3 Tips on Becoming a Manly Office Monkey

 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.

(3) Micro-Aerobics

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.


{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Anissa Cairo December 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm

This is a fabulous article and incredibly impressive video. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and watching :) :) :) It has lots of credibility and is clear, organized, humorous, and highly entertaining. I’m sure the author is a VERY manly office monkey :) :) :)

Sir Lukey Von Lukerson December 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm

A fine article good sir! You are truly a master of the art of manliness. I’ll endeavour to apply these tips in the future! A good day and safe travels to such a fine gentlemen.

Michael December 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I like the quirky nature of the article. Sometimes AoM takes itself too seriously and the jokes throughout the article make it more entertaining.
Not sure I’m going to be eschewing the stairs at work, but finding activity to do while reading articles or brainstorming is a great idea.

Becky Jewell December 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

LOVE IT!!!! One of my favorite peoples!

Joan December 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

Wonderful article! This guy must have an amazingly manly father!

Rob December 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I am sooo getting a heavy rock now.

Bill M December 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm

You have, in an ingenious yet simple way, prevented yourself from becoming the “soft man.” … One of the best things I have read in the “Trunk.”

Al Bradley December 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I work in a large organization with several buildings. Instead of using e-mail I walk over to the accounting unit located in a different building to speed up payments. I sit in that unit each day for 15 minutes and approve invoices for payment then I walk back to my building. The accounting unit thinks I’m a super manager for working up stream and my manager thinks I’m proactive. I figured out how to get a great outdoor walk several times a day and get paid for it. I’m in great shape and sometimes I take the stairwell when I get to the other building.

Brandon December 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Was this written by Dwight Schrute?

Justin December 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm

As a man of the white collar industry I applaud your eagerness to get out and do something! It can be difficult to get up the gumption to climb a wall, so I think I will start with taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
If my overall weight and girth recede to more manageable proportions, I may even consider taking the spider-man route to the cafe.
Thank you!

Claude December 29, 2011 at 10:55 am

Great article.

I like to keep a Captains of Crush hand gripper at my desk. Many and stress relieving.

James December 30, 2011 at 6:51 am

Great job Jeremiah!

I can relate, going from tough working conditions to sitting at a desk much of the day was strange for me at first. After the first week or two, I noticed my back hurting from sitting over the computer, and just feeling lazy in general…all that sitting. Then I discovered the joy of an “Office work-out”. Yesterday, I even brought my bike down to work, and took off on a bike break instead of lunch break. It makes a huge difference. I applaud you for encouraging men to move a bit more even in the office. Now, if only I could find a good wall to climb!

Maru January 1, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Reminds me of something that was attributed to Bob Hoffman of the York Barbell Company in the 1950s: “It should be known that our Communist enemies, who are trying to bury us, take exercise breaks instead of coffee breaks.”

Invoking the specter of the Red Army aside, it’s a valuable point. Men in white collar occupations would all do well to bust out three or four pull-ups and fifty push-ups on their breaks instead of consuming doughnuts and coffee (particularly if the coffee has been saturated with sugar).

This is a great post.

Andy January 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm

So true. I too have found that sitting all day is very detrimental to my body. I have built a pseudu-standing desk and simply standing and moving around a bit all day has made a huge difference. Just make sure to get something cushy like a chef’s mat to stand on and you’ll feel a difference within the first 4 hours.

Michael S. July 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

Great article! Makes a lot of sense! I found the article both informative and entertaining. there are basic points that can benefit any poor soul stranded at his desk during the work day.

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