{diy exercise} Of Dog Trotting and Stand Up Desks

I have a very scary birthday coming up next year. When I think about my birthday, I am reminded of the Frederick Nietzche quote,

“And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

Frederick Nietzche, my hero

The only good things about this birthday are that I am not dead yet and that it is still 10 months away. And, of course, I know from experience that the numbers will keep getting worse.

I have been trying to think of ways to make this birthday-that-shall-not-be-named less horrible. At first I thought I might have a skating party at the warming hut in the park, but a friend threw a wet rag on that idea saying, “All your friends will get hurt.” Well, maybe not the ones under 40, but she had a point. When I turn to my husband for comfort he just kinds of shrugs and says, “We’re getting older.” He took the same birthday with calm maturity; he is no help at all. I thought about running away to Paris or Kuala Lumpur or Tierra del Fuego for my birthday, but remembered it is during my busy season at work so I can’t really take time off. Then I hit on the solution to my depression.

I will lose 20 pounds for my birthday. Take that, impending doom.

I immediately cheered up and decided to organize myself to accomplish this not-easy-for-me task. There are three parts to the plan: diet, cut out most alcohol (it is restricted to evenings with friends or ritual occasions like Friday night dinner), and exercise. I joined Weight Watchers on line, since I can’t stand to go to meetings where people speak with exclamation points while they weigh you. For exercise I decided to go with a DIY plan rather than join a gym which would cost a bunch of money, require me to rearrange my schedule and cut down quality time at home with my family and aging dog. Knowing myself lo these many years, I doubt I would use a gym for long since it is not on my daily route and would require me to get purposefully into a car or on my bicycle to get there.

So I thought I would share my DIY exercise plan and ask for any helpful suggestions from the FSC community.

My exercise plan currently has three components:

1.  Use my freaking elliptical trainer. I have actually used this machine pretty regularly for the last year, but am upping the schedule. From vaguely thinking I should use it three times a week, which I mostly nearly do, I decided to use it at least every other day on a harder program than I had used previously. 30 minutes at a stretch on the fat burn program yields 350 calories of exercise, the wildly inaccurate read-out on the machine claims. 3 points on weight watchers is more likely, I think. I also lift small bar bells immediately after using the elliptical in a series of reps I made up. I should add sit ups. Maybe I will. Yes, I definitely will.

The elliptical trainer, waiting for me patiently

2.  I had my husband build me a stand-up desk for work – he is a better carpenter than I am. I have a very sedentary, cerebral job and sitting all day is killing me. We went through two designs of the desk. The first was modeled after a stand-up desk a young man at my job constructed for himself. His stand-up desk was an 18 inch box with a pull-out keyboard tray six inches below the top of the box. He put it on his regular desk and placed his monitor on top of it. I copied the design, making it two inches lower, and we changed it to use the materials we had on hand already. I bought it into work and within one minute of using it, realized that the monitor was too high for me to read with my progressive lenses and that the keyboard height was uncomfortable because I had to hold my arms up instead of letting them relax. Within two minutes, I had neck and shoulder pains. I put the stand- up desk on the floor to take home and a different young man in my office asked about it so I let him try it. It works for him, although he raised it up on some books to make it taller.

Stand Up Desk Number 1

The second stand-up desk my husband made works just fine. The desk is 22 inches wide by 27 inches long, constructed from cutting up an old shelf we had in our kitchen years ago, sitting on top of 9 inch legs. Placed on top of my regular desk it is the perfect height for my 5’ 6” self. I stand up to work at my computer till around 2 or 3 every day, then move the monitor, key board and mouse down to my regular desk top and sit for the rest of the afternoon. My back feels better, my butt feels better, my legs are noticeably stronger, and I get to fidget to my heart’s content, standing on one leg, shifting around, dancing a little now and then.

Stand Up Desk Number 2

3.  I invented a new exercise I call “dog-trotting.” For the last 11 years I have taken my dog for a walk every morning. Mostly I stand around in a series of places for a mile while she sniffs. When she is done sniffing each spot, she moves on to the next blade of grass or speck of decaying matter that interests her. Her natural gait is a trot, mine is a slowish stroll. For years I have been telling her, “heel” and “don’t pull me,” over and over and over again as she tries to speed out front. I decided to take advantage of her periods of motion to trot with her instead. Sometimes we go 20 feet, sometimes two blocks, without stopping. It is enough to get my heart pumping and I can feel it in my calves, so I know it is actual exercise. Because dog-trotting is faster than dog-walking, we now go close to a mile and a half in the morning before work. This is a very good thing.

Kate, speeding out ahead

We’ll see about the 20 pounds in the next 10 months. I think it is doable. Most importantly, I feel cheerful about the possibility of thumbing my nose at my birthday abyss next February.

If you have any suggestions for further exercise modifications of daily life, please comment!


22 Comments Add yours

  1. Ingenious stand-up desk. I hadn’t thought of that.

    1. Dianna says:

      I bought one to use at home about two years ago and love it, but it is a free standing piece of furniture that I don’t have room for in my office space. I couldn’t find a commercial desk top stand-up desk, hence the DIY project. I highly recommend it.

  2. I like the stand up desk idea. When I first started in sales way back when, I remember being told that the manager didn’t like to give salespeople chairs, ’cause they’ll just sit in them, lol. Turns out he was so right…

    RE: the weightloss – add some basic weight training. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a simple program will make. And you’ll feel great.

    1. Dianna says:

      Any ideas for doing this without joining a gym?

      1. Can you hire a personal trainer for just a couple of weeks or a month? The education is a great investment and all you’ll need equipment-wise is a few light weights and if you really want to splurge, one of those big exercise balls.

        1. Dianna says:

          yes, of course I could. I mostly just don’t want to waste money. In the summer when my work schedule is lighter I may join a gym anyway, and could take a few sessions with a trainer, And an exercise ball could be an early birthday present.

          1. I know that gym membership feels like a stone around the neck when there’s so many other things to be doing. The best part of the weights is that they work perfectly to hold your brining stuff under liquid : D And you should see cows play with the ball…

            1. Dianna says:

              Weights are multifunctional! Perfect for my permaculture view of life. I don’t have cows, but perhaps the dog would like the giant ball.

  3. Kris says:

    Love the dog trotting idea. My dog would surely like it too.

  4. Ona says:

    Great goals, fantastic ideas, and with a positive process – I love it! Good luck and just so you know – the “big” birthday coming up is the new “30!”

    1. Dianna says:

      You may have the wrong big birthday. I am pretty sure it is not 30 but maybe the new 40!

  5. Alexis says:

    You go girl!!!

    1. Dianna says:


  6. Emma says:

    Dianna- Check your local High school they often offer continuing Ed type classes. Cheap and usually you are only committing for 6 to 8 weeks. I love taking them, changes up the every day norm, and it’ll give you some great things to add to what you are doing at home.

    1. Dianna says:

      That is a great idea, I will look at the adult ed flyers instead of recycling them, thanks.

    2. Christina says:

      Emma, I LOVE this idea too! Keeps things fresh! Thanks for sharing!

  7. hhahaa how come stand up desk #1 looks like an erector set and #2 looks like it’s from West Elm? Both are made by michael?

    1. Dianna says:

      yes, he is versatile

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