Shockoe Wellness: Healthy Developers, Happy Developers

There’s a reason the stereotypical image of a software developer is a slovenly mess, a large mass in a black t-shirt covered in potato chip crumbs, the reason being is it’s often true. And while we can’t prevent the ever-growing threat of black t-shirt wearing, we all do our best to keep those black t-shirts themselves from being ever-growing. Here at Shockoe we incorporate several exercises into our daily routine that we hope will improve our overall health. Collectively this is known as the Shockoe Wellness Program.

To keep our metabolisms engaged and the blood flowing through our brains, we’ll often take a stroll along the canal walk near the office. It’s also a great way to unplug from work for a little while and come back to any problems or tasks with a fresh mindset. Inside the office, ping pong is another great outlet to work through bugs and raise our heart rates. And for anyone who doubts the ability of ping pong to raise your heart rate, you’ve clearly never seen the crazy wall and ceiling shots we try every day and the mad dash of our developers to recover the balls as they go flying into the kitchen or under desks.

However, when you work in a profession that has you sitting and looking at a computer screen for eight hours a day, fitness is only one of your concerns. Here at Shockoe we incorporate several exercises throughout the day to help preserve our posture and eyesight. There are two main problems that face those who sit down for a living: forward head posture and anterior pelvic tilt. Speaking generally, from a blenderized knowledge of several internet tidbits, forward head posture comes as a result of, among other things, staring at a screen and inclining one’s head forward. Anterior pelvic tilt means that one’s hips have rotated forward, as a result of weakened hamstrings and abs and tightened lower back and quads due to sitting for long periods of time. To counteract forward head posture, we perform a series of neck exercises 2-3 times a day. Here is the video guide that we follow for these exercises. Vastly more information than I could ever provide about anterior pelvic tilt and the ways to counteract it can be found here, though the exercises that we tend to perform are the quad stretches and occasional stomach vacuums.

To help improve our eyesight, we utilize the 20-20-20 rule, which states that if you spend a lot of time looking at something directly in front of you (e.g. a computer screen), every 20 minutes you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It also helps to roll your eyes and blink a lot during these breaks.

Shockoe Bods, a sub-branch of the Shockoe Wellness Program, is also very near to our hearts. It was through the Shockoe Bods program that we began a quest to each be able to do 100 pushups. For a while, every morning after our stand-up meeting we would crank out huge sets of pushups. However, we soon found that this was tightening our pecs and making us hunch over at our computers. We needed to add a complementary back exercise as well, so we hung a pullup bar near the bathrooms and encouraged people to do as many as they can every time nature called. For some, “as many as you can” was less than one, and that was perfectly ok. The prevailing wisdom is if you can’t do a pullup, simply hang on the bar for as long as you can, and the first pullup will come after being able to hang for 45 seconds.

All this may seem like a lot, but in total it may add up to ten minutes every day, which, in my opinion, is worth it to not be hunched over a walker by the time I’m 30. Every developer at the office is a huge fan of Bojack Horseman, and to paraphrase a touching moment from this past season: “It gets easier, but you have to do it every day. That’s the hard part.”

John Surface

John Surface

August 6, 2015

With a birth weight of just under seven and a half pounds, John has in less than three decades managed to gain thirteen stone and several years of experience as a full-stack and mobile engineer. He does his part to slow the spin of the earth spiraling out of control by creating robust backend solutions and intuitive cross-platform and native mobile applications.

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