Stretching Survival Guide for Writers

Now that we've talked about combating the dreaded writer's butt, let's move on to the importance of stretching.  (If you're just tuning into this conversation about writer's health, then please check out this post first.)

A major health hazard writer's face is sitting for hours on end. The only movement that occurs while we're caught up in creating the story in our heads is our fingers as they type, type, type away. This is a big No No. Why? It can cause nasty carpal tunnel that can spread up your arms, into your shoulders and even your neck. Another big yucky side effect is that sitting shortens the muscles in your body, which equals less flexibility and being more susceptible to injuries if you slip or fall.

Stretching 2-to-3 times a day is crucial for a healthy writer's body. It only takes ten minutes to stretch the most important zones. Let's start from the top:

Neck, Shoulders and Upper Torso

Computer monitor placement can greatly effect your neck and shoulder areas. If it's too low, the neck and shoulders get scrunched and hunched. Too high results in a stretched sore front neck and crinkled cranky mid-shoulders.

Begin with some neck stretches. Slowly stretch your neck from side to side, then with your chin to your chest. Hold each position for 15-20 seconds. Don't roll your head in a circle. Always return to the center before moving to the next area. After the first set, do a second set, using your hand to add a little additional pressure to the stretch. Don't tug on your muscles. Use gentle, slow movements.

 Next, loosen those shoulders and upper back muscles. Simply wrap your arms around yourself and hug. As the muscles loosen, wrap the hug a little tighter. When the muscles feel nicely stretched and relaxed, release and swing your arms at your side a few times before beginning the next stretch.

Open up your chest muscles. Link your hands however is most comfortable behind your back. If you can't link your hands, try using a stretch band. Once in position, roll your shoulders out and push your chest forward. Hold for 30 seconds or until you feel ready to release the stretch. This gives the most incredible stretch to chest muscles that are rarely used. It's my personal favorite.

Two fabulous shoulder stretches. For the top stretch, bring one arm across your body, then use the other arms to reach up and pull it a little more closely to your body. This gives a nice stretch to the back part of your shoulder muscles and upper arms. Hold for 15-20 seconds, then readjust as the muscle loosens. Repeat with the other arm.  For the bottom pictured stretch, bring one arm up, parallel to your head, then bend your elbow with your hand reaching back towards your mid-shoulder. Use your other hand to hold your arm in place. As the muscle warms and loosens, you can slowly add a little more stretch. This stretch helps the muscles from under the shoulder all the way through to your lower waist.

Lower Back and Legs

How do you sit in your chair? Do you have good posture or do you slump? Do you move your legs periodically? Tap your feet to keep circulation moving? Personally, I'm a slumper. I recently purchased a chair that has an ergonomic back that juts out and pushes into my lower back. It reminds me to sit better and stop slumping. The following stretches also help our lower bodies.

Lower back stretch. I always feel so, so fabulous after this stretch. Don't worry about actually reaching your toes. There are a few important things to remember though. Plant your feet shoulder width apart, and do not lock your knees. Keep them slightly bent. Slowly bend over and relax. Let your arms dangle. Don't strain to reach your toes. Then breath deeply. In and out. As you relax, so will your lower back muscles and your upper body will help to slowly stretch those muscles out a little more. Give this stretch 1-2 minutes to thoroughly get those lower back (and upper back thigh) muscles happy again.


Lower calf stretch. If you have time, finish your ten minute break by stretching out your lower calves. The picture illustrates an easy way to do calf stretches on a set of stairs. Balance on the step with the front half of your foot, then slowly drop your heel and hold the position for about 20 seconds. You can do both heels at the same time.  

This short routine will give your body the much needed movement it needs after working at your desk for extended periods of time. If you do it consistently (at least twice each day), you'll soon notice more flexibility and also be more aware of your body's movement needs. Healthy muscles = a healthier you. In my next post, I'll address a few simple exercises to strengthen your muscles during another ten minute break session.

Would you like to comment?

Cathy said...

Wonderful post and very much needed.
Congratulation on your news regarding your awesome book.

kbrebes said...

That's a nice 10" stretch break, Danyelle. Thanks!

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Thanks, ladies!

Anonymous said...

Yum! I love a good stretch!