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Treadmill Desk Part 2

Treadmill Desk Part 2

This morning as I was driving back into town, Dr. James Levine was on The Splendid Table (or on the podcast I was listening to). Levine is the guy at the Mayo Clinic who invented the treadmill desk, and who has fifteen years of data on the salutary effects of getting up out of your chair. Walking while working is best, but even standing instead of sitting has positive effects.

Here’s a link to a video of him talking about the issue: James Levine on Treadmill Desk

I’ve made a few modifications over the past couple of weeks. I was having trouble with the desktop height. I’d shoved a couple of old pieces of packing foam underneath, but they were squashing, so I asked my Sweetheart, the Carpenter, to take a look. He suggested a two-by-four. So I cut a piece as wide as the desktop, and wedged it underneath. Perfect! The desk is now level, and at the right ergonomic height so that my wrists aren’t bent at that angle that leads to weird symptoms like numbness and tingling etc … I also invested in a wireless keyboard and a mouse for my laptop. It now sits on the shelving unit that holds the monitor, and I increased my real estate on the desktop. There’s really plenty of room for what I need, especially as most of what I do for my day job involves clicking my way through the many steps and screens of our documentation publishing system.

While I’ve yet to lose huge amounts of weight, I have lost a few pounds. But more important to me — I just feel a lot better. Used to be that by four or five in the afternoon I was drooping and felt gross, now I get to the end of my day and still have enough energy to do stuff in the garden, or work on my new book, or whatever. I can also feel my muscles starting to recover from 15 years of sitting in chairs — what the pilates people call your “core” — in general, I walk about half the day. Sometimes, like right this very minute, at one mph which works when I’m typing, sometimes when I’m doing a lot of clicky work, I’ll crank it up to 2 or 2.5 mph, which feels like a more natural walking pace for me. Although I haven’t quite gotten the hang of typing at that pace yet. If I have a phone meeting I usually pause, because it’s a little too noisy for my speakerphone, and I often find myself standing on the side rails if there’s something I have to really concentrate hard on. But even as a standing desk, I think it’s an improvement over sitting in a chair all day.

So, there it is, my inexpensive treadmill desk. A used treadmill, an old folding table (upon which I wrote my whole first book — I like small desktops), a set of steel shelves, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a hunk of old 2×4. Good to go. Inexpensive, effective, and for the summer especially, saving on cooling costs since I’m in my basment (which isn’t as dark as it looks in the photos).

Treadmill Desk

Treadmill Desk

I’ve had a bee in my bonnet the last couple of weeks about building one of these. Let’s just say that between all the freelance/contract work these past few months, and the fact that both of my dogs are increasingly gimpy, well, I haven’t been getting the amount of exercise I’d like to be getting. I’ve been spending way too much time sitting on my butt.

So, I found a used treadmill at my local sports equipment resale store for under 200 bucks, and it was even small enough once the pedestal and arms were detached that we could get it in the Subaru. The Sweetheart put it back together for me. And after a weekend of somewhat manic de-cluttering and cleaning, I cleared out a space for it in the basement. This is not a particularly slick setup. There’s a set of metal shelves behind the treadmill where I put the big monitor. A lot of what I’m doing at my new contract gig is fairly routine — checking PDFs, publishing documents through our online publishing system (which can be slow) and my hope is that I’ll both geet some exercise and be able to concentrate a little more if I’m also walking while I’m doing this routine stuff.

At the moment, my setup needs a little tweaking. I’m using an old folding table for the desktop, and have some leftover packing foam underneath to stabilize/make a better angle. I’ll need to secure the whole thing (which I’ll probably have to ask for some help from that guy with all the tools). But so far, so good. I’m walking while I write this. Ive been able to check email and I can see the screen with enough clarity to do what I need to do.

And I’m not sitting down! I’m standing up. I’m walking 2 miles an hour. It would be nice to get back in shape, and perhaps even drop a few pounds. But for the moment, I’m mostly just happy not to be sitting still. Feels good.