Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cross "Training": Shaking Up the Home Office

This may either turn out to be a corny diversion or the healthiest thing I've ever done for myself. I'm not entirely sure which :).

One of the factors that I discovered when I started pouring myself into doing a lot of testing things is that my fitness levels started to drop. I would get out and skateboard when I could or ride my bike, but these activities make my wife anxious. Needless to say, my breaking my leg last year using my skateboard as a commute vehicle did not give her much to boost confidence in my doing these things, and rather than risk friction in my marital bliss, I've complied. This does, however, mean that the opportunities to get out and do structured exercise are somewhat limited. Each time I think of things I want to write, test, prepare, read, or do, I have to decide to deliberately stop what I'm doing to go get some exercise. It's one or the other... or does it have to be?

There have been a variety of stories about the "brogramming" movement (if you're curious, put "brogramming" in your preferred search engine and enjoy or cringe at what you read). Regardless of the silliness of the various memes related to "brogramming" I will admit that the attention to fitness did appeal to me. What's more, it was through this that I started to see lots of links to a variety of "treadmill desks". Kitschy? Sure, but at the same time, very intriguing. After I got over poo-poohing the ridiculousness of a treadmill desk, I remembered that one of our Sidereel founders had a treadmill desk in our old loft on Jessie Street. With this thought in my head, I asked him about it, if he still used it, and if he had any thoughts about what to do.

He made a few recommendations. First, it's easier if the treadmill in question has support arms that are parallel to the floor and at a reasonable height. From there, a piece of wood, some C clamps and you are golden. One suggestion he recommended to me was that I'd want to invest in a high end treadmill, because the entry level models would not hold up to the abuse of using it for hours each day.

With that, I made some inquiries, checked out some models, and since I wasn't entirely sold on this idea, I figured that I would look to find a refurbished higher end treadmill rather than buy one brand new. I'd hate to spent a grand plus and then find out this is a white elephant of an idea, and then the "treadmill desk" becomes a "treadmill clothes rack", and a rather expensive one at that. I met up with a guy that goes to auctions and purchases items from gyms that have gone under, then he fixes them up and resells them. Thus, I was able to get a pretty good high end, though older, Precor unit for $175.00.

The next step? Making a desktop surface for as little as possible but still be functional. That was done by taking a trip to Lowes and picking up a 15" x 36" white melamine shelf, 4 eye screws, and two 24" bungee cables. The eye screws were put in an inch from the front edge on the sides, and an inch from the sides on the back. this way, I could criss-cross a par of bungee cords from the eyes and hold them down to the cross bars and make for a solid and stable work surface. I made one additional adjustment in that I used two bath towels and rolled them up on the bars so they could act as a dampening mechanism for the machines. All in all $175 for a refurbished treadmill, $25 for the parts to make the desktop, and now I have a way to read, study, dork around on Twitter or Facebook, and rather than feel like I have to choose getting up and walking around vs. sitting down and doing work, I now have the ability to do both. The benefit to the system that I've put together is that I can remove the desktop easily and use the arm bars for a more vigorous workout if I so choose.

I gave the system its maiden voyage last night, and ended up spending about two hours walking at 3 mph or so (maybe a little slower at spots; 3mph is about the maximum speed I can maintain and still type). Up side, I got a lot done (including editing the most recent TWiST podcast while walking :) ). Down side, I'm rather sore this morning. Also, I discovered that the better way to work with the walking desk is to have one system at a time up on the desk. By having two side by side, I was positioning myself at a bit of an angle depending on the machine I was working on, and it torqued the belt a little bit. Nothing serious, but I ended up skidding the belt off to the side and needed to adjust the treadmill to get it back into regular operating order again.

So will this be the holy grail to getting me back into being fit and healthy? Will it be a silly diversion that I don't follow through with? Time can only tell on that, but so far, it seems to be something that's workable, interesting, and enough of a novelty to shake up the system. Whether it will have staying power is anyone's guess, but I'm certainly willing to give it my best try.


Chris Kenst said...

I guess we'll have to wait for the follow up post in 2-6 months to know how well it worked...?

SzaLaci said...

you can have two systems up on the desk while using a (hard or soft) KVM switch. It'll render all your systems into one i/o set. But it's just an idea. I haven't tried it and I'm afraid I won't try it in the near future.
-- ljszalai

Jennifer Leigh said...

Mike, that's brilliant. I've been trying to balance tech study/dev time with exercise too.

I have a treadmill and a mothballed laptop, bungees and an unused shelf board, so the cost for me to try this is $0. Definitely a project for this weekend!