As practicioners of our craft as programmers, it’s important to consider the physical constraints we must work within. Although the code and ideas we write are expressed digitally on screen and stored as bits, the interfaces we use to input and access the code still require a physical body to interact with them.

These physical points of contact are typically:

  • The Eyes
  • The Hands

Although eye strain is a real thing, I’ll touch here on optimizations for your sitting and how I work on maintaining dexterity in the wrists, forearms, and shoulders so that I can optimize the usage of my hands for typing.

Elbows in

I prefer to have chairs without arm rests, as they can promote the flaring out of elbows, which can contribute to inefficient structure of the arms when typing. Additionally, I keep my elbows in to reduce usage of my shoulders and promote usage of my core instead.

Learning to keep my elbows in was one of the first lessons I learned from studying Wingchun. Much like you want to be efficient in your code and memory usage, you don’t want to waste energy on extraneous movements of your body, especially for activities you plan on doing for many hours of your waking life.

Daily Stretching

Every morning, before I start my day, I stretch. Part of my stretching routine involves stretching my wrists, forearms, and shoulders. I spend about 10 seconds on each stretch and ensure I’m breathing throughout each one. This helps to keep my body loose and dexterous.

Stretching also helps me to become aware when there’s tightness building up on a day-to-day basis. Stretching is like analytics for your app: if you notice a sharp spike one day, you know something is amiss, but if you weren’t tracking it before, then you don’t know what the baseline was before then.

Use your Core

If you’re holding your torso up with your arms or if you’re slouching in your seat, you’re using less efficient parts of your body and putting extra strain on them: the lower back, shoulders, elbows, forearms. Over time, these parts will start wearing out.

Instead, I suggest using the core of your body to hold yourself up. In my experience, this translates to better posture and alignment of the spine, and it also promotes growth of your sexy programmer six pack.

If you’re sitting at your desk for multiple hours a day, it makes sense to me to avoid wearing out parts of your body unnecessarily and instead be smart about how we use it so we can continue to be effective programmers for the long term. Use your core.

These are Optimizations

For systems we use regularly, it makes sense for us to optimize and speed them up. If compiles are slow, it’s worth it to speed it up by a couple seconds if you can, as these can quickly accumulate into quite a bit of wasted developer time with every compile we do throughout the day.

Your body is a system too, and it’s one we use daily and has its own sets of constraints within the physical world. With the right mindset and practices, it’s possible to scale its use over time.


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