Don’t Just Sit There: DIY Standing Desk


It’s funny how your body can speak volumes to someone without even saying a word.

Case in point: Every time I go in for a massage lately, my therapist gets stuck on my back. Or, rather, my back gets itself stuck, and then my massage therapist has to spend an hour convincing it to loosen up.

You see, working from home is a double-edged sword. Now I’m not complaining — my commute rocks, my workout-wear attire is comfy and my four-legged office-mates are pretty chill (unless they hear a knock at the door, then all bets are off). But the drawback is that sometimes the lack of ergonomics can be a pain in the neck — like, literally.

Some scary facts:

  • The moment you sit at your desk each morning, your calorie-burning rate immediately drops to one calorie per minute
  • Sit for six hours a day, 14 days straight: Muscles stop burning fat, blood sugar rises and maximum oxygen consumption drops.
  • After a year of sitting six hours per day, weight gain would be noticeable, as would higher cholesterol levels and loss of bone mass.

But the real kicker comes 10-20 years down the line. Us desk jockeys may need to augment retirement savings to account for medical bills. Sitting affects almost every part of our bodies from head to toe, raises risk of death by nearly 50 percent and creates a stunning 125 percent increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease.

So I’ve decided I’m not taking this sitting down. In fact, I’m taking a stand…as in, using a DIY standing desk.

Why? Well, our budget is zilch, and we’re lucky enough to have a bar-height butcher block table in the kitchen that works, so I’m trying that out for now. But Plan B is to “hack” our space using the specs and ideas below to create something that’s cheap, comfortable and won’t undo all the good I try do by way of exercise.

So, athletes, consider this my little PSA: We talk about the benefits of recovery because that’s where the body bounces back and the real gains happen. But if you’re sitting at a desk all day, you’re still doing yourself a disservice.

Get up, stand up. Stand up for your life.

Click to Enlarge Image

DIY Desk

DIY Desk
Infographic by CustomMade

Are you ergonomic at work?

Have any tips for doing it effectively (and on a budget)?

Detroit Marathon: Week 7 training recap


This week was a whirlwind with two trips to Seattle (one for business meetings and workouts with the SweatGuru team, then another personal one with Hubby and friends).

And even though my training took a bit of a hit, it didn’t stop me from getting sweaty. We documented our adventures via the SweatGuru blog, so if you’re in need of a great studio when in Seattle, you might want to check out these spots!

  • ModBody Fitness – bootcamp with Stacey, who is doing Ironman Boulder this weekend
  • Ian Fitness – bootcamp with Abril and the energetic early morning crew
  • Troy Lucero Acme Yoga Project – challenging Ashtanga class with Troy, who got me into my first handstand
  • Parkour Visions – by the end of class, Brian had us hurdling over six feet walls
  • Sync Fitness – bootcamp with Jill, whose flow and music we absolutely loved
  • Lab5 Fitness – Roy had us feeling the burn with this Pilates-based strength & cardio class
  • Urban Yoga Spa – we topped off the trip (and pampered our tired muscles) with some hot yoga

Needless to say, I’m a little sore from all the different activities — and I definitely discovered a few muscles I haven’t used in a while.

photo (4)

But there’s one thing that’s really been concerning me this week: a plantar fasciitis flare-up in my right foot. It’s something that started as a nagging annoyance during last year’s marathon training, but lately it’s been getting worse.

I’m waiting until we get to Portland and get settled to attack it professionally with some type of massage, PT, acupuncture or ART (still deciding and polling athlete friends; let me know if something’s worked well for you). I know that not running will ultimately help, but it’s not quite to that point, so I’m icing, rolling and taking Advil in the meantime.

photo (3)

So rather than overextend myself by doubling up on miles, squeezing in extra workouts or switching up the schedule too much, I ended up modifying things this week by skipping the first three days of workouts while on the road. Luckily one of those days was an “off” day, but I am feeling anxious about missing the Tuesday speed work.

Other than that, training is progressing well, and I’ve got renewed faith in the program, thanks to last week’s 10K race. My “easy” run pace is slowing to somewhere in the 9:00 range, but I’m still able to maintain the tempo (8:46) and long (9:29) paces, so I feel like I’m on the right track.


Thanks again for following along, and stay tuned for next week as I close out the second month of training! 

Work out where you work – and do both better


The key to better productivity in the office may just lie in getting out of it.

Studies have shown that exercise not only boosts work performance in individuals by improving brain function, upping productivity and reducing stress, but it also has a profound effect on the workforce, as a whole. (I can definitely vouch for this, via our SweatGuru crew’s weekly “runch!”)

“Absenteeism is reduced, morale is increased and long-term health care costs are substantially impacted,” says Jim Colvin, M.P.H., fitness and health educator and trainer at Bay Club Silicon Valley.

So next time you’re temped to fight the mid-day slump with a second cup of coffee or a trip to the vending machine, think again. For managers and employees alike, Colvin offers four tips for merging physical activity with your 9-5 routine:

1. Take meetings at the gym. A new study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that participants showed significantly increased signs of focus and ability to retain and use new information immediately after a 20-minute yoga session. If you’re in a position to schedule off-sites, consider a health club venue: “The key is to build in a break to do a team workout with one of the classes being offered. The rejuvenation you will find between body and brain will result in a more stimulating discussion when the team returns to business,” says Colvin.

2. Walk and talk. “Walking for 15 minutes will burn approximately 100 calories each time,” says Colvin. Need one-on-one time with a coworker? “Instead of going for coffee, circle your floor or the block while you chat and reap the benefits of the endorphin release in the brain.”

3. Reschedule your workout. Typically work out at the end of the day? It’s a great stress reliever. But for a mental energy boost during the work day, consider hitting the gym on your way to the office or on your lunch break. Or, take 10-minute breaks throughout the day to climb a few flights in the stairwell or bang out a set of push-ups behind your desk.

4. Create a “mobile” office. “Many companies have incorporated walking treadmill stations in the office, and studies have shown that the additional steps taken resulted in reduced waist-to-hip ratios,” says Colvin. If you’re lucky enough to work from home, you can create your own treadmill desk by making a platform for your laptop across the handlebars and setting the treadmill between .7 and 1 mile per hour to be able to type comfortably while you walk. Or, for those who normally retreat to the local cafe, consider setting up shop at a work-friendly gym instead.

How do you squeeze physical activity into your workday?

What’s for lunch? Tips for packing some extra health into your day

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Breakfast may hold the title of “most important meal of the day,” but that doesn’t mean lunch is off the hook.

Eating a healthy mid-day meal not only provides lasting energy and prevents evening binge eating, but it also offers a much-needed brain break to finish the day strong.

Aim for a lunch that is 400 to 500 calories and made up of 30 percent protein (four to five ounces of fish, lean meat or tofu), 50 percent complex carbs (whole grains, veggies and fruit) and 20 percent healthy fats (olive oil and nuts).

Hitting happy hour? Then it’s especially important to consume a light-yet-filling meal, which will keep you satiated for a few hours and defend against any potential over-imbibing.

Here are a few tips for making the most of that second meal of the day:

  • Stock up on healthy options when you shop for groceries: Get simple staples that can be mixed and matched, such as whole-wheat bread and peanut butter, beans and tuna, plus lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Subscribe to healthy recipe websites or turn to social media sites, such as Pinterest, for inspiration: Sometimes all it takes is a new recipe to spark some creativity in the kitchen, which will keep you from relying on junk food to get through the day
  • Make the most of leftovers: When dinner’s done, set aside a portion or two so you can enjoy it all over again the next day
  • Take a pantry challenge: Visit MyFridgeFood, and make a game of clicking on various combinations of ingredients you have on hand to discover new recipes
  • Don’t skip dessert: Add a sweet ending to keep from feeling deprived; pick fresh fruits that are in season, or look for other guilt-free treats such as low-fat pudding cups or dark chocolate
  • Opt for made-to-order sandwiches over fast food when you’re on-the-go: And swap out mayo for mustard to help cut back on fat and cholesterol
  • Choose pre-made meals that are all-natural and preservative-free, if the freezer is your only option: Tandoor Chef, for example, offers a line of traditional Indian entrees that are low in sodium and trans-fats and contain no artificial sugars – plus there are even several vegan and gluten-free options available to spice up your week
  • Finally, don’t forget food safety: If refrigeration is not available, use insulated lunch boxes or bags with frozen ice or gel packs to keep contents at a safe temperature

Healthy office habits: 10 ways to squeeze some fitness into your work day

Find your workday zen: Stretching at your desk at regular intervals relieves tension and tight muscles

Find your workday zen: Stretching at your desk at regular intervals relieves tension and tight muscles

If you’re pressed for time – or just not feeling the gym – there’s still hope for staying in shape despite a hectic weekly schedule. Read on for 10 tips for incorporating a focus on fitness into your work day.

  1. Eat breakfast: A healthy day at the office starts before you leave the house. Eating breakfast not only stokes metabolic fires and staves off late-day junk food binges, but it also improves concentration, allowing you to tackle mid-morning challenges with ease.
  2. Step to it: Forget about jockeying for the spot closest to the door; instead, park across the lot and hoof it in. It adds mere minutes to your commute, but walking those few extra steps burns calories, gets blood pumping and charges you up for the day ahead.
  3. Take the stairs: Unless you’re in a skyscraper (no, three floors does not count), taking a few flights up and down is a great way to bookend your workday with exercise. Bonus points for storming the stairwell at lunch and during bathroom breaks!
  4. Forgo the phone: Tempted to send a quick email or call that colleague down the hall? Let your legs do the walking instead of your fingers, and you’ll burn some calories and make a healthy face-to-face connection.
  5. Make errands work for you: Set your trash walking-distance from your desk, go to the printer at the end of the aisle, hit the mail room once a day, etc. Forcing yourself to get up at intervals throughout the day is good for both mind and body.
  6. Brown bag it: Save time, money and calories by packing your own lunch. Sure, it takes a few minutes each weekend to portion out five days of healthy meals, but it pays off when you’ve got a nutritious and delicious grab-and-go meal to ward off the afternoon slump.
  7. Eat, then hit the street: Enjoy your lunch, but use the second half of the hour to get outside, stretch your legs and breathe some fresh air. Taking that  time to clear your head allows you to attack the afternoon while others are battling a fast-food coma.
  8. Stretch it out: Prolonged sitting in front of the computer can be a pain in the neck – literally. Every hour or so, try to take a few minutes to perform some simple desk stretches that can help ease muscle tightness and tension.
  9. Don’t forget to hydrate: Water is vital to many of the body’s functions, so regular intake of fluid is important throughout the day. And since the brain is 90 percent water, proper hydration leads to better concentration, productivity and alertness.
  10. Snack smart: Looking for an extra boost between meals? A combo of carbohydrates and protein will help maintain blood sugar levels and stave off cravings, so stock your desk full of fruit, cheese, crackers, nuts and other goodies to avoid the afternoon siren song of the vending machine.