Walking While Working: Build a Treadmill Desk

It’s a fact. Sitting at a desk shortens your life span. For decades, I’ve heard of people using standing desks. More recently, I discovered “walking desks” — a marriage of treadmill and workstation. I love to walk, and I also love to work (when work = passion). But no way going to spend $5,000 on a Steelcase Walkstation Desk. So I decided to build my own. I’ve been using my new walking workstation for about three weeks and couldn’t be happier. My goal is to walk at least 20 miles each week, so that in roughly 4 years (I’m often out of the office) I will have walked 3072 miles to my virtual destination at the Cape Cod seashore.  I’m keeping a log (scroll down), and will try to update this blog post with significant milestones. UPDATE NOV 2015: I completed my goal! A bit more than 3,000 walking miles. Have now started a new goal: walking from the northern top of Alaska to the bottom tip of South America, around 10,000 miles. At my average pace, it would take more than 10 years, so I’ll need to up my weekly goal to at least 25 miles.  Total cost of my walking desk is $500. I’ve included some photos below. Here’s a list of materials: Treadmill: Merit 725T Plus ($430, delivered). ADDED 15 DEC 2014: The Merit has pretty much worn itself out. It starts to smell really bad after about 2 miles. I’ve replaced the motor, the control board, and the tread, but it’s pooped out. End-of-life. For the price, it’s brought good service for about $10/mo. That’s respectable. I’ve just ordered a Weslo R5.2 from Amazon. Desktop: 48″ x 18″ Smooth Laminate Countertop ($35) Desktop Mounts: Two ea Home Depot Shelf Supports & Brackets ($25) C-Clamps: Four Home Depot U-Bolts ($10) The desktop is easily adjustable up or down in 1 inch increments via the shelf support system. I wall-mounted a video display at eye-level in front of the walking desk. Keyboard and mouse (trackball) are wireless Logitech K350 & M570. My sitting desk is immediately behind the walking desk, behind the R/D lab wall. Logitech’s Unifying Receiver allows me to run duplicate trackballs and keyboards on a single PC, and a passive splitter-combiner lets me to run two monitors from the same video card. So now I have a walking desk and a sitting desk sharing the same PC. Nice. How does it perform? The desktop is very stable and allows me to walk at a reasonable pace while typing on the keyboard, writing, talking on phone, or viewing the video monitor. In fact, I’m writing this blog post from my walking desk at 3.0 MPH. If I need to do critical trackball work (e/m design, schematic entry, etc.) I sometimes need to reduce my speed to something around 2.0 MPH. If walking speeds exceed 3.5MPH, the desktop starts to pick up sympathetic vibrations from the treadmill. VIRTUAL LOCATIONS REACHED: 2011 JOURNEY START: July 18, 2011: Placerville, California Aug 13: Fernley, Nevada Aug 26: Taking a side trip to Burning Man! Sep 16: Fernley, Nevada Back from virtual Burning Man. Nov 16 Elko, Nevada (530 miles to date) Dec 27 Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah 2012 Mar 26, 2012 Salt Lake City, Utah Jul 26 Green River, Wyoming Dec 30 Sidney, Nebraska (1183 miles to date) 2013 April 9 Lexington, Nebraska (1360 miles to date) July 15 Omaha, Nebraska (1570 miles to date — about half-way to my goal!!) Dec 27 Iowa City, Iowa (1820 miles to date) 2014 June 4 South Bend, IN (2130 miles to date) Dec 15 Erie, PA (2490 miles to date) 2015 May 29 Schenectady, NY (2850 miles to date) Nov 13 Cape Cod, MA !!!! I MADE IT !!!! (3072 miles to date)   Walking Desk Related: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/02/are-standing-desks-healthier-than-sitting.php http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862448-1,00.html http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/04/28/135766887/health-chair-reform-walk-dont-sit-at-your-desk http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/51/6/831.abstract http://smarterware.org/7102/how-and-why-i-switched-to-a-standing-desk http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/stand-up-while-you-read-this/ Visit Office Walkers  

High Intensity / Super Slow

Some months ago, a friend told me about a newer book called Body by Science by Doug Mc Guff, an emergency room physician. McGuff claims that we can make sustained, significant improvements in both strength and overall health in just 12 minutes a week. Twelve minutes? If I hadn’t heard positive comments about this protocol from someone I respect, I would have dismissed it out of hand. (McGuff blogs here) I’ve always shied away from gyms because, frankly, I’m not interested in budgeting hours each week pumping iron. But a thirty minutes each week? I can commit to that. And that includes driving from my office to the gym and back (!) I’ve never been on a weight lifting routine in my life, so I wasn’t certain what to expect. I’ve now been active on McGuff’s protocol since April 2010 and am happy to report that it WORKS. Moreover, McGuff’s book is an excellent lay resource on the latest science in muscle physiology. Truly a fascinating read on how muscles develop, and how to maximize the growth response. Turns out that long hours of modest weight lifting is terribly inefficient. We now know that the physiology of muscle growth favors short, high intensity activity. In order to grow, muscles must be stressed into sustained failure — the metabolic point at which a muscle group drops in strength potential by roughly 40% and simply cannot support its original starting load. This failure is recognized by a hot, burning sensation and a psychological response that says “I can’t do this any longer!” The most important muscle improvements occur during this intensive period of increasing failure (I’m reminded of the poet Rilke, who said the purpose of life is to be defeated by ever greater things). And just as importantly, after a muscle reaches failure, it must be given ample time to recover and grow. This healing time varies between genotypes but is, on average, about one week. I’m becoming more familiar with my own optimal healing period, and I think it may be closer to ten days. According to McGuff, any additional weight work during the healing period is effectively wasted, offering little additional benefit. The point of all this is to achieve a deep inroad into the targeted muscle groups. Only by “inroading” will muscles grow. The technique McGuff uses to achieve inroading is called Super Slow / High Intensity training.  It’s very simple:  do each strength training exercise very slowly, perhaps 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down, and continue without stopping. Even when the muscle becomes “spent” we keep pushing as hard as possible for another 30 second or so, even though we can no longer move the weights. We keep track of both the actual weight lifted and the time under load (TUL). I have changed nothing else in my lifestyle since beginning this once-a-week, 15 minute gym protocol seven months ago. In those seven months, I have spent a total of roughly four hours actual weight lifting. My average “super slow” weight lifting strength has increased on average over 30%. When I started on this protocol in April, I acquired an Omron Body Composition Scale to track my progress. I’m most happy about the increase in skeletal muscle, and the decrease in body fat. Allow me to share my progress. APRIL 2010 OCTOBER 2010 Upper Arm  14″ Thigh 23″ Gut 41″ Body Fat 21.6% 17.5% Visceral Fat  7  5-6 Skeletal Muscle 34.9%  38.0% As is normal, my first 12-14 weeks saw the greatest strength improvements. Since then, positive change has come slower, but progress continues. As McGuff notes, genetics plays a primary role in determining our response to muscle inroading. Everyone responds differently, but I’m convinced that everyone will benefit. This is a program I can stick with for the rest of my life. Here’s a good example of a typical Super Slow / High Intensity weekly workout. A grand total of ten minutes. Note how quickly he moves from one exercise to the next: this is essential to achieve maximum metabolic inroading. His TUL on first set is