Category Archives: Low-Level Activity

Move. Don’t Sit! Using my Workspace for Mobility Training

As I noted in this post on mobility, our body adapts to how it is used most frequently. For that reason, adding movement variety to our day is essential. I usually spend 30-40% of the 168 hours in a week at the office (and that doesn’t include commuting) so what I physiologically do at work has a pretty big influence on my body. Since I have a desk job and don’t want my body to adapt to a sitting position as its natural state (I would prefer to adapt to “endurance beast”), I’m always trying to incorporate different movements throughout the work day while still being uber productive.

Workspace 1

Yep….our dogs to come to work with us almost every day.

So…these are some of the tools and habits that I’ve adopted (…or still trying to adopt) when I’m at my desk to add movement variety to improve my mobility and overall health:

VariDesk Standing Desk – Our company generously offered standing desks when we moved to a new HQ building so I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to get one. This one is especially nice because it is easily adjustable to different heights.

Going Shoeless – Yep…you got it…when I’m using my standing desk I’m usually shoeless. Shoes, especially if they have raised heals, can interfere with proper foot biomechanics. For that reason, I go shoeless as much as possible. Besides, what’s the point of wearing fun socks if you never get to show them off!


Topo Anti-Fatigue Mat – Standing on hard flat ground for a majority of the day can start to get uncomfortable (especially if you aren’t wearing shoes).  Almost a year ago I supported a crowdfunding campaign for this anti-fatigue mat that helps promote dynamic standing. The reason I love this mat is it offers a variety of foot positions to foster healthier feet.massage_matrix1

Trigger Point Massage Ball – I’ll use this to roll/massage my feet when I’m on conference calls. There is a reason that I seem to be obsessed with my feet. The feet are the foundation of the body and are subject to more wear and tear than any other body part (walking a mile generates more than 60 tons of stress on each foot!!!). Numerous blog posts could be written about the importance of proper foot function for endurance athletes.

standing_desk_geek_no_chairStool (i.e., No Chair!) – When I do sit, I use a stool instead of an office chair. I swapped my chair for a stool for two main reasons 1) I think of chairs as movement junk food so I just keep it out of my space so I’m not tempted and 2) a stool promotes better sitting posture because I’m less likely to tuck my pelvis.

Using different standing positions – I’ll try and vary my standing positions during the day by resting one leg on my stool, balancing on one leg, standing in tree pose, etc. Stability (especially on my left leg) is something that I need to work on according to my FMS test results.150731163841-02-how-to-move-more-exlarge-169

Various Kneeling Positions Instead of Sitting – for even more movement variety when I do need to work on my desk….I’ll kneel in either a lunging position (making sure to switch legs every now and then) or on both knees. This also helps improve stability if I don’t lean on my desk for support.

Movement Break Reminders Every 30-60 Minutes – A couple of months ago I read the book “Don’t Just Sit There” by Katy Bowman, my favorite biomechanist. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has a desk job. It includes tips and videos on how to improve body alignment while sitting and standing, tools and products for your workspace, and key exercises to perform throughout the day. As a result, I set a reminder in Outlook to take a “Movement Break” every 30-60 minutes and I’ll do a variety of different movements and stretches. A few examples from my long list are:

  • Thoracic Stretch
  • Double Calf Stretch
  • Quad Stretch
  • Standing Pigeon Pose
  • Getting down into a deep squat
  • Bending down to touch my toes
  • Standing backbend with arms reaching behind me

Treadmill Desk

Treadmill Desk – the new work environment makes it harder to hit my 7+ hour low level activity target every week (not nearly as many walking statuses/meetings) so I’m trying to get into a better habit/routine of using the treadmill desk we have in our office. My goal is an hour a day but I’m still working on integrating this more.

All of this really has made a difference. My squat depth, mechanics, and stability have noticeably improved over the last few months. I’ve made most of this stuff a routine so I just do it without even thinking about it anymore. I’ve dramatically expanded my daily movement variety without adding ANY incremental time to my day. The power of habit/routines at its best!

So…yeah…my cube setup is unique and anyone watching me most likely thinks I’m a little odd. However…I just like to think I’m ahead of the curve. Laugh now…but I plan to be doing races into my 80s.

Low-Level Activity Is the Base of My Ironman Training Plan

As I mentioned in my Core Foundational Principles post, Low-Level Activity (LLA) is different from exercise. Exercise is done with the intent of reaping a specific fitness benefit whereas LLA is staying as active as possible throughout the day. The importance of LLA in a minimalist Ironman training program should not be underestimated. In fact, LLA is going to be the base of my entire training plan. This is in contrast to spending most of my day sitting and then grinding out long slow workouts to build a base level of fitness.

There is a great video called The Truth About Exercise at that explains this principle very well (the whole video is worth watching but the specific portion about LLA is from 31 minutes to 42 minutes). To summarize, Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic obesity expert, talks about non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) which is the energy that we expend for everything except sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. NEAT includes things like walking to work, typing, yard work, and fidgeting. In the video, Dr. Levine compares the calories burned from NEAT between a waitress who does no planned exercise and a writer who spends most of his time at a desk but goes to the gym most days to exercise. Essentially, the waitress who moves around all day burns significantly more daily calories through NEAT than the sedentary writer that also exercises.

An Ironman involves being up, on your feet, and active for 10+ hours. Therefore, I try to be on my feet and active as much as possible throughout the day so my body gets used to handling continuous activity for long periods. This will help establish my fitness base and then my workouts can be focused on specific performance enhancements instead of using workout time to establish a base. As a result, my workouts will provide a better performance benefit over time in contrast to my previous routine of sitting all day and then doing long workouts. In my opinion, it is the dynamic of sitting and exercise that makes people believe that an Ironman requires such a significant amount of training time. If I’m getting 7+ hours of LLA a week as part of my normal daily routines, I can get by with less workout time.

Based on this philosophy, I try to find opportunities to incorporate LLA in my routines with minimal incremental time added to my day. Some of the things I have started doing to get more LLA are below:

  • Avoid elevators/escalators and use the stairs unless completely impractical
  • Bike to work
  • Park in the back of parking lots
  • Walk/bike to nearby destinations instead of driving
  • Walk my dogs instead of playing with them while sitting
  • Do yard work
  • Have walking meetings and walk while I’m on conference calls
  • Make phone calls while walking
  • Read emails/articles while walking (yeah….I’m that annoying guy walking around looking at my phone)

By doing the above items, I have been able to add activity to the things I already do everyday so I have been getting a ton more LLA with a minimal time investment. I have been getting 7+ hours of LLA each week without any trouble now.

Additionally, I have been avoiding sitting as much as possible. I have been using a standing desk at work and when I’m at home I try to stay on my feet by cooking and doing house chores. I don’t count this towards my weekly LLA goals but I know every minute I’m active and not sitting helps.