Editor’s note: AoM reader Jeremiah Jacques submitted the following piece as a guest post for the main site. While the article is a little quirkier and less practical than the normal fare on the main blog, I got such a kick out of it I told him I’d publish it here on The Trunk. Enjoy.
The sedentary nature of office work is sometimes enough to make a virile, white-collar man regret taking the path that led him to become an Assistant Deputy Coordinator of Client Data and Management Information, and to wish he’d instead been a cowboy, or maybe a lumberjack.
But the world is rapidly shrinking, the U.S.’s post-industrial economy is becoming service-oriented, and the average cowboy is barely pulling in $20k a year.
This brave new world has muscled legions of lumberjacks out of the forests and into cubicles, forced them to swap their chainsaws for three-hole punches, and made them watch as their barrel-chests atrophy into doughy abdomens scarcely able to support their enfeebled limbs. Observe:
But during my years as an office monkey, I’ve developed a few techniques to slow the inevitable decline into obesity-induced paralysis, and I thought the inner-cowboy of Art of Manliness readers might like to hear about them.
(1) Winston Churchill
One day, about two years after I’d transitioned from blue to white-collar work, I looked at my hands and noticed that the callouses I’d earned from earlier years of carpentry and steel fabrication had vanished, and given way to soft, womanly palms, better suited for applying facial ointments to sunburned infants than for slinging hammers.
So, I found this 35-lb. slab of asphalt on a roadside, and hauled it into my office:
I originally named him Writing Companion, because I would rotate the rough chunk of road around in my hands as I read/researched for writing projects. Soon, his name was truncated to W.C., and later re-expanded in a mutated form to Winston Churchill (one of my heroes).
I try to rotate Churchill around for at least a few minutes each day, and the activity prevents most people from mistaking me for an Oil of Olay salesman during handshakes. A session with Churchill can also be enough of an upper-body workout to get my heart-rate up… And, speaking of up, point 2 is…
(2) Ascend the Walls
Fitness pundits advise office workers to forgo the rock-star parking spot, to instead park at the far end of the lot– forcing us to take at least two short walks during the day.
I take that advice one step further, and forgo the luxury of stairs to instead climb walls as often as possible:
This kind of activity is fairly anaerobic, but it’s good for pecks, forearms, and tiny muscles in your fingers that you probably didn’t even know you had. This fitness technique will also lead many of your co-workers to believe you are of Sherpan ancestry, which comes with a whole host of unexpected advantages.
Not all buildings, and not all security crews allow for a man to make such an entrance, but the broader point is to take the difficult way on purpose whenever you can.
Oliver Wendall Holmes said “Stillness and steadiness of features are signal marks of good breeding.” It would be tough to dispute the integrity of Holmes’s logic, but inactivity doesn’t burn calories.
Ever since studying percussion for a while in my early teenage years, I’ve been annoying classmates and co-workers by (mostly) subconsciously tapping out rudiments and rhythms with all four limbs. I hadn’t given much thought to this habit until I read an article published earlier this year in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Here’s an excerpt:
“Fidgeting at your desk [is] contributing more to your cardiorespiratory fitness than you might think. Researchers have found that both the duration and intensity of incidental physical activities (IPA) are associated with cardiorespiratory fitness.”
So, movement promotes cardio health, even when this movement is generated from incidental activity on a micro-muscular level. Cultivating a healthier heart at work means that, when you’re not at work, you can do manly things–backing up trailers, brewing beer, surviving bear attacks, mixing concrete, refusing to wear socks with sandals, and collecting maps–with greater efficiency.
If Holmes is right, fidgeting will make you look like an inbred yokel, but you’ll be a cardiovascularly-robust inbred yokel!
Just because you are a white-collar man doesn’t mean you have to look like one. If you employ these tips, you can cultivate and retain ruggedness, and be a truly manly office monkey.