Running on a treadmill or going to a spin class might be the last thing you feel like doing after a long work day.
Before and after the bell rings, you’re grading papers, meeting with students, planning, and more. You’re constantly putting your own life on hold so you can be there for your students day in and day out. But it’s important to also take care of yourself. So how do you balance teaching, personal commitments, and staying active?
We asked a few fitness pros for stretches and exercises you can do right at your desk — in between classes — that’ll nourish your mind and body.
Got a tennis ball at home, or can you ask your gym teacher for a loaner?
Len Saunders, a physical education teacher, exercise physiologist, and author of children’s book Buddy and Bea, recommends this super simple move: While sitting at your desk, take your shoe off and roll a tennis ball under your feet from toe to heel. This is great for your calves, he said, and helps relieve stress.
At the edge of your chair, sit up tall with both feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg in front of you until it’s parallel to the floor, and then tighten your leg muscles and flex your toes.
Hold your leg for 10 seconds and slowly lower to the ground. Repeat with the other leg. Lee recommends repeating this 12 times every other hour, but don’t worry if you don’t have the time for this — it’s still effective!
These can be done sitting down or standing. Brittany Szafran, a registered yoga teacher, said the most important part of this exercise is to continue breathing throughout — inhale and exhale evenly through your nose.
For head rolls, draw your shoulder blades back and together to open your chest while you rock your head side to side.
“Allow yourself to pause at points of tension so gravity can give you a natural massage,” she said.
Take five minutes for a simple yoga pose for your shoulders, upper back, and neck, suggested Michael Bridge-Dickson, author of Yoga: Point + Process and Pain in the Asana: Cause Care + Prevention of 8 Common Yoga Injuries.
This exercise, done sitting or standing, starts with clasping your hands. Keep your fingers interlocked and turn your palms away from you. As you exhale, press out through the heels of your hands so your arms are fully extended at shoulder level.
When you exhale next, keeping your fingers together and your arms straight, raise them over your head. Push the heels of your hands and your index fingers toward the ceiling while softening your shoulders downward.
Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute and take notice of how your shoulders, back and neck feel after. Read more about this pose, and other desk poses, on Bridge-Dickson’s website.
Do you do any stretches at your desk? Share them on our Facebook page, where you can connect with other teachers interested in advancing their education.