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  • Writer's pictureJoel

Make Your Break Minutes Count

Breaks are an integral part of every interpreters workday. Not only do we look forward to each and every one of those precious minutes where we get to rest our eyes, put our hands down, and release that stubborn neck tension; we also need to balance that time with other necessary tasks such as that much needed potty break, refilling your beverage of choice, checking in on loved ones, and in these COVID work from home days, yelling out the door that everyone and everything is entirely tooooo loud. Add to this, that nagging awareness that you should do something with this time in the way of physical movement and exercise to counter the negative affects that prolonged interpreting behind a desk, in a classroom, or while standing or sitting for a prolonged period of time has on our body. At the end of it all we're likely to find ourselves in a complete scramble to use those 10 minutes of break bliss in a way that really makes us feel rested and ready for the next part of our shift. Alas, the beloved break is over and you can't really figure out where the time went and so we resume the terp life and wait longingly until the next hour when yet another break will role our way. Sound familiar?


In my practice of physical therapy I have worked with countless individuals treating repetitive strain injuries, overuse syndrome, tendonitis, neck and shoulder pain, back pain, and the list goes on and on, who never recall experiencing a single isolated injury although they find themselves in daily pain. Meaning that they can not recount ever hurting themself on one particular day. The effects of daily overuse simply accumulated over years and years of normal work until pain at some unspecified time became an ever present companion. ASL interpreters are at particular high risk for these repetitive strain injuries due to the combination of both the physicality and mentally engaging nature of our work. Often times we find ourselves so mentally engaged with our interpreting process that we fall into abnormal postural positions that shorten specific muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues causing painful tension syndromes that linger and linger.


And that's where the magic of movement minutes come in. The concept of regular planned intervals of movement that are strategically placed in your day and take up just a few minutes of your hourly break-time. For VRI and VRS interpreters that tend to get an hourly break of 9-10 minutes there is an already built in framework to make sure that you have the opportunity to get the consistent therapeutic mobility that your body craves and needs to stave off injury. If you're working free lance or in education you might have to be a bit more diligently creative when it comes to making it a priority to put movement minutes into your hourly routine. The key is hourly consistency to make sure that there is enough counter movement to balance the postures that are inherent to the profession. And when I say inherent I mean there is no amount of posture awareness that can fully prevent the impact of interpreting on the human body. Sure, it helps to understand good posture and put it into your practice. It's a critical component of lessening the impact. However even the most posture minded interpreter will and I repeat WILL experience pain and strain related to interpreting without movement minutes strategically placed to balance out negative movement patterns associated with interpreting.


For your average person who works behind a desk a few stretches and a short walk might be enough to keep you at your best. However, for us as ASL terps the need for specific movements that emphasize rotation, spinal mobility, neural mobilization, fluid in motion stretching, and core strengthening are fundamental components of a healthy movement routine. The question is how do you cover all of those basis in just a few minutes so that you can use the rest of your break time to handle other necessary business?

The key is plugging into a curated program that works for you. A program that's simple and easy to follow yet detailed enough to hit the key components of an interpreters body that need to be addressed. Using one of my five minute move sessions located here on the site under video tutorials is a perfect place to start. The point is finding something that clicks, is easy, and most importantly, you like doing because it makes you feel physically and mentally dialed in to your best self.

Once you find a routine that will work into your daily work schedule the next step is committing to using a portion of every working hour following your personalized movement prescription. Get those move minutes in each and every hour throughout your day. Ideally 2-3 mins per half hour but if that's not feasible, 5 mins per hour should do the trick. The benefits will add up fast. In addition to decreasing symptoms of pain that come along with RSI's (repetitive strain injuries) studies show that taking frequent mini sessions of exercise throughout the day lessen the impact of over-sitting by lowering blood sugar and decreasing cholesterol.

So make your breaks count starting today. Start with one of the movement minutes video tutorials through VTW and remember that as always it's you that has to "fix yourself" because at the end of the day, nobody else is going to do it!

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