‘This is not a working method for anyone who suffers from motion sickness...’
Of one thing I am now confident. When Oscar Wilde wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol he got off the treadmill first. I understand the case for a treadmill desk. I can write the advert: Lose weight as you work! Put an end to those my-office-life-is-too-sedentary blues! Add hours to your working day and years to your life!
The case is particularly strong for me; I like the office chair. Yet I know all this sitting down is not good for me. So, as I say, I see the case. Allow me to put forward the counter-case. The first and most important part of it is this: It’s impossible to concentrate on what you are doing. You will look great and feel great as you are dismissed for incompetence.
Trying to get started on my football statistics column, ‘The Fink Tank’, while walking on the treadmill proved inordinately difficult. The urge to stop the thing or get off while I thought of an opening line was almost irresistible.
Lyndon Johnson once said of Gerald Ford that the latter was so stupid that “he couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time”. After an afternoon on the desk treadmill, my sympathies are entirely with Ford. It was very hard to do anything – open mail, consult a book, even consume a soft drink – while simultaneously walking at the same speed as the treadmill. The treadmill made everything almost impossible.
When I’d finished writing, I started to prepare for the coming week. I called an adviser to the British prime minister to get his view on some polling. I don’t think he noticed what I was doing. I can’t, however, be sure, because I can’t remember anything he said. Nor did I write it down, because it was hard to take notes and keep going. I’m going to have to phone him again.
So although the idea is that you can do two important things at once, I think the secret is that you do both badly.
Along with the distraction of treadmilling is the danger. Treadmilling? Yes. Walking, you see, isn’t an adequate verb. When you are walking you can vary your pace, stop, take in your surroundings. With a treadmill you have to keep going or fall off. It only takes a moment of hesitation, and you start to slide back alarmingly. I hadn’t been on the thing long when I decided to slow it down. This was to avoid an accident rather than because I couldn’t stand the pace. It struck me that stationary was the optimal speed.
I had taken off my shoes, because someone told me that was the thing to do, and I kept on catching my toes against the side of the conveyer belt. Yet my toes were the least of it. The big problem was my back. After about 10 minutes of trying to write and treadmill, I began to get quite a bad backache. I soon decided that the best posture was to lean over the desk, resting both elbows on it, while moving my legs like the Road Runner being chased by Wile E Coyote.
The only thing that made me feel more comfortable on the treadmill was getting off it. This is not a working method for anyone who suffers from motion sickness.
I shouldn’t be too unfair. I suspect you could get used to it and would then be able to take advantage of the health benefits without suffering the problems I encountered.
I couldn’t stand my varifocals when I first got them and now I can’t imagine being without them. Yet in order to adjust to the treadmill desk, I’d have to use it for a long time. And that, my friends, is not going to happen.