Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writing at a treadmill desk

I am writing this blog entry while walking on a treadmill. It's an experiment. After reading an article in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Magazine about the benefits of writing while treading, I asked my husband Leo if he could set one up for me. He did a little research, opened up the upper parts of our treadmill, and went to work. He clamped a shelf across the handholds to hold the keyboard, he drilled holes for wires, and then he worked out how to fasten a higher shelf at the back for a monitor.

This last part required bracing the shelf against a slanted support which we calculated leans in from the shelf at an angle of 15 degrees. But how far down along that support should we drill a hole for the other end of the support? The shelf was 16 inches wide and the support 16 inches long. Leo suggested trigonometry; I thought maybe holding pieces up in about the right place and guesstimating would do. So of course we decided on trigonometry. That took some rummaging back through ancient memories. We proudly came up with an answer that was obviously completely wrong, then another that looked plausible but turned out to be wrong also. At that point we returned to holding the shelf and the bracket in about the right place while balancing a level and making marks with a blue marker. Only after the shellf was attached did we realize that the bracket we were using was 19 inches long, not 16. And the actual angle was 18 dgrees, not 15. Then everything worked! Math triumphs.

So today I've been trying the system out. You see, Ive been reading a lot lately about the finding that sitting for long hunks of time is bad for your heart. It's not just the lack of exercise: even for people who do the recommended 1500 calories of moderate exercise a week, sitting has a negative effect. So what's a writer (or almost any other "knowledge worker" who spends a lot of time on the computer) to do? I stand up and fidget when I'm on the phone, and sometimes I swivel around on an exercise ball while sitting, but it's not enough.

So today I'm trying to walk, slowly and steadily, as I work. So far, I've walked about three miles at a rate of under two miles per hour. I've found that if I just zoom in a bit, reading on screen works muchbetter than expected, and the monitor screen is far enough away that I don't need reading glasses, which is a benefit, since I usually don't know where they are. I've also found that even at low speeds my typing accuracy has fallen off, but I expect I can learn to overcome that.

Not that I've done all today's desk work at this device. When I want to look at papers, compare documents, make some phone calls, or just gaze occasionally out the window at the way the sleet is icing the branches in our snow-smothered yard, I've come upstairs. But it's certainly giving me a virtuous feeling that I have not spent my entire day being sedentary. I think it's even helped me stay alert and focused. In fact, just one day into this, I'd recommend it, but I'll let you know how I feel in a couple of weeks.


Simone Waddell said...

So, I have to ask, are you still using your treadmill desk?

Just happen to be working on an MBA project involving treadmill desks and I stumbled on your blog in a search. :)

Penny said...

I have to admit, I'm not using it. I just don't seem to compose as well when walking. However, inspired by your question, I will try again today.

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