How I hacked my computer desk to help me lose 67lbs (pics)

When I decided to really* lose weight, I started by looking at all the things I knew I should already be doing but wasn’t. One of those things was exercise. When I was motivated, I could get myself to the gym 5 days a week. But I couldn’t sustain it. Pretty soon I’d be down to 1 day a week. Or 1 day a month. Or never.

So rather than beating myself up about it (my previous approach), this time I asked myself why I didn’t go more often? I mean, I was always happy to have gone to the gym. And I felt great when I did go. Then there’s all that pesky research that shows how exercise helps you lose weight, feel better, live longer, etc. There’s really no downside to it.

Except I hate it.

Okay, so why? For me, there were three main factors: 1) It’s inconvenient to go to a gym 2) I didn’t have time for it** 3) It’s B-O-R-I-N-G.

Being a reasonably smart geek, I decided that if I put my mind to it, I should be able to solve these problems. I figured out the solution 1) Needed to bring the gym to Craig instead of bringing Craig to the gym 2) Had to combine whatever this home gym activity would be with something else I was already doing 3) Had to be entertaining.

Since I spend approximately 1,000 hours a day on a computer, that seemed the most likely idea. I did briefly consider focusing my efforts on the TV, but since I work in the TV business I tend not to watch too much at home. And I can watch TV on the computer via Netflix, Hulu and those kinds of things, so the computer would be a two-for-one deal.

Once I decided that my home gym activity had to be built around using the computer, I looked at either using a stationary bike or a treadmill. Both had their pluses and minuses, but I thought walking would be easier. Plus I make sure to walk 10,000 steps a day, so a treadmill would fit in with an activity I was already working on.

If you do some Googling, you’ll find ways to make a treadmill desk for $39 and treadmill desks that cost more than $4,000. I worried that if i tried to do it myself, the project would get bogged down forever in some halfway-completed state, so that wasn’t an option. But I’m too much of a cheapinsky to spend $4,000 on a desk if I don’t have to.

I settled for something in the middle of the price range and only partly DIY. I bought a tread from TreadDesk, which was a steep $840 with another $150 for shipping. I bought a small GeekDesk frame for $525, which let’s me move the desk from a standing to a sitting position. And I found a local woodworker, Benton Custom, to make a custom wood top for me. That was just over $1,000, which frankly was a lot more than I intended to spend.

I justified reasoned that if I spent invested that much money on a desk, I’d be more inclined to use it. And by making it really, really nice, I’d be doubly more inclined. You can see the end result in the pictures, and I absolutely love it.

I use the desk constantly, and far more than I thought I would. I started out with a goal of exercising on it 3 days a week, but I usually end up doing 5-7 days. I figured I’d walk for 30-60 minutes at a pace of 1-2mph, and instead I’m on it 45-90 minutes at 3-3.5mph. My goal of 10,000 steps a day often ends up turning into 15,000-20,000.  And I’m never B-O-R-E-D!

The best part about using my treadmill desk is that it never feels like a chore, and it never feels like exercise. Most days I’ll get on and a half hour whizzes by before I’m done checking and e-mail and twitter. (You can follow me at @weighthacker and @craigengler by the way.) If I end up on a Reddit or BuzzFeed spree, it will all but guarantee a 60-minute or longer session.

Yes, it was hellishly expensive, but there are ways to do it pretty cheaply. And let’s be honest, I’ve probably spent more than that on unused gym memberships, and at least this actually works.

 * By “really” I mean, I focused my time and resources on losing weight, I didn’t just go for a quick fix or a fad diet. I realized to lose weight I had to permanently change my life, not just hope I could magically drop all my extra pounds with some temporary change and then go back to the same way I’d be doing things.

**How did I ever “not have the time” to be healthy?!? What convenience is worth being overweight, being more likely to have chronic health problems and having a shortened life span?

    Also check out11 gadgets that can help any geek lose weight

Posted June 5, 2012 @ 9:38 am | Tags: ,,,,

30 thoughts on “How I hacked my computer desk to help me lose 67lbs (pics)

  1. Brilliant. I am in EXACTLY the same place with the gym scenario, and it kills me. Reading this was awesome, love your writing style. Web developer here, sitting for approximately 1,000 hours per day – you’ve inspired me, sir.

  2. Hey Craig,

    Awesome idea – I’ve seen your tweets about it, but was curious as to the setup.

    Do you find it difficult to focus on the screen or type at all, while you’re doing the walking?


    • I’ve had no problems focusing on the screen or typing. It’s much easier than I thought it would be.

  3. Love the set up! What a perfect corner for the work station!

    I’ve heard from people who converted to standing work station complaining about sore feet for the first few weeks. They weren’t even on treadmills. How many hours do you use this per day? How long does it take to get used to it?

    • Actually, standing in one place is harder on our bodies than walking. Treadmill surfaces are a bit more forgiving than hard floors, and the constant motion keeps your feet and joints from hurting of “stagnation pain.” Muscles might feel sore from exercising, but that’s not the same as the aches from standing for long periods.

    • We’ve had a SurfShelf on our elliptical for the last couple of years. It works pretty well, particularly with a smaller laptop (although we’ve used it with a 15″ laptop on occasion, a 13″ works better).

      I think it would actually be easier to use on a treadmill than an elliptical, because you don’t bob up and down quite so much.

  4. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » TALKING ABOUT THE FUTURE: What Is the Future of Standing/Walking Workstations? I’ve considered a t…

  5. How do you use it when you’re not walking? Do you just use it as a standing desk, or do you put a chair on the treadmill and lower the desk?

  6. Sinking money into a project is a good way to – incentivize – yourself. Long, long ago I hired a hypnotist to help me stop smoking. And by golly, I was not going to buy cigarettes again until I’d saved enough money by not buying cigarettes to pay for the hypnotist. Long months later, I was free of the habit.

    Of course, I gained twenty pounds when I quit. You have to watch out for the Law of Unintended Consequences. Perhaps I should have followed up by installing a treadmill under my desk.

  7. What’s the kindle-looking device to the left of your computer and what do you do with it while treading?

  8. Pingback: What I’m doing to stay alive a little longer ‹ Scott Edelman

  9. Pingback: Weighthacker A 'Move More, Eat Smarter' balance may be the key to losing weight » Weighthacker

  10. That is a great idea, I love everything about it. The look and the fact that you can exercise while reading post or emails. I can’t believe you can type while moving, that’s fantastic. Enjoy it fully.

  11. Do you know about the FitDesk? I got one of those for a lot of the reasons you stated, but was also intimidated by the involved DIY instructions and cost of the prefab ones. For around $250, I’m highly satisfied with it and seriously can’t say enough good things about their customer service.

  12. Pingback: Weighthacker Making game playing healthier by using a standing desk

  13. You could use a program that type’s for you as you speak am thinking.3 questions>What is that deal on the left looped looking and is that a picture of Golden Gate Bridge and what is that view of out the window?

    • Good thought about the voice-to-text although I really have no problems typing while I walk. Answers: 1) A light that turns on or off if you touch it anywhere 2) Williamsburg Bridge 3) The East River as seen from Brooklyn.

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