I’m not sure if I could keep the cats from knocking over the monitor.

    • I’ll have to tell my wife about your brother – she’s the only other person I know who’s done herself damage by wearing chainmail, and a decade later is still working on rebuilding her shoulder muscles.

      And yes, building up gradually is the way to go with a standing desk – if you’ve got something already that will let you try it out that’s perfect, as you don’t have to spend money on something that might not work for you.

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