Grand Opening: My New Treadmill Desk!

treadmill desk As promised, the definitive post about my new treadmill desk!

I finally got the desk pieces delivered Tuesday, though I got the treadmill piece quite a while ago. So now I’m all assembled and rocking along. In fact, I’m walking on the treadmill as I write this!

So, I did not go with the cheapie option. Fair warning. There are some great blog posts out there about how to make your own treadmill desk, or how to jury-rig your existing treadmill so you can type while walking. I considered those options but ultimately discarded them. This is why:

  • As you can see, I have a small space. If I did one of the less expensive all-in-one treadmill desks, it would be in addition to my regular desk, and I didn’t want to sacrifice the room.
  • I like being able to look out my window and enjoy the view. There’s not enough window for both kinds of desk.
  • I didn’t already have a treadmill to jury-rig.
  • I’m at my desk about 11 hours a day, sometimes more. I do the the day job from home. So, on top of the writing career, I’m at my desk a good chunk of the time.
  • I wanted a good, long-term solution that would fit my life aesthetically and ergonomically.
  • For me, this is  a health investment. I’d rather spend the money on this now than on health care in the future.
  • It’s tax-deductible, too.

So, being who I am, I did a lot of online shopping and cross-comparisons.

I ended up buying the treadmill itself here. I like that it’s small, highly rated and has a control panel that sits up on the desk. They also sell adjustable height desks, but I found a better deal on the desk elsewhere. My big thing is I wanted this, too.

sitting deskSame desk, with the treadmill slid to the side, so I can sit and work, too. It works via a hydraulic lift that is very smooth and nearly soundless. This way, if I’m sitting and working and get a long phone call from my boss, say, I can raise the desk, slide the treadmill over and walk and talk–and still reference information on my computer.

I bought the desk here. I got the v.3 small frame (space  considerations), even though they’re running 5-7 weeks out for delivery. Treaddesk, where I got the treadmill piece, has a similar desk that’s very pretty, and they sell it as a package. However, by buying these two pieces separately and saved $640. Plus, if Treaddesk ships it as a package (cheaper than doing the pieces separately with them), they have to send it to a loading dock and not your house. Which I just did not want to deal with.

How do I like it? I do! The treadmill goes a max 4 mph and right now I’m walking at 1 mph. The treadmill is a bit heavy to slide, but not awful. The brick floors help. If I were to do this on carpet, I’d likely want one of those plastic aprons they sell at office-supply stores.

Feel free to ask questions!

Training to Increase Daily, Weekly and Monthly Word Counts

1_16Jackson isn’t old enough yet to go outside by himself. So, he just watches Isabel from the window, envious of her Big Kitty privileges.

In the past I’ve used the analogy of being in training for producing wordcount.I continue to be amazed at just how well the principle applies. But if you’re sick of this topic, feel free to move on.

(Not that you aren’t always free to move on – I’m just warning you that this might be repeat. I’m like the old auntie who traps you at the family picnic and asks if I’ve ever told you about my trip to Japan. She won’t let you run. I will.)

One of the things I’ve learned about exercising is that it really pays to keep track of what you’re doing and use that record to increase your effort incrementally. I say this as a person who is NOT an athletic type. I hid in the bathroom during gym class. Was always picked last for ANY team. The high school coaches would kind of curl their lips up when they saw me in the hallways. I used to brag that I never broke into more than a fast walk, for any reason.

Now I run on the treadmill three days a week and lift weights the other three, alternating upper and lower body. This is because I, um, got fat. And I’m vain. Plus I have a lot of books I want to write and I’d prefer to live a long and healthy life.

So, you guys know I’m a methodical person – and that I love my spreadsheets. I studied what I should do and started tracking. Knowing how much weight you used to lift and how much you’re lifting now gives you a really good sense of perspective. Plus, when I don’t exercise for a while – due to a business trip or vacation or stuffing my face with Christmas cookies – then I can really see the impact of that. I have to build back up to where I was. It’s a very real and marked phenomenon.

And it happens with writing, too.

I’ve long been tracking my daily wordcount goals and progress. For the last few months, I’ve been tracking my weekly and monthly progress as well. I want to know my patterns and what I’m capable of.

Thus, I have not only spreadsheets, but graphs! 😀

1_13 monthly wordcountThese are my monthly wordcounts for the last four months. October was a big push. I finished a couple of projects by Thanksgiving and then moved into doing a lot of editing. And stuffing my face with Christmas cookies.

I’d planned to hit things hard again in January, but you can see that I did not match my October performance. In a stunning coincidence – I am just now getting back to my pre-Christmas body fat and endurance levels physically, too.

Go figure.

But I think this is even more interesting.

1_13 weekly wordcountThis graph shows my weekly wordcount for January. The first and last weeks were both five day weeks (only counting January days), so they’d be likely lower regardless. Still – look at how I increased each week! This was immensely heartening for me to see, because I’d been focusing on not hitting my October levels and feeling like I wasn’t performing well. But each week, I did more. Even the last week of January, with the same number of days as the first week, shows a much better output.

The other thing these charts show me is that being in training really does matter. I can no more step into producing a high level of wordcount productivity after time off than I can jump back on the treadmill and expect to run as far or as fast as before all that cookie/face/stuffing.

Good to know, huh?

Now, go get your auntie a bottle of wine.

Training to Incrementally Increase Wordcount

These cholla cactus are terrible to touch and so lovely to see. Right now the desert is all pink and yellow with their blooms and fruit.

So, now that we all have the guilt out of our systems and we’re not worrying about trying to get 10K words a day, I want to talk a little about how I’ve worked myself up from 1K/Day to about 1750 words/day. That’s the schedule I mentioned yesterday. It lets you draft a 100K novel in two months, with a month to revise. Or to write and revise a 30-40K novella in a month.

This is just a general goal for me, because all of these then require layers of edits, which also take time. And usually have to be done right away.

So, working with this idea of being healthy and creating sustainable habits, I approached increasing my word count like I do my exercise program: incrementally.

For example, with weightlifting, I keep a record of how much weight I do on each machine each day. (Amusingly, I use my notebook from the 2010 RWA conference in Orlando, with the Harlequin “Honeymoon Mountain” cover. Heavens only know what the gym rats think – I’m such a girl.) After I finish on a machine, I note whether that weight was easy, good or if I need to repeat. Once it’s good or easy, I increase the weight next time, to build my muscle mass and strength.

Likewise, on the treadmill, I increase my speed by 0.1 mph at a time. Don’t snicker – I’m a weenie. I have to build the cardiovascular stuff really slowly. But I have. Over time I’ve increased speed so I’m running half a mile farther in the same amount of time as I could when I started.

I tried the same approach with writing – gradually increasing my word count goal over time. My morning blog writing is the warm-up and, for the last week or so, I’ve been hitting at least 1750 words/day. And I’m very happy with that.

Now – this last week was relatively perfect conditions. No work travel. Work is not frenzied. Not that much other stuff going on. We’re headed up to Denver this weekend to see the grandbabies and get our New Kitten. It will be a good test of whether I can get my wordcount all three days.

I’m really determined.

Wish me luck!

Creating a Sustainable Writing Schedule

I love little enticing pathways into interior courtyards.

So, there’s this gal who did a workshop at a conference recently and then did a blog post – about how she’s developed a way to write ten-thousand words a day. A 10K Day. I don’t know her at all – I just glanced at her blog post because several of my writer friends were (understandably) really excited about her ideas.

I mean, who doesn’t want to write ten-thousand words a day?

I also saw a magazine cover at the gym proclaiming that Kim Kardashian (I have no idea how to spell that) lost ten pounds in one week, and I could do it, too!

I admit, that sounded pretty damn wonderful, also.

This is where I’m at right now, in the weeks leading up to the RWA National Conference at the end of July. I did some assessing on Saturday and figured out I needed to lose 10 pounds, so my cute outfits fit right, and write 80K words, so I can have a draft of RP2 finished. This works out to 1 pound every 8K words. So clearly I just need to not eat while writing.

Thus the temptation of the Big Leaps is ever-present.

Write 10K in one day? Yes, please! Lose 10 pounds in one week? Sign me up!

And yet, I also know that this leads to the Dark Side. The best weight loss is slow and steady – or the fat just comes right back and is harder to lose. I think we all know this. Which makes me wonder if similar isn’t true about the promise of the 10K Day.

So, here are my caveats. I don’t know this gal. I have absolutely nothing against her. I have nothing against writing fast. I know that there are writers who can and have turned out this much in a day.

What I think is this is not sustainable.

It’s binge writing.

I noticed, in her description of this method that she said she hired a babysitter so she could write 4 to 5 days a week (I forget which) and figured out a way to write that much. She also said this enabled her to write a novel in 3 months instead of 7. So,  a little math tells me that, at 10K per day, it would take 10 days to write a 100K novel (most novels are 85-120K, so that’s a reasonable round average.) If she’s writing 4 days/week, then she’d have the novel written in 2 1/2 weeks. Where did the other 8 weeks come from?

I’m presuming that’s revision time. (And maybe she covered this – I confess, that I skimmed.)

Some people like to work this way. Candy Havens does a Fast Draft class, where you draft a novel in two weeks and then do Revision Hell for two weeks. This works for her and for some others, which is great. I’m not sure if she feels the novel is ready to go after that, or if it takes more polishing after that.

But here’s another model.

If you take two months to draft a novel, that’s 60 days to write 100K, or about 1667 words/day. Most writers can do about 1,000 words/hour. (Your mileage may vary.) So, in two hours a day, you can draft a novel, spend a month revising it and still have a novel in three months.

Sure, it takes discipline and adherence to schedules, like we talked about yesterday, but so does healthy weight loss. And, to me, this is a healthy approach to a sustainable schedule.

Change your eating habits, work out every day, get plenty of sleep and water, and the weight will come off.

Develop good writing habits, write every day, get plenty of sleep and water, and you’ll have a novel.

It’s not great on a magazine cover, but it works.

 

Doggedness, Stick-to-it-iveness and Perseverance

This is a crop from the same series as yesterday’s pic. I was trying to capture the glow of this color. As you can see, I got nice glow, and the background gravel is in perfect focus. Not so much the flowers. Always some new skill to work on.

Which keeps life interesting.

I’ve been buckling down since the Caribbean vacay, to take off the vacation-indulgence weight. Oh, and the Thanksgiving/Christmas indulgence weight. Yes, yes. I know it’s over halfway through May already. (Though, while we’re on the topic, how the HELL did THAT happen??) I got back on normal eating and exercising after the holidays, but never quite amped myself up to take it up that extra notch to really lose body fat.

So, I’ve added weightlifting back into the exercise routine and, this week, I took the added and dramatic step of not drinking wine.

*Sob*

Yes, you heard me right. No alcohol Monday through Thursday nights is the new rule. If you know anything about me, you understand how much this breaks my heart. But counting calories was just not quite doing it. I figured, if I cut out the wine four nights a week, that would be enough to change things.

It’s changed things all right.

My weight is going UP. I’ve gained almost THREE pounds since last Sunday!

I know, I know – it’s the whole gaining muscle and muscle is denser than fat thing. I am down just over two pounds of body fat. I try to focus on that part and not the climbing overall poundage. Intellectually I know the program is working the way it should, but the irrational part of me, the part who misses her goddam glass(es) of wine in the evening, is having a screaming tantrum.

I suppose that’s part of any progress in life – managing the sulky, indulgent part of ourselves and sticking to the plans we make. When we get rejections or difficult revision letters or sales below what we hoped, that’s the voice that whines that we’re not having FUN anymore.

There’s a story passed around among my mom’s friends from many years ago. They all decided to go on a bike ride. Believe me, this was not an athletic, outdoorsy group. But they got a wild hair and all saddled up their bikes. One gal even got one of those little bike-trailer dealies and put her three-year-old daughter, Betsy, in it. They rode up to Cherry Creek reservoir and back. This effort nearly killed them, particularly Betsy’s mom, what with pulling the bike trailer. So they collapse and hit the cocktails upon their return – much more in character for the group. (See? I come by it honestly.) Betsy, however, did not like this phase of the day. Scowling at the group, she declared “I *was* having fun, but I’m not having fun anymore!”

This became a mantra applicable to ever so many situations.

So, I try to find ways to soothe my Betsy. To promise her that fun will be had again. She doesn’t really care so much about my goals of fitness or writerly fame and fortune. She’s all about the right now. I try to remember that and make some time for the playing and fun, after the work is done.

There’s a place for that, too.

Drop Me a Line Sometime

David asked me to stop at the grocery store after the gym this morning.

This is easy to do, because the gym is just up the road and the grocery store is right across the street. On my weight-lifting days, David usually stays home and does his own work-out. Apparently shapely thighs are not a high-priority for him.

Go figure.

Oh! And many of you have asked why there haven’t been Crazy Gym Lady stories lately. At first I stopped telling them, because I thought it wasn’t healthy to take notes on how much she irritated me, just so I could regale you on the blog. Then she got fired. Yes, she did! There has been much rejoicing in Mudville ever since. Incredible difference for us. We go to the gym, work out, nobody bugs us, we leave. Ah, blessed peace.

At any rate, this morning I paid my dues to the Gods of Shapely Thighs, then stopped at the grocery store. This woman was walking in who looked very familiar. This is our local store and we’ve been here two years, so a lot of people are looking familiar now. I knew she was out of context, wearing a shapely black skirt and jacket. But she’s very tall with tousled curly hair that’s quite distinctive. So I’m studying her as she walks in, trying to place her. She stops, just inside the door, at the greeting card carousel and starts flipping through them, frowning.

In trying to place her, I’m thinking she usually looks relaxed and happy. This morning, she was anxious, stressed. It was a bit after 7 and she looked like she would be heading into town, but had to stop to buy a card first. As I did my shopping, I thought about who the card might be for and how pleased they would be to get it. Or she was dressed to attend a funeral and the card would be for sympathy and would likely make the person weepy to read it.

Regardless, whoever gets that card likely never will think about the effort it took for my familiar lady to stop, pick one out and buy it on the way into town. A matter of minutes, but it cost her a bit of stress.

People in our lives do so many things for us, large and small, daily and annually. Some we expect. Some we don’t. But they all feed into the vast blood supply that supports and nurtures us.

I’m giving a bit of thought to that today.

What Did He Use to Do?

Every morning while I’m in Tucson, I get up early and walk the circuit of the 9-hole golf course, before the golfers get going.

I miss going to the gym first thing, but the walk takes 45 minutes and makes up in length what it lacks in intensity. Plus there are bunnies and quail everywhere. Birds sing. This morning I saw an owl. I also saw a spot where it looked like an owl had gotten a dove. Feathers scattered everywhere told the tale of a midnight scuffle.

Every morning, too, I see the same two guys, prepping the golf course for the day. This fellow does the raking of the sand traps and grooms the grass with his Zamboni-ish machine that creates those long stripes. He looks African to me, both in his face and the way he doesn’t look at me when I walk by. The other guy always says hello. He’s tall with silver hair and a golf course jacket. His job involves testing the putting greens and tees. Or tamping. Perhaps he both tests and tamps.

I wonder if working at a golf course is a good living. Probably it’s a better deal to be the tester/tamper than the raker/rider. Like most jobs, though, you likely have to start out as raker/rider guy.

It’s funny because so many people in this neighborhood are retired. Sometimes, when they talk about their friends, my folks will mention what people used to do. “Oh, she was a lawyer, you know. And he held political office.” At this time, though, they have no uniform that tips you off. They carry no briefcases, have no tell-tale packets of real-estate sell sheets. At the Starbucks, the retirees and vacationers stand out easily from the people heading to jobs.

I had a friend from Madrid many years ago and she commented on how odd she found it that Americans always ask each other what they do. She’s right – it’s among the first things people ask each other when first meeting. She thought it indicated that Americans define themselves by what they do for a living, where for the Spanish it means so little that they often have no idea what a person does for money.

So many of us writers have a dual answer to that question of what do we do. We say oh, my day job is ex, but I’m also an aspiring/freelance/well-published author. Sometimes we specify the day job, other times we leave it vague. It takes a while to fess up the writer part, too.

I like to think my raker/rider guy who never looks up is deep in thoughts about his painting or his poetry. The Zen of the golf course gives him time to think. He works early hours, then composes in the afternoons.

Or perhaps he hangs with his kids. Or has two other jobs. Maybe he breeds horses.

I’ll just make up my own story for him.

Overfat

I have this overly informative scale.

Yes, I weigh myself every day. In the era when I did not (the Dark Years), I accumulated an astonishing amount of weight, seemingly out of nowhere. (You can make zooming space noises with that, if you like.)

On my Excel graph that shows my weight since 1997 (oh, come on – you knew I had one), there’s a big gap for the Dark Years. At the end of them, five years later, my weight was up more than 32 pounds. Ugly ugly ugly. Ignorance may be bliss, but it can be hell on the body fat.

I remember buying that scale, in 2002, coming back from a weekend in the mountains. I was starting to get those rolls of fat on my rib cage, you know? The ones where you really can’t pretend that it’s muscle or hip-spread. We stopped at a Bed, Bath and Beyond and I bought a simple scale that I step onto until I’d cut back on stuffing myself for a week. Thus I don’t really know how high it got. Clinging to my blissful ignorance.

That was two scales ago. Now I have this fancy/shmancy one that shows me not only my weight, but also my body fat percentage, muscle percentage, visceral fat percentage, metabolic rate and my metabolic age.

It’s the last one that really kills me.

Oh, my weight is still too high – about six pounds over the high end of my BMI. My body fat is in the “overfat” arena, which is tremendously annoying. But, to add insult to injury, this scale tells me, every damn day that I’m three to four years older than I am.

Even if I kick her.

Oh, it’s not as bad as it has been. At a couple of points in time (Dark Months), she had me over 50. We’ve bargained it down from there. But she still insists that, metabolically, fattily, I’m older than I am.

Otherwise, I’m a youthful person. I come from a family of youthful women. People say I look younger than I am. I admit I have ego tied up in it.

So, while it’s nice to see my weight come down, the body fat percentage decrease, what really makes my day is when I lose a year overnight. I feel like Merlin, aging backwards, growing younger.

I’m not really inclined towards anorexia, but I could see wanting to keep working to peel those years away. Erasing the pounds until I’m a sweet, young thing again.

Eh, who am I kidding?

I’ll be happy to shake the “overfat” insult.

New Life Resolutions

A brief clearing this morning in the storm. I love when part of the valley has sunshine while another is shadowed. Seems metaphorical to me.

Last night I caught up on blog-reading. I follow a lot of blogs – more than the ones I list on the blogroll to the side there. Those are my favorites. Some blogs I follow just to be supportive. I’ve never unfollowed, but I do stop reading if the blog doesn’t sing for me. Some I think are hit or miss.

Normally I use Blogger Dashboard to read recent posts. It shows me all the blogs I follow that have new posts, in chronological order. Most days I scroll through those to see what’s new. Some I read every new one. Others only if that particular post looks interesting. I confess – some that annoyed me, I hid from my feed.

Because I was catching up though, this time I clicked on each blog, which then shows me a list of their recent posts. It ended up being a good year-end clean-up because a surprising number hadn’t posted in 6 months, 9 months, even a full year. Several of those were blogs where the writer posted once or twice and never again.

This time of year, everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions. People are making plans for 2011, citing what they’re determined to do. More than a few that I’ve seen mention posting to their blogs more often. I know a few more people than that who really angst over getting blog posts up.

It reminds me of the gym, really.

I’ve been a regular exerciser for about four years now. As in, going to the gym to work out, exercising. Before that I was in Kung Fu classes nearly every night, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. But a few years ago, several things came together – quitting Kung Fu, my middle age, a physical condition that was not, erm, lean. So I became Morning Gym Girl.

No, this was not natural to me by any stretch. I exercise first thing in the morning because I’m too sleepy to think up excuses not to. There it is.

At any rate, David and I noticed the classic New Year pattern. After January 1, the gym was filled to bursting with enthusiastic exercisers. There would be the overweight middle-aged guy, accustomed to success, determinedly jogging endless laps on his first visit, face crimson. He’d show once or twice and never again. There were the high school girls in their pajamas, who started showing later and later, then not at all. Some persisted, yes, but usually by March the gym was back to the normal numbers.

There’s this whole thing about “don’t start what you can’t finish” or, worse, “you must finish what you start.” I’m not saying that. Making a change, starting a new blog or a new exercise program is a big thing. We try all kinds of ways to make it not seem quite so daunting, but few of us have empty space in our lives just waiting to be filled by a new task. Usually something else has to go. Usually that’s the painful part.

When new exercisers ask me how long it’ll be until they stop hating going to the gym, I tell them it took me six months. Six very long months before I stopped hating it and started to enjoy it. Some days I still hate it.

But it’s important to me. So I keep doing it. Day after day.

I suspect those qualities – the ones that keep the person blogging day after day, writing their novels, sending their queries – those are what make the successful author.

Not a New Year’s Resolution, but a New Life Resolution.

We’re in it for the long term.