4 Moves to Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury!

December 15, 2014

Repetitive Strain InjuriesFor writers (or anyone spending several hours a day on the keyboard), there is a risk of incurring repetitive strain injury (RSI). The wrist, elbows and shoulders are areas commonly affected.

So how can you avoid the pain, inconvenience, and loss of productivity that’s associated with this condition?

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

Previously, he’s provided sound advice about neck and back stretches and working your core at your desk. This week, Alex offers four steps to help you avoid repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, elbow tendonitis and frozen shoulder, all while staying productive at your computer!

Read this first: Perform the following exercises either as a warm up before working on the computer, or during a midday break. When you first try them, find a space near your desk that allows a three-foot radius.

Once you are comfortable with the moves, you can bring the exercises to your desk space. I suggest standing, however, as not only do you have the advantage of space to work with, but you should also notice your core becoming engaged as it compensates for those fluctuations in your hand.

1) Flying FingersIn this exercise, you simply open your hands, fully extending your fingers, and then close them into a loose fist.

First, perform this exercise quite slowly, holding your hands in front of you at shoulder height. Do 10 repetitions. Shake out your hands.

Repeat the exercise three more times, now opening and closing as rapidly as you can for about 30 seconds. Don’t cheat! Make sure your fingers are fully extended and flexed on each repetition.

You can also try these different positions: out in front of you, above your head, or out to your sides, with your palms either up or down.

2) Waving In and OutThis is another opening and closing exercise. This time, the fingers will move independently of each other, one flowing into the next.

To get the motion, think about finger tapping on a desk in which the pinky-tip strikes the surface first, followed by the ring, middle and index fingers. Begin with your hands extended in front with your palms turned up. Wave the fingers in while simultaneously flexing at the wrist and elbow, bringing the hands toward you.

Once you are fully flexed, allow your elbows to wing outwards to allow your hands to continue their circle down, and then away from you as the fingers wave back out to a fully extended position. Repeat 10 times.

3) Shoulder FliesIf you are familiar with the shoulder press, this movement is quite similar, except that you provide your own resistance!

Raise your hands above your head, with your fingers together and your thumbs out, creating an “L” shape. Bring the hands together at head height with your hands locked at the webbing between your thumbs.

Now, press your hands together as you extend them in an upward direction. Release at the top, allowing your hands to drop back to head height.

Repeat and alternate between locking positions (left hand in front, right hand in front). Start with 30 reps, and work up to 100.

4) Front & back-strokeReady to hit the pool?

Well, if you don’t have time to really go for a swim, we can pretend by finishing with this relaxing move.

As the name suggests, this is exactly the motion of a front and back stroke. Maintain a straight elbow, and reach to your utmost extreme positions to the front, above, and behind.

Try 20 front strokes and 20 back strokes with each hand. You can do one hand at a time, or alternate as if you were actually swimming!

Have fun and live well!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


Warm it Up 2014 – Our Promotional Video

December 12, 2014

warm it upA few weeks ago, I posted about our community-based outreach initiative called “Warm it Up!” 

“Warm it Up” is a not-for-profit community outreach initiative dedicated to provide support to homeless and in-need individuals, through donations of coffee cards, gloves, hats, blankets, and other items. In 2013, 260 volunteers helped approximately 1,300 people in Toronto and across North America.

This year, we have over 460 participants!

Please join us this Wednesday, December 17th and help bring warmth to those most in need.

Thank you!

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


Build a Strong Core without Leaving Your Desk!

December 9, 2014

strong core,writersOk writers, you might not get ripped abs typing away on your computer all day. But you can develop a strong core and improved wellness with these three simple moves.

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

This is part two of a five part series.

Last time, we touched on correct sitting posture. By focusing on this you’ve already begun to build that strong core! Just by keeping proper alignment while sitting, you are activating your postural muscles including the lumbar and abdominals.

So here are three more moves that can help with wellness, while being productive at work.

Belly Breathing: Our first exercise will take this correct sitting posture and add a type of belly breathing into the mix. Belly breathing is taught in dance, martial arts, singing, and other disciplines.

The majority of adults who have not been formally trained in belly breathing from one of these disciplines usually breathe using the expansion and contraction of the rib cage. This fills little more than the upper chambers of the lungs, just over a third capacity. To fill the rest of our lungs with vital oxygen we must consciously draw down our diaphragm by expanding your belly while inhaling.

To make the cleansing effect of our respiratory system extremely efficient, we must also come as close to completely emptying our lungs as possible when exhaling. To make this happen, simply flex those abdominals as you breath out until past the point you feel you have nothing left. Yes, this will help strengthen those stomach muscles. And what’s the wonderful side effect? How about increased blood flow to the brain even more rich in oxygen! Are alertness, thought power, and focus important to any of you?

Lounging: No, I don’t mean lunging. But lounging might not be quite as easy as it may sound either. More like edge-of-your-seat action!

First, shift forward in your seat so that your back is well away from the backrest. Now, slowly begin to lean back maintaining a straight spine. You should notice your abdominals are forced to flex, with the tension increasing the further you lean. Find a position that works for you and provides a sufficient challenge. Start with 30 seconds to test the waters, but you could potentially work to 20-30 minute stretches of this exercise rather quickly.

Knee Lifts: Alternating knee lifts will help you target your lower abdominals. Choose a time when you know you have a few minutes of reading or reflecting to do this exercise.

Push that keyboard drawer in and move back enough to give your knees some clearance. If you’re reading, adjust your monitor to make sure you are not straining your eyes in the process.

Now raise one knee towards your chest, as high as you can go before returning to the original position. Try to maintain a steady movement with a 3-4 count up and a 3-4 count down, consisting of about 10 reps each leg per set. You can alternate performing sets of the exercise by thrusting the knee as quickly and high as you can and gently returning it down.

WARNING: Do not throw your head and body forward to raise your knee higher! Keeping good posture throughout these exercises is paramount!

Bonus Move! Since the above exercise does require you to be slightly further from your desk, let’s look into another option you can even perform while writing!

You can also engage your core focusing on lower abdominals by extending your feet off the ground and away from you under the desk.

Begin by shifting forward until your sitting bones are close to the edge of your chair. When you hold your feet away from your centre, your core is forced to engage utilizing the lower fibres in order to counterbalance the weight. Your abdominals will receive a sustained isometric contraction building muscle tone and endurance.

Start with 10 second repetitions and work your way up. When you can maintain the hold for at least 30 seconds, try easing in some paddling with the feet (moving them up and down alternately).

A strong core will help you in your daily life, whether you’re lifting a child, carrying groceries, painting a wall, or delivering a presentation. Don’t neglect it!

Part Three coming soon!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


Neck and Back Stretches for Writers

December 2, 2014

neck,back,stretchesWhen you sit at your computer for long periods of time, often the only exercise you get involve your fingers clicking away at the keyboard. But prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to issues with joint health, repetitive strain injuries, and other complications associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

So what can writers do to avoid compromising their overall wellness without sacrificing blocks of precious writing time?

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

This is part one of a five part series.

Part One: Neck and Back

It is important to keep your back and neck supple. Some cultures even proclaim this to be the key to youthful longevity!

As a writer, or anyone spending a lot of their day in a fixed position, suppleness can be easily lost. You’re probably familiar with the mainstay methods of dealing with back health at the desk. For example, there are proper ergonomic angles associated with your workstation and its relation to your structure that are good as a general rule, and in itself can save a lot of injury. Your chair should be at a height that allows your hips and knees to be at 90 degrees. Shoulders relaxed and back aligned. Elbows around 90 degrees and keyboard height adjusted so that you can maintain your wrists in a neutral position. Take a ten-minute stretch break every 2 hours.

I believe that’s a really great start. But even sitting properly all day long isn’t going to cut it in the long run. Things get too stagnant. Muscles will spasm and vertebrae will seize. Lets look at some simple things to add to the mix to prevent this from happening.

The Slither:. Imagine you are a snake and your next idea lies across the field ahead of you. All you need to do is slither over and get it!

First check and make sure your back is in good alignment. Need help? Now begin by tilting your head slowly to one side (try to manipulate one vertebrae at a time). When it has reached its limit, fluidly allow the tilt to continue at the shoulders, then further down your back until your hip is about to rise off your seat. Now you can switch directions again starting by tilting your head to the other side.

Once you get the hang of it you can try adding in a small twisting motion and changing the size and speed of your slither. Not only is this an inspiring visualization, you will be flexing and extending the spine and all of its connective tissues laterally, giving your whole back a gentle stretch. Do it a few times on either side or as much as you need to. Remember, even when you speed it up a bit, this is meant to be a softer exercise.

The Flower Stretch: Another great stretch for the back and shoulder girdle is a modification of what I call the Flower Stretch.

Again, make sure your posture is on point. Hands on your thighs, eyes forward, breathe in deeply to the bottom of your belly. Slide your hands down towards the inside of your knees as you exhale, lips relaxed. Tuck your chin and round your shoulders spreading the shoulder blades away from each other. At this point, you should be feeling a good stretch in the upper back and neck.

Over the next few breaths, work your way down to target the lower areas. You can add a slight slither into this as well and cross your arms to use your fingers to crawl down your shins. When you are ready to come up, do so while inhaling slowly. Go past your original position, pulling your shoulders back and looking up.

Don’t miss this opportunity for a big smile!

Owl Stretch: Once again, begin by checking for proper alignment of your back. Next, simply rotate to one side beginning at the head, down to the shoulders followed by the remainder of the spine to the hips. Aim to achieve 180 degrees looking directly behind you. You may use your hands on your leg or the arm of your chair to assist the stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

After completing these three exercises throughout your day, you may find yourself feeling like you’ve been out for a massage!

Speaking of being out, I can’t over state the importance of just getting out for a walk every once in a while. Not only are the physical benefits fully evident, it also works wonders to regain a creative flow when your thoughts are stifled.

Next up we’ll discuss core strength. Now that we know how to keep our backs loose and supple, we need to develop the necessary strength to support its structure!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


How a Simple Cup of Coffee Turned into a Worldwide Event

November 25, 2014

warm it upIt started as a simple idea in 2013.

I was going to buy 10 coffees and give them out to the people in need. It had been a particularly harsh winter, and this was my way of sharing a little warmth with those on the margins.

But what started out as a simple gesture turned out to be a far-reaching event.

Many of my Facebook friends started getting involved, coming up with unique ideas and creative ways they could help in their own communities.

They shared the idea with their friends, who also signed up to participate.

In the end, over 250 people from around the world joined me on December 18th, handing out gifts of warmth to those in need.

Instead of coffee (or coffee cards), many people personally gave out scarves, socks, coats, blankets, and meals to people they never even met.

In some cases, participants brought gifts to people to heal old wounds. Others gave to organized causes, such as clothing trees for women’s shelters. And many, like myself, simply took to the streets.

An estimated 1,300 people were helped that day, all because of that simple idea, which we called “Warm it Up!”

This year, I’d like to ask you to help out again. All you need to do is give.

I don’t mean write a cheque from your armchair or give an online donation from your computer. I mean really get out there to see the people you’re helping.

Believe me, it’ll bring you as much joy to help a stranger as it is for them to receive.

On December 17th, 2014, please buy 10 coffee cards (or another item of your choice) and join us in bringing warmth to everyone around us.

Please click here, participate, and share this event worldwide!

Sincerely,

Richard

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

 


A Pro’s Advice on Book Cover Design

November 21, 2014

book cover designThinking about your book cover design, but not sure where to turn to for advice? Book cover artist Alexander von Ness shares some tips with us.

Many authors, especially ones who go the self-publishing route, will one day need to come face-to-face with book cover design.

For many, it’s a daunting prospect. Sure, we know how to tell stories. But what do we know about cover art? Should we even try to attempt it ourselves?

Personally, I believe that, along with editing, book cover design should be left to a professional. After all, the cover will be the first thing a prospective reader will see. Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

So, where do we start? To give us insight, I turned to book cover design artist Alexander von Ness, who agreed to answer some questions about this important part of your book’s overall development.

1) How many book covers have you designed? Do you primarily work for indie authors?

I’ve designed approximately 2,000 covers, which includes covers designed for indie authors, book coaches, medium-size publishing companies, and design contests.

I personally never make any differences between first time indie authors and authors who have already sold millions of books. Every new cover design is a new challenge where I try to create a little masterpiece every time.

Even though I do this for a living, and put food on the table by doing it, this is still a form of art – and art doesn’t include any boundaries in its nature.

2) When authors approach you to design their cover, what are some of their biggest concerns?

Mostly indie authors, who have never worked with me, are concerned that their message wouldn’t be recognized on the cover at first glance. But I reassure them that I make unlimited changes until the author is 100% satisfied.

Also, first time authors are very concerned that I won’t be able to present the main character (and secondary characters) in the way they are described in the book. This is by far the greatest mistake authors make when thinking about a cover! The main character should never be on the cover, unless it’s only in one segment, or as an undefined character whose appearance could still be imagined by the reader while reading the book.

If we have the main character “served” on the book cover, especially in fiction, a lot of readers will forever be deprived of imagining and daydreaming, and might possibly be disappointed by their actual appearance on the cover!

3) What are the most important elements to consider when designing a book cover?

Definitely typography: the font choice and its placement on the cover. Nothing can be compared to that. If your typography is lame, there is no point in having a great design with the best imagery.

I saw a lot of great designs that were literally ruined by bad typography. I would even dare to say that a good designer can be exclusively recognized by a good typography choice. For example, I sometimes send my clients the same design with different typography to prove to them how important this is in the overall design. The typography change was so powerful that the cover was sending a completely different message than it was supposed to.

One of the most important features today, compared to a couple of years back, is the visibility, readability and recognition in a thumbnail size. Today the majority of books are being sold online. So today you’ll see a lot designs with the title over the whole cover, which was unthinkable, even unacceptable a while ago.

Because of this, I’ve seen a new trend in redesigning existing covers. Many authors have done their cover very quickly, unprepared and unprofessional or with a very low budget, so some great, high quality books weren’t selling at all. In the end, they would realize that it is more profitable to make a cover redesign then to write a new book!

For example, at the beginning of this year, I redesigned one fiction novel. Before I made the redesign, the book was selling about seven copies per week. After my redesign, and some extra marketing efforts on the part of the author, the same book was selling almost 2,000 per month! A redesign of the book cover can be a great opportunity to revive sales. Trust me, the results can be surprising!

4) Is it necessary for you to read the book before designing the cover?

No. If that were necessary, I would only be able to create a few covers per year!

After an author contacts me, I send them a few questions to see what they really want, what they like and what they expect from their cover design. Of course, regardless of the different wishes I get from the authors, I design the book cover so it connects to the book and its content and with the message that the author wants to convey to his audience. My goal is, above all, to draw the reader in with the cover design and to give the book a professional appearance that will improve sales.

It’s also important to know the author’s target audience. After I have determined that, I start developing a design concept. Without a strictly defined target audience there is no point in doing a cover design. The majority of authors say that their target audience is males and females from 7 – 77! The author has to realize that his book wasn’t written for every person that enters the bookstore. Once this is determined, I can create an eye-catching book cover.

5) What about interior design? How important is that to the overall reading experience?

Every single part of the book is equally important for success. The interior layout should be readable for everyone. It may not be as important as the title, editing, proofreading, cover design and back copy, because a flawless interior layout design is useless when the book wasn’t edited properly and is filled with grammatical errors.

6) Do you have an opinion about online design tools that allow authors to create book covers on their own?

I think that this is very good and useful, but only to a point. As technology moves on, we have the opportunity to witness the appearance of new tools every day, which are helping us in our everyday work, so it’s no wonder that book cover design also got its turn.

Some book cover designers are frowning because they are afraid that it might take their job away. However, I don’t see any problem here. Just the opposite! I see that the book cover culture is developing in a positive direction and that the awareness of the importance of book cover design is larger every day. We as a community can only gain through that. The ones with a lower budget will be able to have their own book cover, which is something that makes me very happy.

One of the most useful and serious tools would be www.canva.com, which started very well and one that I hope will develop in a good direction. Every tool or application which helps the authors to create their book with less effort can only be beneficial for us who are engaged in the book business. Here I don’t only mean book cover design, but also editing, proofreading, etc. However, I would never recommend people to do these things on their own if they have serious intentions with their book.

Alexander von Ness is a book cover designer with almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design, and over a decade as Art Director in a branding agency. In the past few years his main area of focus is book cover design. His website Nessgraphica is among the top trusted sites for book cover design services overall.

Questions? Send them to info@editorsdesk.net.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


Richard S. Todd Featured on an Author Panel this Thursday!

October 27, 2014

horror writing,author panel,editor's desk,richard toddIn Toronto this Thursday night? 

Interested in horror writing?

Then come on out to “Shining a Light on the Dark Side: Horror Writing in Canada“, hosted by the Merril Collection and the Ontario chapter of the Horror Writers Association.

The Editor’s Desk‘s President Richard S. Todd will be on the panel with horror authors Sephera GironMark Leslie Lefebvre, and Nancy Kilpatrick for a discussion about writing and publishing the Canadian horror story! Author Brad Middleton will be moderating.

We’ll be at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy, 239 College St, 3rd Floor, in Toronto. Start time is 7:30 PM.  Come early as seating is limited.

All are welcome and the event is free!

Hope to see you there!

Richard Todd, Richard S. ToddIf you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Richard Todd is a novelist, speaker, and President at The Editor’s Desk. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com, and connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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