Treadmill Desk: Walk This Way!
A web developer by day, a geek by night; I spend a great deal of time at a computer, sitting on my lazy derrière. It's time to do something about that!
Treadmill desk? Why?
Over the last 3 years I've accumulated some junk in the trunk. Partially from eating like a slob, but mostly from being so inactive. The eating part is easier for me to curb. I've been exercising (mostly strength training) lately and that has helped a lot, but there is still that large chunk of the day where I'm totally inactive.
I recently bought a fitbit, hoping it'd give me a bit of inspiration, exposing me for the lazy person I am. No such luck, although I do like seeing the data. I noticed how much more active I am on the weekends; the data shows a good 10,000 step difference between a week day and weekend day. So we know the problem, now we need a solution.
Walk and Code
A few weeks back I stumbled on this article called Walk and Code where Doug talked about his experiences in building and using a treadmill desk. I was totally inspired. I had a treadmill already and really wanted to give this a shot. I was planning on writing up a big step-by-step but then I realized every person attempting to make a treadmill desk would have a different setup. You may have a different treadmill, different requirements for height. You might be working with less resources (e.g. – a few cinder blocks and a piece of plywood) or have different space requirements. I can give a few pointers though.
Tips for making your own treadmill desk
Avoid mounting the desk directly to your treadmill. The Walk and Code example does this, but I didn't feel comfortable with the idea. First of all, what happens if you ever want to run on the treadmill again? You're out of luck. Your computer would be bouncing all over the place. I can't afford to take the risk of my machine being damaged. If you know you don't want to ever use your treadmill for actual cardio exercise then you might be good, but I'd still avoid it.
Get the right height. Stand on your treadmill and hold your hands out, bend your arms at the elbows with your shoulders relaxed. Basically simulate typing (see the illustration here, except you'd be standing). Now have someone measure the height of your hands. However you build or modify your desk, you want to make sure it is at the correct height.
- This is a hack job setup, so be comfortable making changes on the fly. I had to use PVC pipes to raise my existing desk. The diameter of pipe I bought was too small and Sarah kindly went back to the store and bought a different size while I sat home and pouted. So go into it knowing it's going to be a learn-as-you-go type deal.
I used my existing desk and raised it by cutting PVC pipes to extend the legs. Ideally, I would make a desk that could be rolled out of the way, but I just tried to work with what I had available. The only other part to this build was breaking down the treadmill. I removed the top portion, legs and all, and re-mounted the control panel low enough so it'd fit under the desk. Pretty straight forward.
Let the data speak for itself. Check the before and after, the before is a screen cap of the fitbit data on Monday, the after is today which is the first full day on the treadmill desk. Click the thumbnails to view the entire image.
How I feel
My legs freaking hurt, big time. My knees, the bottoms of my feet, both throbbing. But it doesn't feel much different from my serving days, or any different than the nights when we get home from shooting a big wedding. I think my feet hurting is something my body will get used too pretty quickly. I give it a week. As you can see by the data above I went from 2400 steps per day to 28,000 steps per day. My body will figure all that out.
One thing I can say is I sometimes hang around at the computer too long, even after I'm done working I find myself having a hard time letting go. Not today. When the time for me to get off the computer came, I was done. I went straight to the couch and put my feet up. I'm dead tired right now, too. So this will solve the problem with me not being tired at the end of the night. I'm exhausted.
I also felt really hungry today. Like, animal hungry. I also noticed today I was not freezing cold at my desk. Obviously that is because I am moving, but it's a nice feeling to not feel like your toes are going to fall off. No more heating pad on the floor to warm my feet.
I started off barefoot, that hurt. I moved to the Vibrams in the late morning, that hurt. Went to a pair of Nike running shoes and I think at one time I had on my loafer Crocs. So I think changing up the shoes helped my feet from hurting a bit. Again I think this will all even out.
You notice you are walking at first, but after 15 minutes you totally forget about that. At 1 mph you can type, talk, and do pretty much everything else you could do while sitting. Only difference is your left cheek isn't falling asleep now. ;-)
Treadmill Desk Pics
Forgive the mess, I'm sort of a slob. Click the thumbnails to see the full size pics.
The setup and very idea of a treadmill desk may seem ridiculous, but my hope is that you can see the value in building and using a treadmill desk. Be sure to check out Walk and Code article and the other resources linked below.