Five years ago (five and a half, really) I bought myself a treadmill desk. I wrote a blog post about it at the time: find it here. I wrote it partly because I couldn’t find any personal accounts from people who’d spent their own money on one, rather than journalists trying out a freebie.
Recently I was extolling the virtues of the treadmill on Twitter and a friend who’s just bought one commented that she hadn’t been able to find any accounts from long-term users. Which is a problem: these things aren’t cheap and of course you want to know if it will end up gathering dust like the bread machine and the spiralizer.
So, here we go: Treadmill 2, Electric Boogaloo, aka my five-year trip report.
Does it help?
Oh God, yes.
I bought the treadmill, which cost a serious chunk of change, because I was in constant pain from my back. Sitting had become a flaring agony and since my job is basically typing, which is generally done sitting in a chair, this was not fun. I was standing up to eat meals because I couldn’t bear to sit more; having to lie on the office floor for relief or stand up in meetings because of the pain. It hurt so much, all the time. Plus I had two trapped nerves in quick succession, and those are nasty, not to mention hundreds of quid in physio bills and lost work. This had been going on for years. Spending four figures on a treadmill desk was very much an act of desperation.
And it worked. My back pain melted away. The problem was that I was sitting all the time (I can’t stand up for more than about 20mins without dizziness and stuff so a standing desk wouldn’t work); when I stopped sitting, it stopped hurting. I have had no back pain since, over five and a half years. No trapped nerves. No joint problems. Nada.
I don’t know what’s causing your back pain, obviously. I just know that being upright and mobile instead of sitting in a chair was all it took to fix mine and keep it fixed, even as I slide inexorably through my late 40s.
Do you really use it?
LOL yes. I haven’t sat at my desk in five years. I only keep it because the books have to go somewhere.
I walk on the treadmill my entire working day, which was a solid eight hours a day till lockdown/kids at home. In fact, I wore out my first treadmill. (I bought the model meant for max six hours a day, and then ran it for eight hours a day for five and a half years, wearing out several pairs of shoes in the process. I couldn’t replace the motor, which was the worn out bit, because the model has been discontinued.) I have just upgraded to a heavy duty model because frankly, when I realised the old one was on its way out, I panicked at the thought of having to sit again.
Are your legs buff or what?
Thighs of steel, mate. My PT, a semi pro boxer, got me doing hamstring curls once, kept increasing the weight ‘till you find it hard’, gave up before my legs did, and was forced to admit I have stronger thighs than him. Ha.
What’s the downsides?
They’re expensive. And big, although the new models are significantly more compact. Other than that: none, honestly. It suits me down to the ground.
Very occasional lubrication (a squirt of goop under the belt) and also, you ought to take off the motor hood and hoover inside occasionally because the amount of weird furry black crap that accumulates due to electrostatic is amazing. It looked like there was a cat in there. However, we’re talking once a year, minimal effort.
Is it hard to type while walking?
Nope, and I’m malcoordinated and a crap typist. I’ve written I don’t know how many novels on this thing, but it’s hundreds of thousands of words.
The motor and belt. White noise really, plus the sound of your feet. I find it quite soothing.
Don’t you get tired?
Physically, a bit. I mean, it depends how fit you are and how fast you walk—I like it quite brisk, at 1.8 to 2mph—and whether you alternate between chair and desk, and how many hours you do. And of course you get used to it as you increase your activity levels. Mentally, I find I’m much more alert moving than I am slumped in a chair.
Is it really exercise, walking that slowly?
It’s NEAT: non-exercise activity thermogenesis. You expend more energy and build more muscle over the course of a day by walking, even slowly, than you do sitting.
What model do you have and where do I get one?
I’ve got a Lifespan TR5000 (the heavy duty one for the obsessive walker or office). I got mine from the Treadmill Desk Store, and if you’re in the UK I recommend them highly: super nice people and really helpful, from ordering to delivery to aftercare.
Are you a shill for them or what?
Nope. I’m a full time author whose back doesn’t hurt, and I’m spreading the word because this thing has genuinely changed my life.
All right, but the real question is, what’s your m.p.n. (miles per novel)?
I have also become obsessed with knowing this, so I’m going to track how many miles I walk for my next book. Once I finish the third book of the Will Darling Adventures, which is what I should be doing now, gotta go.
Next book, 100% written while walking, is The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, coming 24th February.
“A perfect quarantine read. This felt like KJ’s very own sexy and skullduggerous take on the romcom trend, and I loved it.”—Talia Hibbert