A new plan to go with a new pair of shoes

I’m not really a big fan of sport. The sun hurts my eyes, and the outside world is dirty and abrasive. Nothing is as nice as my giant SumoSac, a hot cup of coffee, and a good book. Nothing is as extensive or encompassing as my office with my computer, comfy chair, and high-speed Internet. There isn’t a lot for the outside world to offer me in which I am interested.

That said, there are some activities that can only be practiced outside, and paramount are those that keep my gut from expanding. I’ve tried a gym membership twice with hesitant success, but both attempts ended with months of not attending and the membership lapsing. We bought bicycles a year and a half ago with the goal of exercising outside the gym, investing in those rather than a renewed membership, and then I broke my collarbone and couldn’t really do anything for four months.

A year has passed since that injury, and I’m tired of the state of things. I want to shed thirty pounds, and I want to start getting more active again. I’m anxious to get my bike fixed, but I have always wanted to try something else: running. I enjoy walking, and I’ve enjoyed jogging on a treadmill, but I’ve never been able to do it off the treadmill. It just hurts my shins, and knees, and back. Everything hurts, really, which is part of why I avoid the outdoors and its various demands.

Yesterday I committed myself to changing that and purchased a pair of Vibram Fivefingers. For the next nine weeks I’m going to advance along a fitness plan centered on walking and jogging. I want to do an hour a day, and I will be using a 7-minute method a technical trainer described to me. At the beginning, I’m overweight and out of shape, unable to do a lot, so I’ll walk for six minutes and jog for one. A week later, I will walk for five minutes and jog for two. In week three, I will walk for four minutes, jogging for three, and so on.

My first walk/jog this morning, though not an hour long, was quite enjoyable. Not only that, it was surprising. I’ve been reading about Vibram Fivefingers for a year now, and have had them recommended to me by several friends, but I was hesitant to put the cash down for them. The last pair of expensive shoes I’d bought didn’t go well: high-priced Nike’s sneakers purchased for basketball that I just don’t enjoy walking in, let alone jogging (they’re uncomfortable and make my feet hurt after a while, which discourages me from doing anything). In addition, I’ve been reading about the health benefits of barefoot walking/running over modern tennis shoes; having spent most of my youth barefoot, I was confident that what I had read was correct. To do anything, I needed a new pair of shoes: the only comfortable shoes for walking I had were my expensive, leather work shoes, and I didn’t want to introduce the wear and tear on them that would occur with walking regularly outside of work.

So I bought Vibrams after trying on four different pairs, and I’m really digging them. I walked for a few minutes this morning, psyching myself up to jog, and then finally rolled into my first step. My foot took me by surprise as I bounced onto the ball of my foot, mostly avoiding my heel altogether. My body knew what it needed to do, and it handled everything. My shins didn’t hurt, and neither did my knee. I did three intervals before returning home, pleased with my morning’s exertion.

We’re probably going to get April a pair today (though she’s going to get some Classics so she can wear them to work and most everywhere else). I’m also going to get my bike fixed (the front wheel is bent, I think) and start taking long rides on Saturday/Sunday mornings. Nine weeks should be more than enough to get the habit built while making some definite health improvements, and it’d be really cool if I could do a marathon of some sort next summer. I want to get healthy and lose some weight, and I’m excited to have a means to do so.

I’ll be blogging daily about this to record my feelings, experiences, and progress, so check back and chime in with any advice or encouragement you might have 🙂

Slinging My Arm Around

I had an appointment this morning with an orthopedic specialist so he could examine my x-rays and make the call on whether I needed surgery or not. St. John’s Hospital got us in pretty quickly and the doctor took the x-rays to a surgeon to get his opinion. Though my bone’s right on the cusp of where it would demand surgery, the doctor(s) said it could go either way. After demonstrating my flexibility and mobility however, the doctor said that surgery wouldn’t gain me a whole lot and that, if it were him, he’d probably not bother with surgery.

If they did surgery, they’d put a plate in my shoulder with bolts to straighten up the bone. This would get rid of the bump I have right now where the bone is at a weird angle, but wouldn’t necessarily guarantee any improvement in functionality. I’ll never be at 100%, he said, regardless of the surgery. Therefore, I think I’d prefer to have a small bump (not even visible) and avoid the potential risks of them putting me under and cutting me open, because let’s face it, I don’t lead that active a lifestyle. I probably rarely (if ever) used that shoulder 100% before the accident, so I doubt I’ll notice it a whole lot. There are repercussions in regards to arthritis and whatnot, but surgery wouldn’t get rid of those.

They gave me a different sling, but told me its purpose was more to keep me from accidentally over-extending rather than to promote healing. No binding or brace would really help it heal, the doctor said, but it might keep me from damaging it again/further. Therefore, I’ll wear the sling regularly (though not all the time) for the next few weeks and avoid playing rugby at all costs. I’ve got another appointment in three weeks for them to take a second set of x-rays to see how it is healing, but the doctor’s anticipation is that it would be just fine. Sometime after that three weeks, I will probably go back once more for x-rays just to document that it has healed. The total process will probably be six to eight weeks.

For the curious, the bone was broken in two places and pushed towards the center of my chest almost two centimeters, causing some overlap, and it was also pushed down so it’s at an angle. New bone will form, causing a sort of ball/callus there, and even while this new bone is forming it will be worn down. The end result will be a bit of a bump and my bone will actually be a sort of stretched, sideways S shape, dipping down in the middle.

I’ve got some exercises/stretches to do, but like I said, my mobility and flexibility are already pretty good and astounded the doctor, considering it has only been a week. I continue to avoid pain medication and he recommended I further avoid anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen as they can slow healing. The overall message was positive, and I’m extremely glad that I can avoid surgery. Now I just need to find out what this has all cost us and get the money sorted so I can put this entire affair behind me.

Ergonomize Your Workspace

Good ergonomics is more than having a fancy keyboard
Good ergonomics is more than having a fancy keyboard

It’s amazing to me how many offices I go to at the University where people have their monitor placed off to the side, diagonal from them, and the keyboard either in front of them but at a weird angle or twisted slightly, forcing them to always be turning their head, neck, and/or back to do their work. It’s got to be painful as hell, but some people just don’t realize there are alternatives.

My freshman year of college, I developed really horrible pain in my right arm/shoulder that extended across my back and practically crippled me for around 4-6 months. After months of struggling with this, ascribing it to potassium deficiency, bad posture, or some other obscure issue. I visited the doctor and did everything I could think of, but still it persisted.

One day, like a light bulb going on, it hit me: my dorm mattress was terrible, and was likely the culprit. Obviously, this isn’t directly related to workspace ergonomics, but it influenced me heavily and led me to researching ways to prevent pain in the future. After moving out of the dorm, I invested in a really good Doctor’s Choice mattress, bought a new computer chair, and always paid a lot of attention to my body when it came to using a computer.

For those of us who practically live at our desks, ergonomics are particularly important, but there are some aspects to it you might not have considered. As you can see from the picture at the left, good posture, having your arms and hands properly position, etc… that’s all important. But it leaves off a few things.

Suggestions

Keyboard positioning for good health: See how her wrists are straight, sort of hovering above the keyboard? That’s hard to do, and harder still if you raise the legs at the back of the keyboard to tilt it towards you. Raising those legs tends to force your wrists down so your fingers can strike the keys directly, so rather than helping your health, they’re actually hurting it. The flatter your keyboard, the better. Personally, I use the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard, which has a riser on the front to tilt the keyboard towards the back, away from you. This allows you to rest your hands in a much healthier position, though getting it does make it difficult to get the keyboard at the right height. Only use the riser if it’s comfortable for you (I use it at work, but not at home due to this height issue).

Arm wrests on your chair: I think these are very helpful, but they have to be at the right height. If you’re in the market for a new chair, try to get one with adjustable arms (mine at home is not :-() If you start to experience pain in your elbows or shoulders, take another look at your posture; you may be leaning on the arm wrests, rather than just sitting relaxed. If you experience serious pain, see a doctor as this could lead to serious injury requiring surgery.

Move your monitor back: Due to my eyesight, I always kept my monitor right up at the front of my desk to make it easier see. A year or two ago, my optometrist told me that this actually makes your eyes worse because they’re having to focus on something so close. Instead, your monitor should be about 18-24 inches (about 45-61 centimeters) away. The top of your monitor should be about eye level, and directly in front of you. You shouldn’t have to twist your head at all to see the content on your screen.

Feet flat on the floor?: Yeah, I know this is important. I still kick back with my feet on my subwoofer a lot of the time, though. I don’t know what a physical therapist would say about this, but that’s how I roll. Still, I’ve got a decent chair, and I sit with good posture when I’m writing and while at work.

What do you do?

Any thoughts on ergonomics, or tricks you’ve learned that help your health and work/productivity? Share the wealth and help us learn together! 🙂