Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Treadmill Desk Benefits

So I’ve been using my treadmill desk for about a week now (I’m typing this while walking). Here are some unexpected benefits, in addition to the ones I was expecting:
  • It chains me to the computer, because it’s enough of a pain to get it stopped and started again that I’ll say, “Whatever, I’ll just go another 15 minutes before I quit for the morning.”
  • It’s making me stick to a schedule. I decided that on the days I go to the gym (three days a week, when I can), I’ll do a two-hour session on the treadmill. On the days that I don’t—two two-hour sessions. There’s no way I’m going to do it in the evening, so I get it done early. At least so far.
  • I get pleasantly tired but not exhausted, so I sleep better.

Am I being more productive? Yes, but I don’t know if that’s because of the aforementioned chaining to the computer, or to the neuroscience that seems to indicate that sitting clamps down the creative side of your brain. Think about it—lots or people pace when they think, right? Lecturers stand, and often move, when lecturing. Good teachers move around the room as they teach. OK, some of that is to make sure their students aren’t on Facebook, but it also seems to liberate the brain.

One scientist pointed out that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to be creative the whole time they were moving in order to survive: “If the mastodon goes that way, Urk should go this way and head it off,” “Hey, this rotten milk tastes pretty good with that spoiled grape juice!” “The seeds under the bird’s nest grew better than the others—I’ll try putting bird poop on all of them next spring.” Once they could finally sit down at the campfire, their brains took the opportunity to grab some much-needed rest.

So it’s possible that we’re hard-wired to think better when we walk. It couldn’t hurt, anyway, so I’ll keep on doing it and let you know what happens.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Walking to Work

I’m writing this while walking at .5 mph. It’s taking a bit of getting used to, but after all, it’s my first attempt at using my brand-new treadmill desk.

This is something that’s intrigued me for a while. Over the space of a few months I downloaded various sets of instructions, wrote to people who used treadmill desks, and kept up with the research, the most recent of which (by the first promoter of the concept, Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic) concludes that you shouldn’t try to do more than two hours on, two hours off. Phew.

(Hey, I just took my sweater off! Must be doing something, even at this speed!)

I wound up tossing out the plans I had downloaded since they were all based on desktop computers, and I no longer had one, a casualty of leaving the day job.

Not much room here
As I contemplated where the treadmill would fit in my already crowded study, I realized that no matter what configuration I came up with, it was going to be a pain to move the laptop and its cables and wires from one spot to another, and I'd probably find lots of excuses not to do it, so I decided to go remote instead. I purchased a wireless keyboard and mouse and resurrected a flat-screen monitor from the attic.

(I already forgot I was walking. According to the timer on the treadmill, that took nine minutes and twenty seconds.)

I bought a plain-vanilla treadmill at Play It Again Sports, which we brought home with a small trailer rented at U-Haul. A passing neighbor helped us get it in the house and we set it up next to the twin bed that serves as the emergency sleeping space for those escaping a snoring spouse.
Good help is hard to find

Then a trip to Home Depot, and we returned with a white shelf and some metal brackets. We (by which I mean Greg) attached the brackets to the shelf, which then rested on the handles of the treadmill, and we (by which I mean me) ran tie-wraps through the holes in the brackets to strap it down, inserted some shims to level it, and voilĂ —step one was complete.

(Just upped the speed to .6 mph without noticing any difference in ease of writing.)

Next came the monitor, which we hung on the bookcase I had purchased for practically nothing when Borders went out of business.

The last item was a book holder so if I’m not working on the computer I can walk and read.

Total cost: under $300.

If it works out, I might upgrade the monitor, and given what I paid for the treadmill, I imagine I might have to replace it at some point when it quits working. But for now, this is just fine.

(Now .7 mph.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The New Year, For Real

I'm totally unprepared for the new year. Up to now, I've always made resolutions in the fall, because ever since I was in preschool, lo these many years ago, September (and then August) was the start of the year. A year ran from the fall to the spring. And now, I have to join most of Western humanity in recognizing January 1 as the first day of the year.

For the last two or so decades, my "new year" resolutions have mostly had to do with trying to sandwich writing and day-jobbing together: see more of my friends, take some time off, finish ms. X while making revisions on ms. Y.

Seeing the friends takes a bit more effort than it used to, but I think I'm doing okay. I've been pretty strict about the time off, even during NaNoWriMo. As for productivity--my agent has one project out; a second is close but might need another tweak or two, depending on said agent's thoughts after seeing the latest revision; I'm struggling with the last half-chapter of my NaNoWriMo project (it seems so obvious that it clunks); and I've made a good dent in a new non-fiction work. So that makes four in various stages of completion, and I think I'm doing okay here too.

All I can come up with is to get more of an on-line presence. So here I am, blogging, and I will do my best to tweet (still haven't warmed up to Twitter) at least once a day.

Seems kind of feeble, though. Any ideas?