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October 15, 2012

Paul Biba's Treadmill Desk — Episode 2: Experience strikes back


Constant readers may recall that my friend Paul Biba, former editor of TeleRead, set up a treadmill workspace at home years ago.

His treadmill broke.

Cut to this past weekend when he decided to take another whack at the piñata.

Below, his account of his adventure.



For a number of years I have been using a treadmill desk after reading a number of articles on bookofjoe.

I had a fairly expensive ($900) barely used (too boring) Nordic Track treadmill and converted it into a desk.

At first I used end tables and a board atop them to make a platform.

Then I found stackable drawers worked perfectly and gave me extra storage space.

Again, a simple board on top of them was enough to hold my 17" Macbook Pro, Apple Bluetooth keyboard, and a mouse.

Then my treadmill broke.

I was treadmill-less!

After a couple of months not using the treadmill desk, I could really feel a difference — it's hard to describe, but my body felt "tighter" than it did before.

Time to treadmill up.

I didn't want to get another expensive treadmill because it was clear I would never use it for jogging or running.

For just walking desk use at speeds of 1-3 mph, a cheap treadmill would do just fine.

No need for fancy electronics, inclines, or other bells and whistles.

After some Amazon searching — and consulting with Joe (he waived his customary $100/hour fee) — I found the Confidence Power Plus Motorized Electric Treadmill (above and below).

No bells or whistles, just a simple treadmill for $249.99 with free shipping.

The unit arrived last Friday.

It weighs less than 50 pounds and was easy to unpack and carry downstairs


all by my 68-year-old self.


The Chinglish assembly instructions were easy to follow, and I had it up and running in less than 15 minutes.

According to the user-furnished pictures on Amazon, it's easy to remove the handles and uprights completely if they get in your way. 

I verified that there would be minimal problems doing this, but I don't intend to do so at this time.

Let's make one thing clear: there is no comparison between this and the Nordic Track in terms of treadmill functionality.

The base of mine is much narrower and shorter — I'm 5'11" and I don't think anyone taller will like the relatively short base.

I was surprised at how much cushioning the Nordic Track had compared to this one.

I would NOT want to jog or run on this machine after using something like the Nordic Track.

My machine is just perfect, however, for walking.

It comes with a primitive LED display that is pretty much useless except for showing your speed.

The "calorie" function doesn't take into account age or weight, so it's not reliable.

The other functions are speed, time, and distance.

One bad thing is that it won't set a speed under 1 mph. 

Joe — based on the advice of Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, patron saint of the "Walking while working" movement — advises starting at 0.7mph and slowly moving up but that is not possible with this treadmill.

However, from its 1 mph base speed you can up it in 0.1 mph increments.

Because of its small size, I put in my office right next to my regular desk.

Now for the treadmill desk part.

I decided to use my 17" Macbook Pro with a Rain Design mStand, which raises the computer high enough that the screen is at eye level.

My current desk is some heavy cardboard I found in my garage.

I'm using this as a template to find exactly the right size, and I will eventually cut the final desk out of plywood.

The template is currently 30" x 20" and I think this may be a bit too big.

When I get the final size, I'm going to use some self-stick cork squares — which I found at my local hardware store — to cover its working surface.

That's about it.

The Confidence Power Plus made it very easy to set this up and seems to be working out fine.

It will take me a while to get back into the swim of things but I'm really looking forward to being mobile again.

October 15, 2012 at 05:01 PM | Permalink


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