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Why Your Office Job Is Putting You at Risk

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The other day I was reading the latest issue of Running Times and came across an article about the connection between our daily routines and running form. Pete Pfitzinger, co-author of Advanced Marathoning and current cube monkey made the following statement about sitting at a desk from 9-5: “The hamstrings become short and weak and the core muscles do not have to work as you lean back in your chair.” Competitive runner and coach Pete Magill agrees, “It plays murder on our hips, and can also cause illiotibial band syndrome.” Anything we do for a long time strains certain muscles, and they’re going to go into spasm.”

How many of us commute to work, sit for eight-plus hours at a desk, commute home, and then head out the door for a run? A sedentary lifestyle is a fact of life for many office workers and unless your employer is willing to shell out for a treadmill desk, you’re going to need a plan of action. If you sit for long periods at a time, it may be better for you to run in the morning. If you must run after work, make sure to thoroughly warm-up before attempting to pick up the pace. Whenever I schedule evening speed sessions, I make sure to start out with a few minutes of walking and a gradual two-mile warm-up. Running fast with tight hips and hamstrings is an injury waiting to happen! In addition to jogging, you can also reverse some of your desk job’s damage by completing a dynamic warm-up. Runner’s World recently published a quick seven-minute routine that combines stretching and strength training. No matter how strapped for time you may be, skipping that extra mile in favor of a few minutes of prevention will be well worth it. Even if you only have a minute or two—some dynamic stretches (think leg swings, skips, etc) can get your blood flowing and loosen up muscles. I try to add a little bit of moment whenever I can—lunch breaks, while waiting for the elevator, in the ladies room, etc. Every little bit counts!

Frequent breaks and stretching are well and good, but you also need to focus on the root of the problem—muscle strain and poor posture while at the desk. Avoid added neck strain by positioning your computor monitor at eye level and scoot in your chair so you can read without jutting out your chin or hunching over. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, engage your ab muscles, and press your shoulders into the back of your chair. I also like to keep a tennis ball handy–it works wonders for massaging out tense back muscles. Unless you’re an elite, you probably only have 1-2 hours a day to to train, don’t let the eight (or more!) hours you spend at work jeopordize that next PR. Happy Running!

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