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 🙂