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    Viper's Ergonomics Guide

    • Started by Viper
    • 2 Replies:
    • Reputation: 22
    • Registered: 06-Jul-2018
    • Posts: 18

    Viper's Ergonomics Guide

    ◉  I've been practising finger and wrist demanding physical activities intensively for almost a decade now. I hurt my hands badly a few times due to spontaneous practice and managed to recover. I would like to share my experiences and thoughts after having learnt the importance of ergonomics the harsh way. This is a more mature sequel to my speedtyping guide.

    ◉  I find it unfortunate that advocates of better ergonomics are often refuted with mere "you don't type as fast as [person], why should you know better?" I'm guilty of this myself; I didn't take the advice too seriously, and later one morning, there I was, standing with hands locked in a death grip for at least half an hour and feeling extreme pain and wishing I had listened; I pushed myself too much, got faster way too fast, didn't take breaks, didn't use an optimal technique. Most people will be limited mentally when trying to increase typing speed and will hopefully be less likely to encounter this problem; however, I wasn't, and you don't have to be either. I learnt mentally faster than my body was physically catching up, and thus the painful mess occurred. Heed my advice.

    ◉  I split this guide into four sections, each with a different value of relative importance. The ratings are arguably subjective, but I gave them a lot of thought. This guide is meant to be short yet comprehensive; no need to be excessively wordy, like now.

    1) {35%}  Microbreaks & Macrobreaks
    2) {30%}  Recovery & Health
    3) {20%}  Keyboard; switches, profile, tilt, shape, physical layout
    4) {15%}  Software layout; Colemak and ergonomic mods

    1) {35%} Microbreaks & Macrobreaks

    ◉  Nothing will improve ergonomics as much as reducing the density and volume of physical work and maintaining a steady blood flow. Incorporating micro and macro breaks with dynamic stretches into your lifestyle will drastically improve blood circulation, focus, and keep your joints lubed

    ◉  The purpose of microbreaks is to reduce mental stress and density of physical tasks via miniature breaks. Those should consist of short activities such as getting up and looking outside for a few seconds, making a tea, or gently shaking your wrist. There are no strict values as microbreaks are dynamic. You will need to experiment.

    ◉  The purpose of macrobreaks is to improve blood flow hourly via light physical exercises like squats, running on the spot, dynamic stretches, and massages. Hourly macrobreaks might be slightly demanding at first, but you'll get used to them fairly quickly. The extra focus and sped up recovery due to the better blood flow are worth the minor initial inconvenience.   

      I suggest adjusting the frequency and length of microbreaks to the intensity of the task:
    High => short but frequent breaks
    Low => longer but infrequent breaks

      Get up every single hour for five minutes, do a couple of squats and leg swings, jog on the spot for two minutes, shake your wrists for a minute, massage your forearms and hands for another minute, and your body will be happy until the next hour. You might even lose excess weight and gain stamina!

    2) {30%}  Recovery & Health

    ◉  Diet, rest, and stress management are usually the last things you'd consider as important, at least for typing. Regardless, your body still needs to heal itself after unnatural strain, and for that, it requires an adequate intake of nutrients and proper rest.

    ◉  Sleep quality is often worsened by unnatural blue light disrupting the circadian rhythm; our eyes sense the more powerful blue light as a signal that it's day, and thus the brain doesn't begin secreting melatonin, an important chemical for a better quality of sleep.     

    ◉  Chronic stress will weaken your ability to recover from strenuous activities and compromise your immune system. Meditation and the meditative effects induced by green tea help significantly with combating excess stress.   

      Eat more whole plants and fewer animal products and check your diet's stats on Cronometer, make sure you hit at least 100% RDA of each vitamin and mineral, don't forget about proteins, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants either. Also, start drinking green tea daily as it's the only drink, as far as I'm aware, that puts your mind in an alert, meditative state while also speeding up recovery. Some articles might have made meditation appear daunting, but it's not meant to be. Read DreymaR's thoughts on meditation to see for yourself.

      Download a free program called f.lux, give it a rough estimate of your location, set your earliest wake time, and let it do its work; it'll automatically adjust your monitor's colour temperature to be lower before sleep and higher during the day. You can individually adjust the colour temperatures, but I suggest leaving it at 6500K/4000K/1900K. You might want to also turn on grayscale a couple of hours before going to sleep to make the computer monitor boring and less exciting for your brain. Should you want more customisability with automated screen brightness adjustment, check out the more premium Iris; unfortunately, it's not free, but I still recommend it.

      Introduce rest days into your schedule. If you're very healthy, have no issues with your hands, and you're following plenty of ergonomic advice, you might get away with practising daily. Nonetheless, I suggest at minimum having a one-day break after each strenuous practice session. If the practice session isn't strenuous, it's not necessary to take a rest day.

    3) {20%}  Keyboard; switches, profile, tilt, shape, physical layout

    ◉  My experience in this area is lacking, and so I'm going mostly by intuition and from what I heard. I will update this section if I get to experience other keyboards!

      Switches: whether tactile, clicky, or linear, that's a preference. Nonetheless, I suggest lightweight mechanical switches and to learn not bottoming them out even if it takes some time adjusting to. Compared to a cheap rubberdome keyboard, the reduction in physical effort is enormous.

      Tilt and profile: the most important factor; the keyboard should be flat or have a minor negative tilt as an upward tilt will put unnecessary pressure on your wrists and strain your tendons significantly more! The keycap profile itself should be flat. There does exist an "ergonomic" keycap profile in dactyl keyboards, but I can't imagine them being ideal for speedtyping and I'm not too fond of the splaying. I'd be glad to be proven wrong.

      Shape: I've only ever used ANSI keyboards, so I can't say much. Split columnar-stagger keyboards would seem to be the best with split ortholinears a close second. The split itself is more important however; it lets you separate your hands and have a comfortable equal angle on both wrists, which is difficult or impossible to accomplish otherwise. Another significant benefit to those keyboards are the thumb keys; the thumbs are generally underused in typing, which is a shame. They can take care of capitalising words and entering different keyboard layers much faster and more comfortably than pinkies!

    4) {15%}  Software layout; Colemak and ergonomic mods

    ◉  This is the most complex way of reducing strain from typing. While I rank its importance as relatively lowest, it still makes a significant difference in comfort, and I dare say, a huge difference in speed.

    ◉  The learning pace after switching is relative to your previous speed; the later you switch, the faster you learn, but the higher your WPM is, the worse the ratio becomes. However, it never becomes bad enough to justify not switching; you'll get to a relatively comfortable speed within a month of casual usage. The other factors are the number of changes from your previous layout and the better design of the new layout. There's no reason not to switch to a better layout; DreymaR made alternative layouts more accessible with EPKL, the transition from QWERTY doesn't take too long, and the benefits are amazing.

      Obviously, I recommend switching to Colemak-DH; I crown it as the most efficient layout with plenty of community support; it's not obscure, it doesn't differ too much from QWERTY, and the logic behind it is sound. I suggest checking SteveP's github for more in-depth information. If you're interested, I made a thorough machine analysis of various software layouts

      Should you want to delve deeper into various ergonomic mods, check out DreymaR'sBig Bag! You might also like to check this simple but comprehensive site with the important ergonomic mods. You'll find many useful software solutions to hardware issues; angle mod variations for ANSI, wide mod for non-split keyboards, or even the ultimate endgame of software layouts itself, Colemak-CAWS[eD], which is a godsend for people on row-staggered keyboards; I use a variant of it myself! I also made my little mod to remove pinkie strain entirely by switching AltGr with Shift. Might be worth your time to experiment with it as well.

    Thanks to Nagromancer, G-fruit, Semi, and DreymaR from the Colemak discord for giving me feedback! Thank you for taking the time to read this as well; I hope my guide was of value to you. Any additional feedback is always appreciated :)


    1.4 - Added a link to my software layout analysis
    1.3 - Better wording
    1.2 - Improved readability
    1.1 - Text suggestions by DreymaR and a link to his article about mindfulness
    1.0 - Initial release

    Microbreaks reducing stress - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11394463/
    Macrobreaks improving focus - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20720339/
    Whole-foods plant-based diet being beneficial - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/
    Green tea's meditative effects - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a … via%3Dihub
    Blue-light filtering software benefits - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6717920/
    Keyboards - Minor personal experience [Not enough scientific studies]
    Software layouts - Vast personal experience and observation [Not enough scientific studies]

    Respond to feedback
    Write more about the physical aspects of the keyboard after having more experience.

    Last edited by Viper (17-Jan-2021 22:07:01)
    • 4
    • Reputation: 3
    • Registered: 04-Aug-2019
    • Posts: 12

    Viper this is great! I’m sure this will help me and many others. Thanks for sharing.

    • 2
    • Reputation: 211
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,345

    Nice, Viper! I mentioned this in the BigBag Training Topic, hope my presentation there is acceptable.  _/|\_

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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