Sunday, 25 May 2014

I'm taking a stand ... at my new standing desk

I have survived my first full week at the new office (well, full abbreviated week, what with the holiday Monday), and that means one week of trying out my new standing desk. 

When I first arrived at the office, the desk was in the down position and looked much like any other desk.  What I noticed right away was the thick rubber mat on the floor that made it almost impossible for me to roll my chair from the front of the desk to the side.  After about an hour of watching me struggle, one of the paralegals in my department finally took pity on me and said "They didn't tell you about the desk? It's a standing desk".  And with that, she clicked a lever on the front of the desk and shoop! up it went.  All of a sudden that thick rubber floor mat made sense - - comfortable on the feet when standing, not so good when sitting. 

Initially I wasn't sure if I was going to keep standing at the desk, but I looked up some of the health benefits and I think I am going to give it a shot.  Now that I have new loafers, rather than heels, that is.  I defy anyone to use a standing desk for 10 hours a day in heels. 

First and foremost, there is a reduced risk of obesity with a standing desk.  People using a standing desk apparently burn, on average, 50 calories more per hour than do people who sit.  Associated with the standing desk is a higher likelihood of moving around than if you are sitting, and it's the moving that is the key.

Second, there is apparently a reduced risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders compared to individuals who sit for longer periods of the day.

Similarly, there is a reduced risk of heart disease.  A study comparing the rates of cardiovascular disease among London bus drivers (who sit) and conductors (who stand) showed that the former group experienced more heart attacks and cardiovascular problems than the latter.  In other studies, even when controlled for exercise, excessive sitters were 34% more likely to develop heart disease than those who were standing or moving.

Ultimately, it is important to ease into a standing desk by alternating with periods of sitting as well as by moving around - - it's hard on the body to stand all day, after all.  Given the number of meetings at my new company, however, it doesn't look like it will be a problem to incorporate periodic sitting into my routine.  The problem will be getting out of the meetings to get back to my standing desk!

So far, so good.  My new loafers are comfortable, and although I notice that my feet and legs are tired by the end of the day, it is actually surprisingly comfortable to work at my standing desk.  I even have a screen that is on an extendible arm that permits me to bring the screen right up close, without me having to hunch over the keyboard.  Who knows - - my posture may even improve with the standing desk!

Even when the researchers controlled for the amount of exercise, excessive sitters were still 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those who were standing or moving

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Even when the researchers controlled for the amount of exercise, excessive sitters were still 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those who were standing or moving

Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Monday, 19 May 2014

New Job, Getting Back into Routine

Last week was incredibly stressful.  I had my last 3 days at the law firm, and my first 2 days at the new company.  And along the way I had 3 nights of working until 4 am, 1.30 am, and 10 pm to wrap up the old job, just in case there was a remote chance that I would have the tiniest bit of energy to start my new job. 

And yes, I was the last person out of the office Wednesday night, as usual.  I had previously made arrangements to hide my laptop with the tech team and left my calling card and security pass under the door of my associate manager so there was nothing left in my office.  Nothing, that is, other than a dotted outline on my desk where my candy machine used to be.  The candy machine may be mourned more than me at the end of the day - I hear that people have been "crabbypants" since I left, and I suspect it's a result of chocolate withdrawal.

The transition was literally hellish and after pushing to complete as much as I did before I left I am completely ready to leave that place and never look back.  Every time I think about the work I was doing I thank god that I am gone.  Perhaps I was just burned out, which is not surprising, all things considered.

The new job is good, so far.  It is of course incredibly stressful to start in a new place where I don't know any of the people or processes or traditions or unwritten rules, and no one knows me or what I can do.  In some ways that's good - no baggage.  But in other ways it's not good, because I have no goodwill on which I can trade.

There is also the issue of not having any of my old tools or routines - - I don't know how to access servers, my iPad is not hooked up to the system, I don't have a way to remotely access my email, my laptop internet connection is hinky from home, and I have no connection to printers yet.  All of these are just fussy system things that will get resolved over the next week or so, but for now, these are irritations that make it harder for me to do my job.

This week I need to try and learn as much as I can in the next 2 days before my predecessor leaves for Atlanta again, and I need to try and integrate myself into the department and the system.  And most importantly, as Col. Hadfield notes in his book An Astronaut's Life, I need to try and be a zero in the immediate short term - - not try to make my mark too soon, and try not to screw anything up.  Just float in the middle there with my eyes and ears open until I can get my bearings.  

The people at the new place are very nice, and everyone is working in the same direction, which is a pleasant change.  The offices (shown in the photos) are pretty new and clean and uniform, which means that a lot of my tchotchkes and photos and diplomas from the old office are not going into my new office - - I can't have anything on the walls other than 1 piece of approved corporate art.  My office carpet is another casualty to the new design esthetic, and it will need to stay at home for the foreseeable future.  Thankfully, the candy machine is more than welcome in the new office.

The new company really values wellness and health and has lockers and showers in the office for people who want to bike to work - - fantastic.  There is a super duper pop machine that dispenses water, ice, and juices for free.  It is great, and it has really bumped up my water consumption during the day.  And let's not forget bathroom breaks as a result - - another source of steps during the day, because the washroom is at the other end of the floor.  As a final innovation, my office has a standing desk, so I can work standing up and reduce some of the sitting I do in a day.  There's even a cushy rubber floor pad to help reduce leg fatigue.  The rubber mat is great, but I have picked up a couple of pairs of comfortable loafers to replace my stylish but painful heels just in case.

This past week has been a virtual dead loss from a workout routine point of view.  Between the mother of all colds and 3 ridiculously late nights at the old firm and 2 welcome lunches at the new firm, I have been eating out far more than usual and exercising less than usual.  I was still able to lose a pound and a half, though, which gives me hope for this week. 

Today was a holiday so the Nerd and I were able to sleep in slightly while still doing full workouts.  I am still fighting the lingering effects of this damn cold so it was not easy to do my weights today (I feel weak as a kitten), but I was really glad to get back to a solid 90+ minute workout like I used to do.  Tomorrow will be all-elliptical, all the time, so I need to brace myself for a nice long cardio session.  I should be even better tomorrow, though, so it should not be too difficult.  I am starting to feel better (ever so slowly), and last night was the first truly good night's sleep I have had in almost a week - - I needed that!

The Nerd and I also took a little walk to the new office today to bring more binders into my office.  It's a nice 12-15 minute walk each way, and when we went there it was nice and sunny.  I wanted my office to be as ready as possible so that I could hit the ground running tomorrow when the fun and games really begin.

The balance of today will be homework - a packaging opinion as well as basic research into advertising and packaging law as a refresher.  No time like the present to try and make it easier to get up to speed.  

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Working out with a cold is just as much fun as you would expect...

Photo courtesy Tallasiandude, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA

... that is, not at all fun.

In the spirit of starting fresh (yes, I know, starting fresh again - luckily there's no limit to picking yourself up and dusting yourself off), I dragged myself out of my sickbed this morning and did a workout.

Not the full amazon-woman type workout that is my custom on normal days, but a pitiful workout suitable for the phlegmatic.  Tee hee - "phlegmatic".  See what I did there?

I still have coughing fits and cannot breathe through my nose, and I was concerned that a workout, even a short workout, would be too stressful in my weakened condition.  So in a rare burst of sensible thinking, I did an easy workout of 30 minutes' walking on the treadmill at 3 mph, with a brief 10 minute elliptical session at the end with the usual tension and stride rate.  My big concern was overdoing it so that I would end up more compromised than before, and unable to stop coughing. 

I found the elliptical more physically challenging than the treadmill, and even this brief 40 minute workout was enough to exhaust me.  But I experienced only mild coughing, easily controlled - - no massive coughing fits.  I felt good having done a workout after a few days off, and I know that I should feel 100% better tomorrow.  That's the way these colds are.

I also measured myself this morning, to set the new baseline.  I had previously been taking my measurements each month, but once the weight started going back on (due to my unbridled snacking and binge eating), my dimensions ballooned up and I felt terrible looking at the tape measure each month.  Enough of that crap - - today sets the new high water mark, and each month I will be able to track progress again as I maintain my program. 

Why does this matter?  I realized over the past few days how much I need the positive reinforcement of my tracking graphs and logging.  Keeping a record of things and seeing linear progress helps me stay motivated and on track.  Just hopping on the scale and seeing a number without logging it is somehow less empowering for me, even if that number is lower than the number before.  It turns out I need to track my progress to help me keep seeing progress - - no tracking, and I find it simply too easy to cheat on the food, and ease up on the workouts.  When I track and I feel the desire to cheat, I can look back at my progress graphs and see all the good work I have done memorialized there, and it helps me stay on plan.

Enough is enough.  I have started fresh as if this is the weight I have had to lose all along.  No more coasting on my past successes.  I know my plan works when I stick to it, so I am just going to hold myself accountable and track as much as I did before so that I get those positive bumps when I see progress.  Give me 6 months, and let's see where things shake out. 

But yeah, colds suck.  I hate that I have 16 sinuses in my head, every one of which is full of phlegm.  And my lungs are full of junk as well - - I feel like I am breathing through a sponge.  Ick.  Tomorrow will be better, though. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Major Life Changes and Shaking things Off

It has been a rough few months.

Photo courtesy Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, CC-BY-NC-SA

In previous blog posts I mentioned that I have been succumbing to emotional eating recently due to stress with work.  Well, the stress has finally been resolved - - I have, at long last, found a new job.  I will be leaving the private practice of law and moving in-house with a leading packaged goods company next week.  My last day at the firm is Wednesday, and my first day at the new company is Thursday.  I know, what a slacker, taking an entire 8 hours off.  (!)

It has been a tough slog - - there is nothing worse than working at a place where you no longer want to be.  Once you decide that you want to work somewhere else, you want to go there immediately.  Not to mention that job hunting is super stressful, what with all the research and preparation, emotional ups and downs, and constant rejection.  And let us not forget the joy that is sending in resumes only to have them disappear into a black hole, without ever hearing a response.

Anyways, I was finally able to hand in my notice last week, and I now only have 3 days left to work at the old place.  It seemed initially like my last two weeks would take forever, but in reality, the time has just flown by.  Which is not so good because I have a bunch of files to finish off before I go.  Ah, the joys of responsible transitioning.

The biggest challenge for me from a health and fitness perspective this past week is the fact that I have been going out to goodbye lunches with coworkers every day.  It's tough to stay on track with my food plan when exposed to the sodium festival that is food service.

As if that were not enough, I have been hit with a flu and a cold in quick succession.  I am now in the stage of coughing whenever I try and exert myself, and general constant exhaustion.  Not fun.

But things are going to get better now that I am set up for the new job.  I am really looking forward to the new challenge, and cannot wait.  Only 5 more sleeps! 

In the spirit of moving forward and renewing my focus on my fitness, I am changing my weight loss tracker to reflect the weight left to go, rather than the weight lost.  It has been too easy for me to  rest on my laurels with that big number in the "pounds lost" column.  Now with my emotional eating backsliding I am back to having 48.5 pounds left to lose.  Now I just need to go back to first principles and stick to my plan that I know works.  I still have 3 more days of goodbye lunches to get through, but I am hoping that I will feel better tomorrow so that I can get back to my workouts.