By: Nick Lape
As fitness professionals we see quite a few individuals who have jobs that may not necessarily be physically taxing. It’s the infamous desk job! They spend countless hours staring at a computer screen, talking on the phone, or reading through documents all in the discomfort of their desk chair. Sitting for a long period of time can be stressful on the body in ways we can’t actually see. Now, does that mean you don’t feel what is happening to your body as you sit there? No. Of course you do! Your butt starts to fall asleep, your neck starts to hurt and your back starts to give you a bunch of trouble One day of this may not be so bad, but day after day can have a poor effect on your daily movements. Certain muscles are constantly firing and other muscles suffer from a lack of use. There are three hot spots that we see most often in individuals who have jobs that require them to sit for long periods of time. Don’t worry you will soon learn how to combat sitting with a foam roller and your choice of softball, baseball, and/or golf ball.
I’m going to start at the top of the body and work my way down. As you sit at a desk, your arms are usually just hanging out in front of you on the desk. If you do this long enough with a brain like the one we have, your posture starts sending signals. In this case, it will send the signal to tighten the top part of your chest (or the pec minor for you science-y people) and relax the upper back. A great way to fight against this, is a softball, baseball or golf ball (if you are into that kind of torture) and start to roll this area.
How do you roll it? It’s pretty simple, use whichever ball you’ve chosen and set it between your upper chest, just under the collar bone and in between the sternum and front side of the shoulder joint. Rolling up and down and side to side can start to loosen up the muscles attached in there as well as bring some good blood flow back into the area. One thing you do not want to do at this point is to roll over the collar bone or your sternum. Not for really any other purpose other than it will not feel very good at all. Make sure we are sticking to the soft tissues. Any time you encounter an area that is specifically sore or makes you do a double take spend more time on that area. Remember to breath in and out through your nose. If you hold your breath you will not get the most out of rolling.
The second area of the body I want to focus on is the hips, both the back and front. As you sit, you start to decrease blood flow to your back side. The muscles become more and more inactive the longer you sit on them. In turn when you roll on these areas with a foam roller they may seem “tight”, when actually they are simply inactive. They have lost blood flow and therefore don’t work near as well as they should.
Another part of the hips that needs attention is going to be the hip flexors, or the front side of the hip. The same way that sitting your butt may turn off the muscles, as you sit your hip flexors are in a constantly flexed position. So naturally, what happens? Your body just keeps them tight. It’s the position they know the most, so why not, right? Rolling just underneath your hip bone all the way to the knee is a huge key in keeping your hips mobile. This area tends to be quite tender as you roll over it. Being sure to breathe and relax into the foam roller will allow the roller to do the work that it needs to do. It can be tough to relax while rolling this area but try as best as you can. Some times coupling a glute activation exercise, like hip lifts, and rolling this area with something more intrusive, like a softball or baseball, can actually start to alleviate some minor back tenderness issues as well.
Lastly, the feet need to be rolled. You may ask why? All they do is sit on the floor as you sit there. BUT, with hips flexed and circulation being cut off to the butt, your feet can suffer from some of those same issues. Muscles aren’t being used that help hold up the arch, and the blood flow can start to be minimal. Let me ask, have you ever stood up from the seated position that you’ve been in for a long time and had sore feet. Mostly on the bottoms? That is a tell tale sign that you have been sitting for too long. This is where a golf ball can really help. Even keeping one at your desk would be a great idea. The connective tissues in your body actually start in the balls of your feet. Which is why sometimes if you have a tension headache rolling you feet can help (head bones connected to the neck bone, etc.). Maintaining a supple mid foot as you sit can even help issues as painful as plantar fasciitis.
As fitness professionals we have the luxury of being able to move more than the average people during a work day. Our “executive athletes” spend their week sitting hunched over at a desk without many opportunities to get up, get out, and move around. This makes it hard for them to be at 100% during their recreational time if no action is taken to eliminate these hot spots. If you are one of these people and you are reading this right now I would highly suggest investing in a foam roller along with a softball, baseball or golf ball. If a softball or golf ball is too hard and causes too much discomfit try a tennis ball. Start being pro-active in your attempt to eliminate these “Desk Worker Hot Spots” and watch your free time become that much more fun.