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Is Standing for Work a Good Idea?

Standing for work is becoming more popular, with the number of standing workstations soaring. Is this a positive development for athletes?

There are two quotes I hear quite a lot lately...

"Sitting is the new smoking."

"A cyclist should never walk if they can ride, never stand if they can sit and never sit if they can lie down."

This got me thinking back to the years I spent working in retail, where sitting down for any time at all during the day was rather unusual. Yet those were the times when my iron-distance triathlon times were at their best.

Most notable of all, I didn't do much run training, because I far preferred riding my bike. Nonetheless, I ran well on most occasions.

More recently I went back to iron-distance events for a few years and despite having a job in which I spent far more time sitting and having control of my own time, I didn't perform nearly as well.

I simply didn't run well despite much more run training and my disappointing times reflected this - if you're off the bike between 6:00 & 6:30, you should easily go under 10 hours, I didn't!

I accept that there may have been a bunch of things going on outside of the sitting versus standing for work comparison (not least the very poor nutrition advice I took from the "experts"), but I have no doubt the postural results of sitting all day, sitting while riding a bike, sitting down for dinner, sitting to watch TV weren't doing my running any favours.

After all, the postures in which you spend the majority of your time are those to which you will default when you're tired. A runner with adaptively shortened hip flexors, tight hamstrings, a rounded, stiff thoracic spine, glutes that don't fire well and a lower back that is welded into flexion is probably not going to run to their capacity, especially as fatigue sets in.

Perhaps my body needs to stand more. So I've decided to do an experiment. While I am not going to do an iron-distance event anytime soon, I am going to adopt a standing desk at work for the next month at least and see how it impacts on my posture, my mobility and subsequently, my swimming, cycling, running and weight training performance.

Anybody willing to join me? If you are and you'd like some tips for making the whole thing work, just message me on Facebook and I'll send you what I have.

For a really good background on sitting versus standing & why you might consider the latter, I'd recommend Deskbound : Standing Up to a Sitting World by Kelly Starrett.

Update:

I did the one month of standing for work all the time. Overall, I felt better but noticed a few things...

  • Focused writing work was harder to do when standing.
  • Because I try to be barefoot whenever possible, I found that I needed to find a cushioned mat to stand on. When I didn't, my plantar fasciae became quite sore.
  • I found I needed to have a box to put one or other of my feet on from time to time. Simply standing up straight all the time left me with a very tired back.

Overall, standing for work is something that I will continue to do, I've invested in an adjustable desk, so that I can move it up or down to suit the task that I am doing at the time.

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Will Newton


In over twenty years of coaching, Will has coached everyone from absolute beginners to world champions. His interest in getting the best results for athletes who compete for the love of the sport, rather than as professionals, drives him to find the most effective ways to get results.

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