Building a treadmill desk: Dr. Sherry Pagoto on a treadmill desk she built at home by placing a "Trek Desk" over a treadmill she already had and then using her laptop and other materials on the Trek Desk.

Building a Treadmill Desk

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Building a treadmill desk: photo of Jimmy Kimmel working on a treadmill desk.
Jimmy Kimmel
Last week in Treadmill Desks I – The Problem I tried to convince you that if you spend time in a virtual world, or otherwise spend a decent amount of work or play time in front of a flat-screen, it might be a good idea to spend that time on a Treadmill Desk.

In my own case, a new, low-end treadmill from Amazon cost me half what I paid for a high-end 3D graphics card back in Jan 2011, and now 4 years later I’ve already had to replace the graphics card while the “cheap” treadmill is still working just fine. A turbo nVidia GeForce card really can make a VR experience richer, but what could be richer than having that and better experiences for years longer because your online time was also time when your body was moving instead of sedentary?

Building a Treadmill Desk #

If I did any good at convincing you, let’s proceed to put your treadmill desk together. There are high, mid, and low priced options. If you’ve got an employer who’s in it for the long haul, the “expensive” desks might be very realistic options. If you’re “playing” at home with a tight budget, the low-priced options can be quite low cost. Again in my own case, it was certainly worth half the price of a graphics card for something that I’m convinced can add years to my life.

Quick Summary #

Before diving in to the details, here’s a few scenarios:

€€€€ – If you’ve got an employer who’s in it for the long hall, any of these solutions, all of the integrated systems, and even the most expensive treadmill desk that I know of, the Steelcase Walkstation, at about US$4,499, are realistic options. Your employer is investing in higher productivity, lower sickness and other health issues, and quality office furniture that should last a long time.

€€€ – If your employer didn’t cash in with venture capital, or if you’re doing well and want to set up a treadmill desk at home, any of these integrated solutions should work. A system like the Rebel Desk is a fantastic solution at about US$1,250.

You can also just buy a way to put your laptop or monitor on your treadmill. If you don’t already own a treadmill, you could buy any model you wanted, including low cost units at places like Amazon, or used ones at places like eBay or Craigslist.

€€ – You can add a large and cozy work surface to your treadmill with a Trek Desk for about US$499.

– A still awesome, and very budget friendly solution is the SurfShelf at about US$39. Tricia Meyer and others have DIY solutions for even less than the cost of a SurfShelf.

I know some gamers buy expensive rigs, and others have to get by on very limited budgets. Even on a tight budget, a euro or two in the piggy bank from time to time and you should be able to pick up a used treadmill and a SurfShelf before too long.

Vanessa’s Solution #

Building a treadmill desk: photo of Vanessa Blaylock's treadmill desk featuring  a 116cm Samsung Monitor
116cm Samsung Monitor in front of Bieffe Drawing Table. Underneath is a treadmill and the computer case. The monitor is on a swivel arm allowing it to face the other way for watching DVDs, or Natalie Tran vlogs, from a sofa.

In January 2011 I wanted to build a new workstation. I already had a nice drawing table, and, coincidentally, I wasn’t really drawing with a pencil anymore, so it was “looking” for a new job. I decided to mount a 116cm monitor on the wall behind the table, and slide a low-cost treadmill in front of it. The monitor’s on a swivel arm and off to the left of camera is a nice couch where you could have a meal or make out while watching a DVD. The treadmill was about €250 on Amazon. It was about the lowest cost model. IDK why I wanted to spend so little when I was spending so much on the whole rest of the workstation, or maybe that was why. It’s worked out really well. Most of you probably won’t have a drawing table just lying around like I did. Or even if you do it might not go up as high as my Bieffe monocolumn table does. A better model for most people might be Sherry Pagoto who’s put 2 treadmill desks together, a large one for home and a compact one for her office.

Sherry Pagoto’s Solutions #

building a treadmill desk: photo of Sherry Pagoto working at her treadmill desk
Sherry Pagoto at her Trek Desk

Sherry Pagoto’s covered the “low” and “medium” cost solutions really nicely. At her home she took her existing treadmill and laptop and bought a medium priced Trek Desk. The Trek Desk is a really large work surface that goes over your treadmill and supports your laptop or other monitor.

Building your treadmill desk: Sherry Pagoto's office treadmill desk consisting of a laptop strapped to a treadmill with a Surf Shelf
Sherry Pagoto’s office Treadmill Desk featuring the fast, easy, and super low-cost “Surf Shelf.”

In her office Pagoto didn’t have the room for a big Trek Desk so she used laptop and treadmill with the world’s cheapest and easiest solution, the Surf Shelf. It’s a simple device that lets you mount your laptop to a treadmill. In fact when Ama Ree and I hung out at Crap Mariner’s treehouse last week, he had used a VR Surf Shelf to mount his laptop to his treadmill. It’s a very cool VR solution, but again, while a VR treadmill desk is fun, an RL treadmill desk gives you a healthier, longer life.

Photo of Ama Ree running on a treadmill desk. Monochromatic photo. Sepia toned.
Ama Ree kicking ass on Crap Mariner’s treadmill desk! Crap appears to use a VR “Surf Shelf” to strap his laptop to his treadmill. Note that while Ama’s totally rockin the treadmill, I almost never run on mine. Occasionally I do run while watching a half hour video, but mostly it’s a working space for me where I can walk at an easy 3km (or 2 or 1, or in USA 2 miles / hr or 1 or even 1/2) At these slower paces it’s easy to type, mouse, and do anything else you want. If you’re in business clothes you won’t sweat, and if you’re on the phone you won’t be out of breath.

SurfShelf #

Tricia Meyer #

Tricia Meyer spent even less than a Surf Shelf by attaching a simple wooden shelf to her treadmill:

DIY #

Klorm gives us a detailed How to for a treadmill desk similar to Tricia Meyer’s:

Krytos Gaming #

Gamer Krytos shares his DIY treadmill desk that relives back pain for him:

Fully Integrated Desks #

The Surf Shelf, the Trek Desk, and my Drawing Table, are all ways for building a treadmill desk with your existing treadmill, or one you buy separately, with a work surface for your laptop or desktop computer. If you’ve got a bigger budget, you can also buy a complete treadmill desk like those from Rebel Desk, Lifespan, NordicTrack, or Steelcase.

Note that Cali Lewis and Jordan Keyes both talk about burning calories and losing weight. That’s pretty cool for many of us, but I want to emphasize that this is an optional bonus of a Treadmill Desk. If you watched the Earnesto Ramirez Ignite San Diego Your Chair is Killing You video that I posted last week, then you’ll recall that whether or not you want to lose weight, sitting is part of a sedentary lifestyle that will shorten your life! Like Jordan, I’ve increased my treadmill walking speed over time, but again, that’s not essential. When Cali Lewis shows you how slow and easy 0.4 miles/hour is, that’s still enough to give you that needed circulation and a longer life!

Chee Gates reviews NordicTrack Treadmill Desk #

Building a Treadmill Desk #

Surf Shelf € #

DIY € #

Trek Desk €€ #

Integrated Treadmill Desks €€€ #

Steelcase €€€€ #

Want One? #

So there’s some different styles and choices for building a treadmill desk. Ranging all the way from € to €€€€! I’m definitely no expert on Treadmill Desks. I’ve only put together one, and only ever used one. But if you’re interested in building a treadmill desk, from the SurfShelf all the way to Steelcase, or anywhere in between, definitely give a shout if I can help in any way or answer any questions.

Got One? #

If you do have, or get, a treadmill desk, please leave a comment below and let me know how it’s working for you? Like it? Love it? Hate it? Praise? Complaints? LMK! If you know of other desks or accessories that I haven’t listed, please leave links also.

infographic on the health benefits of walking - building a treadmill desk
Health Benefits of Walking / Everybody Walk

Sharks #

As you probably know, sharks must move to breathe. Even when resting they need the motion of water to breathe. Perhaps we’re a bit like sharks. Movement is life. I built my treadmill desk specifically because of Ernesto Ramirez’ Your Chair is Killing You talk. If you watch some of the videos on this page, or in Part 1 of this post, you’ll see that each user seems to have their own reasons for liking treadmill desks. Circulation. Metabolism. Back pain relief. Weight loss. And more.

Building a treadmill desk: infographic on health benefits of walking
Walk Your Way to Health / Walk Boston
Some people claim to focus, concentrate, and think better on a treadmill desk. That’s not the reason I made mine, but it is true that as a young girl growing up in Georgetown I used to love the late nite philosophy walks my pseudo-intellectual friends and I would take. I’m not sure how important or insightful all that talking really was, but I do think it was somehow more interesting than the stuff we used to say when just sitting around. Today, I tend to feel productive when I’m in my studio working, yet when I go out for a run, I often come back and start scribbling down a whole list of new ideas I had out on the run.

My sister Fiona and I were home at Mom’s place for the holidays last week. We had a lot of fun at parties and sitting around eating way-too-rich foods and desserts. But we also went for a couple of long walks. Maybe it was partly because there weren’t other people there to butt in or be offended, but I think our best conversations were on those walks. Walking does seem to give you both mental focus, and mental freedom. We talked about many things. Our kids. Our uncle who no one ever said it when we were kids but I much later realized was gay. The shooting in Ferguson. Mom. Life. Stuff.

At the ripe, old age of 45 I’m finally reading the book Jane Jacobs wrote 8 years before I was born, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Although she doesn’t use the term flâneur, it’s key to her ideas. Jacobs’ book might be titled In Praise of Walking, or The flâneurable city. That kind of walking is pretty different from treadmill desk walking. But they share the idea that walking is fundamental to being. You can’t really experience the life of an RL city by car, you have to walk it. And you can’t really experience the life of a VR city by flying or teleporting, I think you have to walk VR cities too.

Walk for health
Walk to be immersed in the city
Walk for life
Walk,

Vanessa Blaylock's signature

Vanessa Blaylock and Merriam Galaxy walking down the street in Virtual New Hampshire and wearing "NH Rebellion" t-shirts
Vanessa Blaylock & Merriam Galaxy

About Vanessa Blaylock

I was the Choreographer at Vanessa Blaylock Dancers and the Artistic Director at Vanessa Blaylock Company. Today my work focuses on Public Art projects. I'm interested in the mediation of perception and mixed reality performance works. I'm passionate about community and civil rights in cyberspace.

2 thoughts on “Building a Treadmill Desk

  1. Hey, Vanessa! Just wanted to say thanks for mentioning me and my video. Actually posting this from my treadmill desk!

    Great article, lots of useful information!

    1. Thanks Jordan! As you might know better than me, a lot of people are into Treadmill Desks, but a lot of people don’t know, aren’t convinced, or just somehow aren’t ready because they think it’s too expensive, difficult, etc.

      I’ve been trying to proselytize gently, without being too annoying about it! I’m slowly making headway with a few people. And definitely enjoying my desk!

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