Monday, December 19, 2011

The Standing Desk Experiment, Entry 2

A week-and-a-half ago, I rearranged my cubicle so that I could stand while I work in an attempt to be more fit and less sedentary. You can read about what sparked the change here.

After only a few days of being on my feet through most of the day, I realized one problem: I was ill-equipped in the shoe department for this experiment. My ankles, knees, and hips were threatening to call the experiment off.

So over the weekend I bought myself some nice gel inserts and "installed" them in these colorful plaid numbers, which were still in decent shape save for the hole I had worn through the bottom. (Not good for wearing in the rain.)

They will stay at the office, and I will be doing a Mr. Rogers routine every morning — walk in, change my shoes, sing a little song, and talk to my tiny, make-believe friends.

As for the standing desk itself, my first configuration put a cabinet right in front of my face, and I had to leave out a small bulletin board. I realized I could put the cabinet under the desk, leaving room for my big head and the bulletin board. It took a little loud work and a screwdriver, but I moved things to more useful positions, as you can see:

There are two things to learn from creating this second configuration: First, if you're considering a standing desk for yourself, don't run out and do it in a flurry of excitement; make better use of your time by planning it out first. Second, if you're dealing with furniture that is designed to be modular — like the type of cubicleware I was moving about — take a good look at it first. After needlessly turning screws in and out in knuckle-scraping spots, plenty of loud noise, and quite a few curses, I noticed that the cabinet (like everything else) was designed to be easily disassembled and reassembled.

Had I noticed that earlier, I would have saved quite a chunk of time, energy, and sweat.

I seem to be adjusting to the standing desk fairly well. My legs and feet aren't as sore as they were after those first few days, and I generally don't get as tired at work as I used to, back in those sit-down days.

I'm considering getting a stool and nixing the chair, but what I really want is a set of wireless headphones, or at least headphones with a six-foot cord (those purple ones in the pic have only a three-foot cord).

It's awful hard to dance around the cube when I'm so closely tethered to the CPU.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Standing Desk Experiment

I avoid my doctor.

I don't dislike him — he's pleasant, easy to talk to, and shows no egregoius character flaws that might make spending time with him disagreeable. It's just that he's my doctor, and doctors on the whole aren't in the business of telling people how great everything is.

In my case specifically, I don't like visiting him because I already know what he's going to say, and I don't want to have to pay him to say it.

Plus, I don't want to hear it.

But the reappearance of my anxiety problems this fall necessitated a return to the offices of Dr. C. A visit Halloween got me back on an antidepressant (at twice the dosage I had been on a few years ago). Then, last Wednesday, I had a full physical, replete with blood tests, awkward questions, and even more awkward touching.

Considering the intensity and strangeness of my most recent episodes, I honestly expected (and alternately hoped and feared) that the tests would reveal some new, underlying problem — an ulcer, a pituitary malfunction, celiac disease, cancer — something (preferably treatable) that would explain how bad I was feeling. And you know what Dr. C told me?

Exactly what I knew he would, what I didn't want to pay him to say, and what I didn't want to hear: not enough good fat (HDLs), too much bad fat (LDLs), triglycerides through the roof. I need to lose weight and get more exercise.

And nothing else. No medical abnormalities that hadn't been there five years ago, no viruses, no infections, nothing in my blood that shouldn't be there. I was essentially back where I started, still suffering the repercussions of my sedentary life.

But it just happened that a few other bits of information had sunk into my brain in the days prior to my physical. First, there was the December 1 episode of The Office, in which Dwight replaced his usual work desk with a standing desk, silently regretting the absence of a chair just a few hours into his workday but too proud (or too pig-headed) to admit any sort of defeat in front of Jim.

I had heard of the idea of a standing desk before. It made sense, and it sounded like a good idea. At least in theory. And that little seed of a thought rattled around in my head for a while.

Then earlier this week — it might have even been the morning of my physical — someone tweet a link to this infographic about the detrimental effects of sitting for long periods.

You remember sitting, right? The one thing besides breathing that I am always doing while I work, whether I'm editing, writing, drawing, or playing the clarinet.

I've been around long enough not to blindly trust the numbers fed to me in infographics like this. For all the great information on the Internet, there's a lot of horrible, inflated, politically spun misinformation out there, too. But I'm sure there's some truth behind just the idea that sitting all day every day is unhealthy.

Which brings me to the Standing Desk Experiment. I left Dr. C's office the way I usually do, with a renewed focus on living a healthy life. (It usually lasts for a couple weeks before disappearing.)

So the next morning, hopped up on excitement, caffeine, and Zoloft, I set about rearranging the modular pieces of my workspace to create my own standing desk.

I knew from past excruciating experience in retail that I would neither appreciate nor enjoy standing for the entire work day, so I was sure to arrange the space so that I could still work sitting down when I need to. As you can see, I've raised the monitor so I can look down to it while standing and up to it while sitting. The monitor stays there, but the keyboard and mouse can move back and forth.

So far, I've only used this configuration for two days, and I've already started tweaking it. But in that time, I have made three observations that you might find interesting if you're considering your own stand-up workspace:
  1. Standing at a desk + Spotify = More dancing at work.
  2. Those annoying "are you gellin'" commercials suddenly won't seem so annoying.
  3. It's damned hard to fall asleep at your desk when you're standing up.
Anyway, watch this space as I chronicle the saga of the Standing Desk Experiment. I hope that I'll be sharing a thousand little joys and not too many disappointments.