This may become a weekly thing…

With my treadmill desk functioning adequately–meaning I’m still ironing out how I do things, versus how I think I might do things–I’ve discovered a few nuggets of info that will have some bearing on what version 1.0 will look like.

Location Location Location

Whether you’re hopping on a treadmill, riding an exercise ball, or slouching in front of the couch covered in Cheetos, there are two locations that are absolutely critical to doing it right.

First is where you put your hands. You’ll get very tired, very fast if you’re overextending your arms to reach your keyboard. Similarly, if you have to tilt your wrists at an unnatural angle–flipping them up or bending them down–the act of typing will quickly become something you’re conscious of–and therefore taking brain cells away from your WIP or whatever other deep thoughts you’re inspiring when you’re looking at Philosoraptor memes (haha admit it, you know you do, and if you don’t, you should). And if you have to stretch to reach your mouse, or if there’s not enough space on your desk to properly mouse, you find that the repetitive stresses placed by those fine motor movements can easily build up to a persistent, low-grade pain that’s like a mild toothache in your arm. And while the pain may be something you can ignore or barely notice, the damage inside to your nerves and muscles can build up.

Next is what you’re looking at. While your ass is getting smaller, that hump on your back might just be taking up the slack. If you have to bend down to see the screen, the strain on your neck spreads downward. For many of us with laptops, it’s not something we can do that much about, but it’s definitely something to pay attention to–at the very least, you have to lift your head frequently or you really start to feel it in your shoulders.

In my case, the strains from the awkward positioning can be remedied. I can jack my laptop keyboard up, tilt the screen to avoid a hunch or, if I can’t find a sweet spot, plug in a USB keyboard at the right height for my wrists and elbows, and jack up the laptop until the screen is where I need it to be. This is all doable, and honestly, worth doing even if you’re at a conventional desk and think I’m an idiot for trying to walk and chew gum write books at the same time.

No Need To Stay Put

In spite of the strains that need to be addressed, a simple week’s worth of treadmilling while I write has taught me some interesting side benefits.

I get up more. I’ve been using a mix of writing goals that include word counts, page counts, timed writing sprints, and set “hours of operation” for quite some time (I do have to change things up when I get complacent, though). I started out treadmill-desking by setting a goal of one mile at more-or-less 1 mph. I discovered I can do somewhere between 800 and 1200 words per mile, and for that hour, my mind stays focused on writing–I’m consciously training myself to associate treadmill time with writing time, so no surfing while I’m getting my mile in. But after that mile, I find that if I take a break from both walking and the computer, when I return, I’m much more likely to want to put in another few hundred words to the WIP, rather than being seduced by the distractions.

My pacing actually improves. When I write, I tend to dither through a first draft. I know that no matter how much pre-planning I do (or don’t do, depending), I will always have to account for some dithering as I figure out nuances of character, of story, of the events that are and aren’t important enough to include in the story. But when I’m walking and writing, my characters are spending less time sittin’n’thinkin’ or sittin’n’talkin’. My muse seems to throw more action into my scenes because I’m moving.

I am persistently conscious of my own multi-tasking awesomeness. When I get off the treadmill with 800 words completed and a mile walked, I am aware of it. It put a stupid grin on my face the first few days (followed by an indulgence of extra Oreos–I’m over the Oreos but not over the stupid grin). I know that no matter what other fresh hell my days will throw at me, at least I got some exercise and some writing done.  I’m one of those people who gets very cranky if she doesn’t feel like she’s accomplished some writing work. Getting it done makes all the difference in the rest of my day.

Because I can walk and chew gum at the same time.

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