In December, Steelcase loaned rPath a “Walkstation” for a week. This is a basic treadmill with a desk attached that has motorized height adjustment. Unfortunately, it is very expensive ($4200 is the lowest I’ve seen), maxes out at 2 miles per hour, has a small tread area, has no incline capability, and the retractable console for controlling the treadmill has sharp edges. It beeps loudly whenever you press a button, and the treadmill isn’t the quietest I’ve heard.

Despite these shortcomings, I was quickly hooked, to the disgust of some in the office, who were annoyed by the constant noise of the tread even more than the occasional beeping. (The Walkstation had to be moved about the office several times due to complaints about the noise.) A few other people were interested, so I couldn’t walk all day, I had to let other people use it too. But although I wanted to walk a bit faster than 2 miles per hour much of the time, I noticed on my first day trying it that I was particularly productive while walking and coding. I have noticed that when I’m trying to work out a knotty problem, I often get up and pace energetically. This way, I was already pacing!

I am ready for a lifestyle change. I spend way too much time sitting down, and almost every evening I find some important work to do and put off exercising until the next day. And the next. And so on and so forth. I like to walk. I like my work. I finally know how I can put these together!

Over the past month, I’ve done as much research as I could online. I also spent a few hours in stores walking on different treadmills. I compared cost and features, and learned about how treadmills work and what separates different models. You might think that if you are mainly going to walk, not run, you really are not putting much stress on the treadmill and can get by with a cheap unit. Unfortunately, I read that this is not the case. Low-power motors have trouble going slowly smoothly, and they can overheat when run for a long time, shortening their lifespan. Also, within their capabilities, they tend to be louder for the load they are carrying. At least, that’s what I read. Maybe I’m just a sucker.

Sunday afternoon, I bit the bullet and bought a midrange treadmill: 3 continuous horsepower, 20”x60” belt, reasonably quiet. The box was over 300 pounds. Sliding it into the house was not that hard. My idea was that we would carry the individual pieces upstairs, and I’d assemble it there. Unfortunately, the heaviest piece was too heavy for my wife and I to carry together up the stairs. So we now have a treadmill assembled in our entryway, and I have been working in the entryway for several hours per day.

I’m hooked.

Also, I’ve been learning. Here are a few things:

The annoying squeaking that the treadmill made when I first turned it on is getting quieter. If it doesn’t go away entirely, though, I need to call the manufacturer.

I think that I want a higher desk than most treaddeskers do. The pile of boards and books on which I’ve placed my laptop is at least six inches thick, resting on the treadmill arms, and I could maybe use another half an inch, without any incline on the deck. I’m waiting to build something more permanent until I have some more experience. The TrekDesk does not appeal to me; I really need only enough space for a laptop, cell phone, and maybe a mouse. Getting a unit with a long deck gives me the flexibility to have enough desk between me and the console.

I may need “technical” clothing if I’m going to do this for 2-4 hours at a stretch. I have experienced some chafing, which surprised me because it isn’t a problem when I’m walking normally, even when I’m walking for hours. Probably the fact that there aren’t any turns in the road has something to do with this; it’s just more repetitive. I also need good walking shoes. With my loafers (my normal footwear), I’ve been doing an hour in shoes, followed by half and hour to an hour in stocking feet, then back into shoes, but I really need something a bit better.

I have to compete with the kids for treadmill time. DD8 has spent an hour in a day on it, half of it running (I had to insist that she not run 5-6 miles per hour while reading, which just didn’t seem quite safe to me); DD6 and DS3 both seem satisfied after about 20 minutes.

I’m ready to move this thing to a more permanent location!