I had a scary few hours before the “storm for the history books” was supposed to hit New York. I thought I should share it because, if you’re like me and sit a lot for work, you know this but tend to ignore it.
As a writer, sitting for long periods of time is part of the process. I probably sit more than many writers, though, because I have three jobs and each keeps me in front of the computer for hours (and hours) at a time.
I fidget, I get up for coffee, I let the cat/s lounge across my lap and shift them around when my legs go numb… but I don’t MOVE.
Last Wednesday, I wound up with pain in my leg and thought I’d somehow pulled a muscle (hamstring). I did all the things you should do for sore muscles without thinking further about it. Until Saturday night when I saw how red the back of my thigh was, and by Sunday morning when it was still red but also solid, aching, swollen and hot to the touch.
As I said, I have cats – one of them is 18 years old. I rarely notice pokes and scratches from them anymore. I figured, one of them must have scratched my leg at some point, and I now had a reaction to it, like cat scratch fever.
By Sunday night into Monday, the pain was unbearable and all sorts of thoughts for what it could be tortured my mind.
Monday morning, I made an urgent appointment with my doctor, who questioned me thoroughly about my daily habits. After hearing how I work at the computer all day, she wrote a script for a doppler ultrasound of my leg to check for a blood clot. Two very long hours later, I found out I wasn’t going to die from a clot that could have been in my leg and suddenly broke off to lodge in my lung.
I have cellulitis (so I might have been right about the cat-scratch), and the antibiotics I’m on should clear it up soon enough. They’re already helping.
BUT… once my doctor heard about my routine – of sitting for hours at a time, day after day, she knew my risk of clots was pretty high up there.
So is yours if you sit a lot, too.
Her advice to reduce the risk is to sit for shorter periods at a time and really move around. If you want to write for an hour straight without getting up, she said, then do it, but don’t sit in one position. Sit up straight if you tend to lean forward toward your keyboard, put your feet up on a rest under your desk. Lower them. Put your computer on the kitchen counter, and stand while you type. Don’t do your entire day’s workout in the morning and think you’re done. Break up your sitting/writing time with additional five minute workouts throughout the day – even if the time is spent simply going up and down the stairs.
And… don’t sit on the sofa or other soft cushion with your laptop on your lap. We tend to sit ‘folded’ that way, she said, and that causes other problems (I know, I have those too).
Naturally, this was advice given to me by my own doctor. You should look further into this yourself to see what’s best for you.
The pain I felt Sunday night and the fear I felt about possibly having to deal with a dangerous blood clot – with a blizzard on the way, no less – reminded me how quickly hours can go by when we’re writing, and how easily we can get caught up in the work while forgetting about taking care of ourselves.
Be safe, be smart, be active.
Have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in one position? For fun, or not, time yourself. A change of habit is probably in order for you, too.
I was using my treadmill during the day and “between jobs”, but then I stopped, having gotten caught up in the work. I’m bringing it back in and looking at other ways to make sure I don’t put myself at such high risk again.
What are your habits like? Do you have a way to break up hours of sitting?
Good advice. And needed advice.
You know when I really notice the effects of sitting? When I’ve been in a car on a long trip. Four hours in a car and I can barely walk when I get out.
So true! I notice it, too, when I get up from a long stint at the computer, but I just stretch and groan, and go about my business… which usually involves sitting again. 😳 I really thought I was in trouble this time, so it put a decent scare into me. I’ll be using the treadmill faithfully again now.
Thanks for stopping by! And don’t forget to move! ❗
Debbie, I’m so glad you’re okay.
I’ve got a kitchen timer that I set for one hour at a time. My doctor suggested it a few years ago, when I had a potential heart issue. After the hour, I get up and do something else for a little while — whether it’s going up and down the stairs to start the laundry, or doing the dishes, or going outside with the dogs or getting the mail. Anything to get the circulation going again. It also gives my eyes a break from staring at the screen or the page.
The other thing that forces me to get up and is good for me anyway is to keep a large glass of water to drink nearby while I’m working. There’s no way I’m sitting too long after downing that.
I hope you’re reading this while walking on the treadmill! Great post.
Thank you, I’m kinda glad, too. It was a scary couple of hours.
I love the idea of keeping a regular timer set while working. And breaking up the writing work with house work, while breaking up the house work with writing work is a great idea, too. 💡
When I was using the treadmill during the day, I found it not only recharged my body but also my mind and muse, so it actually serves several purposes. And I have a shelf on it for my computer so I can walk slowly and type at the same time. There’s really no excuse for me not to use it now.
Here’s to a healthier way of working!
Wow , Deb,
This is great info. Thanks for sharing. I hope you’re feeling better!! xo
I am feeling better, thank you, Deb. I will go back for a recheck, but at least that next visit won’t be wrapped with worry. I have a new way of working out now – with no impact. Instead of running on the treadmill, I’ll be using one of the all-in-one bowflex machines for walking, climbing and ellipticizing. (I know that’s not a word but this is my sandbox, so… 😎 ). It’s a compact machine that’s not too painful on the joints or the pocket. Should be here soon…
That’s scary!! I’m so glad you’re ok!!! And, thanks for the good advice – I can sit for hours on my couch writing on my laptop. My husband always chastises me. Hope the cellulitis is better!
It is better, thank you, Stephanie.
I can sit for hours, too. I think the worst thing is we don’t realize how long we’re there. Lynnerose’s idea of a timer makes perfect sense. It might not be easy at first, but soon we’ll be like Pavlov’s dog, responding automatically each time the bell rings. 🙂