Treadmill Desk

homemade treadmill desk

A typical work day at my treadmill desk.

This page contains links to the various posts I have written that reference the treadmill desk that I built for my office.  My project cost a total of $150 and that includes the used treadmilll.  I have been using the treadmill desk since November 2012 and love it!  I average 20 miles a week of walking and working.  Just recently I set a record of 8.3 miles of walking and working in 5 work hours before lunch.  Many of you may be looking for info on how I built my treadmill desk…scroll down to the first post “Treadmill Desk (or) How Computer Nerds Live Long and Prosper.”

Thank you for your interest in my treadmill desk.  I would be happy to answer any questions you have about building your own treadmill desk – just use the contact page.  If you like these posts, consider following my blog via Email, RSS, Facebook or Twitter.  You might also enjoy my posts about my time on the Appalachian Trail where I walked 2,168 miles in 5 months.  I also have a post about my Merrell Olmec shoes that are great for working on a treadmill desk.

Treadmill Desk (or) How Computer Nerds Live Long and Prosper

Treadmill Desk

My homemade treadmill desk in the office.

Update: My DIY treadmill desk has been so popular that I now have a site dedicated to it.  You might want to check out DIYTreadmillDesk.com for ideas on how to build your very own treadmill desk.

A few weeks ago, in a marathon day of sitting at my computer, I realized that sitting at my computer was slowly killing me.  I can’t tell you how many articles I have read in the last year that talk about the dangers of sitting for long stretches of time at work.  So I decided to do something about it…I built a treadmill desk in my office.

I felt oddly embarrassed to tell anyone I was thinking about putting together such a strange concoction of exercise equipment and high-end Apple hardware.  I ran the idea by my wife since I would be spending our money on this experiment.  She was supportive, as she is of most of my ideas, especially the ones that will keep me healthy.  A few others who I told had quizzical expressions on their face but were generally supportive.

I watched Craigslist (CL) for a while and kept missing out on treadmills that were cheap and nearby.  Who knew that so many people wanted a large piece of equipment that often becomes a clothes rack???  Eventually I landed a $75 entry-level unit on Saturday.  Sunday afternoon I ran to Lowe’s to grab adjustable shelving and some lumber so I could get to work.  With no one at the church office that afternoon, I was able to quickly and quietly build the desk that I had envisioned in my head.

Working at my Treadmill Desk

Working at my treadmill desk.

Monday was my first day to get on and give it a solid work experience.  I found 1.2mph to be my ideal speed for strolling while still being able to maintain control of my hands for typing and clicking.  Working at a treadmill desk is not about working up a sweat or getting the pulse rate up, its about not sitting.  I quickly discovered that my keyboard and mouse were in the wrong place.  I had simply laid a 12″ board across the treadmill handrails which put the input devices too low and at a weird angle.  After just an hour or so my right wrist was hurting…and I’m not the type to hurt too easily.

Monday was also the day that my grand experiment was discovered.  I am a youth and family minister for a church that I have a wonderful relationship with.  My office is on the other side of the building from all of the other offices, so other staff members have to make a special effort to come down my way.  Once the new addition to my office was discovered I was “on display.”  Everyone approved and a few even tried it out.  Several posts I had read about treadmill desks warned that you would spend the first week feeling like people were watching you, because they are.

Tuesday I added a bit of height to the board that holds the keyboard and mouse by adding a strip of wood under the front edge.  It helped but was not enough.  Tuesdays are a heavy computer use day for me, so I wound up finding a 6″ tall box that was big enough and sturdy enough to work on.  The box sitting on my existing platform provided the perfect height for my keyboard and mouse.  That night I built a 24″ wide, 6″ tall platform to add onto my setup.  I even tried my hand at a router for the first time to round off the edge of the board where my wrists would be resting.  (I still have all my fingers!)

Treadmill Desk Closeup

A closeup of my work space.

Wednesday I tacked the new addtion into place and had found the perfect fit for me.  A perfect fit that allowed my hands and wrists to be in the correct position.  The adjustable shelves on the wall allowed me to raise the Macbook Pro and second monitor to eye level.  I was now standing up straight, walking and working.  (I have also managed to chew gum while doing all this 🙂  The new setup also provided lots of space for any papers I might be working with or books I am using.

It has only been one week and I am loving this new style of working!  I have found out that I don’t work at my computer near as much as I thought I did, but every week seems to vary in my line of work.  I’ve logged about 10 miles of walking at the treadmill desk from Monday through Thursday.  I find that I jump right into my work in the mornings and get through tasks in a quicker manner than I used to.  I haven’t had any problems with the afternoon lull that often follows lunch.  I can read an amazing amount of text without getting drowsy like I sometimes do when I’m sitting.  I feel more creative and have had ideas popping into my head all week.  When I leave for the day my legs feel a bit tired but my body feels energized.  I have been able to accomplish a lot more at home after work and feel I am generally in a better mood when I get home…even if traffic is horrendous.  And my wife is very proud of me 🙂

Good shoes are a must.  I usually go to work in a pair of Merrell Olmec shoes that have Vibram souls.  They are pretty expensive but are the best shoes I have ever worn.  Having a secondary work surface is also a must.  I still have my big desk and can unplug the laptop and head over there to work if I need to, but I haven’t done that yet.  I am blessed with a supportive church that allows me the flexibility to work in whatever manner I am most productive.  When I am at home working, I miss my treadmill desk.

Treadmill desks that are manufactured start at around $350 for a desk and then you have to buy your own treadmill.  Treadmills with a built-in desk start at around $900 and the most popular one is around $1400.  I spent $75 on the treadmill and $65 on wood, shelving brackets, and wall anchors.  After one week I am SUPER happy with my investment.

What do you think?  Could you ever picture yourself strolling and working?  Do you have any questions about what it is like to use a treadmill desk?  I’d be interested to hear your questions or comments.

Thanks to all of you who are seeing this post after searching “treadmill desk” on Google or another search engine.  I have had a ton of traffic for my treadmill desk posts.  Please consider subscribing to my site via email or RSS to receive future updates.  And if you’re on the fence about making a treadmill desk…just do it!

DIY homemade treadmill desk

One happy dude on his DIY treadmill desk. Total cost approximately $140.

Update: Treadmill Desk Success

It is interesting to me that my very first post on this blog – the one about my treadmill desk – is the by far the most popular thing I have written.  Everyday I receive several visits to my little site from around the U.S. and the world from curious people who are interested in the treadmill desk.  If you don’t follow me on Facebook, then let me tell you right now…I LOVE MY TREADMILL DESK!!!

treadmill desk happy guy

A happy bearded dude at his treadmill desk.

This is the 4th week I have been walking and working and I have 98% positive things to say about my new active work station.  I feel like ‘a million bucks’ at the end of the workday instead of feeling like a bloated, fatigued blob.  My creativity, focus and productivity have all increased.  I can’t give you a specific measure on this because I did not set a baseline measurement for productivity since the treadmill desk was built on a whim.  But I am cranking out material at a volume and quality that I have not produced in some time.

The first week I started working on the treadmill I was walking around 2 to 2.5 miles a day at a pace of about 1.3mph.  In my 4th week I am averaging 5 miles a day at a pace of 1.5mph.  This week might be my first ‘marathon’ week at work – banging out 26.2 miles in one week while working.  That kind of mileage isn’t anything new to my body.  When I was in my early 20’s I ran 4 marathons and would hike 20-25 miles a day on my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail…and that was carrying a backpack with gear.  Alas, time and laziness have caught up and I would be doing well to run 1 mile…but I can still walk like a beast!

The only thing I have found that is bad about working on the treadmill is a nagging foot injury that flares up every now and then.  Some minor discomfort is a fair trade for the productivity I have been enjoying and the increased energy.  I think my wife really enjoys when I come home now because I’m upbeat and ready to play with the kids and help around the house…instead of needing to sit down and rest for a while. Plus I almost always come home in an overly happy mood…I might need to tone that down a bit 🙂

Some have asked…are you losing any weight?  I guess my answer would be no. I’ve noticed that I didn’t put on any weight during the holidays…and I devoured a LOT of unhealthy things this year…so that is a positive.  I do feel ‘trimmer’ though.  My belt has tightened up a notch and clothes feel a bit more loose.  I would assume that walking while I work combined with reducing the amount of soda I drink would lead to a bit of weight loss in the coming months.  But working on a treadmill doesn’t get the heart rate into the target zone for someone my age.  I have to go slow so I can keep my hands still for typing and my head still for reading.

Speaking of reading…many have asked how challenging it is to read and write while walking.  Again, if you go slow enough you kind of forget that you are walking.  The first day was the only day I had a bit of adjustment to the rhythm of walking and reading.  It’s nothing like when I would try to read textbooks while on the elliptical machine at the gym.  At the gym I was trying to go fast enough to stay in the zone and that does not combine well with reading…at least for me.

I have mentioned to some that I don’t feel motivated to get to the gym, but I didn’t feel motivated before the treadmill desk either, so I wouldn’t count that as a problem of the treadmill desk.  I have added in some pushups to my workday.  No set number just a few pushups every now and then to change things up.  Got the idea from “The One Push-Up Challenge” which talked about small changes making a big impact.  I already have enough BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that I am working on. None of my co-workers have walked in on me doing push-ups, they still get a chuckle when they come down and see me walking and working but they are super supportive!

As I’ve mentioned before, good footwear is a MUST.  I love my Merrell shoes that I wear to work everyday.  Getting your keyboard, mouse and monitors at the proper height are essential too.  The first few days my keyboard and mouse were too low and I strained my wrist in just a matter of hours.  Took about 4 or 5 days for that to stop hurting.  I really enjoy the height of my monitors.  The placement makes me stand up straight when I’m walking.

Is a treadmill desk for you? I can’t say.  I am blessed to have an employer who let’s me do crazy things like this in my office.  I still have my traditional desk where I probably spend an hour or so a day doing other projects.  I couldn’t imagine having a big setup like this in my house.  If you’re in the DFW area you’d always be welcome to come by and give my setup a try!

I was feeling a bit nerdy today so I setup a camera while I was working and made this quick little video – 41 seconds to be exact:

[weaver_youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veVqraBJuZg sd=0 percent=100 ratio=.5625 center=1 rel=0 https=0 privacy=0 see_help_for_others]

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look.  A share via email, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest is always appreciated.

Money, Money Monday and a Soda Update

“Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of.”
– English Proverb

Over the last few years I have let myself get into some bad habits in various areas of my life.  It is amazing how easily they creep in and how they can go unchecked for so long.  The excuses I have made in my mind are somewhat entertaining when I look back on them…and kind of sad.  Tackling my soda habit has caused a snowball of ‘cleaning house’ in my life.

Two Dollar Bills in a Wallet

Money, Money Monday

A bad financial habit is coming around to bite us in a few weeks.  The bad habit is LAZINESS, perhaps you’ve heard of it.  I am a minister which makes for some interesting finances.  Our church is very generous and I feel well provided for.  We are able to afford to have my wife work just two days a week as a nurse which provides health insurance for our family, brings home some additional money and allows her to be home with our children as much as possible.  My system of saving to pay big bills requires active money management…not laziness.

At work I get paid every two weeks.  We are blessed to not live paycheck to paycheck, because of great jobs, the example of our parents, frugal choices and always hustling to make a little extra cash.  Within our bank account I have sub-accounts where I am supposed to deposit a certain percentage of each paycheck so that at the end of the year we will have a nice lump of money to pay property tax, insurance, and income tax.  Guess who got lazy and didn’t do this in 2012?  That’s right…me!  Fortunately we didn’t go wild spending money that we didn’t have so the funds are still in the main account to pay our property tax bill at the end of this month.  It’s a BIG bill and I am glad I don’t have to worry about how to pay it even though I was lazy.

Some of you might be asking – “Why are you paying your own property tax if you pay a mortgage?”  When we first took out a mortgage when we built our house in 2007 I was very active in managing our money.  There was not a penalty to opt out of the escrow fund for property tax and home insurance so I collected the money throughout the year and made a bit of interest off the funds as they sat in a money market account.

My first paycheck of 2013 is ready for deposit and I will be getting back onto track with purposing money into the various accounts.  I have sub-accounts for home, car, tax and IRA.  I always go inside the bank to do my business and I can fill out a deposit slip so that the funds are automatically distributed in the proper percentages into these accounts.  There is a certain amount of security in knowing that these funds are set aside for when the big bills come and that there will be no worry or last minute scrambling to scrape together funds.

I think it is important to note, when talking about purposing money, that I don’t set aside funds for our weekly contribution at church.  We will give the amount we have purposed every week until we have no money left to give.  We believe in giving to God from the first of what we get, not what’s left.  If times get tight we will not cut back on giving, we will cut back on other areas – on comfort items and such.

So that is my tale of laziness with money.  I suppose we all fall into that trap in various areas.  I am glad to say that my laziness didn’t get us into too much trouble, but it could have easily gotten that way.  What areas of your financial life do you need to work on?  Do you have a budget that you work from?  Have you reviewed your monthly bills lately and called your providers to ask for discounts and lower rates?  There is always money to be saved somewhere, even if it is just a couple of bucks.

And now for the soda update…  It has been another good week.  I have been able to avoid drinking too much of the sugary stuff, staying inside my goal all but one day this week.  Saturday evening we went out for pizza as a family and I had 2 styrofoam cups of Dr. Pepper.  Now that I think about it I wound up not finishing the 2nd cup so I might have actually stayed pretty close to 12 ounces.  There is something about pizza that really requires Dr. Pepper.  I think it is perfectly fine to let loose every now and then.

I haven’t felt this good in a long time.  Cutting out all the sugar has caused a significant decrease in fast food consumption as well.  I did 24.48 miles at the treadmill desk last week.  Probably about 6-7 miles of that was at a 1.0 incline.  (I’m not sure how many degrees that is on this machine.)  My body feels great.  Some mornings my legs are a bit stiff but it is the good kind of stiff, the kind where I know my muscles have been working.  I’ve been battling a tender foot.  I was horsing around with our 5 year-old and she landed on my foot and made it fold up in an odd position.  It has been tender ever since but I believe it was just from muscles or ligaments being stretched that aren’t used to it.  It stops hurting after 10-15 minutes of walking.

Something else to note on the health front – Our 5 year-old got really sick on Saturday evening after we got home.  She has her Mama’s immune system and rarely gets sick.  This is the first time she has had the ‘technicolor yawn.’  She was doing that all through the night – every 30 minutes – until she was too exhausted to even get herself up off the bed.  It wound up being a variety of strep throat.  Kudos to my wife for being the best Mommy and nurse that a little girl could ever ask for.  She has been right by her side the whole time.  My point…  I am not sick, yet.  I have always been the sickly one of the family.  I am hoping that getting a reasonable amount of sleep, walking at work everyday, and avoiding all the junk food I have been consuming has allowed my body a better ability to fight of germs.  Time will tell.  If I miss my regular posts on Tuesday or Friday you know what’s up.

My blessings to you as we start another week!  I hope that it is a great one for you and that God allows you the opportunity to share the blessings you enjoy with others.

Favorite Things Friday: Merrell Olmec

Favorite Things Friday is all about my shoes this week.  My Merrell Olmec shoes are honestly the best thing I have ever had on my feet.  Why am I writing about these shoes?  These shoes are a big part of my success with the treadmill desk

As always with my Favorite Things Friday, a quick disclaimer.  I purchased this item with my own money.  I am not being compensated for this review or posting by Merrell.  All opinions are my own.

merrell olmec reviewWith that out of the way, let’s talk shoes.  I have been wearing these Merrell shoes since July 2012.  I had worn out my third pair of Born loafers and was looking for a change.  The Born shoes had been wearing out too quickly and the soles were so compacted that there was no support or cushioning left.  I read a number of reviews and decided to try the Merrell Olmec.

I picked up my shoes at a local store.  If I recall correctly, they were about $75 after I applied my discount.  I chose this shoe because I knew Merrell hiking boots had a good reputation among hikers.  This specific pair also had a Vibram sole. I preferred the look of another of the Merrell shoes but it did not have a Vibram sole.  The Olmec was also reviewed favorably on a number of shoe websites.

I’ll be honest, when I walked out of the store wearing these shoes I was really concerned.  They felt a little loose on my foot, compared to what I had been wearing.  The sole of the shoe also seemed very narrow under my foot.  I wore them around town for a few weeks before taking them out of the country on a two week mission trip.

The Merrell shoes really proved their worth when we were on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean doing a mission trip.  I took this pair of shoes for wearing at church events and a pair of New Balance runners for other needs.  I wore the Merrell shoes almost exclusively.  In the days before the trip I injured my right foot, which was diagnosed as a strain and a deep bruise.  The doctor wanted to put me in a boot but that would not work in Dominica.  We were going to be walking a lot in Dominica on roads and other surfaces, uphill and downhill.  I was nervous about how my foot would make it.

I had no problems with my foot on the entire trip because of the Merrell Olmec shoes.  They provided enough stability and cushioning to allow my foot injury to heal even though we were walking several miles a day.  They were also comfortable to wear in the humid tropic environment.  The anti-bacterial lining was also a nice touch, keeping foot funk to a minimum.

merrell olmec 7 months old

My not so stinky shoes – they are lined with anti-bacterial material.

My Olmec’s have been a key part of my success on the treadmill desk.  In just the last month I have walked over 100 miles while working in these shoes.  They are comfortable and keep my feet feeling energized even after standing and walking all day.  Most workers who use a treadmill desk have to switch back and forth between dress shoes and walking shoes.  My Olmec shoes look good enough to function with jeans and khakis in my work setting at the church building.

I have done a little bit of everything in these shoes.  Walked many miles on a tropical island, pounded out over 100 miles on the treadmill desk, mowed the lawn, chased babies, chased chickens, and kept up with teenagers.  The waterproof exterior is a nice touch on rainy days.  I bet these shoes would have been great in the snow and ice when I lived in New Hampshire. The very top of the toe guard on the right shoe is starting to pull away from the leather just a bit, but it shouldn’t be a big problem.  The leather is very durable and hides scuffs very well.

All in all, if you are looking for a good everyday shoe, especially if you are going to be walking a lot.  I would recommend the Merrell Olmec.  I picked my pair up at Macy’s. They would make a nice gift too.

If you made it all the way through this post…THANKS!  I know writing about my shoes is a bit odd, but a good pair of shoes can make all the difference in your attitude and your health.  Have a great weekend!  And as always, thank you so much for reading.

Bonus: Some of you may be new here.  Check out my Merrell Olmec shoes in action on my treadmill desk in this short little video.

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Goal Update: Jon + Treadmill – Soda = Beast Mode

A merry Monday to you all!  I hope that you are all as excited to start this work week as I am.  Perhaps a good number of you have the day off today…enjoy!  I’ve been at the office since about 6:45am.  Already 3 miles into my workday with a target of 8 miles.  Taking a quick break from church work to write this update.

winter quest youth retreat campfire

A long-exposure pic I took of the group gathered around the bonfire. (Click to see the full version)

Brianne and I had a great weekend at the Winter Quest youth retreat at Pettijohn Springs Christian Camp near Madill, Oklahoma.  The event is organized by my friend Kevin Langford who always does a great job with anything he does. The theme of the event was “Rooted” and came from Hebrews 11.  I was able to present a lesson on the faith of Sarah and had a great group of teens and adults in class.  We were all able to enjoy a productive conversation about the faith of Sarah.

I appreciated Kevin’s recognition that we are probably sending the wrong message to the kids in our churches when we provide sodas and candy at snack time.  Because of various food allergies, Kevin had to purchase snacks for the 200+ attendees that had no traces of nuts.  A challenging task.  I didn’t hear any complaints about having fruit, healthier snacks, water and lemonade for the various snack times over the weekend.

It is my tradition to stop at Dairy Queen on the way back home to get the kids a treat…if they all behaved.  They were EXCELLENT, so a DQ blizzard is always a good way to end a great weekend.  After DQ we stopped at a gas station to fuel up and I told the kids not to get any sugary drinks or snacks since we had just had DQ.  I fueled up the church van and no one had come out of the store.  I went in to check on them and found them all gathered around the drink cases.  They were saying things like – This one doesn’t have caffeine, does it have sugar?  Does the ‘major brand sports drink’ have sugar in it?

dr pepper nutrition label

This is where you find sugar info!

I thought it was interesting that very few of them knew if drinks had sugar in them or not, or even how to find out what the sugar content was.  I’m not a soul-crushing oppressor of sugar, but also have come to realize that it is my job to help these young people realize what they are consuming.  Just like I do with my own children.  The funny thing about junk food is that no one really misses it when it is gone.

And now for my update:

My soda reduction goals are still going very well.  I was honestly concerned about the retreat this weekend, but Kevin not having sodas around made life a lot easier for me.

I have been very pleased that my soda reduction goals have caused a significant reduction in my junk food diet as well.  It is odd to think that in the first 3 weeks of 2013 I have only had soda at one restaurant.  This used to be a daily event for me.

I have re-developed a taste for water because it makes me feel so good.  Well, water and all the other things I have been doing – treadmill desk, getting enough sleep, early morning work schedule.  It feels like I am in beast mode right now.  What is beast mode?  A rare unification of energy, creativity and productivity where you tear through the workday like a beast.

Several people have asked if I have noticed any weight reduction.  Not really, and I attribute this to the fact that my pulse rate doesn’t get high enough at the treadmill desk.  I have worked my way up to working at a 1.0 incline and 2mph speed.  I have noticed that I am thinning out a bit.  Brianne noted the other day that my stomach doesn’t hang over my belt anymore, it’s pretty much flat now.  Usually I can see changes in my face too, but my face is currently covered up with a very nice beard 🙂

I hope you are having good success with your goals in 2013!

I also wanted to let each of you know how much I appreciate you reading my updates.  I was checking my site stats before posting this update. My mind is blown by the traffic that my little site is getting and in such a short time of existence.  My Alexa ranking (a website traffic statistic) is slowly working its way down everyday.  I have some exciting plans for this site in the next few months and have been tinkering with a second blog that would focus on a specific niche.  Like I said…beast mode!

Well, I’m now at 4 miles for the day.  Time to get back to work.  Thanks for reading and make it a great week!  You might consider checking out Kevin Langford’s excellent blog – myglimpsesofglory.com.

 

The High Cost of Eating Out and a Goal Update

A happy Monday to all of you!  Looks like a busy, fun, productive week is ahead for me.  I hope you have good things ahead for you too!  Make sure to read all the way to the end for some bonus material in the ‘final thought’ section.

I was taking a look back at January over the weekend and wanted to share some thoughts on our biggest savings, well, really my biggest savings in the first month of 2013.  Simply stated, I got real sloppy in 2012.  The more I look back the more I realize that I was out of control in many areas of my life.  It happens.  The key, I guess, is getting things pulled back together.  I’ve already written about the breakdown in my savings habits, and those are back on track now.  But I came to realize a real problem for our pocketbook and my health was in my eating habits.

cost of eating out

Leftovers may not be pretty, but they are money in the bank.

In a typical work week, I was eating out everyday.  Whataburger, Taco Bueno, Wendy’s, Potbelly’s and Panda Express might make up a typical week of lunches for me.  I cringe now when I think about the calories, fat, cholesterol and other things I was pumping myself full of over the last year.  Hopefully my body is young enough to bounce back with our new healthy diet and added daily activity.  Aside from the health impact, that food is expensive!  A quick average of my typical meals at those places adds up to $40 per week.  Over the course of a year that is approximately $2,000.  As a family, we were also eating out or bringing in food twice a week at an average cost of $45 per week.  So, in eating out “I” and “we” were spending approximately $4,300 a year.  A dollar here and five dollars there really does add up.

What do we look like so far in 2013?  As an individual, I have brought my lunch to work almost everyday.  Almost always it is leftovers from things we have fixed as a family, a sandwich or a stash of Smart Ones I keep in the freezer that cost $1.50 each.  If I do eat out, it is almost always when I sit down with a peer to discuss ministry matters.  My meals also don’t cost as much since I don’t get a soda anymore, which means I don’t get a combo meal anymore.  I can usually get a meal for $4 or less.  As a family, I think we have eaten out / taken in about 3 times so far in 2013 at a cost of approximately $20 a meal.  For the purposes of evaluation, let’s just say I spend $10 a week on lunch in 2013 and as a family we spend $20.  That is an average of $120 a month, which is a savings of $220 per month on average when compared to 2012.  By the end of the year that adds up to $2,860 in savings or a reduction in eating out costs of at least 65%.  And of course those are just averages, in reality we actually do a bit better than that.

I’ve included a scan of my ROUGH notes on dining expenses.  Sketching things out like this helps me visualize the change that needs to happen.  My handwriting is atrocious because I did this sketch EARLY one morning while working on the treadmill desk.  Between the rough grain of my wooden work surface on the treadmill and the movement of walking, my handwriting looks like that of a first grader, but I think you can still make it out…

dining expenses sketchFor the record, my wife has always been frugal in this area.  She works two days a week and on those days she either brings her lunch or spends $2 in the hospital cafeteria on beans and cornbread, one of her favorite meals.  And when she is out with our girls she almost always makes sure to pack a lunch for everybody, even though it might be more difficult than zipping through a drive-thru.  I’m blessed with a frugal wife!  It’s also worth noting, that the dinners we have been preparing at home cost between $6 and $10 each and feed our family for at least three meals on average.

Over at EdwardAntrobus.com I took part in an interesting series of comments on his post about the common saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  I’ve often said this to our five year-old, but one day she asked me, “What does that mean Daddy?”  I couldn’t explain it to her.  In the comments on Edward’s post, we concluded a more accurate saying might be, “A penny saved is a penny you don’t have to earn.”  Not quite as catchy, but more accurate.  Money saved throughout the years is less money that has to be earned over a lifetime.  Still not a concept that our five year-old is fully prepared for 🙂

How will we know what we are spending?

We have to keep track of expenses.  In February, my wife and I started writing down every dollar that we spend.  We have done this before and it really helps to paint a detailed picture of where our money is going.  As Christians, we believe that the money we are given is a blessing (a resource) given by God that we should be using as wisely as we can.  So we’re doing everything we can to be accountable with our money.  Writing down all expenses also helps me visualize areas where I can do better as an individual and where we can work together as a family to cut back.  In the era of autopay, debit cards and click-to-buy it is amazingly easy to lose track of finances.

What kind of success have you been having with financial goals in 2013?  What changes have you made?  How do you keep track of where your money goes?

A goal update…

As I mentioned on Saturday, I feel my goal with soda is getting to the point where it is on cruise control.  I have the occasional 8 oz. bottle of “real sugar” Dr. Pepper at home with a meal, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have had a soda at a restaurant in 2013.  That is a HUGE change and success from 2012 and previous years.  My Dad, who has always been one of my biggest sources of encouragement, noted how I am thinning out especially in my face.  My wife has also made it a point to encourage me with frequent compliments.  It is a blessing to be surrounded with encouraging, loving family and friends.

I can feel a change too.  Our five year-old always wants to race when we are outside.  Typically I have always been too tired to race, and when I do, I feel OLD.  This week we took off running for the mailbox and it actually felt good.  She is a speedy little kid and she was shocked when her Daddy went zipping past her for the win 🙂  She won the race back to the house though.  I am also able to go all day at the office, help out with chores at the house and get fun things done like taking care of the chicks, starting seedlings for the garden, etc.

It should also be noted, I continue to love working on the treadmill desk.  I have been walking and working on this thing for 8 weeks now and have logged over 150 miles!  With an average of at least 20 miles a week, it is possible that I might walk and work over 1,000 miles in the year.  We shall see.

A final thought…

I didn’t catch even one minute of the Super Bowl last night.  I hear it was a good game.  Between worship last night and spending time with the family, the TV just never got turned on.  Thanks to social media I was able to catch the highlights of the commercials.  By far, the one that impressed me the most was the Dodge Ram spot that featured Paul Harvey.  Amidst the trashy, raunchy, and bombastic commercials was this simple, pure and emotionally charged two minute commercial from Dodge.  Hearing Paul Harvey’s voice brought back memories of riding in the car with my parents growing up.  What a great American orator and story teller.  If you haven’t seen the commercial, it’s worth checking out.

[weaver_youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE sd=0 percent=100 ratio=.5625 center=1 rel=0 https=0 privacy=0 see_help_for_others]

Make it a great week!  And you can still check out our little chicks on cam 🙂  We have two survivors and they seem to be doing very well and are lots of fun to watch.  Also, if you’re new here please consider subscribing via Email or RSS (top right of the page) to keep up with future updates.  Thanks!

7 Lessons Learned From My Dad & Goal Update

Today is my Dad’s birthday!  In honor of his birthday, I thought it would be nice to share some lessons I have learned from the best Dad in the world.

Education is Valuable

family graduation

My family when I graduated with my Master’s degree.

My Dad has always valued education, perhaps it is because he is an educator.  He has always wanted my brother, sister and I to get as much education as possible.  And we have all followed through.  My brother has his undergraduate degree plus another degree in meteorology.  My sister is in the final stages of her PhD.  A few years ago I completed my Master’s degree.

My Dad has a PhD that he completed when my brother, the oldest of the three siblings, was a toddler.  It has served him well through the years.  There is value in learning the discipline it takes to get through an undergraduate, Master’s or a Doctoral program.  College is not for everyone, but it would be challenging for most people to find a job they truly love without a degree.

Work Hard

family planting gardenFor most of my childhood I can always remember my Dad working hard, but also being home and at school events, etc.  My Dad was, and still is, an educator.  He spent the majority of his career as a professor at a local college teaching accounting, spending many years as head of his department.

Even in retirement he is still working, not because he has to but because he enjoys it.  He has conquered the tech curve (with a little help) and teaches an online personal finance course for the college where he spent the majority of his teaching career.  He and my Mom also enjoy finding items to sell at their booth in a local antique mall.

In addition to his job, my Dad has written a college textbook, served on the city council for over 20 years and served as an elder at our church for many years.  I’m not sure how he manged to balance all these responsibilities and manage to be at home too.

Learn to Talk to People (The most important lesson)

Just in case you don’t make it through my entire list, I wanted to make sure you saw the most important lesson I learned from my Dad.  I vividly remember the trip where my Dad taught me this.  Growing up, my Dad and I would make the hour drive out to Weatherford to get haircuts.  My Dad had been going to the same barber since he was a boy.  Who can say they had the same barber for 50 years?

These car rides would give my Dad and I a good chance to talk.  He would tell stories about growing up and other things that were going on.  On one of those rides, he told me one of the most important things I could do was to learn how to talk to people.  Most people who know me now would have a tough time imagining I was a pretty shy kid.  My Dad shared how he had been shy growing up too and taught himself (forced himself sometimes) to talk to people.

He modeled this learned behavior well.  Growing up I still remember how he worked the room when we would go to different functions.  When we were at city functions, he would go around talking to various people he had met throughout the years.  Not like some slimy politician but as a genuine friend and neighbor.  I still see him doing the same thing when we go to worship services or other events where there are lots of people.

This lesson particularly has made the biggest impact in my life.  Because I learned to talk to people I have been able to do a lot of things in life.  At the end of high school I pretty much talked my way into a scholarship at a local college.  When living in New Hampshire, I used a connection from a friend and my skills in conversation to land my first real job that I had absolutely no background or training in.  Having learned to talk to people I was finally able to wear my wife down and convince her it would be OK to date this nerdy guy who was her best friend.  Now I have no problem getting up in front of hundreds of people and talking, its just part of who I am.

Live Within Your Means

family at disney world

A family trip to Disney World.

I probably could have learned this lesson better, but the importance of living within our means was a lesson that my wife and I learned from our parents.  For the majority of my childhood our family was a single income family.  My Mom didn’t go back to work till I was in 6th grade or so and my brother started college.  Even then she was a substitute teacher working similar hours as her children.

We lived a very comfortable life in a nice house on 2.5 acres.  My parents didn’t drive new cars.  In fact the last new car they bought when I was a child was a 1978 Oldsmobile station wagon.  I remember it being a big deal when Dad would come home with big ticket items – a VHS tape player, our first microwave, a 2nd small TV.  All of those things probably give you an idea of how old I am…they were a big deal.  Today, we might pop down to Target to buy any of those items when they wear out.

My siblings and I never wanted for anything growing up.  We were raised by frugal parents who now enjoy the fruits of living within their means.  They buy sensible new cars about every 5 years so they don’t have to mess with maintenance.  Every year they take at least one big trip.  They take road trips on a whim.  Almost every Sunday they take the whole family out for lunch.  My parents aren’t wealthy but they are comfortable and wise.  A great model for my family to follow.

Disagreements are Private

Growing up I can’t remember ever seeing my parents disagree.  Sometime when I was in high school or college I can remember them disagreeing about something, and even at that age I was surprised when I saw it.  That is still the only time I have ever seen my parents have a real disagreement.  Did they have disagreements, probably so, but I never knew about them.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized not every child was blessed with parents who could keep themselves under control.  I would talk to friends who laid in bed at night listening to their parents screaming at each other and fighting.  Now as a minister I hear from kids all the time about the tragic example their parents are setting for them.

I was (and am) very blessed to have parents who provided a secure, loving home that was free from the trauma that so many of my peers suffered.  Most likely my parents had disagreements and arguments, its a reality of being married to the same person for a long time.  There are things that kids just shouldn’t have to be exposed to and I appreciate my parents for that wonderful blessing and example.

My Biggest Encourager

My Dad has always been a great encourager of my siblings and I.  When we are doing great things he let’s us know, when we are stuck in a rut he gives a little push, when things are tough he has words of wisdom.  I know men who are close to my Dad’s age who still talk about the hurt the words of their fathers caused all these years later.  I am blessed to have never experienced that.

Sometimes support and encouragement took time and effort, not words.  Growing up all the kids played golf with my Dad.  Mom did a lot of the driving to various tournaments, walking the course with us as we played.  Dad was our golf coach as were growing up.  We even built a chipping green on part of the property so we could practice at home.  I still remember the time at home when I hit my Dad in the leg with a shot that I shanked.  He didn’t scream, didn’t yell, just told me to be more careful and walked it off.

Be a Real Man

grandfather and baby

My Dad and his first grandchild, our 5 year-old.

If I took all these life lessons, and a few more, I would sum it all up by saying my Dad taught me what it really means to be a man.  Society provides so many false perceptions of what a man is.  My Dad modeled for me the importance of faith to God, love for spouse and love for family.  A real man in my book is a man who loves God, clings to his spouse and provides love and nurturing for his children.  Society can have their role models, I’ll take my Dad any day.

That’s really what “Dad is Learning” is all about.  Everyday I am trying to learn more about myself and this role I have been blessed to take on as husband and father.  I never pictured myself as the father of two little girls, but God has a funny way of giving us the things that we really need.  I want to build up in my girls a rich and loving life experience that will allow them to achieve anything they desire in this life.  My wife and I often pray that God helps us prepare our girls to do great things.

If you’re still reading…thanks!  This was a longer post than I usually write, but I have a lot to say about the greatest guy I know.  I could have kept on going for a while, but who wants to read all that.  Another day perhaps…

Love you Dad…and Happy Birthday!

A quick goal update…

I got back on track this week after a little blip last week.  We had a quick weekend road trip for my cousin’s wedding and I had 2 cans of soda yesterday…one at a special lunch and another that my wife encouraged me to have as we were both having a horrible time staying awake for the drive home after our special lunch.  Other than that I really can’t think of any soda I had all week.  I skipped having a can at several events where I normally would have.  I remain especially proud of the progress I have made in avoiding fast food.

The treadmill desk and I still have a wonderful relationship.  I must be a weird person because driving to work I look forward to getting walking and working.  The year is still young, but I stay on track for a 1000+ mile year of walking and working.  I see a new pair of work shoes in my future.

Go out and make it a great work week!

Cleaning House and a Coat of Paint: Saturday Roundup

It’s amazing what a difference a bit of hard work and a few small changes can make in your perspective.  It has been a busy week at our house.   Busy week = crazy house.  When we are on the road and working on special projects, that often means that dishes don’t get done and clothes pile up.

baby washing dishes

Multitasking: Washing baby who is washing dishes.

I worked from home on Thursday so I could be at home with the girls and get caught up.  Working from home means getting up at 4:30 when my wife leaves for work.  I take a few minutes to get myself cleaned up and I am on the computer working by 5am.  My wife has been super busy all week preparing for a big event at our church, so I thought I would help by cleaning the house.

Success in ministry can be hard to measure, but success in cleaning house offers immediate gratification.  Whether tackling a mountain of clothes, a full sink of dirty dishes or any other trouble spot in the house, there is success to be seen at the end of a job.  Many experts also talk about the calming effect of a clean and uncluttered home.  I can’t think of many things that are better than coming home to a clean home.

painted treadmill desk

The shelves are painted and ready to install.

Sometimes a quick coat of paint, or another small change can really make a difference.  At the end of the work week I took my treadmill desk apart to finally put some paint on it.  This was the first time I used Behr enamel primer and paint in one.  It is some amazing paint!  I was able to cover the raw wood in one coat with the Cracked Pepper (dark grey) paint.  I put an extra coat on some of the high traffic areas.  I can’t wait to get it put back together on Monday morning.  The finished desk will look so much better in my office.

A bit of time, a few dollars of paint, some kind words or a good deed can make a big difference in our day to day life.  Find something that really matters to you and start working there.  I spend a lot of time on my treadmill desk, so I decided to finally finish it.  When I clean house, I have recently changed my pattern.  I start in our bedroom with clean sheets and a quick roundup of organizing.  Instead of saving it till the last to get done, I try to make our ‘escape from the world’ the first stop for cleaning.

My posts for the week…

7 Lessons Learned From My Dad & Goal Update – A post for my Dad’s birthday.  This was my most popular post for the week.  I am still shocked at the number of times people are sharing my posts on Facebook.  This post had 39 shares, which I think is pretty good for where I am at.

You’re Not My Friend Anymore! (and) Family Worship – A quick lesson from children on forgiveness.  The family Bible study series continues to do well.  I am happy they are being used in so many places.

Favorite Things Friday: Strawberry Kiss – A favorite dessert of ours that is a lot of fun to make.  This was a fun post to write, but I’m starting to discover that recipes are not the most popular thing I can write about.

Some of my favorite reads…

17 Homemade Spice Mixes – I recently discovered the bulk spices section at Central Market.  The spices are fresher and cheaper than the ones you get in the little bottles at the store.  As we use up the bottled spices, I will be replacing them with some of these suggestions.  The “cream of…” bottled seasoning also sounds interesting.

5 More Characteristics of the Growing Entrepreneur – I have really been enjoying this series and there are multiple applications for these thoughts.

Growing in Faith – Practical Suggestions For a Thriving Relationship – I plug Kevin Langford’s writing a lot, but he is one of the best I know.  This is a great list of things to consider for the Christian who is serious about growing.

Jesus and Money + Goal Update

jesus money churchDid you know that the Bible records Jesus talking more about money and physical possessions than just about anything else?  The Bible is filled with verses about money management.  Eleven of the thirty-nine parables of Jesus are about money.  In the book of Luke, one of every seven verses deals with money or physical possessions.  Jesus wasn’t pleading for money or preaching a gospel of prosperity, He was simply sharing guidance and warnings about one of the main things that can trip people up in their personal lives and relationships.

I vividly remember sitting in a graduate class when the topic of churches and money came up.  Being a minister, I was intrigued to hear what my fellow MBA students would have to say about religious organizations and money.  As you might expect, their opinions of most churches and money were pretty negative.

One student told of her disgust when visiting a mega-church here in the DFW area.  That church teaches the Old Testament principle of tithing to their congregation.  After the collection plates were passed around that Sunday, the pastor asked all of those who had tithed to stand up and receive a special blessing.  He prayed over them for several minutes.  My classmate was disgusted by this special blessing for those who were able to give.

The Bible promotes responsible money management.  There are several men who have done a good work in restoring the public image of money management based on Biblical principles.  Dave Ramsey and Steve Diggs are two of the most prolific promoters of responsible money management that I know of.  Neither one of them talks about getting rich quick or the ‘give so you can be blessed’ theology.  They both promote responsibility and contentment in financial matters.

Yesterday in Bible class I was studying Hebrews 13 with the teens.  We have been studying Hebrews for several months now.  Chapter 13 is the closing of a letter filled with much information, encouragement and instruction.  The Hebrew author is imparting a ‘blast’ of final thoughts and instruction in chapter 13.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””  Money and possessions are not evil.  A love of money that corrupts, deceives and leads to improper priorities is the problem.  Christians are called by Jesus and the various writers of the New Testament to live in a content manner.  We might simply say, “Live within your means.”

In our struggling economy, there is a strong movement of people from various backgrounds who are revolting against the common perception that debt is a part of life.  Many are scrimping and saving as much as they can each month to get rid of debt as fast as they can.  Many times the mental image of frugal living and modest money management conjures up images of people who wash out their Ziploc bags and reuse them, families eating by candle light to keep their electricity bills low, or others who have sold their homes to live in micro-homes.  There is nothing wrong with any of these money saving activities, but they are not for everyone.

Others are living comfortably but making choices with their money based on personal priorities.  Many monitor what they are spending and take advantage of additional opportunities to make a little money on the side.  They pick specific things that they enjoy and splurge on those activities while cutting back on other things they don’t find necessary.  Personal money management is just that…personal.   Everyone needs to find the right balance of cost cutting that works for their family and moral values.  The key point is to live a lifestyle that fits inside your budget.

The idea of responsibility seems to be key to what the New Testament teaches about money management.  Even though the original audience of these messages lived in an agrarian (or agriculture based) economy, the lessons taught still apply to those of us living in an information and technology based economy.  When I talk money in my Bible class, I try to give real world application of the concepts, just like I do with any teaching on faith.  I teach a junior high and high school Bible class, and it is not unusual to walk into our class and find debt repayment schedules, rough budgets or credit card terms on our white board.

The kids that I work with have rarely been exposed to teaching about managing their finances in classes at school.  Some of their parents have set down with them to talk about family finances or managing money.  When we talk about money in class, I make sure to emphasize that the Bible teaches responsibility, and avoiding debt that can impact health, relationships and long-term goals.  Being a good steward of money can be one of the richest blessings in life.

I know that not everyone who reads my posts believes in Jesus or the Bible.  Many might have a negative opinion of ministers and churches when it comes to money matters.  There are a growing number of churches and individuals who are willing to be transparent in their finances.  We are open and willing to talk about how we spend our money, where it comes from, what successes we are having and where we are still getting ourselves into trouble, while still maintaining some privacy for income levels, etc.  The relationship between Jesus and money is a positive one in my life, I hope it is (or becomes one) in your life too.

Goal Update

My goal for 2013 of cutting back on soda continues to go great!  On Saturday we were getting ready for a big event at the church and I ran across to the Whataburger to enjoy a burger, fries and soda.  This is the first time in 2013 that I can recall having a combo meal.  This is a HUGE deal since combo meals had been a daily part of my life for all of 2012 and even further back.

As my wife and I were sitting and eating lunch, I mentioned to her that I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten french fries.  I could only think of one other hamburger I had eaten in 2013.  I know we’re only about two months into the year, but to go from having fries, soda and burgers multiple times a week to once or twice a month is a huge success in my book!  And of course bringing my lunch to work everyday has lead to a considerable amount of savings so far this year.

treadmill desk painted

The painted treadmill desk. Still working on photos and decorations for the top shelf.

I have decided to ramp up my efforts in adding strength to my upper body and core.  Several times in the last week I have had to fight off soreness in my back.  I am not sure if it is related to my treadmill desk or not.  The first day it flared up was Thursday when I was working from home.  There was a strange pain in my back after an 18 hour day of working, house cleaning, laundry, errand running, playing with children, etc.  The pain returned on Saturday when we were setting up and taking down tables, chairs and decorations for our big event.  Sunday morning in class I made a pointing motion with my finger and something hurt in my back bad enough that I made a comment about it…at which the kids laughed.  I’m glad they find it funny I am getting old 🙂

I’ll be working on doing push-ups, sit-ups, planks and stretching to see if that helps strengthen my back and alleviate pain in the future.  I am still really enjoying the treadmill desk.  I finally painted the desk and shelving over the weekend so it looks like a finished unit.  We’ll see how the added exercises help with the back pain.  I hope you are doing well with your goals for 2013.

 

Treadmill Desk: Walking and Working for One Year

A year ago I drastically changed the way I work when I built a DIY treadmill desk in my office.  Building the desk was a quick, somewhat secretive operation.  I was embarrassed to tell even my employers my crazy idea.  I thought, “Just build it and explain it later.”  The only people who knew about my crazy idea were my brother who helped me pick up the treadmill and my wife.  After walking and working on a treadmill desk for a year it is a normal concept at the office and among those who know me.

My DIY treadmill desk after some refinement and painting.  This s what it looks like on a standard work day.

My DIY treadmill desk after some refinement and painting. This s what it looks like on a standard work day.

Walking and working has completely changed the way I work.  I no longer need an afternoon soda to give me a “jolt” of energy to get through the afternoon lull.  The slow and steady walking pace, combined with being up out of a chair, keep my blood pumping and the creative juices flowing.  I personally believe I have had more creative ideas in the last year than in previous years of office working.

I haven’t logged every mile of walking and working but I know the average work week consists of 20 miles of walking.  So over the last year I have logged approximately 1,000 miles on my treadmill desk.  The single piece of advice I would offer – wear great shoes!  I have written before about my love of the Merrell Olmec and it continues to be my shoe of choice for walking and working.

I am commonly asked if I lost much weight while walking and working.  The somewhat surprising answer is no.  I dropped a few pounds early on when I made the change, and they have stayed gone, but no dramatic weight loss.  I have lost two inches in my waist size and noticed a general toning in my body that would not have occurred if I were slumped in an office chair like a sack of potatoes.

The desk itself has held up very well.  My $75 Craigslist treadmill has worked consistently, except for one week where it stopped working after an electrical storm here in town.  I operate the treadmill at a 2.0 incline and in the 1.2 to 1.8 mph speed range.  I have found out through some user questions on my DIY treadmill desk site that some major manufacturers of commercial treadmill desks are watching my exploits with skepticism.

A DIYTreadmillDesk.com reader was told that standard treadmills weren’t built to operate at slow speeds for extended times and they (the manufacturer) would be surprised if my treadmill even lasted a year.  My response, based only on personal experience, was that even if I did burn up a treadmill a year it would take 13 years of $75 treadmills from Craigslist to equal the $1000 entry-level treadmill the manufacturer offers.  To be fair, after a year of walking and working, I would consider buying a real treadmill desk walking unit, but I wouldn’t have risked $1000 to see if walking and working was for me.  The wood components have performed flawlessly after I adjusted my design in the first few weeks.

Our daughter enjoying a stroll and a show on my DIY treadmill desk.

Our daughter enjoying a stroll and a show on my DIY treadmill desk.

With time and experience I have learned that too much of a good thing can be bad.  I have days where i walk and work 8 or 9 miles.  That is fine every once in a while but several lengthy back to back sessions can leave the walking worker achy and fatigued.  Proper stretching at the beginning, during, and at the end of the day have helped.  Taking a break from walking has also helped.  I have a $2 stool my Dad picked up at a garage sale that I set on the treadmill surface when I need a break.  I also have my standard desk on the other side of the office.

Another huge factor for walking and working success has been increasing my water intake.  I used to struggle to even finish one bottle of water during a work day.  Now I consume between 60 and 80 oz. of water a day.  Staying properly hydrated is important whether you are sitting or walking and working.

I still get teased a bit because of my DIY treadmill desk, but overall everyone has adjusted to my unique working style.  The topic has been so popular on this blog that I built DIYTreadmillDesk.com to provide more information about how to build a desk and other information specific to walking and working.  Did you know that stores selling walking and standing desks are starting to pop up in different places across the country?

Here’s to another productive and creative year of walking and working on my DIY treadmill desk!