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  • Writer's pictureEsther

My treadmill desk

If you have never seen a treadmill desk, the first thing you need to know: It´s crazy and magical at the same time.

Let´s quickly talk about what a treadmill desk is all about and why it even is a topic:

A lot of us come to a point where we realize we have to become more active in our daily life and to move more. This - however - is tricky in case you have a day job at a desk. Let´s face it: Even though the job can be fantastic and wonderful, you are still kind of stuck at the desk. For sure - you can take regular breaks and walk around a bit, get another coffee, go to the toilet, use the lunch break for a walk in the sun, but in any case: You will most likely not walk enough and by the way, have you heard the news? Sitting is the new smoking, they say.

If you are a lucky one, you have a standing desk and can - every now and then - stand up while working to at least not sit all the time. That´s already a great thing to do!

The treadmill desk goes one step further: Here, you have a treadmill underneath your standing desk, and with this, you can walk at a slow pace for a couple of minutes or hours each day.

Once again: You are walking while working at your desk. Mindblowing, right?

How it started...

The first time I saw a treadmill desk at a local fitness equipment dealer, I was amazed and amused at the same time. I found it genius and crazy. Are people actually doing this, I asked myself. I was kind of having a "Now I´ve seen everything" moment, especially when looking at this setup's cost. It was definitely more in the "crazy" direction.

My life went on, but like many others, when I see that something exists, I save this info somewhere in my head, and there, the info waits to come up again at a later point in time. And no surprise: A couple of months later, I was thinking about how to improve my health even more and how to integrate a healthier lifestyle into my life.

You should know that I already had an adjustable standing desk. At some point, I did stop using my chair completely and was standing all day long. This became normal for me, but I felt that this is not the optimal thing to do. It was hard to stand still all day, and so my legs began to feel heavy at a certain point.

That was it, the magic moment the treadmill-desk-info knocked and said hello. I began researching, read articles, watched YouTube videos, and decided to give it a try. And voila - I got my treadmill a bit later. And not just any treadmill, no - a treadmill exactly for being used under a desk, but not the super-crazy expensive version. The cost was moderate and even surprisingly cheap after seeing what it actually can cost.

How does it look like?

What is the specialty of a treadmill for being used under a desk? Well - first of all, such a treadmill is way smaller than a treadmill you know from the gym. It is shorter and slimmer and has only the tread and no front area for a monitor, handrail, or anything. It´s just a flat tool. If you want to have more specific data, I noted down the actual size for you:

  • length: 120 cm

  • height: treadmill at 10 cm and the front part is at its highest at 20 cm

  • Width: 56 cm

Why is it so small?

Thanks for asking! A treadmill being used under a desk does not need to be larger or longer as you are not supposed to run on it.

You just walk at a slow to medium-slow pace. Just enough to move and be active, but not too much. The goal is not that you are getting out of your breath or can´t type on your keyboard or use your mouse any longer.

My setup in the office

As you can see in the back of the above picture, I still have my chair in the office. But after I got my treadmill in January 2020, my chair has permanently gotten its new task as a wardrobe.

My treadmill is under my desk all the time, and my desk is always set to the same height. Even though I could re-arrange my setup easily, I never did it so far except for vacuuming. The treadmill is not heavy, and I could quickly remove it and put it behind my door until I want to use it again. But as walking and standing on the treadmill feels good, and I have no desire to use the chair again. Not even for a single day.

In the beginning, I was, of course, testing it intensively—first, the speed and which one is best for me in different work situations.

My treadmill has eight-speed levels - going from very slow to intense walking (not running). I figured out that level 1 or 2 are the best ones to be used for work. I sometimes go up to level 3 in phone calls where I can be muted all the time or when watching a webinar where no interaction from my side is required (talking or typing). You need to know that the faster you walk, the harder it is to type.

Sometimes I even walk on the lowest level in video calls with my teammates. The treadmill is not too loud, and on the lowest level, I am not moving that much it might irritate my video call partner.

And I only walk in calls with colleagues who know about my treadmill and who told me it is ok for them that I am using it while talking with them. For all other video calls, I am just standing.

One thing I quickly realized was that I need something soft right next to my treadmill. Not because I am afraid I am falling, but when leaving the treadmill after a walk, the first step on the ground was always a bit too harsh for my knees. I, therefore, added a foam mat. It is most likely not the most beautiful setup, but - dang - it improved the experience!

What to wear?

I bought two sets of new shoes for the treadmill as I was not planning to walk on it with the shoes I am using outside the house. Like you have a pair of shoes for the gym.

One pair where regular running shoes and the other toe-shoes. But I wouldn´t say I liked the toe-shoes very much and so I was using my running shoes all the time.

After a while, I began to walk on it only in my socks, because putting them on and off every time I left the office for my lunch break became a bit annoying.

Other people do not use my treadmill. It is not a shared treadmill, and therefore, I am ok with using it without shoes. However - if you think about sharing your treadmill with others, think about a shoe-policy for better hygiene.

Regarding clothes: Well - I am working at home. Guess what I am wearing. Most of the time, it is rather comfy than not comfy, but let me tell you: Close to everything you plan to wear will work. If you are afraid you are sweating, don´t be: It is not a gym workout. It´s just a little bit of walking at a very slow pace. You can do this for hours without beginning to sweat.

That means: You can wear whatever you like: Jeans, a skirt, leggings, everything that you would wear at work.

Let´s talk about pain

No question: Pain is a topic, but only at the beginning. And it goes without saying that as with any activity, I needed to develop the right muscles for prolonged walking and standing. In my feet, my legs, and my back. Or to keep it simple: In my body.

And that can hurt.

My feet gave me the most challenging times. The pain started already with extended standing and became a bit more annoying at the beginning of my walking experience, especially after I got rid of the shoes.

But it wasn´t all bad, and with a little massage here and there, the feet quickly got used to their new tasks, and the pain was going away. I can´t tell when it stopped, but it´s been a while already that I do not have any issues at all. Today I feel like I can walk or stand forever.

How long do I walk in a day?

I did everything from just a few minutes to all-day-long. But all day long happened only once or twice. It made me tired, and I needed to sleep longer after that.

Now, I put the treadmill on a couple of times for sessions between 30 and 90 minutes on average. Fun fact: Sometimes, it helps me concentrate on a specific task, and sometimes I feel like I can´t concentrate on a topic when walking. So, I need to stop walking and stand still during this specific task.

I am not following a training plan dictating me when to walk and how long and at what pace. I am also not forcing myself to walk when I do not feel like walking. There is no goal I am trying to reach except feeling better and live a healthier life. And for that, I do whatever feels good.

Did the walking make me fitter? Yes - absolutely. I can walk more, walk longer, and I have less back pain. I think I can´t run faster, but that was not the goal either.

What's the downside?

The fact is, even if I am walking for hours on the treadmill, my smartwatch is not counting a single step. Why? Because I am still at work and at my desk, and my hand is busy moving the mouse back and forth and typing.

And this is the bad thing with my treadmill: Unfortunately, I can´t count my daily steps with it!

Honestly, I´d love to have a kind of counter that synchronizes with my smartwatch to sum up my normal steps and the steps I am making on my treadmill to have an all-day performance overview.

And I tested it all: Having my watch on my hips, on my foot. Nothing worked. I even tested the terrible app coming with the treadmill, but it still won´t sync with my smartwatch even if that thing would work properly.

Maybe one day, I find a tracker I can put on my foot or leg that syncs with my watch. I am keeping my fingers crossed. And until that, my smartwatch thinks I am one of the laziest people ever as I am not going for walks any longer during my lunchbreaks as I already have a pretty high activity level at my desk.

Besides that, I can´t say anything bad. I use it every workday for 10 months, and it works and works and works. I make sure that I spray a bit of silicone oil underneath the treadmills ribbon once in a while to keep everything running smoothly. It does not need any other special treatment.

Should you get a treadmill desk?

Yes - in any case.

Now I could end this chapter already, but I want to add a couple of thoughts:

First thing: You do not necessarily need to go for the 2000 Dollar or Euro model from the beginning if you are unsure whether a treadmill is the right thing for you. Check and find whether you can get a treadmill for a trial before you actually buy one or get a cheaper version that might not be as fancy as the expensive one.

Take some moments to think about which features you really need to get started. Does it need to have a desk, or can you go for the treadmill alone? Do you need to have a perfect step count included, or can you live without knowing how many steps you did (like me - it´s sad, but I can live with it)?

What is your goal? Do you want to become a bit more active and sit less or plan to make intense sport to lose weight? If you want to become more active: Get your treadmill - if you want to lose weight: The treadmill desk might support your efforts, but you should know that nutrition is the key to weight loss and not sport. Concentrate on a very low carb diet, and you will lose weight.

Once you have your treadmill: Start easy and increase the time on your treadmill step by step. Let it be fun and a cool thing and not a burden for you. With this, you are increasing your chances to enjoy it longer and actually to stick to walking on it. The treadmill won´t help you much if it is not being used.

And with this: Enjoy your treadmill and let me know if you have any questions.

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