Not that long ago, before the digital revolution, editing and doing visual effects were way more active. Visual effects artists had to cut, paint, paste, build miniatures, etc. while editors had to move around the room getting all the little strips of film that would eventually make the movie. Now of course everything happens in the computer which means sitting around all day.
When I was writing Bionique there were times when I sat at Starbucks from 8am to 2pm, then drive to the office (sitting in my car) and do visual effects from 3 to 10pm, sometimes even later. That’s over 14 hours of sitting! Over time I’ve found some techniques and tips that have helped me a lot to avoid the troubles that come with sitting for so long.
Get the best chair you can get
This one sounds like common sense now, but when I first moved into my apartment and the time to buy a chair came, I just went for the one that looked the best for the price I thought was reasonable for a chair, so I ended up getting the second or third cheapest one ($70). At the office however, we have better chairs, they’re not top of the line but definitely better than mine. It didn’t take long for me to realize that when I worked at home my back hurt afterwards and when I worked at the office it didn’t, even if I worked for longer hours.
Now, I’m no expert, I just know what works for me but I’d tell you to get the best chair you can afford, trust me, It’ll be worth the investment. If you can’t go too fancy get at least a chair that goes all the way up to your head, has armrests and preferably, one that you can adjust the height so your feet are flat on the floor.
If you need more info, I found this couple useful articles on choosing a good ergonomic chair and the best sitting posture. Also if you feel like experimenting a little, here’s a new study that found that the best posture is actually leaning back to 135º.
Bring your own cushion
Sometimes you work at places where you just can’t use or pick your own chair. In my case this usually happens when I go to Starbucks to work on my scripts or this blog. Like I mentioned earlier, I sometimes spend over 6 hours there working on my stuff and sitting in those wooden chairs.
The solution -like most good solutions- was very simple, one day I just went to the Rite Aid in the same plaza as the Starbucks and got a foam cushion. It was $25 and it made a whole world of difference for my butt and back. Now I bring it every time I’m planning to work there for more than one hour. For some reason I was a little embarrassed at first of walking around with my butt cushion into Starbucks so I just put it in my backpack where my computer was and pull it out when I was already on my chair. I realized people don’t care though, and now I either carry it in the open or put it in my backpack, but not to conceal it anymore, just to not have to carry it.
Work on your feet
One day I went to the Starbucks in Sunset & Gower which always seems to be at capacity. This particular day the only table available for me to work on was one of those high tables where you need bar stools to sit on. I took it and even though I had my little cushion it wasn’t the most comfortable experience. At some point, I subconsciously stood up and worked like that for a while without realizing. It wasn’t until an hour later that I noticed that I’d ditched the chair and had been very comfortable on my feet!
It brought back something a friend had told me a while back about this very experienced editor who likes to edit on his feet. No chair, just a high table for his AVID system. Apparently he was used to work on his old Moviola machine which was designed to be operated standing up. I thought it was weird at the time but I’d just experienced how much it helps!
I’ve tried it a few times ever since and I like it a lot, especially at Starbucks where the chairs aren’t super ergonomic. I don’t think I’ll get a high table for my home office anytime soon but if you’re having troubles in your rear area or your back it’s definitely something worth considering. You could of course also get a high chair and alternate between the two, that way both your feet and your butt get a break.
Of course if you work at Starbucks regularly you can just sit at the high tables. Even if you’re an editor you can still do it, like this guy: 🙂
Everyone knows that exercising regularly is good for you. It reduces your cortisol levels which in turn help tremendously with your stress levels, both physically and mentally. I feel best when I’m going to the gym regularly, and it doesn’t have to be 2 hours a daily.
After some experimenting I’ve found that if I’m in a rush all I need is 15 minutes on the treadmill of interval training (HIIT). I warm up for 3 minutes, then hit the max speed (12mph) for 45 seconds then back to low speed for 3:15 minutes then another 45 seconds at full speed and so on until the 15 minutes are up. After I’m done I feel so much better! Of course you don’t have to do what I do or even go to a gym. Maybe biking or jogging to the office will be enough for you if you live nearby.
An alternative for that is to do some sort of exercise during little breaks while you’re working. I know this one is easier said than done. Still, you can just stand up, stretch and walk around every hour or so. That’s what I do when I’m at the office and it helps tremendously. Occasionally I do a ‘push-up break’ but that’s only when I’ve been sitting down for a long time and my body asks for a better exercise than just walking around to get some fruit. When I’m working at home I do better though. I got this pull-up bar that I put in my bedroom door which is next to the bathroom. That way every time I get up to go to the bathroom I see it and remember to do a set of pull ups or at least grab it and hang off of it for a few seconds to stretch my spine… it feels great!
All these tips have made a big difference for me and they are pretty simple, which is why I like them. If you want to last in this industry, you have to watch your ass.