One night in 2011 as my husband and I were getting ready to go out to dinner I realized that I couldn’t button my pants. It was a bit of a surprise. I had been working from home for about three years by then and spent a lot of my days in workout clothes or pajamas (both with stretchy waistbands). I never weighed myself so the weight gain kind of snuck up on me. I rummaged through my closet to find something that I could squeeze into for the evening, and the following week I scheduled an appointment with a doctor to figure out what was wrong with me.
To my surprise, the doctor said nothing was wrong with me. She didn’t prescribe any kind of magic pill to solve the problem. Instead, she told me I was probably just eating more than I should (i.e. sneaking bites of mac and cheese as I was feeding the kids) and that I shouldn’t worry about it. “Your kids are young. Enjoy your time with them now. You can always lose weight when they’re older.”
I was a little baffled by the doctor’s advice. I didn’t want to wait until my kids were older to be able to fit into my clothes. And I refused to buy a bigger size of pants. I was determined to lose weight now, but I was also incredibly busy with a full-time job, a husband with a crazy work schedule, and three little kids to take care of. There was no way I was going to be able to get to the gym every day, so I needed to be able to work fitness into my existing routine.
After some research, I found the solution I was looking for:
…a treadmill desk!
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Although there weren’t any companies making actual treadmill desks at the time (that I was aware of), there was a little bit of information on the internet from people who were making their own treadmill desk solutions. People were creating their own setups out of regular treadmills and things like adjustable shelving, stacked boxes, and wall-mounted screens.
Having a super handy husband, I knew he would be able to build something for me, so I dragged him to a sporting goods store and we purchased a LifeSpan treadmill. He built me a wooden desktop to go over the arms of the treadmill and we propped up a large monitor on top of a bookshelf in front of the treadmill at first.
Over time I figured out this set up wasn’t ideal because the screen was too far away, causing me to lean forward too much. I played with the setup for a while and there were several evolutions. We also moved a couple of times which forced me to redesign my workspace each time.
Since I worked from home and most of my communications with people were via email or phone, no one really knew I worked on a treadmill desk unless I told them. But over the last couple of years, the companies I’ve worked with have used video rather than phone which has resulted in more and more people seeing me walking and asking lots of questions about it.
Here are 6 of the most common questions people ask me about working from a treadmill desk:
- How fast do you walk? The treadmill automatically starts at 1mph when you hit the ‘Start’ button so I often just default to that. I can go up to 1.5mph if I consciously increase my speed. When I’m in meetings, though, I find it better to go at a slower speed so I don’t run out of breath when I’m talking.
- How many miles do you walk in a day? Last week I walked about 9 miles per day (which includes my time off the treadmill so probably about 8 miles/day on the treadmill). When I remember to increase my speed and I can keep it high most of the day, I can get in about 12 miles/day.
- Do you use it 100% of the time or sit sometimes as well? I use it about 75% of the time. I have three monitors at my treadmill desk. When I sit I only have my laptop screen, so I find that I’m most productive when I work from the treadmill desk. Also, my concentration is really good when I’m walking. Occasionally, though, I feel the need to sit in order to work on certain things or when my legs are just tired at the end of the day.
- How long did it take to get used to it? Before I got my first treadmill, I worked standing up for a couple of weeks. I really noticed it in my legs and back and was achy at first, but I wanted my body to get used to standing before walking. When I started walking, it didn’t take long at all for me to get used to it. Yes, my legs get achy sometimes but all it takes is sitting for a bit and resting and then I’m fine.
- Was it difficult to adjust to typing and walking at the same time? I really don’t think so. The key is to walk slowly, have your keyboard in mouse set up in a place that feels natural and find the right distance for your monitor(s) so your posture is good.
- Which brand do you recommend? I loved my LifeSpan treadmill! Now that they make actual treadmill desks, though, I definitely recommend going that route rather than creating a makeshift desk on your own. Treadmills typically last 7-12 years and my LifeSpan treadmill died at the 7.5-year mark (which is not surprising based on how much it got used!).
Here’s my current set up with my new treadmill desk:
Oh, and by the way, taking control of the situation and not taking my doctor’s advice (in this case) was the best thing I ever did. I ended up losing 15 pounds. I still have young kids in the house and a super busy schedule but with my treadmill desk I’m able to maintain my weight, I have better posture and I’m very productive when I’m working.
Thanks, Hailley Griffis, for encouraging me to write this post and sending me your list of questions to get me started! 😁
Have other questions about working on a treadmill desk that I haven’t answered here?
Add your question in the comments section below.