When I first started working at Instructables I was impressed by the fact that both ewilhelm and canida both use treadmill desks exclusively. Scoochmaroo does, too, but she totally copied me.
Their desks are totally functional, but they're not fancy. So when I started to build my desk I decided I would make mine FANCY.
A few quick trips to Ikea, a sports store, and a Lowe's Depot gave me the foundation I needed to make a fully integrated treadmill desk.
I've had this desk since March of 2010 and after the initial adjustment period, during which walking was torture and standing was something I did for emergencies, I can now say that it's solely responsible for all the happiness I've ever had. Seriously, I'm never tired anymore. I can walk around the mall, the World Maker Faire, go to the gym, and I'm NEVER tired.
My energy level is somewhere between normal, natural human and freakish mitochondrial mutation. It's totally awesome.
So if you can stand the 1-3 week adjustment period you can reverse the years of damage from sitting 8 hours a day year after year after year. The trick is to fully commit. I work remotely and I put my imac on the treadmill desk. Now, if I'm working I'm walking.
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Step 1: The Parts of a Fancy Walking Desk
To make a truly fancy desk, one has to have fancy parts.
First I went to Ikea and got me one'o'them Frederik desks. I think it was like $150
Then I went to Modell's Authority and looked at the back of all the treadmill control panels. What you're looking for is one that can be easily separated from the backing. In the end I chose a ProForm 480 E. The control panel itself was just screwed on to the backing, so I figured I could take it apart easily enough. It cost $500.
Next I went to an office supply store I don't have a pun for and got a keyboard shelf. I just wanted the slidey-desk attachy parts. I'm sure they have specific names and I'm also sure I don't care what those names are.
Finally I stopped by a home warehouse store and got a piece of MDF cut so I could mount the control panel.
As an aside, a lot of the time when you're reading these instructables the authors make it seem like all these steps were carefully planned and executed in just the right order. The truth is not that simple. Maybe some of the authors are that organized but most do something like what I did:
I spent over two hours wandering Ikea cursing their stupid inefficient layout while annoying their staff with non-standard questions. Prior to doing any of this I had already spent another two hours crawling around the floor of the sports store taking pictures of the underside of treadmills like some bizarre upskirt treadmill fetishist.
Then I spent WAAAY too much money on a keyboard shelf because god dammit I was finishing this thing today come hell or high water.
But when you make the instructable it makes you seem like you're so much more together if you say "first I did this perfectly, then I went on to do the exactly logical next step with no time or thought in between because I am awesome like that."
I'm done with the aside, let's move on.
Now all you have to do is put these parts together exactly the right way and you will also have a perfect treadmill desk because I'm awesome like that. I definitely did not injure myself or curse a lot doing the next steps.
Step 2: Remove the Control Panel From the Treadmill
I used the ProForm 480 E. If you're following along and you have one of those, great, my instructions can be followed exactly. Otherwise you're on your own. Best of luck.
This is the only complex part and it's pretty easy. We're just going to take the control panel off the backing. The only extra part we need to be careful of is the safety key. It's a magnetic switch with a metal plate over it. The "safety key" is a magnet that sticks to the metal plate and activates the magnetic switch. I just scotch taped the magnet to the switch because I didn't feel like pulling out my multimeter and finding out which wires I would need to solder to make the thing stay on permanently.
I removed the entire treadmill from the box it came in. The control panel, pictured below, was attached to some outer plastic. You just have to unscrew the electronics and actual control panel from the backing. There wasn't really anything tricky to it aside from the emergency stop button thing.
Once you get the plastic backing off the actual electronics are very simple. We just need the safety key intact so we can tape or glue the magnetic key to it later. The wires leading to the pulse rate meter are unimportant because we won't be keeping them and the treadmill will run without them. I just shoved mine under the control panel when I mounted it to the MDF.
Check the image notes for details.
Next we mount the control panel to the MDF. Easy peasy.
Step 3: Mount the Control Panel to the MDF
This step will depend on what type of keyboard shelf you get. Mine wouldn't fit the removed control panel, so I needed to mount it to a piece of MDF, which I then attached to the shelf sliders.
I didn't take pictures of this part because I hurt my thumb at some point and the pictures would have been of FURY AND ANGER.
So read carefully.
The picture below shows the state of the control panel when it's removed from the backing. The screws holding it to the original backing are useless, so go back in time to the first step and add some long screws of the same width. The screws I used were perfect because the MDF is 1/2", so I just added 1/2" to the length of the screws I took out.
The screw holes in the control panel need to be lined up perfectly with the MDF holes we'll drill out. So. Go get some lipstick or paint and dab it on the tip of the holes. Then press the holes onto the MDF and PRESTO BONGO you have the marks you need for drilling into the MDF.
Then just mount the MDF to the sliding keyboard mounts. Next we'll build the desk.
Step 4: Put All the Fancy Bits Together
So by now you should have a control panel on a sliding shelf. Great! Next we put the desk together.
The reason I chose the Frederik was that you can adjust the height of the shelves. It makes a great, cheap standing desk for this reason. I put the big desk platform at a height that matched my comfortable arm height + the height of the treadmill. So basically you find the place it would be perfect standing height and then put the platform up one higher than that.
Then put one of the littler shelves above that and it becomes a nice monitor stand. You can take the other small shelf and stick it *under* the big shelf to hold your desktop and any peripherals you just can't live without. Since I use an imac I didn't need to worry about that extra little shelf.
Other than adjusting the height, just follow the Frederik directions from Ikea.
Once the desk is assembled, mount the control panel to the center of the large desk so that you can slide the control panel in and out to start and stop the treadmill.
The bottom part of the treadmill, the actual treadmill, has a big wire sticking out that attaches to the control panel wire. It needs to be unthreaded from the base so that we have enough length to reach the control panel. Once you have enough length just attach it to the control panel.
...and you're done. It's really easy and looks almost as good as one of the versions that cost $5000.
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