Like many office workers, I had a long history of being a paper weight for office chairs. And I've tried all the chairs in life, believe me. Regular office chairs, extra large "I feel like I'm 5 again" office chairs and the pricier chairs that are supposed to miraculously cure my back. And after 10 years, my back just got worse and worse, and my posture got more abstract and artistic, much like a 19th century art piece.
Driving for an extended 2 hours per day did not help this situation and I was on a fast road to becoming an oval of some kind. Which is why 6 months ago, I decided to jump on the standing desk band-wagon once again and to go all out with it. I've tried standing desks before, and it only lasted a few months before I gave in and once again nestled into that sweet sweet concave device.
So the following is my experience with standing for the past 6 months, what it did to my body, my mind, my health and my current status. And a few tips along the way if you are considering joining the pack.
The first few weeks
Unfortunately, you can't just jump into standing anymore. Muscles atrophy and joints begin to creak and crack. And if you're a few pounds over what you feel is healthy like I was, than prolonged standing is just as bad as prolonged sitting. So if you feel like your legs are going to snap at any point, just sit down.
tip #1: stand to the best of your ability
Don't try to be a hero on this one. Initially I would wake up in the middle of the night with huge leg cramps which I would have to decrease by wobbling around the house left and right. This lasted for a few weeks and I think it was due to my excessive standing schedule. Because I work from home, I get to enjoy my standing desk for as long as I want. And because I was a lazy being, I found it too much work to take my desk apart and sit to work. So I toughed it out.
Oh, it's gonna hurt
There were many a time when I almost gave up on this path. I'm normally the kind of person to go all out when I try something new. Call it curiously and madness to some extent. So when I first began my standing journey I did it for a full 12-16 hours a day. And it hurt. Alot. Different muscles that had never worked before began to activate and my brain didn't know what to do with that information. So pain was the answer. Your standing position is going to change continuously as you stand longer and longer. The stronger your core gets, the less work your legs and calves will have to do to stand you up straight. But for that I realized that I also needed exercise in my life. So because of my need to stand, my need for working out came to be.
This is the first time in history where humans do not need to move to survive. Try that 200 years ago, and your family would have starved and your farm animals would have ran away at some point. Now you can pick up a piece of plastic in your pocket, and food comes over.
The first few months
It took about 2 months for my body to adjust enough where a full day of standing wasn't an issue anymore. Waking up somewhat sore became a badge of honor. And that was the next step on my journey. To figure out why I was still waking up sore if I was just standing and not doing much else. A few anatomy classes helped me out on this one, and learning which muscles are where and do what in the who is amazing knowledge to attain. Doing a few very simple exercises a few times per week quickly lead to results, and within 3-4 months I was almost at 0 discomfort.
Tip #2: Don't just stand, move a little
You can't just stand straight and hope for the best. The body needs movement for many reasons. Thanks to gravity, blood naturally falls downward, and as such, the body uses pressure and such to push it back up to the rest of your body. Movement also stimulates your brain, so it will indeed keep you focused for a longer duration.
Each week essentially I was trying something different with my standing routine. I would constantly adjust my keyboard placement, my monitor height, and even my standing position, as a few months of standing in the same spot developed a nice groove into my carpet. Pay attention to everything I would say. If something feels off, then it probably is.
6 months later
At this point in life, if I'm not sleeping I'm standing. I've learned a ton about my body and how it feels comfortable, both in sitting and standing. My posture has improved more in 6 months than in years of trying alternative methods. My uneven shoulders are no longer existent and my core muscles are finally doing work. When I stand now, it feels like my entire body is helping me in the process, and not just some very tired legs.
Tip #3: No one stands like you stand
And that's the biggest tip I can give I think. After 6 months, you will be standing different and your body will be aligned differently. It won't be like mine or like Mikes down the hall in the other cubicle. It will be whatever shape and strength that it needs to be in for you personally to handle your day to day activity.
I can no longer see myself sitting for more than 10 minutes at a time, ever. Standing is just too comfortable and familiar now. I've lost weight, I've strengthened my body, I've gotten rid of the many habits that I used to have when sitting bored in a desk. And it was all thanks to a simple human mechanical motion that we have forgotten we can do. So this year, get yourself some wood and some bolts and brackets, and put together a standing desk
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Walter Guevara is a Computer Scientist, software engineer, startup founder and currently mentors for a coding bootcamp. He has been creating software for the past 15 years.