Driving home with the treadmill in the back of the SUV, I began to worry that I’d been overly optimistic about my ability to walk, write (and ideally think) at the same time. What if I couldn’t adjust to the thing? What if we’d gone to all this time and trouble and money and the treadmill ended up being a giant dust collector in the corner of my office?
My worries were unfounded. I adjusted very quickly. It took me a couple of days to get over my nervousness that I’d fall, and to feel comfortable walking and typing (and thinking) at the same time. Before long, however, I found the 1 mph speed too slow; I routinely walk now at 1.5 to 2 mph. I also incline the tread a couple of notches as this gives me a more natural feeling step.
My goal is to use the treadmill four or maybe even five hours a day. Currently I’m up to three hours a day, alternating each hour with my sit down desk. After several months of this, I can honestly say I’m more productive on the treadmill than when I sit down. I’m less inclined to surf or check email. I’m more focused on what I’m writing. There’s something about moving the body that makes my mind move too (It seems to me there have been studies backing that up).
I like the treadmill best when I’m doing fresh writing or when I don’t have to look through books or papers for information. If I’m writing an article with lots of sources or if I’m on the phone or searching through books, it’s easier to sit with material spread out beside me. But when I’m writing manuscripts or blogs (like this one), walking seems to help the process. I even did a substantial revision for The Art of Getting Stared At while walking and that worked well.
I couldn’t have set this up on my own. Mr. Petrol Head did the hard stuff and made it work. Here are some tips:
Make sure the floor is level before you get the treadmill. If it’s not, level it out.
To make the adjustment easy on my eyes, we set the treadmill monitor the same distance away as it is at my sit-down desk. This is less of an issue if you’re only using a treadmill desk but because I move from one station to another and I wear glasses when I work, this was important. We could have wall mounted the monitor but we had brackets and shelving on hand so we used them.
We used the same method (examining my position at my sit down desk) to determine the correct keyboard height. Because I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders, I was worried that typing standing up would be unnatural and cause me shoulder pain. I also wanted the option of having my mouse even lower. Mr. Petrol Head built two shelves just below the treadmill arms and attached them to the treadmill frame. He temporarily clamped them in place so I could try out the height for a few weeks. When I was sure the height was right, he drilled through the frame of the treadmill (being careful not to cut through any wires) and bolted the shelves into place. Now that I’m used to things I keep my mouse on the same shelf as my keyboard and use the lower shelf for books and papers.
I run two monitors from one desk top computer. I plug and unplug each one as needed. I use the same keyboard and mouse, and simply move both when I move.
Lighting and functionality. I have a combination of recessed pot lights and spot lights in my office and none were well-positioned to light the treadmill keyboard. I got around this with a gooseneck desk lamp that I clamped to a nearby shelf. Those nearby shelves have also aided significantly in functionality. I can leave my water bottle within easy reach, or the phone if I’m expecting a call. In a pinch I can put papers on them too.
One last suggestion – wear decent shoes. I had sore feet after the second week so I invested in a good pair of walking runners that live in my office and are dedicated for the treadmill. I also remember to stay hydrated (which might be another reason my focus has improved).