Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Love My Treadmill Desk

I made a treadmill desk for my office and I love it! Those of you I interact with in real life are already aware of this, probably because I have been grabbing most of the people I interact with by their lapels, bringing their faces up close to mine, and making them stare deep into my eyes while I enunciate "I. LOVE. MY. TREADMILL. DESK."

Up until recently, I spent most of my work day slumped my a chair, starting at my computer. I like my job, but I didn't like spending hours in the same position, sitting on my butt. I swear I could feel my butt flattening the longer I sat in that chair. I would often find myself standing up so I could pound on my butt with my fists, trying to get some feeling back into the flesh. I think if I had spent another month or two just sitting, my butt would have flattened to the point where it was shaped like two pancakes. (Please, no syrup references.)

A year or so ago I read an article about a fancy treadmill desk that you could buy and I loved the idea -- but the desk cost $5,000 or so. (In other words, the equivalent of nearly a year of my Nutella purchases.) But then a friend mentioned that he had cobbled a treadmill desk together at a much lower cost, and I was inspired to follow his example.

Here is my beautiful baby:

My treadmill desk!
I stand and walk on the treadmill very slowly (VERY SLOWLY) while while working at my computer. If you're wondering what's under the hippie throw cloth, I stacked up some of the boxes that printer paper comes in, so that I could raise my monitor to the appropriate height. I also stuck a 2005-06 volume of Wisconsin statutes under the monitor to raise it just a little bit further. As you can see, I spared no expense in making the desk ergonomically correct.

I have set the treadmill at its lowest speed, which is 0.6 miles per hour. I work 75% time, and most days I'm at work for 6.5 hours. So I usually walk a maximum of about 3 miles, given that I spend part of the day sitting in meetings and at lunch. Sometimes I throw three sheets to the wind and bump the speed up to 0.7 mph, just to feel the adrenalin rush and the wind in my hair.

[In the summer, I like to do track workouts with some of my co-workers, and the joke is that since I am spending all this time moving at 0.6 mph, I'll be perfectly conditioned to do 25-minute 400 m repeats. JUST A LITTLE RUNNING HUMOR FOR YOU.]

Now that I am walking on a treadmill, I have to change my work habits a little bit. For example, I am less likely to eat in front of the computer while I am working, because I just don't have the coordination necessary to eat, walk, and work at the same time. The one time I did try to eat on the treadmill, I dropped a peanut onto the belt of the treadmill, and it traveled the whole length of the treadmill and then fell off the back. I know there is a five-second rule for food dropped on the floor, but is there a five-feet rule too?

I wish I had an easy way to keep track of how far I walk over a week, over a month, or over a year. But my el cheapo treadmill automatically shuts off every half hour, making it tough to track total mileage. From the treadmill manual, it's clear the manufacturers consider the half-hour a limit a feature, not a bug.

I have wracked my brain to think of why, WHY would a treadmill manufacturer design a treadmill to shut off every half hour, and I can't think of any good reason. Perhaps the engineers put their heads together and thought that there was no possible way on God's green earth that any sane person would want to exercise for longer than 30 minutes. And if someone DID have their heart set on exercising more than half an hour, then by golly it was the responsibility of the treadmill company to put a stop to such a crazy plan. At any rate, since the machine re-sets itself every half hour, there is no easy way to track mileage over  the course of a day without making a very detailed spreadsheet. And since the rest of my work day is largely spent looking at very detailed spreadsheets, I'm okay with not knowing how far I walk in a day.

If you are thinking of making a treadmill desk of your own, you should visit this fantastic site: Treadmill Desk Diary. The author has very useful and detailed instructions on how he made his treadmill desk, with great photos too. I was even able to follow his instructions for how to destroy the tiny speaker on my treadmill's control panel, to avoid annoying my co-workers when the treadmill beeped as it started up.

I would love it if you made a treadmill desk, because then we could get together and geek out about how far we had walked that day. (Me: "2.9 miles." You: "3.4 miles!" Me: "Whoa.") And hopefully you would love your treadmill desk as much as I love mine, and then we could recruit two other people and do this:


  1. Very nice! By the way, you could use a pedometer app on ur smartphone to keep track of your milage. If you only turn it on while working-walking you probably get a good idea of what u walk-work a day

  2. What about wearing a pedometer while walking? I asked CJ, an electrical engineer about why it might shut clue, but he wished he could re-wire/hack/override the board. He loves doing that kind of thing, such a challenge. Good luck, and have fun.