how I transitioned to a desk job and still kept my sanity
I have always valued freedom — being cooped up in an office for 8 hours a day was one of the things I hated when I was a student working full-time internships. I missed being able to workout in the middle of the day, missed being able to take leisurely walks if I wanted to, missed being able to literally just leave somewhere.
That’s why I knew that remote working was what I wanted to do in the long run, but I still spent a lot of time at a desk. Working a desk job.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And the reality is that this is how a large portion of workers today work — 9 to 5 or 6-ish, in an office, at a desk.
So how can you transition from being an active college student to an office worker?\
How can you transition from an active job, one where you’re on your feet or moving around all day, to a more sedentary one?
Here are a few things that helped me:
1. Make your commute active.
I lived in Boston without a car, which means that it was fairly easy to take public transportation. Even so, I’d opt for the route that was the maximum amount of walking while still being efficient. It was good to be able to take time to myself in the morning and to be able to get some steps in.
You can also run commute or bike commute if you prefer!
2. Advocate for (or get) a standing desk.
Many startups now have standing desks, and it has made the biggest difference in my back problems that come from being at a computer all day.
It doesn’t mean you have to stand all the time; rather, it means you have the option for moving back and forth between standing and sitting (which is optimal anyway).
If you don’t have a standing desk, you can also improvise — at one of the places I worked, before we all got standing desks, I used a large cardboard box as a standing desk and removed it when I wanted to sit.
Don’t say we weren’t scrappy.
3. Actually take breaks.
Seriously, you might feel peer-pressured into sitting at your desk for 8-9 hours a day, but you are entitled to breaks.
So take your lunch breaks. One thing I like to do is to use them as time for movement (walking, a workout class, a run) and then eat lunch at my desk while I work. That’s not for everyone, but it’s what worked for me.
If you have phone meetings, take them walking if you don’t need your computer. Or stand up in a conference room if it’s just you.
Grabbing coffee? Opt for a coffee shop slightly further away so you can walk. Or just go for a walk — it might feel weird, but I’d just circle the block sometimes when it’s 3pm and I needed some air / to clear my head.
4. Get your co-workers in on it.
Here’s the secret to making an active life more normal: get your co-workers to be active with you too.
If your culture is already one that prioritizes health and movement, that’s fricking awesome and ride with it.
If it’s not, loop in one co-worker. Maybe then another. Then you begin to normalize your walks, your lunchtime workouts, your hopes for a standing desk.
5. Plan and prioritize your workouts.
I never understood how people could just go days and weeks and months without working out… until I got a full-time job that demanded a lot from me.
Mentally, wow. Even if you feel like your body needs movement, sometimes you just want to lay in bed, drink wine, and watch Netflix.
That’s honestly really ok (and encouraged) sometimes, but not all the time.
Because you’ll fall into this loop of not having energy because you aren’t moving your body enough, then not moving your body enough because you don’t have energy.
I like group workouts because it gives me motivation to workout: I get to hang out with my friends, sometimes I have to pay a fee if I don’t show up, I can plan it into my calendar (“take the 7PM boxing class on Thursday”), I don’t want to let down my favorite instructor, etc.
But choose the type that works for you, whether it’s the gym, walking, running, swimming, home workouts, soccer games with friends, etc.
Work will consume you if you let it. Parkinson’s Law = work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
You can work forever. But carve out the time for yourself to get your preferred form of movement in and know that that’s a version of self-care.
P.S. Figure out if you’re a morning or evening workout person. Typically, motivation is the highest in the morning right when you wake up, and it also means you don’t have any excuses about finishing up work. But if you hate waking up early, go for an after-work workout to let off steam.
6. Understand that you can’t compare oranges and apples.
Life changes. Jobs change. We change.
As we move from one season of our life to another, we can’t expect that we’ll be as active as we previously were.
That’s the worst comparison trap — comparing yourself to your former self.
Life comes in ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. We are never who we used to be; we are only who we are right now.
Give yourself some time to adjust and go into your new life without expectations. Give yourself compassion and understanding.
Hope this helped!