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A Walking Pad Changed My Life
The walking pad, aka the under-desk treadmill, is not a new invention, but it’s definitely blowing up right now. My guess as to why is TikTok. I don’t have TikTok, but it seems like that’s where all the trends come from these days, like that pasta dish where you put a block of cheese in the middle. Unlike the cheese pasta, my lactose-intolerant self can actually participate in the walking pad trend, not that I was planning to. Despite my constant lament that most days the sum total of my movement was the arduous journey from bed to desk chair to couch and back to bed, I truly did not intend to invite a walking pad into my life. Fortunately, my mom argued very persuasively that she was buying me one for Christmas whether I wanted her to or not, so I better give her my specifications. In case you’re considering one for yourself – or if you’ve never considered it – I’m going to share with you my reservations, the specs we ended up with, and how the walking pad has had such an incredibly positive impact on my life already.
My Reservations re: Walking Pads
For one thing, I am HIGHLY susceptible to motion sickness. I have long suffered at the hands of the usual suspects like boats and winding mountain roads, but also the lesser-known culprits like reading my Kindle on the elliptical. I could not foresee a scenario in which I could walk while reading code without needing to pop a dramamine. For another, I’m lazy. I have a standing desk, but some days – okay, weeks – I don’t stand at it AT ALL. I may start out standing, but pretty soon I’m leaning, and then I’m resting one shin on my chair, and then next thing you know I’m back on my butt. Since walking is more effort than standing I felt like I’d get tuckered out pretty quick, mentally associate the walking pad with being even more exhausted than usual, and never set foot on it again.
Then there were the logistical concerns. I live in a small apartment that I rent, in San Diego (aka the most expensive city in the US). Historically, this has meant that I barely manage to find a place at the top of my price range, live in it for a year, and have to move at the end of that year when the rent gets jacked up astronomically. A large, heavy, fragile, expensive electronic device does not make that process any easier or less stressful, and that’s if I was able to make the space for it in the first place. Space not only for it to live under my desk, mind you, but also for it to reside when I do need to use my chair.
All in all the odds of inviting a walking pad into my life and home were not looking good, but gentlefriends, YOU try dissuading my mother of something when she has decided it’s going to happen. And so, the walking pad came home.
Interlude: Humbled by A Walking Pad
I’m not an influencer so I don’t have a brand, but if I did, it would be “failing out loud”, and so that is why I feel the need to include the humbling experience that was unboxing and trying out Walking Pad Version 1. It had a stated weight limit of 260lbs. I have not weighed myself since the summer of 2022, which was horrifying in many ways (weighs), but among them was hitting the highest weight I have ever been, and not because I was gaining crazy muscle. If I had to point the finger I would say stress-eating spicy chicken nuggets and mainlining insanely sugary coffee from Wawa, but that’s not really relevant, I’m just painting a picture. What is relevant is that, even if I gained 50lbs since then, I would still be under the limit of this machine, and yet. I followed the instructions to a T, I turned it on, I stepped on it, I pressed start, and I felt my heart shatter as the belt tried and failed to shift my weight. An error flashed on the screen and would not go away for love nor money nor turning it off and back on again. Gentlefriends, I am a child of Tech Support – if the tried and true method does not affect the outcome, I am Done-zel Washington. I shipped that sucker back to Amazon and begged my mom not to subject my fat ass to another judgmental machine, but she wouldn’t hear of any daughter of hers giving up so easily, and so a week later, Walking Pad Version 2.0 was delivered to my door.
The Benefits of Walking Pads That I’ve Experienced So Far
I need to start with some basic facts about me: I am a raging insomniac so I am often brutally tired; I have never been diagnosed with ADHD or anxiety and would therefore never claim to have either of those conditions, but I do have an incredibly difficult time focusing, especially during meetings, and often use squishy fidget toys to help me focus and self-soothe when I’m spiraling; I am an optimist for you and will be your eternal cheerleader and hypewoman, but when it comes to myself I am a pessimist to my core. With that background, I can now share with you the true story of how my walking pad has drastically improved my life. As it’s only been a couple weeks I can’t really speak to the benefits of using walking pads for cardio or fitness or “walking your way to weight loss”, but I think you’ll agree that the physical and mental benefits I’ve seen so far are a pretty great start.
Walking first thing in the morning wakes me up. Let me be clear: I am traveling at one mile per hour. This is not a sprint. I’m not panting and sweating. Just a leisurely stroll at the pace one might adopt when taking their pet turtle to the park makes me feel more lively and energetic than a coffee and an energy drink combined (and if you’re thinking that sounds like an unhealthy amount of caffeine, I’m not going to argue with you – it isn’t great, but neither is the feeling of zero caffeine on four hours of broken sleep). I have more energy mentally and physically after just the first few minutes, and knowing that is enough to push me through the sleepy barrier of those initial minutes into the bliss that lies beyond. Feeling good puts me in a positive mindset to start the day, too.
I focus so much better in meetings. Maybe because my feet are moving my hands don’t have to? Or maybe it doesn’t feel like I’m wasting my time in those particular meetings where the content maybe doesn’t actually impact my life in a super immediate- look, don’t pretend you feel like every second of every meeting your company has is 100% worth a meeting and not, say, an email, okay? In those moments where I feel like maybe my time would be better spent reading an article about the latest advancements in training Large Language Models or giving that Kubernetes Basics video another watch, it’s helpful to acknowledge that even if my mind can’t be occupied in a way that screams optimal productivity, I’m moving your body, and that counts for something.
Wait, is that anxiety talking, the need to achieve optimal productivity at all times? Again, I don’t have anxiety in the clinical sense, but I definitely feel anxious on a daily basis in the “must get all of these tickets done, must contribute to my team and my company in a meaningful and measurable way, must learn the maximum amount of information I can cram into my brain because I got into tech so late and so old and I’m so far behind and I’m a dinosaur and I’m going to die soon before I even understand Rundeck” kind of way. I’m not going to pretend like the walking pad has magically alleviated all of that, but I will say that when I start to spiral, I crank the speed up a click or two and walk off the nervous energy and return to a manageable level of existential dread.
There’s one more unexpected walking pad benefit that I’ve experienced, and it’s maybe a little niche and definitely a little embarrassing. Many moons ago when I was living in Philadelphia I slipped on some ice on a friend’s porch and maybe-broke, probably-fractured, definitely-at-least-badly-sprained my right foot/ankle. Instead of seeing a doctor (because I was a broke grad student and my off-campus job = 30hrs/week = part time = benefits who?) I limped on the very outside edge of my foot until it permanently altered my gait. It doesn’t really cross my mind in my day-to-day life, but every so often when I do a lot of walking my whole body feels beat up in a way it shouldn’t. I don’t know what exactly it is about the walking pad, but my right knee and hip started getting stiff and sore very quickly. As soon as I purposely and mindfully correct my gait – which results in an almighty cracking of foot and ankle bones every time – the discomfort goes away immediately. It woke me up to the fact that I can maybe get away with walking on the outside of my right foot with minimal ill effects now, but if I want to have the mobility required to chase kids off my lawn in my golden years, I need to relearn how to walk properly; that is something the walking pad will help with over time.
Choosing The Best Walking Pad for You
Let’s say I’ve convinced you and you’re now interested in choosing your own walking pad. Clearly, I have some experience with choosing the wrong walking pad AND the right one, so now let’s discuss some features to look for in a high-quality walking pad that won’t make you regret every carb that has ever passed your lips.
★ Numero uno: weight capacity. Whatever you think you need, go up. The model I have is rated for 300lbs, but I’ve seen one that goes up to 350lbs. Learn from my mistake and don’t break your own heart here.
★ Second: width. Some of these suckers are pretty narrow, but I’ve also found that I take up a more narrow walking area than I expected. If you have concerns I suggest measuring the width of a model or two and marking it with tape on your floor and doing some walking back and forth to make sure you can stay within the lines comfortably.
★ Third: stability. Read the reviews and see what other users have said about the belt moving around. I didn’t realize that was a thing until I started reading reviews, but some of these walking pads are apparently very squirrely.
★ Fourth: volume. It never occurred to me that a walking pad might be noisy and I got lucky because I didn’t pay attention to that aspect of reviews at all, and my model is (in my opinion) not loud at all. It’s a very pleasant white noise situation for me. If you are sensitive to sound for any reason, take this into consideration and watch some review videos if you can to get an idea of what you can tolerate.
★ Fifth and finally: return policy. Walking pads are expensive. I would go so far as to say they are an investment. It’s just too much money to spend on something that isn’t going to fit your needs perfectly, and the only way to be absolutely sure that it does is to use it for a bit. My mom ordered from Amazon both times, so fortunately the return was very easy, and I can recommend that approach.
I’m not going to share the exact model of walking pad I have, because they’re not paying me – just kidding! I jest, gentlefriends. I’m not linking my exact walking pad because it was incredibly expensive, I feel incredibly guilty that my mom spent so much money, and I don’t want to anyone to think that they have to break the bank to have a quality product. I do absolutely love mine, though, and I will probably share it if it ever goes on sale.
To address the reservations I had before welcoming the walking pad into the family: motion sickness hasn’t been an issue at all. Creating the space for it wasn’t difficult, but I’ve found it’s easier to store my chair elsewhere and just leave the walking pad under my desk when not using my workspace, because it would be in the way otherwise. Moving house hasn’t come up yet as our rent won’t be going up until May, so if we get priced out of our current place I’ll update on the challenges of transporting the beast.
I resisted the heck out of the walking pad trend because I didn’t think I’d get enough use out of it for the cost and that it would be too difficult to fit into my workspace and my lifestyle. My mom insisted on buying me one for Christmas, and to my surprise I discovered that it is very easy to work while walking, and that the benefits of a walking pad on my physical and mental health have been pretty darn staggering. If you’ve been considering buying one yourself, I highly recommend it – just make sure that the weight capacity, width, stability, volume, and – if all else fails – return policy suit your needs. Happy walking, gentlefriends!
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[Photo credit: Intenza Fitness via Unsplash]