First there was the standing desk. For health nuts, there is now a treadmill desk.
A treadmill desk is a great idea in theory. Instead of sitting all day, walk at a slow pace and burn some calories in the office.
But what is the desk really like to use? And what’s the work-to-workout ratio on it?
I tried it for a day. I’m bone tired. Here’s the honest truth about working on a treadmill desk.
First, some background.
I like to think I’m in decent shape. I own a gym membership but use it sparingly, so I wouldn’t call myself a runner or a long-distance walker.
On October 16, when a treadmill desk arrived in Business Insider’s office, I didn’t exactly bee-line it over to the machine. But I made a mental note to try it out.
November 5 was that day.
I packed up my sneakers and headed to work. I figured if the treadmill desk was taken I’d just hit the gym later instead, so I grabbed workout clothes too.
By the time I secured my position on the treadmill desk, it was 10:30. I cheerily sent out this kick off tweet while gulping down a large Dunkin Doughnuts coffee.
I’m typing this from BI’s treadmill desk. Already sweating. This is going to be tough.
— Alyson Shontell (@ajs) November 5, 2013
A colleague, Will Wei, let me know that our sports writer, Tony Manfred, had managed to walk about 14.5 miles in one day. If I wanted to compete with Tony (and I’m competitive so I did), I’d have to up my speed. I ticked up the treadmill to 3.0 and rolled up my sleeves.
About the treadmill desk
The treadmill desk at Business Insider is made by LifeSpan. It’s a wide desk that spans about 4.5 feet across and three feet wide. It comfortably has room for a wide monitor, a laptop and a keyboard, just like my normal desk.
It can be raised higher or lower with the press of a button. The speed goes up to 4.0, so you can walk swiftly but not run or jog. The desk I used retails for about $US2,000.
Watch people at Business Insider try out the treadmill desk below:
Working through the pain I spent the first few miles responding to emails. My jeans became instantly uncomfortable but there was no time to waste. I was miles behind Tony so I needed to press on. Step. Step. Step.
Mile 4 complete. Legs are jello, sleeves are rolled -- Alyson Shontell (@ajs) November 5, 2013I started writing blog posts like usual and joined the SAI chat group to share story ideas. I briefed a few stories on the SAI homepage (meaning just a few sentences), then decided to knock out a fun post I'd been meaning to do on doppelgangers in technology. Mo Koyfman, an investor at Spark Capital, inspired the story after he and I discussed his tech look-alike, Sean Parker, at an event in Dublin the week prior. Photos are pretty easy to manage on the treadmill desk. Long strings of words don't come as easily. So I got to photoshopping.
Time for a fun piece. Putting together look-alikes in tech. Mo Koyfman & Sean Parker, etc. Send me others! -- Alyson Shontell (@ajs) November 5, 2013By then I was more than feeling the burn. But I still had 10 miles to go to beat Tony. The big mistake At mile seven, my jeans had to go. I paused to grab some almonds, carrots and a granola bar, plus a liter of water. I swapped jeans for gym shorts and got back to work. Then, at mile 8, I made an error. My shoelace was coming untied and I bent down to tie it. But when I leaned over, the safety clip attached to my shirt yanked the emergency button off the machine. The treadmill slowed to stop and 8 miles worth of walking vanished. The distance on the machine read zero. But I had been live-tweeting each mile and I was told the honour system would apply by co-workers who had seen me huffing and puffing, so I continued my mission to beat Tony Manfred while also being productive. "Make sure you're working!" my boss swung by and said on his way into a meeting. Gulp. I was trying my hardest, but I'll admit, the machine was distracting. Finishing out the day Eating on the treadmill desk is arguably more difficult than typing, especially at a 3.0 speed. I dropped more than one almond, meant to order food, but honestly wasn't hungry. The walking and typing satiated any hunger I'd normally have. At 3:30 PM I published my tech doppelganger post along with (of course) a tweet. Then I started working on this review of my treadmill desk experience while battling taunting employees. "You look like a little kid!" one colleague Nicholas Carlson laughed, pointing at my gym shorts and T-shirt attire. It's not fun to be sweating in front of all of your co-workers in the center of your office for hours on end. But I hobbled on, battling Vine-sneak attacks from another colleague, Steve Kovach. My legs stopped having feeling around mile 9 so I turned down the speed to 2.5. By mile 13 I was ready to call it quits.
Mile 13 on treadmill desk. I'm not sure if life is worth living anymore (sarcasm) -- Alyson Shontell (@ajs) November 5, 2013I IMed Tony for tips. How had he done this? That's when he revealed the truth: He had made it 14 or so miles, but the result was two days of pain. My tomorrow would be rough. [image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/527965b8ecad045f23037934/image.jpg" alt="Tony alyson" link="http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/527965b8ecad045f23037934-960/treadmill-5.jpg" size="secondary" align="right" clear="true" source="Business Insider/Alyson Shontell"] 16 miles later... When you stop walking on the treadmill desk, it's the same feeling you get after you leave a cruise ship. You still feel like you're moving, even though you're standing completely still. I wasn't dizzy while walking on the treadmill desk, but I was light-headed when I got off. It took a few minute to get re-oriented. Sitting definitely felt good. The way Tony and I used the walking treadmill is not how it's meant to be used. We are examples of taking a good, healthy thing and using it to the extreme. For me, a few hours of pain was the cost of winning an unofficial treadmill office challenge. The downside is that your level of productivity does suffer at the treadmill desk. I normally write a few posts per day, take phone calls and out of office meetings. But I was glued to the treadmill desk, struggling to write coherent thoughts while fighting through the treadmill pain. Your concentration is split between the physical activity, muscle pains and mental grind of actual work. While sitting, two of those are eliminated. If I had used the desk like most people do, at a slower pace for a shorter length of time, I'd think it was a brilliant contraption. And if my bosses would allow it, I'd gladly be a little less productive for a few hours per day if it meant staying in better shape. The best part about a treadmill desk is noticing the miles fly by. Between the mental and physical stimulation, a day on a treadmill desk is anything but boring. In sum: treadmill desks are a worthwhile health craze I'd highly recommend -- as long you don't accept a challenge from a co-worker with stamina like Tony Manfred. *Note: This entire article was written while working on a treadmill desk.