Build your own mobile workstation! Using a treadmill, some wood and a couple of screws, you can have your own TreadDesk at home in a matter of minutes.
Disclaimer: If any of you build one of these improperly and trash your laptop or other valuables, I will not be held responsible. Please make sure you’ve got the necessary skills to build a secure, safe desk, or take this project to a carpenter. I can’t be held responsible if you injure yourself while using your homemade TreadDesk, either. Please be careful.
I just finished writing a book. It took about a year and a half, and during that entire time I was pretty much uncomfortable the entire time. My back, neck, and hips would just ache after a day of work. I was hunched over at a desk that was too short, on the world’s shittiest chair for hours on end. I knew I had to do something and figured that a standup work station would be the way to go since I was SO sick of sitting.
Mark’sDailyApple did a post about standup work stations a while ago, and at the time I remember thinking, “Well, that’s just a tall desk. I’m not spending $1,000 on a tall desk. Just take my desk and put it up on blocks. Done. Ten bucks.”
Besides, I have a tendency to balance on one foot when I’m standing—I’ll lean to the side, bounce up and down, do yoga poses, dance, lean forward and rest my elbows on the desk—I just don’t like standing still. Often, it ends up being as uncomfortable as sitting. So, when I woke up on the 11th and saw this email from Mark’sDailyApple.com in my inbox, I knew exactly what my husband was going to do with his afternoon.
He was going to build me a TreadDesk.
That post (called How-To: Standup and Mobile Workstations) introduced me to a concept I didn’t even know was possible. Working. While walking. A treadmill and a desk combined. The benefits of standing, plus the chance to actually move naturally, to use your stabilizing muscles, have awesome posture, a super productive workday—oh, and not having to find time for a workout. But having the energy to workout if you wanted to. Which you don’t. But it doesn’t matter! You’ve already walked 10 miles today!
Needless to say, I got super excited. This sounded like the golden ticket.
I watched the video included in the post, and visited the actual TreadDesk website, and was a little shocked to find out the whole package was about $2,000. I took a critical look at their design—a “flat” treadmill, very low profile, with no arms or display panel, more like a moving mat than a treadmill, with one of their desks overtop of it—and figured my husband could jerry-rig something. There’s nothin’ you can’t build with a couple screws, some wood and duct tape.
Now, I already have a treadmill. We just bought one about six months ago, because it’s 135,000 degrees here in Phoenix and my husband has to train for his Air Force PT test. We ended up buying it new, but not before we explored Craig’s List and E-Bay and found a ton of options for $200 or less. Keep in mind, you don’t need this treadmill to be fancy. As long as it’s stable, all it has to be able to do is move up to two miles an hour. An incline is nice, which I’ll explain later, but you certainly don’t need it to be able to track your heart rate, measure the oxygen in your blood, or design some ridiculous course of hills. You want it to be stable and steady. It also needs to have arms that are somewhat sturdy. If you can do a dip on it without the arms snapping off and the entire thing falling over, you’re fine. The treadmill in your in-laws garage that is covered with VHS tapes and old clothes will work perfectly.
So, I guess that building a TreadDesk for under $20 isn’t possible without first having a treadmill. (I apologize for the blatant manipulation tactic on my part, but I wanted to increase the number of people that actually read these posts, haha.) But hey, even if you go out and buy a brand new treadmill, it’s still only going to cost about 1/4 of the total price of a TreadDesk. Here’s the link to the treadmill I bought on Amazon, free shipping, $630, and free financing. The arms don’t look long enough to be able to support the desk you’re going to build, but they are. Keep in mind, the desk design below works amazingly well for our treadmill, but you may need to adapt it slightly for your needs.
I do like the low profile of the TreadDesk and initially thought that the height of mine was going to be an issue. However, I quickly realized that if I could manage to run on it without falling off, I was probably going to be able to walk. The desk comes right to the end of the arms, so there is still plenty of tread behind me; not once have I fallen of the end or even come close. The only concession is that I need to step up and down off of it, which means pausing it first in order to be safe—I can’t just turn and walk away from my desk. Trust me, you quickly adapt to this. (I actually just tested this. That’s right, I’m walking right now. I turned, let the treadmill carry me to the back, stepped off, and then stepped back on. It was fun. But probably a little dangerous. But that’s me. Livin’ on the edge.)
Building A TreadDesk
To get a good idea of how sturdy the desk will be, lay something large and flat over the arms. I used the lid of a large Rubbermaid Roughneck bin. Do the arms curve up or down? Does the control panel get in the way? Sort this stuff out before you cut your wood. FYI, a Rubbermaid Roughneck bin lid will only hold about 7 lbs before collapsing. You can’t use it instead of wood. Don’t get any bright ideas.
- Wood, at least 1-inch thick, for the desktop, measured and cut
- 2 lengths of 2×4, measured and cut, for the rails
- Wood screws
- 8 90 degree brackets
- Saw, if you wish to curve the front of the desktop.
- Sandpaper, to remove any rough edges
- Books, cardboard, more wood or other items to raise your computer up to a comfortable level.
1. Measure the distance between the outside part of the arms. In order to have some sort of an overhang, add approximately 4-6 inches, giving you an overhang of 2-3 inches per side. Add this number to your original measurement. This is the width of the wood you’ll need for the desktop.
2. Measure the distance from the front to the end of the arms, and include any extra length if the control panel is recessed. Get down and take a look underneath the treadmill to see how far back you need to go. There is often some sort of beam down there, and you won’t be able to go past that. (This is a good thing—it will keep the desk from popping up if you apply pressure on the front of it.) Measure from the beam, or support, to the very end of the arms. This is the length of the wood that you need for the 2x4s, or rails. It will also be the length that you’ll need for the desktop.
3. Your rails are going to go on the inside of the arms. This keeps the desk from shifting up if you put weight or pressure on it. This extra safety feature doesn’t occur if you put the rails on the outside. Measure the width from the inside of the left arm to the inside of the right arm. This is how far apart you are going to place the rails on the underside of the desktop.
4. You may want to use a saw and sandpaper to make a nice curve in the front of the desktop. This allows you to be closer to the control panel without sacrificing desktop space. (Make sure that you can actually reach the control panel before cutting out a curve to see if you’ll need a bigger curve or a narrower desktop.)
5. Do some math so that your rails are centered and you don’t have six inches of overhang on one side and none on the other side. Using your drill, screws, and the 90 degree brackets, attach the rails to the desktop. (4 per rail, 2 on each side makes an extremely secure desk.)
6. I covered the desktop with a non-slip drawer liner, so that things wouldn’t slip or roll off. This extra bit of protection means I can easily have a cup of coffee on this bad boy, plus a ton of other stuff, without it sliding off. You can also paint, varnish, or decorate your desk in any way you choose. NOTE: the arms of our treadmill are padded and non-slip. If yours aren’t, you may want to cover them with a non-slip liner, to keep the desk secure.
7. Place the desk over the arms of the treadmill. Use books, boxes, cardboard, or whatever you’ve chosen to raise your computer up to a comfortable level. You’ll need to test this. Your arms should be at a 90 degree angle while you’re typing and you should be looking pretty much straight ahead–not down. Watch the video on Mark’sDailyApple for tips and to see what using a TreadDesk should look like.
Mark’sDailyApple.com suggests a walking speed of about 1.5 to 1.7 miles per hour. I found this to be too slow for me, unless I have the treadmill at an incline. A comfortable walking speed for me while reading is about 2.2 mph, but if I’m typing, I put it down to about 1.7 with an incline of 1.0. I find without the incline, I tend to drag my feet and even heel strike, which can become painful after a few hours. You can also use your new work station as a standup station–just don’t turn the treadmill on. The desk is easily removed, turning your TreadDesk back into a regular treadmill. If you have a gym at work, ask your boss if you can work from there! This station would also be perfect for the owner of a gym—after all, what else would a reputable gym use a treadmill for?
If you make your own TreadDesk, send us a picture by tweeting to @primalpower or posting it in the comments. Have fun, be safe, and get to work!