We are a sitting society. We sit on our way to work. We sit at work. We sit on our way home from work. We sit at home. We sit when we socialize. We spend a lot of time on our ass, we often don't think twice about it and this could be impacting your triathlon performance.
It's time to think twice.
Take a quick moment and calculate how much you typically sit in a day. Shocked? Tackling this exercise myself I got somewhere between 5-7 hours a day. Way too much idle time but below the average person's 9.3 hours per day spent on their ass.
Is Sitting Really That Bad?
Sitting has certainly been getting a bad rap in the last few years, with headlines like "Sitting Is Killing You". A headline like that usually turns me off as being dramatic, attention grabbing and likely an exaggeration of what is really going on. In the case of sitting however, there is a substantial amount of evidence that people who sit a lot have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and early death. Sitting also burns few calories with some studies linking it to weight gain and obesity.
But I'm an athlete, so what if I'm sitting all day, the hours I spend in the gym will offset all those potential harms. Sure, the average athlete and triathlete I'm sure spends more than the 30-60 minutes of recommended exercise and is doing a lot more to offset these potential health side effects.
However, even if this is true, you're missing one of the key harms of idleness and prolonged periods of sitting for the athlete - the impacts of sitting on your mobility, range of motion and bio-mechanics.
Take a minute a watch these two videos to understand the impacts of prolonged, repeated sitting on your body and why you should care as an athlete.
Impacts of Sitting
With a long list of harmful impacts on your body and health, as an athlete, there are some particular hot spots you should be especially concerned about that could be negatively impacting your performance:
Neck and Shoulders: It's common to hold your neck and head forward while working at a computer or cradling a phone to your ear. This can lead to strains to your cervical vertebrae along with permanent imbalances, which can lead to neck strain, sore shoulders and back.
Back: Sitting puts more pressure on your spine than standing, and the toll on your back health is even worse if you're sitting hunched in front of a computer. The disks in your back are meant to expand and contract as you move, which allows them to absorb blood and nutrients. When you sit, the disks are compressed and can lose flexibility over time. Sitting excessively can also increase your risk of herniated disks.
Core: Your abdominal muscles go unused when you sit.
Hips & Glutes: Your hips also suffer from prolonged sitting, becoming tight and limited in range of motion because they are rarely extended. Sitting does nothing for your glutes, which may become weakened, affecting your stability and the power of your stride when walking and jumping.
How Standing More Has Made Me Stronger
I have tried to make a number of lifestyle choices that leads me to more activity on a day to day basis - activity outside training. One such example being living close to my work and walking to work everyday, avoiding sitting in a car for my commute.
Even still, my sitting numbers are quite high, lower than the average 9.3 hours, but still quite high. In order to address this I've started adding the following activities in my daily routines:
- I use a standing desk (which I have slowly come to use more than sitting)
- I take a 5-10 mintues walk every hour or so
- I try walk at lunch hours
- I do simple stretches when I find myself sitting for too long
- I do simple exercises or stretches when I am standing
I've been doing this for a little while and this is what I've noticed: (In fairness I have been spending a lot of effort on addressing mobility and flexibility and cannot isolate these benefits from standing more alone. However, as part of an overall plan, I do believe the emphasis on sitting less has been extremely important)
- Improved posture
- Decreased muscle soreness - especially in back and shoulders
- Improved recovery
- Reduced muscle tightness
- Improved energy levels
- Increased focus and productivity
While it is hard to quantify, I believe these changes have made me a stronger athlete and will help improve my performance. I have noticed tightness and soreness that constantly required attention after training session slowly dissipate. I am taking time at work to assist with recovery and mobility, freeing up time to train and live my life. I've also noticed my training output has been more efficient and effective as my body feels less worn down and tender.
Get Off Your Ass
I challenge you get up of your ass and stand more, especially if you work in an office or desk job. Here are some easy ways to add more standing and less sitting into your life - ease into things as your body will need to become used to your new routine (add 10 minutes of standing each hour, then 15, then 20 until you can stand for hours without issue):
- Take 10 min walking breaks periodically at work - walk down the hallway to chat with a coworker or get some water to break up your sitting.
- Stand more while you work - this doesn't require a fancy stand-up desk, a quick google search will give you plenty of low-cost, effective stand up work arrangements
- If you can't stand more, stretch while you sit - for every hour you sit, take 5 - 10 minutes to stretch those idle muscles.
- Take walking meetings instead of sitting meetings
- Walk to work, bike or run to work!!
Employing even a few of these into your daily routine will have huge benefits and will lead to increased performance through a stronger, healthier, more mobile self!
How do you stay mobile during the day? Let us know!