Micro Breaks

Flag Girl

This is Flag Girl Amanda.

Driving home from my 10 minute morning hill sprint with dog Ruby and my 9 year old son, I happened to see Amanda doing some Prisoner Squats at the side of the road.

Amanda is a Flag Girl with the city’s sewers crew. I parked my car and high tailed it over to chat with her about what she was doing. With my son and dog in tow, I told her what I had witnessed. She explained that she had been in a motor-vehicle accident on March 27, 2012 and since has been in a lot of pain. She had gone through all the required active rehabilitation for the soft tissue damage. However, since the physical treatments that were covered by insurance had come to an end she had to become self-sufficient and consistent with doing the prescribed exercises throughout the day on her own. She quickly showed me the list of exercises on her phone.

Yay, Amanda!

Because her job requires for a lot of standing she finds that the immobility is what contributes to her pain. As a result she does whichever exercises she can while on the job.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to see this. On one other occasion I noticed a Flag girl doing some lunges and now wonder if it was Amanda then also!?

I’ve often wanted to contact the city and offer to give a workshop on how workers can help themselves throughout such long days of mostly stationary work – because standing around (though at least there is movement), can be equally difficult on the body as sitting at a work-station all day. In addition, I think that long hours, like what Amanda does can often leave workers fatigued by days end and the last thing they want to or feel motivated to do is think about doing a ‘workout’. So what if people in this situation could be shown (and convinced) that some, focused exercises done with precision, specific to their needs could do a world of good!

This is why I love the 4 Minute Morning concept as well as Stretch B4 Bed idea too. Each session doesn’t have to be an event, but rather a few minutes of focused attention, a moving meditation, which is what Yoga is; time spent inwardly focusing and becoming aware of our physical being, which subconsciously trains our body to function correctly when we are not able to be focused inwardly…like, most of the time!

Here is a little video of what I saw Amanda doing that morning. She re-created the moment for me so I could post it here. Of course, my preference would have been to catch her spontaneously, but this will give you the gist.

I just wanted to reinforce here, how beneficial and necessary micro-breaks are for all of us, regardless of injury or as daily maintenance. I think our culture has gotten a lot carried away with the more is better philosophy with regards to exercise. We need to step back and focus more on how our body functions and less on doing exercise for the sole purpose of looking a certain way.

You Are In Control…More Than You Know

Second league game for the Toronto Blue Jays. ...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes we need to hear the same thing from other people and worded slightly differently before the message really takes hold.

The following are two very brief posts about getting up from your work station to move around and stretch even a little bit throughout the day.  A little, well intentioned movement here and there really does make a significant difference to our well being.

Our children are encouraged to do this in school; such as the little movement from changing classrooms between subjects.  It all adds up.

Something you didn’t know about me: In the early nineties I was a 7th Inning Stretcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.  At the seventh inning, a group of us and the Mascot would rush onto the field and lead the crowd in an active (one minute or so) stretch.  The best part from my perspective, is that for a few minutes before our spot, we got to hang in the dug out and meet some of the players (not sure if they allow this anymore?  And I got a ball used in play from the 1991 All-Star Game signed by Ozzie Guillen -White Sox, Roberto Alomar -Blue Jays, Sandy Alomar- Marlins and Ken Griffey Jr.-Seattle Mariners).

Most of the crowd would stand up and do these stretches along with us, while the 7th Inning Stretch song blasted over the loud speaker. After sitting for so long, this little activity left everyone feeling refreshed and more alert to cheer on their team!  Just another example of how effective short bursts of exercise have a beneficial impact on our health.  Don’t short change the small stuff!

Here is a link to a Globe and Mail article by Harvey Schachter, You’re Not Really Chained to Your Desk. You’ve got to open the link, the photo next to the caption is priceless.  He comments briefly on Pierre Khawand’s research:

Make it a habit to incorporate movement into your day, every 40 minutes or so, to revive your energy and mood, urges consultant Pierre Khawand. Stretch, walk to the other side of the office, go up and down a few flights of stairs, walk briskly to the kitchen area for coffee, or if on the phone simply stand up and move around.”

For convenience I’ve attached Pierre Khawand’s article below.  You can click on his link which will take you to his site for further reading.

Make it a Habit to Incorporate Movement into Your Day: Every 40 Minutes (or so)

By PIERRE KHAWAND | Published: SEPTEMBER 14, 2011

We sit for too long! Way too long! And not only our bodies suffer but our brain and our overall mood and energy! So let us put a stop to this and get energy flowing and get re-invigorated.

Moving

Movement does wonders

I am not referring to the structured exercise and sports activities here (even though these do wonders as well), but to the few minutes of stretching, walking around, climbing a few flights of stairs, or whatever movement you can fit in in a few minutes to get re-energized and ready for the next task. Here are some basic ideas as a starter and I would also like to help you design your own breakthrough movement routine–so stay tuned for a follow-up blog article on the topic:

  1. Adopt a stretching routine that you like or design your own. If you search for “stretching videos” on the web, you get about 14,000,000 results. So plenty of ideas out there. I included 3 of these results below to get you started.
  2. Walk to the other side of the office, or office complex, or maybe around the block! Fresh air would be a highly desirable added benefit if at all possible.
  3. Go up and down a few flights of stairs and do it intentionally as if you had a purpose. By the way, you “do” have a great purpose.
  4. Go to the kitchen area, but this time go briskly and instead of food or coffee, get some water, and get back briskly!
  5. Organize your desk and your files but again, do it with intention and with energy.
  6. In addition, when on the phone, or in a web conference, stand up, move around, and stretch. Take advantage of the web in a different way!
  7. Finally, find a companion who likes to do this with you a few times a day, so you can remind and encourage each other.

Most importantly, it would help to have a variety of these movement activities ready so you can spontaneously use the one that is most applicable to the situation at hand. Keep a list handy. Maybe post one closeby. Put a check mark every time you do one.

When making your list, have some activities that are short for times when all you have is a minute or two. Have others that are longer for these 5 or 10 minute stretches. Maybe one or two that are even longer for when you really need to get away from that chair!

Remember to not let more than 40 minutes go by without invoking movement! If you guess why 40 minutes, you will get a copy of my Accomplishing More With Less book!

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Also remember the Micro Breaks courtesy of Mark Finch & Associates.

For reference the Micro Breaks routine is a series of stretches/exercises, which take less than a minute.  Again, this reinforces what the above article suggests.

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Leave a comment to share with others how you incorporate micro breaks into your work day.  Do you excuse yourself for a minute and take a few flights of stairs?  Walk briskly down the hall as opposed to sending an email or picking up the phone?