2011.04.27 I can't stand it

Written by David Green.


I’m not sure why I became obsessed with standing desks last week. My obsession is somewhat tempered now.

I must have recently seen a reference to the standing desk. I know I’ve read about them in the past and I know that I was uncomfortable sitting at my desk last week.

I’m using an old chair that can’t hold its pneumatic lift. Every so often the seat drops about five inches. All of a sudden I’m looking up at my computer monitor, feeling like a little kid at his daddy’s desk.

I rise and pull the handle, the seat comes back up, I sit again. Until the next time it slips.

There’s something else about the chair that isn’t quite right. I’m much more comfortable in it if I have my left leg folded under me so I’m sitting on my foot.

That’s OK until I get up and try to walk. I’m hoping customers don’t notice that I’m limping across the room. It’s OK until I visit a massage therapist who tells me that my hips aren’t even. I confess to sitting on my foot and she goes to work on me. I suppose the solution here is to switch legs. I must sit on my right foot more often.

I could switch to another chair, but there’s not much of a selection in our office. There’s one chair that everyone avoids but me. Somebody put too much weight on the front and it’s broken or bent inside. There’s the old black leather chair that a reporter left behind, but I discovered it’s not a working chair. Every time I sit in it, it makes me want to put my feet up on the desk, lean back with my arms behind my head and close my eyes. It’s nothing but a napping chair.

I already know that I shouldn’t sit in a chair all day. Supposedly it’s bad for your health. It uses less energy than chewing gum, some say. Even if you exercise before or after work, you’ve got to get up and out of your chair now and then. The physiology of inactivity suggests that your body starts to do bad things when it’s sedentary. At least use a rocking chair. And don’t even think about the lipoprotein lipase. You’ll just get depressed.

So I try to remember to get up and move from time to time and it always feels good. The printer is in the back room, so that helps. We have a few inefficiencies built into our system that leads to movement.

When I saw the article about a standing desk last week, I decided to take action. Friday morning I went to the back and got two boxes of envelopes to place under my computer monitor. I got two more boxes to place under my keyboard. Presto! A standing desk.

Within five minutes it felt as though my right sock was twisted so I took off my shoe and discovered the sock was fine. It must be the shoe itself that feels as though it has a slight ridge running across the heel. I never notice it when I’m walking. Or sitting at my desk.

I needed two more envelope boxes for my mouse since I had to bend down every time to use it, but I decided the slight bending of the knees was probably good exercise.

My feet were beginning to hurt.

Eventually Ali Ries came in to borrow my camera for some photos [Note: Did you notice? The page of photos of Fayette first graders making ice cream was taken by Ali. Check out this week’s pysanki egg photos. They’re hers again.]

I told her that I have a standing desk today and she asked the obvious question: Why?

That was the tough part. I said something about how you burn more calories standing than sitting.

“That’s why you’re doing it?” she asked.

Well, no, I’m not worried about calories. I probably said that it’s supposed to be better for you, which was a better answer than giving the more obvious answer: I’m just being a dork who wants to see what it’s like.

I was out of the office for a while taking a photo and then I was back at my standing desk. My feet hurt. I finally took off my shoes. Not much better and the floor was really cold. 

I returned the boxes and all I got out of the experience was a sore ankle from banging it against a drawer in the back office.

While standing, it didn’t seem as though I was accomplishing anything, like I couldn’t quite dig into a project and finish it. Once I was back on my butt it was no different, so I can’t fault the desk for that.

I thought I was finished with this episode, but that evening I still had the yearning. Sometime in the night I remembered that Ben left a piece of furniture in the basement. Was it a drafting table?

I checked in the morning. It wasn’t. It was a desk but not what I needed to satisfy my curiosity. I went to work Saturday morning carrying a pair of Crocs to wear.

I quickly built my standing desk again, put on the Crocs and within 20 minutes noticed that my back was aching.

Once again, I thought I was finished with this minor adventure, but now it’s Sunday and I’m still thinking about it. It feels good to walk around the office; why is it uncomfortable to stand in one place? Do I need one of those treadmill desks? No, I don’t.

I’ve read about some other people’s experiences with standing desks—from what a bunch of bunk to it’s really great—and I think I’ll have to try again, either until I like it or until I know that I don’t.

I need to look more carefully at the new heights (maybe two envelopes boxes isn’t quite right), I need comfortable shoes and maybe a floor mat. I need some sort of foot rest for variety. Don’t just stand there; move around a little. I need a bar stool type of chair for occasionally sitting down.

The idea isn’t to just stand in one place all day long; it’s to avoid sitting for eight hours.

And one user says the pain is temporary. After a few days you’ll adjust and think nothing of it.

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