Normally, I stay active by running, riding, skiing, and hiking. When life shifted towards social distance, I experimented with what was available to me in the comfort of my home. Unfortunately, one day I was walking through the house and jammed my pinky toe so hard against the door frame my partner heard it pop from the other room. Sure enough, I broke my toe.
My fractured pinky toe
It was such a minor and silly sounding injury, but if I pushed my luck the toe could heal improperly and lead to long term discomfort. So as much as I hated the thought of losing my stamina and fitness I knew I had to cool it.
*Thankful Moment* Before I go any further, I do want to acknowledge that most of this adventure was made possible by my employer, Strava. Without their flexibility and support, this wouldn't have been possible. For this, I am humbled and tremendously grateful.
Alright, back to the story...
After it healed, I eased back into exercise in whatever way I could find motivating. I began scheduling any meetings where a computer was unnecessary back to back, allowing me long blocks of time that I could use to take my phone calls on walks. I also had a Nintendo Switch and ended up borrowing my sister’s Ring Fit game to “gamify” my fitness. Finally, I dabbled in rebound trampolines and various online fitness regiments (in my case, Centr).
A 5 mile loop during my back-to-back 1:1 phone calls
Early into the pandemic, I invested in a standing desk and a wobbly fatigue mat (my highly technical term) that let my fidgety self move around a bit. I really enjoyed standing and felt like I had more energy and less back pain at the end of the day. This led me to my next experiment…
The hunt for the right treadmill
I had seen casual references to treadmill desks over my 9 years at Strava, but never really gave them much thought. I had never actually seen one in real life nor did I know of anyone who used one. Now that I found myself standing in one corner of my house for 8 hours a day, the thought crossed my mind to research what treadmill options were out there.
As soon as I committed to the idea, I came up with my criteria, which included: foldable, light, space-saving (my “office” is a shared space), inexpensive (not sure whether I’d like it), could accommodate running speeds (aspirational), would fit under my desk, and had a quiet motor for meetings.
Screen grab of my Strava Training Log
If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen.
I put all of my activity on Strava, big and small. I like to track things, and for me, Strava is my record of truth. So once I had the treadmill on order, I turned my attention to which device I would use to record my walks. I knew I wanted to record distance, time, and heart rate but there were some problems to work through in order to get an accurate distance calculation.
The watchesStryd charger, pod, and shoe clip
I have a few different watches I use to record activities, but this was a bit of a unique scenario. There would be no GPS from which to calculate distance because I was indoors, but my watches could identify and calculate distance using their built-in accelerometers. The catch is that I’m working so my arms are resting flat on the desk barely moving at all. This meant the watch would not identify any movement and would underrepresent my distance. So I asked myself, what was moving? My feet. I hunted for a simple foot pod that could pair to one of my watches. To my surprise, there weren’t many options— they mostly included used foot pods which was concerning because who knows how much longer they’d be supported.
As a member of Strava’s Community Management team, I have some knowledge of devices that are on the market and am familiar with the Stryd foot pod— a foot pod known for measuring running power. While this was more than I needed for my workday walks, it paired with both the Apple and Garmin watches I had and seemed like one of the only options.
The treadmill was fairly easy to assemble and fit perfectly under my desk. It was just short and narrow enough that it didn’t take up too much space yet I felt comfortable running/walking on it. I gave it a try and right off the bat noticed how easy it was to walk and type. What surprised me was how clumsy I was mousing around the screen. Luckily this was an easy fix. I turned down the mouse speed so I was less affected by my jiggling hand.
Standing desk + Treadmill
Next, I set up the foot pod and app to sync to my Strava account. I created an account on Stryd’s power analysis platform called “Power Center”. In the settings page in the “Connected Accounts” section, there is an option to export to Strava. When you toggle this switch on you’ll be prompted to connect the two accounts. Done— my accounts were connected.
Power Center Settings
I opted to use Stryd with my Apple Watch— their app is clean and simple to navigate. After pairing the foot pod with my phone/watch, it was time to take it for its maiden voyage. I turned on the treadmill, snapped the foot pod into the shoe clip, and got my Apple Watch off the charger. When you load the Stryd app it has two options front and center: Outside and Inside. I tapped “Inside” and waited for the dot to turn from red to green before I pressed start. I did a short test and then hit stop > finish. A few minutes later my activity appeared on Strava.
Stryd on Apple WatchWaiting for red to turn greenGPS toggled 'off' for Indoor
When I looked at the activity details page, I noticed there was a single GPS point smack in the middle of my house. I have a privacy zone and some additional map visibility settings enabled so I wasn’t too concerned about my location, but I did have some thoughts about GPS and indoor activities. Sometimes the conflicting (GPS says you’re still, but foot pod says you’re moving) information can do wonky things. I did a bit of research and found there’s an additional toggle in the Stryd app settings to flip GPS off. I toggled that off and tried again. That worked.
Single GPS point on an indoor walk
Nine months later, here’s what I learned
It’s pretty easy to walk and work
However, it's definitely not a direct comparison to hikes or outdoor walks. I learned this the hard way trying to be ambitious with an uphill hike in nearly 100° heat.
It’s not that hard nor is it distracting for me. It becomes second nature after a while.
I can turn up the speed to build up a sweat and still type. I can’t do this while presenting.
Easy to type and walk, easier to listen and walk, more difficult to talk and walk so I will turn down speed or step to sides if I need to present.
People can’t hear the treadmill during meetings.
Turn your mouse speed down to compensate for jiggles of walking.
Ask your meeting participants whether your bobbing head is a distraction and offer to go off camera if so.
I dominate walking leaderboards
Mixed feelings on this one… While I love winning, I can tell it was frustrating to my family and friends. I heard quite a bit of “that’s not fair”. But hey, I’m still walking!
Proper gear is important
I walk at least 5 miles a day. Get good walking shoes because you’ll go through several pairs. Thanks to Strava shoe notifications! Keep some rollers or massagers around for after walks.
Remember to charge your devices
The Stryd battery lasts a long time. I charge it on once on Saturdays despite using it for at least 25 hours/week.
My Apple watch works hard, so it needs a nightly charge and is often the device I leave to drain battery in random places around the house. Oops.
It’s infectious. I inspired a few other teammates to walk with me *pats self on back*. They must have had FOMO. There are now 3 bobbing heads during our Community Management Meetings.
Fans, I have lots of them pointed at me.
Treadmill maintenance is a real thing. Mornings are squeaky and squeaky when it's warming up. Probably my fault.
Beware of curious animals or little ones, especially if your treadmill has buttons on the bottom. They may turn it on or off and surprise you.
You have to start somewhere
I had to ease back into activity after losing all my fitness post-toe break. I tried to make it fun, lightweight, accessible, and varied. It helped having multiple options for fitness. Ultimately I loved the idea of being doubly productive during my work day. Working my mind & body.
Do you use a treadmill to record your walks? Tell us about your experience.