My walking desk setup

Over the course of 2020 and 2021 I've become increasingly sedentary with lockdown and full remote work. Having gone from commuting into the office 1-2 times a week down to zero meant I had less opportunity to walk. Along with the birth of my son and having less time and energy to exercise I needed to find a way to integrate more walking into my routine. If I could figure out how to exercise while working then I would have more time to spend on more interesting things, a win-win situation!

I've seen treadmill desks before and was motivated after seeing one of my coworkers on one during a meeting. So I decided to pick up a treadmill and give it a shot.

This is my humble treadmill desk.

The treadmill

There are a lot of treadmills on the market of varying quality. I knew that I didn't need a high end treadmill since I was only going to walk on it. Space is an issue, so I wanted something that could fold away if I had company and needed to use my office as a guest room. Finally I wanted to make sure the product had a warranty and a presence in the US in case something happened with the product. There are plenty of dodgy looking walking treadmills on Amazon and I just didn't want to take the chance of getting a piece of junk.

This pretty much narrowed my choices down to:

While the LifeSpan TR1200 was a more solid choice, I decided to go with the smaller, sleeker and most importantly cheaper Treadly 2. My impressions of the treadly so far after about a month of usage:

  • Its heavier than I had expected. The build quality is good, it feels rugged and pretty solid.
  • I didn't get the one with the bluetooth and I kinda wish I spent the extra money and gotten it. Since I'm stationary at a desk, my Apple watch doesn't record the steps properly and being able to sync Apple Health to the Treadly would have been nice. It's no big deal though. You can upgrade to the pro version but it requires paying the difference and shipping back the existing treadmill.
  • A pile of black rubber accumulates at the back of the treadmill after a walk. I think it's rubber off the bottom of my shoes getting rubbed off, at least I hope it is. It would not be great if this was the belt disintegrating, but I don't see any wear on it so far.
  • The hand rail is covered by my desk so it's functionally useless, I just use the included remote to start and stop the treadmill. The handrail feels pretty solid though and it's folding mechanism is pretty solid.
  • It has a bluetooth speaker but I don't have a need for it.
  • The speed increments are in MPH and I've found my comfortable walking speed is about 2.1 MPH. I don't know how accurate speed or step counter are but that doesn't really matter all that much.
  • I only use the manual mode since I want the treadmill to set the pace and all I have to do is keep up. The Treadly 2 has an automatic mode that adjusts the speed based on where on the treadmill you're walking. Further up and it speeds up, further back and it slows down.

Overall I'm pretty happy with this treadmill!

The setup

I have a standing desk which I had planned on using as my treadmill desk. The plan was to set up the treadmill in the morning then move it out of the way when I was finished so I could sit/stand the rest of the day. I tried this a few days and realized that I needed to have a dedicated setup for the treadmill desk and that it had to live somewhere semi-permanently. Having to set up the treadmill attributed some friction to actually using it which meant I was less likely to use it.

So I cleared some space in my office, purchased a relatively cheap Tangkula adjustable standing desk off of Amazon and repurposed some extra peripherals I had laying around. I also purchased a Logitech C920x webcam for this setup so I could take video calls while on the treadmill desk.

On the desk: Split Keyboard, Apple Trackpad, wrist rests, Logitech C920x, LG 34" Ultrawide monitor, Ergotron monitor arm, Treadly 2 remote

When everything came, I realized that the standing desk needed to raised over the treadmill so it could slide underneath the desk setup. This is important because this cheap standing desk is relatively shallow and I needed to be centered in the middle of the treadmill so the desk had to be slid back. To solve this problem, I just bought some cheap 6" bed risers which gave the desk enough height so it could clear the treadmill.

I also have a small fan that blows me while I'm walking since I get pretty warm after walking a while. The fan helps a lot.

The desk is raised over the treadmill with the bed risers and the fan helps keep me cool while I walk.

Using it

My goal is 10,000 steps per day and I've found that I'm able to complete that in about three hours at a leisurely 2.1 MPH pace. The first few weeks I was pretty tired and didn't walk every day. It does take a period of acclimation to go from mostly sedentary to walking the equivalent of 2-3 miles a day so I wasn't kicking myself for not hitting my goal. Ultimately I want to build a long lasting healthy habit so I'm taking it slow and working up to my goal.

Some of my impressions after several weeks of daily usage:

  • I find that walking doesn't impede with my flow state. I'm able to write code or documents just fine while walking. I'm writing this blog post while walking. The constant pace and repetitiveness of it isn't distracting so it's quite easy to forget I'm on a treadmill after a while.
  • I usually spend about 2 hours on the treadmill in the mornings. More if I have meetings and need to stop walking so I can interact in the meeting. Ideally I'd block off time for walking in the mornings and is something I will be exploring. I've had a few times where my mornings were jam packed with meetings which caused me to miss my walk. Once I get going its hard to switch gears and move to the treadmill in the afternoons.
  • Walking can be distracting in meetings. For meetings I need to be highly engaged I usually stop the treadmill but stay standing. For low engagement meetings I'll keep walking. Walking and talking leaves me breathless so I usually need to stop if I enter a discussion. This should be less of a problem as I acclimate and get healthier.
  • I'm constantly drinking water while walking, no spills yet! Haven't tried drinking hot coffee yet, though I might just skip that.
  • I keep a pair of shorts, socks and my walking shoes next to the treadmill so I have no excuses to not walk.

Conclusion

I'm really enjoying my walking desk. I'm getting in physical activity where I'd otherwise be sitting at my desk. My work is getting done and I'm able to optimize my time outside work for other things I enjoy doing (like hanging out with my family)!

My key takeaways from this project:

  • If I expect myself to use this walking desk there needs to be almost no barriers to me hopping at any time.
  • Creating a comfortable setup (keyboard, trackpad, monitor, etc) that is very similar to my desk setup is important. If I tried to work off my laptop instead of with external monitors and peripherals like I normally do I think I would be way less motivated to hop over to the standing desk.
  • Walking is great!

If you've been considering a walking desk, I'd highly recommend trying it out. Just make sure you have the space to dedicate to it. You can always pick up a cheap used treadmill and rig up a desk setup.