So you just got a treadmill desk. Now what?

The 14-km workout

(Photograph by Hamin Lee; Treadmill desk provided by ABCO Group)

(Photograph by Hamin Lee; Treadmill desk provided by ABCO Group)

I tethered myself to two new pieces of technology the week after Thanksgiving. A CADD-Prizm ambulatory infusion pump, and a treadmill desk. The pump shot intravenous antibiotics into my left arm to fight back a mysterious skin infection that had caused my right hand to swell to resemble a steak. The treadmill desk was supposed to help me stay slim—and sane.

As a home-office journalist juggling a book deadline and domestic duties, I rely on regular runs along Ottawa’s Rideau River to put work and parenting pressures in perspective. But with the pump and a tangle of plastic tubing affixed to my hip in a fanny pack, exercise was off the agenda. Worse, whenever I walked past the kitchen, the telltale leftovers (apple pie, turkey, gravy) pulsed inside the fridge like Poe’s vengeful heart.

I was midway through a wedge of pie when my LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 treadmill desk arrived. The delivery man set it up in less than hour. With a sturdy, adjustable-height tabletop and a range of 0.6 to 6.5 kilometres per hour, I would soon be typing and talking without worrying about the “sitting disease” epidemic that’s killing North Americans. My calorie-counting Bluetooth-equipped model retails for around $1,600. But I wondered, wiping the crumbs from my mouth and setting the speed at 2.5 km/h, was I going to get any work done?

9:38 a.m., 1.6 km Like many freelancers, I start my day with e-mail correspondence, Twitter scanning and other vital online business (i.e., renewing my driver’s licence). After 40 minutes on the machine, I forget that I’m walking, but my lower back and feet hurt. I raise the desktop so that my forearms sit stably on the padded armrest and swap my slippers for a pair of running shoes.

11:53 a.m., 6.6 km The pain is gone. Sweating slightly in my chilly basement, I attempt to remove my hoodie while in motion. Bad idea. The safety key clipped to my pants stops the belt before I pratfall into the wood panelling. I manage to write a few hundred words but sway drunkenly when I step off for lunch, as if disembarking onto the dock after a boat ride. A turkey sandwich restores my land legs.

1:16 p.m., 9.1 km My craving for an afternoon coffee has been quashed. I also resist the urge to blather about the treadmill while conducting a phone interview. Conversation is no problem at this pace, but my longhand notes are illegible.

2:45 p.m. 12.8 km This is typically the time I sneak out for a short run before picking up my kids. Instead, seeing that I’ve burned 716 calories, I finish the pie.

3:20 p.m. 14.1 km. Back upstairs, I blink in the sunlight. It’s been a productive few hours. Like Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, I’m a convert. I’m also tired. Tomorrow I’ll alternate between the tread-desk and my chair. That technology has worked fine for centuries.