Deskbound is a book about how terrible it is to spend your day sitting, and how you can remedy that if you’re stuck in a sedentary occupation (like mine – principally sitting at a desk typing at a keyboard). I’m reading it on my phone’s Kindle app, which feels slightly hypocritical if not just plain reckless, as one of the factors it suggests as a problem is how people read on their smartphones too much.
The quick summary of Deskbound is “clench!” That’s right, if you don’t clench your buttocks, your spine will collapse, or rather all the parts of your body that should hold your spine up straight and strong won’t work properly, and you’ll have to compensate by slouching or using the wrong muscles to pull yourself upright. The authors make the point that the human body, much like the London Underground, is wonderful at working around points of failure, so you may be a perfectly functional human being for many years despite bad posture, but at some point things will turn to crap, because all the muscles you’ve relied on to help you stand up will be worn out, and you’ll be a wreck. Or you’ll realise you’ve spent five years of your life on the Northern Line, and you’re a wreck. (Metaphor mine, not to be blamed on either Starrett.)
If that wasn’t bad enough, slumping will make you breathe through your mouth and not your nose, and that will mean your diaphragm isn’t being used to get your lungs open, and so your body will assume you’re in a fight and heighten the level of adrenaline and other hormones in your blood and … hang on, all this just from a chair? I begin to wonder at what point science checks out and hyperbole comes in. Sure, I slump a lot more than I should, but is that making me breathe rapidly through my mouth or not? What if I slump but clench my buttocks more?
Still, I’m a great believer in the power of clenched buttocks. And as I spend a hell of a lot of time at a desk, and as I’ve suffered from time to time with all sorts of back pain (and right now my plantar fascitis is giving me no end of gyp) I’m quite receptive to the thought that you might want to modify your posture in some ways to prevent some of these horrors. Moving for two minutes for every 30 that you spend seated seems achievable; at least on those days when I remember to drink lots of water, because then I always seem to drink so much water that I’m rushing to the toilet every twenty minutes. Or is that a sign of the early onset of diabetes? Is there not enough to worry about?
I’m about a third of the way through Deskbound. In a later section there is a 14-day sequence to try to fix your posture and put you on the straight and narrow. I hope it doesn’t fling me into as much of a bad mood as giving up sugar for the Whole 30 Diet did (and I only lasted about two weeks of that before, full of rage and angst, I gave in and had a Mars bar). But we shall see.
Also, today I went to the local climbing wall and did an hour of bouldering, which means my hands are now rather sore, as are my arms, and I have to wonder if it was sensible to contort myself and fall off walls so many times, but if you can’t fall off walls, what is the point of life?