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Posts tagged: life

At the moment I am working in the centre of Bristol each day. The Journey involves a 25 minute drive to the station followed by a 30 minute train ride then a 15-20 minute walk. In an attempt to reduce my commuting time I have bought a folding bike I can take on the train and hopefully reduce the 15-20 minute walk to about 5 minutes hence saving 20-30 minutes commuting each day.

Dahon 2016

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I first tried a standing desk back in 2012. My first couple of days experience with it was one of the very few posts I got around to writing for this blog. At the time I found it to be a positive experience but also found I had quite a lot of pain in my back and legs if I stood still. A few months after this experiment I moved offices and couldn't really accommodate a standing desk in the new space. Ever since leaving that office about 16 months ago and moving my work space back into my home I have been planning on returning to a standing desk and adding a treadmill to both help with the problem of standing still and to increase, even more, the benefits of standing.

The Set Up

Rather than buy a complete treadmill desk I decided to assemble one from a normal standing desk and a treadmill.

Standing Desk - Big Jack. (£397 + VAT)

The standing desk I chose was a Big Jack.

Big Jack Standing Desk

This model is 120cm x 80cm and has a manual height adjustment. My original plan was to never adjust the height of the desk but to use a high stool when I wanted to sit so I felt spending an extra £40 + VAT on the electric version would be pointless.

The desk is very good quality and solidly built. It does wobble a little bit when it is at full height (which it needs to be for me when a treadmill is underneath it) but not enough to be an issue.

If you are going to put your own desk together don't forget adding a treadmill will lift you 10-20cm off the ground and you will need to make sure the desk will still go high enough.

I bought the Big Jack desk from I Want A Standing Desk

Treadmill - Lifespan TR1200-DT3 (£999 + VAT)

One of the reasons it has taken me so long to make this leap to a treadmill desk is cost. When putting one together you might be tempted to just purchase a cheap home treadmill but that would not be a good idea. When using a treadmill desk you will want to be able to use it for a good number of hours each day. Cheap home treadmills are designed for maybe an hour of use at a time and the motor would soon burn out if used for longer.

As I began to research different treadmills I noticed that models specifically designed to be used with standing desks would normally specify a number of hours per day they were warranted for use. Typical values were 3hrs, 6hrs and 10hrs.

In the end, after reading many reviews, I decided to go for a treadmill from LifeSpan. I really wanted a 10hr model as then I would never need to worry about how long it had been running. However the 10hr model was £1999 + VAT which was quite a way above my budget so I settled on the 6hr TR1200-DT3 model at £999 + VAT.

TR1200-DT3

When buying a TR1200-DT3 you get the treadmill and a controller. The controller allows you start and stop the treadmill, set the speed (0 to 4mph) and records your statistics. The controller will link via bluetooth to a pretty pathetic app that will run on your mac.

LifeSpan Mac App

With the treadmill you also get a free account on LifeSpan Club. The Mac app will automatically sync your data allowing you to see your progress over time. I have not really explored the LifeSpan Club website much as yet but it look pretty annoying.

LifeSpan Club

As well as buying the treadmill you will need to purchase a matt for it to sit on for about £29 + VAT. This is to stop it picking up dust and fluff from the carpet which will eventually kill it. You will also need to buy a bottle of 100% silicone (£16 + VAT) in order to lubricate the treadmill belt about every three months. (The manufacturer also recommends you lubricate it when you first get the treadmill as the silicone could have dried out while the treadmill was in storage before sale).

Over a thousand pounds is quite a lot to fork out in one go so I was please to see that Gymworld where I purchased the treadmill offer 3 years interest free credit. That meant I ended up paying around £100 as a deposit and £25 a month over the next three years which is probably a little less than a gym membership would cost me.

Rest Stool: Venosa (£74.99 + VAT)

Although I am keen to stand and walk as much as I can I wanted to be able to sit when I needed to. Rather than use an office chair which would take up a lot of space and require me to change the height of the desk from almost its maximum height to its minimum height when ever I wanted to switch I decided to use an office stool instead.

Rest Stool

I purchased the stool hoping to be able to leave the desk at it's standing height and just transfer to the stool whenever I needed to. This would have worked out fine if I had just been using the Big Jack desk as a normal standing desk. However using the desk at it's full height because of the treadmill makes it too high for the stool. This means I have to drop the desk about 20cm to use with the stool. The manual mechanism on the desk is easy to use and it literally takes about 5 seconds to do but it does make me wish I had bought the motorised version where I could have just set both heights as settings to switch between.

The stool is pretty comfy for a few hours at a time but does feel like a stool which encourages you to stand again after a while which is exactly what I wanted.

I also bought the stool from I Want A Standing Desk. After a few days I noticed that over time the stool was loosing height while I was sitting on it. It turned out to be a faulty gas cylinder. One email to IWantAStandingDesk and they immediately dispatched a new cylinder. Very good service.

The Full Set Up

So when all put together it looks like this.

The Full Set Up

Working With a Treadmill Desk

Last week was my first week using the treadmill desk. After 5 days my stats were as follows

Statistics

  • Steps Taken: 163,077
  • Distance Walked: 58 Miles.
  • Minutes Walked: 2007

How was the experience?

A treadmill desk is a pretty big investment so I was a little worried that about how it was all going to work out. On the whole it was a really good experience but one that will take a little bit of getting used to.

Each day so far, other than my first, I have walked for a full 6 hours on the treadmill spending the other 2-4 hours on the stool. I have tended to break the day up into a 3 hour walking session, an hour on the stool, another three hour walking session then finish the day on the stool.

Through the week I have settled on using certain speeds for certain things.

  • Maximun Concentration while Typing : 1mph
  • Good Concentration while Typing : 1.5m mph (The speed I am doing right now while typing this)
  • Reading : 2 - 2.5 mph
  • Skype / Google Hangouts : 2.5 - 3mph
  • Clear my mind for a few minutes : 4 mph (Unable to actually work at this speed)

At the end of the day my legs do ache but not in an unhealthy way, just in the way they should after a 9 to 12 mile walk. I find I am lot more alert in the afternoons when usually my mind would be beginning to tire and I am also sleeping a lot better at nights. There is something very healthy about being physically tired at the end of the day.

So one week in I feel this is going to be a good way to work that could end up being more productive and more healthy than sitting. I guess only time will tell if I stick at it and get value from my investment so look out for my 1 month report.

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As I sat down with around ten other people last Tuesday to watch the Apple announcement I had every intention of ordering an iPhone 6 as soon as they were available for pre-order almost no matter what was said at the event. I usually take every other iPhone ,(I currently have an iPhone 5 that was ordered as soon as pre-orders opened back in September 2012) so I had just accepted it was time to plunge my hand deep into my wallet and shell out what really is an enormous amount of money for a phone.

After watching the iPhone 6 announcement my expectations hadn't changed. As far as I was concerned the 6 looked like a pretty good phone and come Friday Apple would once again be filling it's coffers with my money. When Friday arrived however, I found myself unable to press the button. I wanted to. In fact I really wanted to, but I just couldn't.
I was stuck. I couldn't decide which one to buy.

For every iPhone release to date the only real choice was colour. After that you simply bought the most storage you could afford. Now with the 6 and the 6 plus you have two similar, yet different devices. I just couldn't decide which would work best for me.

In theory the 6 is probably the right choice as it will fit into my pocket easier. However I couldn't throw off the thought that if somehow I could work out a good way to carry the 6 plus, it might actually be big enough that I would no longer need a tablet device as well. I only really use a tablet for email, web browsing and reading. If the 6 plus is big enough to comfortably read on then I won't need a tablet. And if I don't need a tablet I can afford to buy the biggest 128GB iPhone 6 plus.

My plan is now to wait until the devices are actually in store. I hope when I can actually hold one in my hand I will be able to decide what will work best for me.

I do find it interesting that by giving me choice Apple have actually made the iPhone 6 harder for me to buy. I am sure this dilemma won't actually effect their sales one little bit, but you do have to ask, for companies who don't have the pulling power of Apple does offering choice actually hurt their sales?

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Back in May I spent a weekend in the woods of Surrey with a few friends on a Wild Retreat. I have been meaning to write a post on it ever since but just have not had time. Anyway I still don't really have the time to write a long post so here are a few words with some photos to bulk it out.

Picture From Wild Retreat

The idea of a wild retreat is to allow you to spend a weekend living very simply in the woods without modern conveniences or luxuries. It's not a survival weekend. You don't hunt your food or track wild animals you simply spend time relaxing, cooking over the fire, partaking in a few activities and allowing yourself to live life at a far slower pace than usual.

Friday

We arrived at the site late Friday afternoon. We left the cars near the road and set off on a short 10 minute walk into the woods with all our stuff for the weekend. The area where we were to be based was all set up for us and looked far more comfortable than any of us were expecting.

Picture From Wild Retreat

When we arrived at the site we had about 2 hours of light left so got straight down to sorting out the sleeping arrangements. We each had a choice of a hammock and tarp or to have a tent. We all chose the hammock option and were shown the four knots we would need to make the whole thing work then sent into the woods to find a sleeping place.

I found a area I really liked and got my hammock set up without to much fuss only to realise that the trees I had chosen were actually a little to close together to stretch the tarp to its fullest. However rather than take it all down I improvised a little and turned the end of the tarp into a wind break for one end of my sleeping area.

Picture From Wild Retreat

Picture From Wild Retreat

Once we had all got our sleeping arrangements sorted we gathered around the fire while the evening meal was cooked.

Picture From Wild Retreat

The first night in the hammock was pretty cold and I ended up putting on every item of clothing I had taken with me but the hammock was actually very comfortable. There was some pretty loud snoring going on in those woods which would have frightened off any wildlife foolish enough to wander into the area. We also found we were within earshot of a monastery where the monks had decided they should each ring the monastery bell as they went to pray at 3am.

Saturday

One of the key things with living in the woods is to make sure you always have fire. Starting a fire can be quite hard work and it's far easier to make sure the fire you have does not go out rather than having to start again. This means regular trips away from the site to find fire wood and making sure the wood pile stays stocked.

Once wood had been collected it was time to boil the kettle. At home that means flipping the switch. In the woods that meant getting some dry kindling and using a stick from the fire to light the fire in the bottom on of a kelly kettle. All sounds easy but there was a bit of a knack to it and many an hour was spent over the weekend trying to master it.

Picture From Wild Retreat

With the kettle on it was time for breakfast, getting all the stuff from the the make shift kitchen.

Picture From Wild Retreat

we cooked eggs and toast on the fire

Picture From Wild Retreat

before sitting round the table for a very leisurely breakfast.

Picture From Wild Retreat

With breakfast out of the way we spent some time just chilling out before undertaking the first activity of the day. Over the weekend there were several activities and basically you just chose which ever one you wanted during each activity session. For my first session I chose archery.

Picture From Wild Retreat

After a couple of hours of shooting arrows it was back to the camp area for slow paced lunch and then into activity session two where I tried some geocaching. There were quite a few geocaches near our site and we spent quite a few hours out and about around the countryside. It just so happened that we also passed a few pubs on route and felt it would be very rude to walk by without frequenting them.

Picture From Wild Retreat

At the end of the afternoon we all found our way back to camp and just spent time hanging out.

Picture From Wild Retreat

before cooking a sausage stew supper over the fire. With supper out the way a few hours were spent telling stories of our day and how manly each of us had been before we retired to our hammocks shattered from spending a day outside instead of in the office.

Far more sleep was had with the second night in the hammock as I started by putting all my clothes on to keep warm and used ear plugs to protect myself from the monks and the snoring.

Sunday

Sunday started by once again lighting the kettles and then partaking of a light breakfast

Picture From Wild Retreat

before spending the morning doing some bush craft. Basically we used knives to make mallets and pegs.

Picture From Wild Retreat

We also learnt how to make fire when no matches or lighter were available.

Picture From Wild Retreat

At the end of the morning we ate lunch together before breaking down camp and heading back to the cars for the three hour drive home. Every one of us was in agreement that the weekend had been a great experience and a fun time. We had all enjoyed taking life at a slower pace, learning to do new things and getting to know each other better.

The Mens Room

On returning home into the loving arms of our wives the first question was "but what about toilets?". Well that was easy as it's not particularly difficult to find a tree when you are in the woods. However in the interest of camp hygiene the Wild Retreat team had built a new composting toilet of which I have the honour of being able to claim to be the very first person to use it.

Picture From Wild Retreat

The strange thing about a composting toilet is you cannot pee in it. It must not get to wet or it won't compost. It became a bit of a joke that the only place in the camp you were not allowed to pee was in the toilet.

Picture From Wild Retreat

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Ok so the first thing I did on day 2 with the stand up desk was rebuild it. At my seated desk I have always had my monitor off to one side. I now realize that I also always sit at my desk at an angle so I am actually looking straight at the monitor and thus avoid neck strain.

Yesterday I found I was standing at my desk at an angle in order to look directly at the monitor. This actually worked pretty well and wouldn't be a problem other than when I introduce a treadmill to the set up standing at an angle will become difficult if not downright dangerous. So I have moved a few things around to get the monitor in front of me. I have also introduced a set of drawers for storage at a height they are easily usable while standing.

Stand Up Desk

The introduction of the draws has also meant I can now move my laptop back into view. For my standard set up I place my work onto the 30" monitor and use the laptop screen for email, Twitter, Basecamp etc.

For my second day at the desk I have stood for about 7.5 hours. My legs ache a little and I find I am most comfortable if I keep moving my legs. This is a good sign that potentially using a treadmill may actually be more comfortable then just standing.

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