Fitness for a Desk Jockey (aka - this writer)

Fitness for a Desk Jockey (aka - this writer)

The adage that if you don’t use it, you lose it, I can assure you, applies to fitness. I confess I have lost it a few times. Happy to report that I also found it again. You do not have to lose it forever. I believe that once you have enjoyed a level of fitness allowing you to participate in desired activities, you may lose it temporarily when life happens, but you will find your way back. If you are like me, this might be a repeating pattern. One that I hope will stop now that I found it again at 62.

One of the benefits I gained from a dysfunctional ten-year relationship was a consistent fitness routine. For four days at home, I would stretch before cardio and for three days at the gym, I would alternate between chest and back, arms and shoulders and squatting my weight to work the quads and hamstrings. My fitness allowed me to hike mountains with a 40-pound pack, paddle a canoe into headwinds for five hours straight, and much more. My adult nieces will complain, “Slow down.” One describes me as pocket-sized with more energy than anyone has a right to have.

After that relationship ended, I lived with my sister in a small trailer. I lost my exercise signals, patterns, routines and gym access for three years. Humans are creatures of habit. Moving into my own house, I dedicated a room to exercise again. Donning my grungiest workout clothes, I refused to shower or change into presentable and fun clothes until I completed my yoga, stretching and a cardio routine. This tricked me into a consistent habit. Cardio then was my exercise bike or mini trampoline called a Cellerciser designed with NASA technology to prevent astronaut’s muscles from atrophying in zero gravity. It protects your knees and back with a high-quality design and materials. I have used that since 2006, and it is still my favourite way to take breaks from my desk and reach my daily goal of 10,000 steps. Barbara O'Neill's video "Muscle Knows No Age” speaks to the health benefits of rebounding. People have purportedly even had their eyesight improved. 


Years later, after letting go of my two-story bungalow and exercise room, I landed in a one-bedroom apartment in The Hood (Alberta Avenue in Edmonton.) Exercise gear became a part of my living room decor. As my clients increased, my desk-jockey life meant more sitting, zooms, editing and writing, which meant exercise now had to be a multi-tasking activity. I adore a good movie while I bounce or swing some kettle balls. After several days with 3,500 steps or… gasp… even fewer steps, I told myself that anything I could do on my phone had to be on the rebounder. Once implemented consistently, I was up to 5,000 steps sometimes before 8:30 AM. It made it so easy!

When finding your way back to your desired fitness levels, choose good quality gear keeping safety and enjoyment in mind. Setting the phone down, I can use one finger on the balance bar of my trampoline to balance for higher jumps or bum kicks. It would sit in the corner of my living room, taunting me when my step count was low. My two-pound hula hoop sits on the edge over the springs, handy for some quick shimmies during a movie. I also used a blue Bosu ball that resided behind my trampoline. 

On one long desk day, I moved the Bosu to interrupt my path to the kitchen. Just having to balance a bit, bouncing on and off wakes up my brain to realize I just needed a movement break. I am NOT hungry. Our brains dull like a citywide power outage after 30 minutes of sitting—a few minutes of walking or bouncing can light up our brains like fireworks. The Bosu also challenges me to maintain my ability to balance. As we age, we often experience a decrease in our ability to stabilize. With its sturdy flat bottom, this half ball has been great for training my muscles to keep me upright when something may make me stumble. In one of my “lost fitness” phases, I recall feeling irritated when my stride to step on, and off sidewalks was jerky, requiring a pause and concentration, even wavering to catch myself. That “loss of flow at a measly six-inch curb” served as a wake-up call sending me to find my routines again.

Now, having moved once again into an 8’x23’ tiny home, I am aware and on to the tricks of my comfortable habitual self. I need to build new habits. My son installed my chin-up bar, my yoga mat comes out every morning between my kitchen counter and table, and my trusty Bosu Ball sits at the foot of my bed.

Even more critical, our large leg muscles stabilize us when we lose our balance. One of the main reasons older people break hips is less due to fragile bones and more often due to weak quadriceps and hamstrings. Broken hips are the number one thing that robs people of their ability to remain in their homes and forces them prematurely into assisted living. One simple thing to do is squats. Start at any age; begin easy, and take it slow. I used to squat with weights equal to my body weight on a bar, and all through chemotherapy in 2003, I squatted 60 pounds to move those drugs to every cell in my body. My philosophy then was that if I were going to take those drugs, I would make sure the chemicals moved to every corner of my cells. There is nothing like squats to warm you up and pump your blood. An easy, safe way to integrate squats into your day is to take hold of your kitchen sink with both hands and lean back to sit on an invisible chair.

Day one, do one. Try two squats if your quadriceps and hamstrings are pain-free two days later. Build up until you’re confident enough to do a high wall squat, then build up your stamina to do lower wall squats by placing your back against the wall, and slide down until your thighs and shins are at right angles. Find a fitness professional if you want to test your balance strength, so they can help you safely try if your quads and hamstrings are rock hard or jiggly and soft. You want the rock-hard! Strong leg muscles go a long way to help you catch your balance, possibly protecting you from a broken hip, as discussed above.

In summer 2020, a Mount Carlyle guide took our group up the most scenic route. It also had the steepest altitude gain. Forced to admit I was not fit for this trip, my breathing was good from my trampoline, but my leg muscles were complaining that I had ignored squats far too long. I once again became motivated because I refused to give away thousands of dollars of hiking equipment just because of that trip. I am hiking this year. I only made it to Carlyle because Mac, whom my friend called donkey legs, would jog ahead, drop his pack, and jog back to take mine, relaying my gear up the steep inclines. If you are missing a former enjoyable activity, do not rush to give it up like me. Make a plan with a health and fitness coach to restore those muscles. Many studies show we do not need to accept aging. Check out bio-hacking research. In 2021, I was too slow with my commitment to fitness, and lockdowns were a hindrance. In December 2021, I committed to chin-ups, yoga, and push-ups and raised my step quota to 12,000. I have missed yoga three times since December 13. I started unable to do even one chin-up, and in a month, I could manage three in a row.

Push-ups started slow too, but I’m now up to 15 with excellent form. I follow Ben Greenfield for ideas and am planning this summer's hike to Ribbon Falls in Kananaskis and creating my plan for the more strenuous British Columbia’s Mount Robson hike next year. Take it slow, be safe and find exercise routines that appeal to you, work in your environment, make the time AND make it stare you in the face when you tiptoe to the fridge. Tripping over my Bosu Ball works for me. It holds the same taunting power as my trampoline. Even desk jockeys can maintain their fitness with some planning and dedication.

Reference links in the body of the story above

Cellerciser Link:

Barbara O’Neill Video Link: 

Bosu Ball Link: 

Ben Greenfields’s 10 Top Hacks: 

Learn more about Rusti:

Rusti L Lehay, a global editor and book and writing coach, created over 40 articles guiding writers to authordom. Witnessing writers find and speak in their own voice to serve the real boss, the audience, not the editor, is one of Rusti’s greatest joys. She offers bi-monthly online writing STAY-Treats and monthly lounges and teaches weekly creative writing classes. Her primary mission is to inspire, provide value and make writing fun and easy.


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