The Defattification Process Has Begun

OK, here’s the deal. Those of you that know me know I struggle with migraines. Like, really really struggle with them. Well, I’m on a new cocktail of prescription drugs that seems to be working at keeping migraines at bay — but one of the side effects is that I am gaining weight. And boobs. I suspect the two are closely related. 🙂

Anyway, while my life certainly hasn’t gotten any less busy, it’s still true that for the majority of my day, I sit in a chair and type on a computer. I figured it would be awesome if I could transform my work desk into a standing treadmill desk. It would help me lose weight, make me healthier in general, promote a healthy mindset at school, and not take any MORE time out of my already crazy life. I say that’s win-win. (Well, actually win win win win, but who’s counting)

One of the first problems with building a treadmill desk is that such endeavors can be quite expensive. Since we just bought a house (yes insurance covered some, but we ended paying upwards of 80K, so needless to say, money is tight) I figured I had about a $10 budget. 🙂 Thankfully, my mother in law said I could use her treadmill, which was collecting dust in the shed of the last person that borrowed it. That was the first big expense, and it cost me $0. Well within budget.

The next hurdle was to get my desk, well, on the treadmill. Or in front of it, or something like that. This treadmill is on the small side, so I guesstimated it would fit under the desk, and I could just raise my desk up to accommodate the height of me standing on the treadmill. I guessed on how high it would have to go, and went to the lumber yard. I bought 12 cinder blocks. (Bricks, the kind you build houses with.) They were just over a buck a piece, so while I went over my $10 budget, it wasn’t by much. So here are the materials I had to work with:

Hauling bricks is hard work. I just want to put that out in the universe. Go hug a bricklayer or something, those folks work hard for a living. Anyway, I never really measured, but I sorta figured raising the desk by 3 blocks would allow the treadmill to fit underneath it. I had no idea if that would make the desk too high — and quite honestly, when I stacked the bricks, I was a little nervous.

As it turns out, I had to rearrange this really nice brick layout, because my electrical outlet is behind one of the bricks on the right. After asking Donna (my wife) to help me lift the desk, it was time to hook stuff back up and get the treadmill in place. Why did I ask Donna to help me? Because if it was a colossal failure, I knew she’d be kind. 🙂 Here is the finished treadmill desk:

How does it work? Well, I only walked on it for about two hours today, since I put it in place during my lunch hour. In those few hours though, I learned a few things.

  1. Converse All-Stars, while the most amazing and awesome shoe ever created, are not good for walking on a treadmill. I will be wearing my walking shoes to work from now on.
  2. Treadmills are rather loud. Probably not all of them, but this one is kinda noisy. For the price, I’m not complaining, and Donna says she can’t hear it out in the library, so I’ll live with the noise. It’s something to consider if your situation calls for more hush hush though.
  3. There are very few things that can’t be done while walking on the treadmill. Really. I’m surprised and amazed at how well I can manipulate my keyboard, mouse, etc. I can even drink coffee without spilling.
  4. I need a fan. Even walking slowly, it gets hot quickly. My office is always uncomfortably hot anyway, and walking doesn’t help. Since the treadmill is noisy anyway, I don’t think a fan will be too bad.
  5. So far, I’ve gotten many more compliments than rolled eyes. I suspected people would think I was crazy, or just playing in my office — but both students and adults alike thought it was a great idea. In fact, our phys-ed instructor was REALLY impressed with the idea.
  6. Oddly enough, I get a feeling of accomplishment when I work while walking on the treadmill. It’s not as if I’m doing anything differently, but while my “never get everything done” sort of job is often frustrating, the fact that I walked a few miles really makes the day seem more productive. It’s quite nice.

If you’ve been considering building a treadmill desk, or even just a standing desk, I’d recommend doing it similar to how I did. Try to be cheap. I have no idea if I’ll stick with this for a long time (I really hope I do), but since it cost me about $12 total — I’m not going to feel bad if I fail miserably. However, since Donna immediately claimed my awesome desk chair, if I do give up the treadmill, I don’t think I’ll get back my comfy chair… 🙂

16 thoughts on “The Defattification Process Has Begun

  1. Nice job. 🙂 Hope you get a lot of good mileage out of it. And hey, if you expand on that further to weight lifting later on, maybe the brick moving won’t seem so laborious after a while either. 🙂

  2. My wife has severe food sensitivities. She saw cooking as a cross she was forced to bear alone so I took it as a personal challenge to learn to cook for her. Thus began an incredible adventure…

    I’ve a food gallery on facebook http://tinyurl.com/2cnuf7l

    …and there have been some serendipitous side benefits. I had problems with acid indigestion all my life until I went on her diet. I’ve since learned that I don’t have any trouble at all with acid indigestion as long as I don’t eat any hybridized wheat (that being anything made with the sort of wheat flour sold in supermarkets). Plain old white bread is the biggest offender; I can eat very limited amounts of whole or multigrain breads but I mainly eat my wifes Ezekiel bread because it troubles me not at all.

    Migraines have, in some cases, been positively linked to food sensitivites. Wouldn’t you feel silly knowing that you could just stop eating one food instead of taking an elaborate cocktail of dangerous drugs? It’s a premise that’s amazingly easy to test. Do a little research on google, make a list of foods which might be causing your problem then banish one of them from your diet for three days. If you don’t notice a change, try a different one for three days. I guarantee you’ll notice a change in as little as three days if your migraines are actually caused by a food sensitivity.

    Might be worth a try. What have you got to lose?

    Best regards and you have my deepest sympathies on the weight control problem. I don’t havve a solution but I share the problem and therefore commiserate with you.

  3. Daryl, that’s the beauty of running a half-Linux infrastructure: Give me a terminal, and I can fix anything. My OSX machines and VMWare infrastructure? Not so much. Thus the Win/OSX systems at work. 🙂

  4. Very clever and practical project, in true Linux geek form no less! Even better, it’s really working for you. Nice work!

    Of course, if you *REALLY* want to motivate yourself to work out, tie the treadmill wheel into a generator and power your desktops exclusively off of it. 🙂

  5. Hey Shawn,

    Have you thought about cutting out *sugar* (i.e. fructose) from your diet? When my Gran wants to lose some weight, she cuts out sugar and butter for a month.

    http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Poison-Why-Sugar-Making/dp/0670072478/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284515366&sr=8-2

    It’s easier to not take in so many calories in the first place, than burn them off!

    -c

    P.S. You can hack up a desk and treadmill but you can’t run Linux on your machines?! Oh, cruel world.

  6. Yay for less migraines! Boo for weight gain! Eeeek for boobs! I know I didn’t warn you about those. It’s not my fault…

    I am suitably impressed by your engineering and scrounging abilities.

  7. You know, Steelcase, which I believe has its home office somewhere in your lovely state, came up with a treadmill desk a couple years ago. Although I’m sure you couldn’t get your hands on one of those for anywhere near $12.

  8. I need you to provide plans and measured drawings…… oh wait you said 12 bricks, a treadmill and a desk. Ok Never mind (LOL)

    Love this project man!

  9. So all day long you stand, or walk, at your computer? You must need to sit down sometime. Next you will have to build something that will allow you to put a chair over the treadmill for when you have already gotten your exercise time in.

  10. Tierre — my measurements were off anyway, I only ended up using 10 bricks. 😀

    Esther — I walk all day. It’s about 10 miles, but at a relatively slow pace. If I had a chair, I fear I’d use it too often. So while an eight hour workout might seem extreme every day, I only walk. Slowly. It’s not too bad at the end of the day.

  11. hey! saw this via flickr/lifehacker/etc…

    any chance you’re documenting weight before, during, week by week?

    I am extremely frustrated with how sedimentary my life is (programmer)… but I am more of a cyclist than a walker/runner due to pretty crappy hip problems, despite being 23.

    I would love a http://www.ciclotte.com/ not that it would lend itself to working with a desk, necessarily, but I am trying to brainstorm on ways to basically do what you’re doing without ruining my joints. (walking on pavement hurts for me after 8 blocks)….

    I am on lamictal, too, btw, not sure if that’s what you’re on for migraines, but though it’s not what made me gain most of the weight (Remeron was), it is making it hard to come off. I gained 40 total (yes, really, and rapidly) and have only lost about 30 of it, but that 40 was on top of 10 i’d gained over the years. so, 20 to go…

    ranting. anyways, way to go!!!! inspiring.

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