How to Use Your Standing Desk July 15 2014

So you’ve bought and installed the standing desk, congratulations! Unfortunately, the most challenging part of the process is yet to come. The tough part is to actually use it. This article will provide information on how to get started with your standing desk, and how to avoid some common discomforts and pain.

First, the enemy we’re fighting isn’t necessarily SITTING. The act of offloading your body weight from your legs and transferring it through your buns into a cushy chair, is a fantastic feeling. Ideally, sitting should still remain an important part of your day –just with a little more portion control. The real enemy is inactivity –or a prolonged lack of movement. The standing desk is great because, as the name implies, it allows you to stand, which is much better than sitting; be warned, if you’re swapping 8 hours of straight sitting with 8 hours of straight standing, you’re still in troubled waters.

Ideal Standing Desk Use: 

The ideal situation is to remain as active as possible throughout the day. Spend your time alternating between standing, walking, other movements and sitting. The beauty of the standing desk (other than the lovely design), is that you have a completely different set of options, compared to being seated. When you’re using your computer from a desk chair, your desk and your computer are essentially a restraint, locking you in and preventing you from moving. In this situation, you might start unconsciously bobbing your legs around, shifting your weight in the chair, crossing and uncrossing your legs, but this is the most you can really do. I believe the standing position gives you a sense of freedom that you just don’t have sitting down.

In a standing position, it feels natural to take a few steps around, to bounce a little, do a few calf raises, and to even take longer walks. These little activities are where the magic happens, as they'll ensure that your muscles are contracting and your metabolism is running, while you spend 8 hours at work. The best movements that you can do will be the ones that fire up your largest muscles groups, so along with walking, things like air squats, lunges and pushups can also be peppered into your daily routine, depending on your tolerance for office embarrassment.

Personally, I have my standing desk set up in my home, so I’m not bound by office norms. With no colleagues around to disrupt, I can do whatever I want. When I’m writing reports or writing a blog, I’m constantly walking around the room, pondering. When I need a quick break from standing, I’ll do a few squats or pushups, some stretching, grab a glass of water, then get back to work. The beauty is that I’m never more than a few steps away from the keyboard. If I start to feel any sort of discomfort or fatigue, I simply grab my laptop, have a seat and keep working.

If you’re worried about productivity, you can do these short bursts of activity during the natural breaks in work (i.e. phone calls, text messages, when you’re checking email, etc.), so that they don’t interfere with your flow. 

The Tragedy:

An all-too-common, yet tragic situation is when someone buys a standing desk, sets it all up, then in their excitement, they over-do it. It takes bravery to stand while all of your colleagues are sitting. Some colleagues may be salty towards your standing desk, just because it goes against the grain, and you'll want to show them that they're wrong. In these situations, it’s important to resist the temptation to try standing for the entire first day! Inevitably, after a few hours of battling your body and mind, you’ll feel discomfort, pain and defeat. Later, when your smart-ass colleague ask “How’s the standing desk going?” secretly hoping that you’ll say it’s terrible, you’ll be forced to reinforce their view that standing desks are just another fad for fruitcake hippies. 

Take it easy:

Instead, ease into it. If your body is used to sitting all day, you’ll need to make the transition to standing very gradually. In fact, start with 10 minutes of standing every hour. If you find that you’re becoming sore or tired in 10 minutes, bring it down to 5 minutes. The goal is to build your tolerance to standing without exposing yourself to excessive pain and fatigue. After a few days, if 10 minutes becomes a breeze, then make it 20 minutes per hour, then eventually 30 minutes, always remembering to include the walking and other movements in your routine. If your body tells you to sit, have a seat. As your tolerance improves, you’ll eventually find the right mix of standing, walking and sitting that allows you to feel fresh, active, productive and happy. 

Be confident that you made an excellent choice in switching to a standing desk. Your future self will thank you. Remember to make the transition a gradual one and to resist the temptation to overdo it. If you have any trouble, please contact me to discuss.

Best of luck!