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change for the better

It’s one thing to have an injury because you went yard-saling down a back bowl. It’s another thing to have an injury because you were working on the computer for too long. Overuse, bad ergonomics, poor posture – it happens over and over again. I’ve been working on a computer since I was in high school: data entry, programming, more programming, image processing, data analysis, programming and web design, more image processing. And these days it isn’t enough to just work on the computer – it seems most of my professional and personal communications are mainly through the interwebs.

Sometimes I walk away from the computer so I can feel like a human being again. Sometimes I have to stay away because the muscles get inflamed from fine repetitive motions and lack of range of motion. This past week I was off the computer to let my body heal. I had a lot of time to think about it too. Something needed to change.

my office desk

I have a good desktop setup, but after I got home from Santa Fe the first thing we did was go out and replace my old office chair with a Herman Miller chair. Meanwhile, I was heating, icing, and exercising my back. Sitting always made things worse. I loathed that any computer time required sitting and said (on Facebook) how I wished I could mount my computer onto my treadmill. And the links came in for people who had converted their treadmills to workstations. I read about them and even emailed with a friend’s friend who built his. Jeremy and I discussed design issues and functionality driving home from his parents’ house a couple of days ago. I’m the engineer. I planned it all out.

24 hours later… the exercise room is also an office

The point is not to run a 6 minute mile while cranking out emails to your clients. No, no, no. That’s an even BETTER recipe for hurting yourself. I have always been a firm believer that if you are truly exercising hard – then you can’t be reading a book or typing a letter. However, I can easily walk a mellow pace of 1-2 miles an hour and do a lot of the things I used to do while sitting on my hind quarters: emails, phone calls, scheduling, writing, reading, research, tweeting. Image processing still remains something I’m leaving on my desktop in the main office.

phone, keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers (for the tunes, yo)

It was easy to scrap together because we have some spare (Apple) computer parts lying around. The only item we purchased was a $35 stainless steel shelf unit from Costco. And because we wanted to keep it relatively portable, it’s all based around a laptop.

everything stays put except for the laptop

We used three of the four shelves in the unit, weighing down the bottom shelf with some heavy books. The monitor goes on the top shelf with the speakers and the laptop goes on the shelf below. That’s where all of the components plug in to the laptop and the powerstrip.

it doesn’t require too much additional space

The fourth shelf was just the right width and depth to set across the handles of the treadmill (our handles are foam padded). Since the shelf is just a wire frame, I grabbed a piece of laminated particle board to set on top for ease of mousing.

phone, keyboard, and wireless mouse

It works beautifully. I love it! Jeremy loves it too. Either one of us can work on the treadmill by swapping out our laptops. Or if we actually want to run, we can easily move the “desk” part off and run. But what I like about this most of all is that I no longer have to feel that working on the computer is a sentence for injury and inactivity! Because honestly, this blog would have been the first to go if it came down to it. I’m really happy I didn’t have to go down that road. Woohoo!!

not only is it possible, it’s freaking awesome!

45 nibbles at “change for the better”

  1. Wei-Wei says:

    Wowowow, now if only my mom would be willing to buy a treadmill (“Just run outside!”) and a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and two bookshelf racks.

    ;( I actually really really love this idea.

  2. Gali says:

    This is beyond amazingly cool. Just wow. That’s all I have to say.

  3. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says:

    Wow, you are wired up and rocking that set up! NICE!

  4. Sweets by Vicky says:

    Think you might have just found a way to combat the idle lifestyle us desk workers suffer from! Awesome idea!

  5. Kristin says:

    Oooooh! If only I had a treadmill. I would especially like this for my 14 year old son who uses the computer for composing music along with all of the schoolwork & fun. Just imagine what kind of music he’d create if he were more active!

  6. Caitlin says:

    So many levels of awesome. My engineer-y jealousy knows no bounds :)

  7. Laurel says:

    That is completely awesome and I love that you shared it, because I would totally think about doing the same (need a treadmill first though).

    My only concern is that I am clumsy, so I can totally see myself accidentally catching a sleeve on the rack, or snagging a wire with my foot, and boom! falling to the earth in a hail of computer parts and rack pieces.

  8. Shannon says:

    this is great, love it!

  9. Jessica says:

    WOW! That is a genius idea. I work from home and often lament how I have to keep my butt in my chair to answer the phone if a customer calls. I don’t have enough room for a treadmill, but I will keep this in mind.

  10. Heidi @ Food Doodles says:

    I think that is awesome! I always have to remind myself to keep active even when I’ve already done a good workout for the day. It doesn’t beat constantly being in motion.

  11. Kath says:

    That is so cool, Jen! Your solution is quite simple, and I always thought it would be so complicated to set something like this up. I’ve got the treadmill, but would need a laptop, and a monitor. I’m bookmarking this for future reference. Thank you!!

  12. tea_austen says:

    This is amazing! It would never work for me (too clumsy and unable to multitask), but I would love a big screen I could read from while I walked. Mostly I love that you are inventive and capable and able to find something that works for you.

    Now, is there a way to take the energy generation from the treadmill to power the laptop? That would be awesome :-)

    As always, you rock. xox

  13. Dre says:

    My coworkers and I have been talking about wanting a set up like this for ages for work so we don’t have to sit all day! Wish I had one at home too! Nice job!

  14. Anne says:

    Very cool! I long for the day when I have a house with enough space to implement something like this (or at least a standing desk–not even enough space for that right now). The only change I’d make is a riser underneath the keyboard/mouse shelf so that the keyboard and mouse were higher up. I’m tall, and can imagine getting some serious wrist (and maybe back) problems from trying to type with my hands down by my hips.

    Thanks for the tour!

  15. Stefanie says:

    wow – i so wish i had one of these at work! very cool!

  16. Rebecca says:

    I LOVE IT!!!!!!!! I am also having problems from hunching over my desk, and so is Guillermo. Some of his office mates sit on exercise balls, I’ve been considering that. But this is amazing! I would probably fall and skin my knee, but I forwardrd this on to our household engineer–it would be a great way to not be sitting all the time.

  17. jacquie says:

    very cool. now when can i get you out to my place (which is unfortunately in md) to get you setup a similar workstation for me since i would be totally lacking in the skills needed to do??? please…..

  18. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand says:

    I’ve read about the workstation/treadmill, and it’s always seemed like a phenomenally good idea. My house is super teeny-weeny, but if this works well for you, I may have to get myself a treadmill and steal your shelving idea. Homage, I think they call it.

  19. Andrea Meyers says:

    Wow, I love this idea! I’ve often wondered if there was a better way to get my computer work done without killing my back (old spine injury) from sitting or standing in place too long. What an awesome idea! Already have a treadmill, just need to figure out how to make the setup work in our basement…

  20. Margie says:

    Oh my, I’m impressed!

  21. Kimberly says:

    I am so happy you didn’t have to shut down the blog! I adore your writing style and sense of humor.

  22. vanillasugarblog says:

    wow! i’m impressed too.
    i need to go back to having a herman miller chair.
    i wish they would sponsor me lol

  23. Laura says:

    I’ve had similar issues, but I don’t spend as much time at the computer as you do. My 2 solutions have been to use an exercise ball while seated at computer (my chiropractor claimed was the best you could do because it keeps your back in motion, kind of like what you’re trying to do) and also dh leaves me his iPad to cart around the house so I can move a lot during the day/night. Either way I’m seriously impressed by the rig you’ve set up. I hope it brings you some relief.

  24. Piee says:

    oh my goodness. I dig your new set up. I would feel so much more productive if I was moving while I’m web surfing, emailing, writing, etc.

  25. Paulette says:

    I always have had a dream that I could hire Jeff Haun to come over and design my own personal computer, one I could sit and do anything while giving verbal commands. You know like beam me up scottie. Just like you I have been sitting for hours and every muscle in my body screams for me to quit, but I have to keep writing while the mood moves me. But I do like your system its a genius of an idea that could work for many of your readers. Thanks so much. Your blog takes us where no woman has been before. Couldn’t resist, yes I loved Star Trek. Paulette

  26. Dina says:

    thats pretty cool, a long time ago I saw a news report where a law firm was doing this to keep their people moving.

  27. Cookin Canuck says:

    That is awesome! Now, if only every office in corporate America could re-design their work stations to work like this.

  28. Perfecting Pru says:

    I sit at a desk in front of a computer all day for work and for some time nearly every evening. I like the idea of having the treadmill as a desk but I don’t know if I would be safe walking and typing at the same time. I’ll stick to staying seated but this really is cool!

  29. Ananda Rajashekar says:

    This is ultimate! wish to to have one of those in my office!

  30. TheKitchenWitch says:

    You are amazing, girl.

  31. melissa says:

    Good for you! I don’t think I have what it takes to go that far, but I have bought two mini-cycles (small contraption with bicycle pedals) that fit easily under my desk at work and in front of my sofa at home. I’m still sitting, but I’m moving my legs! The author of “Move a Little Lose a Lot” says some of his patients have lost up to 40 pounds in a year by doing just the cycling while sitting. Of course, that won’t help shoulders, backs and arms, but it is something! How cool is it that you figured it all out yourself!

  32. Alyson says:

    I love it!

  33. Mikka says:

    Thank you! I’ve been wanting to do this for months (I’m a law student and spend way too much time sitting and reading), and seeing your pics showed me how. After reading your post I immediately dismantled a wire shelf in the basement and set up a desk on my treadmill – now I can read and take notes while walking! Thanks again.

  34. Samantha says:

    Oh! I have that same treadmill, and had been struggling to find a desk solution for it, to do this same thing. I’ll try to find those same shelves at Costco, since they look like they fit so well…

  35. Meg says:

    I saw a clip about this on the news a while ago – I think it’s a fantastic idea! I spend a lot of time at work idly clicking and faffing on the computer and would love to be able to move a bit more…. So much so, in fact, that I just quit my job and took a lower-paid one that will get me off my butt and out moving around. :D I found this article about it – this might be the clip I saw, even: I hope this new set-up works for you – please keep us updated!

  36. Diana says:

    What an awesome idea! You rock Jen!

  37. farmerpam says:


  38. Amy says:

    Brilliant! I just wanted a stand up desk… but this is amazing!!!!

  39. Tim says:

    I hate to be a party pooper but I know this is a horrible idea! Looking at the pictures your wrists are bent and the monitor is too low. You are now doing two activities poorly. Also, don’t assume that pain while typing is an injury caused by typing. You may also look at acidosis, dehydration, sleep deprivation, food/environmental sensitivities, etc. You would be better off eliminating nonimportant tasks and taking that time to do a real work out. Sorry, if I don’t take the time to qualify my opinion.

  40. Tim says:

    Ok. That last sentence is POORLY worded. Just do your own research.

  41. jenyu says:

    Caitlin – I knew the engineers would get a kick out of it ;)

    Laurel – yes, start out slowly and definitely keep things simple and tidy to reduce risk of injury!

    tea_austen – well, I haven’t figured that one out (which is probably why I switched from Electrical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering in college), but it’s a great idea! xo

    Anne – yes, if you’re tall you definitely want a riser. But I’m short! :)

    Rebecca – very cool. I hope he sets one up for you.

    Tamar – homage indeed! You flatter me, my dear. xo

    Paulette – except in “beam me up, scottie” it’s an actual person who does the beaming up.

    Mikka – cool!

    Tim – Assuming that you are actually trying to conduct helpful discussion and not just being a total troll, I’m going to answer your comment as politely as I can right now… First off, you’re referring to the photos of my husband who is a good seven inches taller than I am. The setup works for ME. Second – the monitor is not too low, it’s the angle of the camera taking the photograph. I didn’t imply there was any pain from typing. I know exactly what is causing my pain – you don’t. As for a real workout – I do those daily in addition to this. But clearly you don’t see the point – this isn’t about replacing exercise, it’s about not sitting in one position for hours on end. Troll again and your ass is banned.

  42. Pomme says:

    Absolutely love this!!!! Wish my work would install some of these (not gonna happen, though… bah!). I try and grab every opportunity at work to leave my desk and stretch my legs. My colleagues HATE leaving their chair so it work beautifully, I’m the one to go and check the shelves (I’m a librarian)…

  43. Eileen says:

    I am so impressed. Thanks for the motivation as usual!

  44. Melody says:

    I got worried when I saw the picture of your husband at the keyboard and mouse. Having your wrists bent like that while using a mouse can severely increase problems. I had a work related ergo issue and it turned out that was part of my problem, besides using the computer too much. Besides using correct posture I have had to work with a program that forces me to take breaks based on the frequency of mouse use (lots of clicking and dragging in my job). The professional program is Workpace but there are shareware programs out there very similar. Taking a 5 minute break every 50-60 minutes and good posture completely relieved my symptoms. I’m glad you posted to Tim that you are a much different height, I cringed when I saw your husbands wrist position. Hope you find relief soon like I did!

  45. Ethan says:

    sponsorship from Gatorade is all you need now :)

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