Saturday, March 29, 2008

Treadmill workstation review: the best exercise plan for today's information technology/ knowledge-worker

[Note, 12/8/2008: due to popular demand, all internet treadmill walk-station/work-station/desk-station posts have been moved the the following blog, ]

[2008. 04 . 23 update- I don't think I've included pictures of my setup here, but it is very important to have the keyboard flattened so as not to strain your wrist, elbow, and back. For a while I had the keyboard on the display panel with the mouse on the flat area below, and it caused pain in wrist and back. Currently experimenting with under-desk-style keyboard/mouse mount, or alternate flat surface for kb/mouse.]

Fellas, I gotta tell you. All of the Crockapottomi in Crock-Town are feeling very lethargic, weary, tired, and depressed, due to a week off from the treadmill internet-connected email workstation.

spare me the sales pitch and show me the goods already! (click here)

This isn't just like, "oh I'm a little down today." For a person like me, exercise means the difference between life appearing to be good and life appearing to be bad, all other variables held constant. To be able to perform my email filing, help desk, and contract management jobs while getting a workout means everything to my quality of life.

Skeptics find it amusing and even silly that I have an internet-connected treadmill workstation and home gym with workstation displays available from other exercise equipment. However, when the 20 year-old internet babies begin suffering from cardiovascular problems in their 20s, we won't be laughing anymore.

Well, the good news is that Analisa and I are back in town from our vacation, and back into the groove. So I've had some more time to elaborate on the blog posting I created to share the life-quality enhancement that has so much improved my state of being on this earth.

I'm also working on an Amazon, "So you'd like to.... Engineer the Best Internet-Connected Treadmill & Home Gym Solution" guide.

I emphasize best, here, because for me this is neither a novelty or silly gimmick. This is my entire work-life: my very existence. My survival is more important than the car I drive or house I live in.

Time permitting, I will cobble together a low-budget version of the wired gym, for starving students and those who aren't full-time IT professionals. But this is not really necessary, because the solution is not a single product. All of the individual components have stand-alone value within themselves.

Speaking of which, here is a single product bundle version, called the "WalkStation by Steelcase." I won't say "amateur," but I'm not sure this would meet the demands of a serious IT professional committed to a change in lifestyle and fitness.

Take a look at this media coverage for the walkstation, which, again, I consider a great product for the light IT worker or desk-jocky, but not robust enough to suit my needs. For example, Walkstation is quoted,

"The Walkstation is the combination of a fully integrated electric height-adjustable worksurface with an exclusively engineered, low speed commercial grade treadmill. At a maximum speed of 2 mph, the Walkstation lets you walk comfortably, burn calories, feel healthier and more energized… all while accomplishing the work you’d normally do while seated. No sweat!"
it continues on to read,

"The Walkstation has as much to do with a traditional cardiovascular treadmill workout as a walk in the woods does with a marathon. Fact is, you’d never be able to do all your normal desk-based activities on a healthclub-style treadmill.
It just wouldn’t compute!"
This is where I strongly disagree. The reality is that if an exercise product sounds like it will require hard work, the exercise equipment will not sell to the casual buyer.

This does not mean IT work cannot be done on a treadmill workstation in conjunctction with hard exercise work.

Especially with the proper display, keyboard, air-mouse, and then client/throw-away laptop.

I speak from years of experience. It started with playing guitar on the treadmill, and for about one year now I have been performing routine office productivity tasks: filing, reading, forwarding, and deleting emails on my commercial-grade, healthclub-style treadmill. Other tasks include proposal writing, help desk staffing, and, well, good-old fun web surfing :).

The alpha version of the internet treadmill was simply me walking on this treadmill with the HTC Wizard a.k.a. Cingular 8125.

But whatever blackberry-style PDA phone I had chosen is now irrelevant, because the ultimate solution involved a farther-away, wall-mounted, larger display and keyboard. The short focal length of an onbaord or in-hand display is just too much like sitting back at your office desk. Adhering to a fixd focal distance for too long can actually be damaging to your eyesight and cause one's ability to change focal distance to atrophy.

Moreover, with the alpha version of the internet treadmill, my shoulders and elbows were required to support the handheld device. This is unnatural, awkward hand positioning that leads to odd arm cramping.

But my point here is that even with all of its shortcomings, this alpha version SERIOUSLY improved the quality of my life and health (we're talking going from unhappy human to happy human), while giving me more free time.

Here is the history that followed.

  1. About 6 months into my testing, I realized I was thinking too narrowly by envisioning a single unified workstation: treadmill, keyboard, mouse, and monitor. I was looking at this from the point of view of someone reading a paper book sitting atop a treadmill, which is already becoming a dated paradigm when one considers audio books, Amazon Kindle, and iPods
  2. The decision was made to engineer a solution rather than a product. Products are great for mass marketing, standardization, and all the other stuff that gets you rich, but one size never fits all. Plus, I've already go a full time job.

  3. If I can give someone an extra 2, 5, or 10 years to experience life on this earth, then this will be the most meaningful technology work of my career.
  4. Back to the topic of engineering a solution rather than building a product . Can we agree in general that any product that is too overly-specialized ends up collecting dust in the closet? Example: Have you ever seen the ads on TV for the egg wave? You can microwave 4 delicious eggs at a time, and it's so easy because tbe eggs gook inside plastic piece that go in the dishwasher, and there is no messy pan or even spatula to scrub, no egg too flip. Just insert into microwave, start, athen eat.

    If you promise not to tell anyone, I bought an eggwave once, around 1999. The egg wave has not been seen since.
  5. Walkstation says, "Exclusively engineered, low speed commercial grade treadmill," so now we're talking overly-specialized and cheap. Do not misunderstand me, the Walkstation is a good product for a casual IT user, needing maybe 2-4 hours at a desk per day. Just like the egg wave is a good product for a college student who cooks for himself 2-4 times per month.

    But this is my very LIFE and SURVIVAL that I am dealing with here, not just some impulsive resolution to improve my health or have nice eggs every couple weeks. Cheap does not seem like a good option when one consider's mortality.
  6. Sometimes I WANT to break a sweat. When, for example, I experience frustration with a client/vendor/colleague/prospect, I may choose to dock the mouse and keyboard, and crank the Smooth Fitness Treadmill up to L7 Cardio and run on an incline.
  7. Which leads me to my next point: INTERCHANGEABLE, REUSABLE PARTS- an engineered solution rather than stand-alone, overly specialized product. There is no commitment here to buy your super-specialized unit that you *hope* will transform your lifestyle and help get you into tip-top shape (see every item ever sold by Kevin Trudeau or in Sky Mile magazine). Since this solution is not a single unit, there is no risk of closet-dust-collecting. The treadmill can be re-sold or put in the garage. The flatpanel TV and motorized mount can go to the family room or be resold, as well. And the wireless RF keyboard and air-mouse can go with you everywhere (I love my Gyration air mouse).
Cardiovascular health in the post-information revolution is a great challenge to our society. Just look at all the press this concept is getting:

I've been promising product links to my solution for months now,

so here they are,

by popular demand:

Note that although these are, raw, uncommented simple product links, these are far from arbitrary. This is the best of the best.

1+ years of research went into this. I have a graveyard of burnt treadmills, inadequate laptops, too-little Smart phones, key-missing-keyboards, torn mouse cables, and so on.

Smooth Fitness 9.45ST treadmill with 60" Deck, Hydra Suspension and Motion Control

txt: Smooth 9.35 HR Treadmill with Wireless Heart Rate Control and Hydra Suspension

Evo 1 Treadmill'

Smooth Fitness 9.45 TV Treadmill with 15" Flat Screen TV

Samsung HPS6373 63" Plasma HDTV

OmniMount MOTION 52 Motorized Cantilever Wall Mount (fits 37"-52" flat panels)


[revision] oops- I omitted the entire computer (thin client/terminal) and network connection part. For geeks, use your throwaway laptop, and, well, you already know how to do you network hookup.

For non-geeks, please post a comment requesting network, computer hookup instructions, and, time permitting, I will post detailed instructions.

If there is enough interest in this, and I have he opportunity to help enough IT workers, I will start a new blog devoted to this, with detailed analysis of the product evluation and selection process for each component.

Also, if there is interest, there is also a whole lot more to this system. Full power backup and network fault tolerance, plus a 1000Mbs-wired home-network with 3 TiVo HDs that all talk to one another and the PCs.

[added april 2008]
More info, as promised, re: DVR (TiVo is the only one UI worth considering at this point) and wired/wireless networking.

TiVo TCD648250B Series3 HD Digital Media Recorder

TiVo TCD652160 HD Digital Video Recorder

Netgear GA311 Gigabit 10/100/1000 Mbps PCI Adapter

GA511 Gigabit PC Card

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