Monday, January 21, 2013

In search of the perfect workspace

I have lots of goals for the year (though I'm not going to disclose most of them), one of which was to write without pain. That's right: was. Past tense. Because even though we're only three weeks into the year, I've already accomplished this one!

I'm one of those people who has a terrible time with neck, shoulder, and back trouble, especially when I sit for long periods of time. Yoga helps, but not enough to counter the sitting.

Toward the end of last year, as my writing career started taking off and I found myself spending more time sitting in my desk chair, I started to have hip pain, too. It was awful, to the point where I seriously wondered if I would be able to continue writing.

So one of my goals for 2013 was to write without pain.

My original plan was to get a treadmill desk. We don't have a treadmill, which meant that not only would I have to buy the desk for one, but I'd also have to buy a treadmill. And that gets really expensive really quick.

Factor in my tendency to stop walking when an idea pops into my head, and I wasn't sure a treadmill was what I really wanted. The last thing I needed was for a treadmill to shoot me off the end and into the bookcase on the far wall. Kind of goes against the whole pain-free thing.

I looked into manual treadmills, given their potential benefits: less expensive, non-motorized and therefore incapable of throwing me against the wall, and environmentally friendly (relatively speaking) because they don't use electricity.

Naturally, all the reviews I found indicated a manual treadmill wouldn't work. It turns out that you have to hold on in order to gain enough traction to make the tread go. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a treadmill desk if you can't type when you use it.

And then, just to further complicate matters, my husband said he wanted to be able to use the computer. The kicker? He wanted to be able to sit down.

I threw my hands up in frustration, and started researching desks all over again. And guess what? I happened across this blog post, which addressed every single issue I'd encountered.

I researched the components individually, weighed people's complaints against what I was looking for, and took the plunge. This is the result:

The Ergotron Workfit S workstation (the thing on the desk itself) raises and lowers with minimal effort (you do have to adjust it so that it stays when you move it, but once you get it set right, it's a piece of cake). In its lowest position, I can sit, but I rarely do. I'm usually on the mini-elliptical, although sometimes I move it out of the way and just stand.

It takes getting used to the up-and-down motion, but I find that if I go slowly enough, it's not a problem. Except when I need to use the mouse. Clicking on a link is nearly impossible while actually ellipticating (that's a word, isn't it?), so I've had to learn a lot of keyboard shortcuts. There's a bit of time invested in that, but once I've got them down, it's much faster to get things done, whether I'm using the elliptical machine or not.

The one thing I would love to add is a dynamo. How great would it be to charge up the dynamo with the elliptical, and use that energy to power the monitor? Talk about motivation to keep moving! But that's somewhere down the line.

But I absolutely LOVE this set-up. I'm far more productive with this than I ever was sitting in a chair. I'm no longer in pain. And I've already accomplished one of my goals for the year.

Do you experience pain when you work? How do you deal with it?


  1. Good for you! I got a small plastic treadmill desk for Christmas that clips on and off easily. I have to walk pretty slow - a 1 if I'm actually typing and a 2 if I'm watching a webinar or something. But still, I can walk a mile in an hour instead of just sitting on my duff for that same hour!

    1. Perfect! If I'd already had a treadmill, I definitely would have gone that route. One mph seems to be pretty common for treadmill desks,from what I can tell. And yes, slow is better than nothing!

  2. For me- no pain, (knock on wood) except the agony of not quite getting the words right at times...

    Your writing space is unusual and worthy of a post!

    1. Thanks, Mirka. Glad to hear you're pain-free. Now I get to focus on getting those words right, rather than trying to get comfortable!

  3. Looks like a great setup! I'd love to get a treadmill desk too, but that would also mean getting a treadmill. And finding space for a treadmill. One thing I've done is sit on a stability ball in front of a small adjustable plastic desk. Doesn't burn a load of calories, I'm sure, but bouncing on it and staying balanced and such is better than just sitting in a chair.

    I've also had problems with pain but thankfully it's gotten much better; tendonitis in my right arm had me sidelined for a while, starting in October. I'm finally back to writing, although I still have some soreness and tingling. Going to the chiropractor for adjustments and massage therapy has helped a lot.

    Hope your pain stays away too!

    1. Thanks, Lynne! Glad to hear you've found something that helps keep the pain at bay. Movement makes a huge difference!