Standing Desks are Awesome (and exhausting)

My Standing Desk

My standing desk set up. You can tell I haven't done any cable management lately.

In August I pulled a muscle in my back. It was bad enough that sitting for long periods of time became uncomfortable. This was a big problem because, well, I sit all day long while I work. About a year ago I wrote about my efforts to sit less, which included using a standing station for my laptop sometimes. In that post I outlined all of the mounting research that suggests that sitting all day long can be bad for you. After that I continued to make a conscious effort to stand and move more in general.

Still, I spent most of my working day at my desk, using my keyboard, mouse, and dual monitors. After hurting my back though, I needed a way to stay standing up for the majority of the working day to keep my back loose and pain free. After some looking online, I decided to just pick up a small, lightweight coffee table at Target for $24 and placed it on top of my existing desk. It just so happened that it had the perfect dimensions for me: everything fit on the tabletop and the height was perfect typing height. You can see what it looks like in the picture above. Nothing really special about it. I also picked up an anti-fatigue mat for $20 on Amazon after seeing Gina Trapani recommend it when she switched to a standing desk. It was well worth every penny, and then some. The difference it makes on my feet is huge.

Let me tell you: I was exhausted those first few days. It’s just standing right? How tiring can it be? As someone who stays in pretty good shape, I don’t think I’ve been that tired and sore since double sessions when I played football in high school. Ironman triathlete Ben Greenfield considers his standing desk to be a form of cross-training!

At first that sounds crazy, but when you think about it, it’s not so crazy. Let’s say I sleep an average of 8 hours a night. Previously I probably spent the majority of those remaining 16 hours sitting. Even with a workout in there and some walks and cooking and whatnot, I was probably spending…2, 3, maybe 4 hours standing max on an average day. Now that’s flip-flopped – I’m probably only sitting for a few hours a day and standing maybe 10 hours a day (on the days I work from home). It’s no wonder that it was such a shock to my body.

That said, I feel great. My body acclimated pretty quickly to standing so much. Just as if I was running a lot or biking a lot, I make sure to spend a lot of time stretching and using my foam roller. While it’s impossible to quantify, I feel more productive when I’m standing. I’m that guy who has to stand up and move around when he talks on the phone because I’m antsy/excited, so maybe this is just a natural extension of that. It’s also kind of fun to turn web development into an endurance activity. I feel like I’m using both my mind and my body to get my work done! Then when the day is over, it feels really good to sit down and relax mentally and physically.

I do try to take regular breaks to sit still (even when I’m standing I’m always moving, which is good because using a standing desk without movement can be bad too). Some days, especially if my legs are tired/sore from a workout, I would like to have the option of sitting to work while still using my full setup. For now, I just unplug my laptop and go sit at the kitchen table for a few hours. Eventually I’d like a GeekDesk – you can preset it to multiple heights and it uses a motor to adjust the desk to one of your presets. I could go from standing to sitting instantly 🙂

6 comments on Standing Desks are Awesome (and exhausting)

  1. Tim says:

    Nice update, I’ve been fascinated by the standing desk, though I’m in no rush to abandon my work station. When working remotely I have done at least 1/2 of the day standing, I did notice I got a little tired and had to wander around a little more often or it just felt uncomfortable. This is something I may explore more at some point, but I’m pretty pleased with my desk. I find working at a regular desk with a regular office chair seems very awkward to me now.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      You have maybe the most unique work station I’ve ever seen Tim. Can’t imagine there are many people who work while tilted back in a zero gravity chair all day!

  2. Jeff says:

    Can we get pics of your workstation, Tim? Nice post!

  3. hank says:

    I love your creativity and desire to get an adjustable height desk. Our company will be offering a new partable adjustable height desk in December for only $329.00 You can check out the full sized versions at http://www.ergodesktop.com Might just be the solution you are looking for.

  4. […] been just over a year since I switched to a standing desk (see: Standing Desks are Awesome (and exhausting) and My Efforts to Sit Less). Some thoughts after sticking with it for over a […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Commenting Rules

I'm honored that you found this post interesting enough to leave a comment. Before posting, I have a few ground rules:

  • Please keep your comments as relevant to the post as possible.
  • No personal attacks or any other nastiness.
  • Your first comment is subject to my approval.

Thanks!