author – activist – faculty – mom
I’ve known I wanted one for months, but it took a while to get up the nerve to buy one.
In August of 2017, I looked online and saw they cost about $1500, and got really intimidated. I know that people will sometimes make impulsive purchases of this type and regret them. Would I even like walking while working? So I decided to find out. I went to the YMCA with my iPad, and learned that I could walk and email at the same time.
In early September, I bought a cheap treadmill desk from Sears ($300). It arrived damaged (the corner of the desktop was scratched), but I didn’t really care about that. I worked on it and LOVED it. Unfortunately, the belt began to slip after a few uses (really dangerous), so I called to return it. And then found myself calling at least 25 additional times, and sending roughly the same number of emails only to get stonewalled by the 3rd party seller on the website and incompetent Sears customer service protocol. I talked to a lawyer and was ready to sue, but finally got some help. At the time of this writing, I have actually gotten my money refunded, but Sears has only gotten half of the treadmill desk back, despite my BEGGING them to send me a return label for the other half that is sitting on my porch. But I digress.
It was too threatening to spend $1400 on a piece of home exercise equipment. I was not raised like that. My mom is from the projects. She has never belonged to a gym. I have belonged many times, but have never gone consistently over any long period of time. For many reasons, exercise is a struggle for me.
I have always put my career first. As a working artist with a day job, spare time has always gone into writing. And once I became a mom, it was a wrap. There literally wasn’t the time to exercise. I had periods where I took long walks with my daughter in the stroller. Or I would manage to get in a couple weekly walks with friends. But never with consistency over long periods of time. As a writer mom, I am profoundly frustrated by the lack of time to really dig into my fiction. When I was childless, I would wander around in my novels during weekends and vacations, kind of spaced out as the worlds unfolded in my head. It was intoxicating, like watching a riveting movie only I could see because I was writing it. Yet I have taken on the job of motherhood as an equally passionate project. So as a mom, I am loathe to give up any more of my writing time than necessary. But I want to live to 100 years old, and in order to do that, I need to exercise.
Last year, I finally confronted myself about it. I was always saying I “should” exercise, but there was no plan in place. I worked on it in a peer counseling session and got real. Sure, I would exercise, as long as it didn’t take any time away from writing. Which sounded ridiculous to my own ears. Did I have my own time machine? How could that even be possible? But I had been watching the show “The Bold Type,” and the boss had a treadmill desk. In my own life, I knew a wealthy friend of a friend who had one. They existed. I had assumed that they were not accessible to me. I went online to see how much they cost. $1400. No way. But maybe I could try a cheap one.
So after the Sears fiasco, I bought a decent one. LifeSpan is the brand that came highly recommended. The model I wanted was on sale for $999 in December. I bought one. I set it up. I’ve been writing on it since January 2, 2018.
And here’s the thing. It’s effortless to use. Walking is the body’s natural, unconscious way of moving in the world. I can do it and talk to a friend, or I can do it and send an email, read an article, review the page proofs for my latest novel. I walk at a clip of maybe 1.5 miles/hour. In a 2.5 hour block of time, I can walk about 3.5 miles. I don’t get winded, but I work up a sweat. It’s about 10,000 steps.
And there are other benefits. I’ve been working hunched over a laptop for over a decade. My treadmill setup is more ergonomic for my wrists and neck. And after I write and walk, my muscles hurt, so I have to stretch.
It took some work to figure out where to put it, as well. We have a very cozy cottage, without much extra space. I put the treadmill desk in the corner of my daughter’s room (the desktop is only 38″). It takes up roughly the same amount of space as an average size adult desk.
I look forward to being much more physically active in 2018 without putting much extra time into it. The multitasking of it feels like magic, like I’m stealing time for myself and my body.
Figuring out this exercise piece of my life has been really complex as a fat woman and a feminist. Am I thinking I “should” exercise because I am expected to invest in getting thinner? Is my refusal to prioritize exercise more about teenage rebellion against the rules for girls than a reasoned decision about what’s in my best interest? Because sexism places demands in both directions: it demands that I look like a thin teenage girl forever. It also demands that I put my needs last before taking care of everyone else. There’s no way to take a step in any direction without defying one demand and caving in to the other.
That’s why the treadmill desk is such a great solution. It’s definitely true that I’m not as efficient when I walk and work. My typing has more errors and trying to write by hand is ridiculous. But you know what? I don’t care. Because the issue is that I don’t want to spend one less minute at my desk, and I’m not. If my writing time is less productive, it’s still about me spending maximum hours doing the thing I love. As Congresswoman Maxine Waters says, “I’m reclaiming my time!”
So between my treadmill desk, the midterm elections in November giving us a chance to #FlipCongress, and Fire and Fury, 2018 is looking hopeful, so far.