Arctic Challenge / Challenge Journal / Training / Motivation

How to get fit and fight the flab at your desk

By Vicky Anscombe

Want to hone your body so you can look like The Arctic V, but worried your desk job will hold you back? No fear; there are ways you can improve your posture and strength, just by doing a few of these simple exercises every day.

Improve your mobility - advice from expert Margarita Bennett.

One of the main problems for desk-dwellers is round-shoulder syndrome, which comes from crouching over your screen. Other muscles groups that are impacted are your trapezius muscle (this spans the neck, shoulders and back), your gluteus medius (pelvis) and your rear kinetic chain; these can all become fatigued from sitting down all day. Your core stability can really suffer, because when you sit down your belly protrudes and you let it all hang out. You can also contract carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in the wrist) from typing all day. All of these can be prevented very easily with ample movement and exercise.

Start off with these small exercises:

Rotate your ankles, wrists and your shoulders backwards.

Take deep breaths while moving your eyes away from your computer at varying distances.

Go for short walks to the kettle and to answer the door

Progress to more vigorous exercise at lunch, whether it’s a brisk walk for half an hour, a series of squats and lunges or a full pilates class. As well as exercise, drink plenty of water. You don’t have to be desert-trekking to get dehydrated; have a bottle of water next to you and swig it as much as possible.

"I cycle to and from work every day, so I manage to ramp up 15 miles a day on the bike. I also try and get to the gym on my lunch break. While I am sat at my desk, I have a tennis ball that I use to roll my feet on, and more recently, I've been using it on my neck and shoulders. I get a few odd looks as I am wriggling in my seat, but it helps to loosen my neck - I've got a few old rugby injuries. Plus, I get bored easily, so any excuse to wonder around or make a cuppa I will do!"

Adam Libbey

Top tips for a better posture – advice from Jo Blood at

Get your chair at the right height for you. Your forearms should be parallel to the desk, with your elbow at a right angle.

Once you've got the arms at the right height, check your legs. You should sit so that your knees are at the same level as your hips or slightly below. Your feet should be firmly on the floor, if they don’t reach the floor you need to use a footrest.

Make sure your screen is at the right height – your eyes should be at the same height as the top of the screen.

Check your screen is at the correct distance – when you are sitting at the desk you should be able to stretch your arms out and touch the screen.

The actual action of sitting at a desk all day is not the issue - it is the prolonged time we spend doing it. In a nutshell, the body is designed to move, as the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems depend on it. 'Sitting Disease' (essentially a catchy phrase for a sedentary lifestyle) can put your health at risk.

"I work a lot on my own, so have to set breaks. I set aside times during the day to either get up and walk around, get some fresh air, or stretch! If I have time, I will try to do a quick 15-20 minutes of exercise, just to get my heart rate going. The key thing for people working at an office is not to feel bad about taking a break, because long-term it will be beneficial to productivity."

Chris Brooks

Top tips to offset the effects of sitting by

Firstly, there’s the 20 minute rule - if you have been sitting still for 20 minutes, move!

Move your neck. Rotate your neck to the right, and then to the left. Return your head back to the centre and then look up to the ceiling.

Move your arms. Lightly clasp your hands together then lift them up in front of you and above your head, arching your back as you do so.

Move your torso. Cross your arms across your chest, rotate round to the right and then round to the left.

The hour rule - if you have been sitting for an hour, stand up.

Move your back. Stand up and run your right hand down your right leg, straighten back up and then run your left hand down your left leg, and straighten back up. Finally,  put your hands palms down on the top of your buttocks, fingers pointing down and arch your back then straighten back up.

The 24 hour rule - If you spend most of your day sedentary, take a walk.

Try to walk for 30 minutes every day. This has been clinically proven to make a huge difference to our general health; not only has it been proven to improve your musculoskeletal health, it reduces the effects of arthritis, dementia, diabetes, anxiety, depression, risk of death and fatigue.

"I am not good first thing in the morning, so training on the way in to work is out of the question. If I am meeting-free, I will try and do 30-40 minutes on the cross trainer in the gym at lunchtime. I'll do a hard 'hilly' session to get my heart rate up for a sustained period to mirror the race. Back at my desk, it's sometimes hard to get away for hours at a time, so it's very important to have your chair, keyboard and monitor in the correct positions so you suffer less from tight hips, poor shoulder mobility and bad posture. These will inhibit performance on the skis! I also use a lacrosse ball on my feet and back to remove knots. Finally, I train at CrossFit Perpetua on my way home from work about four times a week."

Richard Gibbs


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