Now that February’s snow is turning into March puddles, it’s time to start booking walking meetings outside on the Rideau Canal pathways and end the official portion of my treadmill desk writer-in-residence post in the Discovery Centre at Carleton University. Throughout February, I met with students and staff — including Samantha Munro, the university’s Healthy Workplace Coordinator, pictured above — and we walked and talked on the library’s two treadmill desks. Ten people turned up for treadmill sessions (not a huge number, but I didn’t know if anybody would show up) and we discussed a wide range of subjects, from one student’s journalistic essay ideas and fledgling book project to a staff member’s upcoming blog posts, in which she wants to convey a lot of information without sacrificing an engaging narrative thread.
After a few minutes of walking, with the speed set at about one mile per hour, I found that I forgot that I was inside on a treadmill, and the conversations flowed, just as they would have if we were walking outdoors. The din of the Discovery Centre, where students gather to collaborate on projects, wasn’t a problem; in fact, I had wondered whether us treadmill talkers would stand out, but because of the background noise and activity, we basically blended in with the rest of the room. The only hiccup was that because the treadmills are parallel to one another, it was a little awkward looking over one’s shoulder at the other person. Freelance writer Joseph Mathieu, a regular contributor to university publications such as Carleton Now and my final visitor at the end of February, had an excellent suggestion: switch treadmills in the middle of each session, so you turn your neck both ways. The president of Calgary-based Fitneff did tell me about a tandem treadmill desk he had seen — two treadmills, angled toward one another, and a shared desk — which would address this particular challenge.
Overall, however, this treadmill writer experiment was a rewarding experience. It got me out of my office, walking and talking with other people, which is always a good thing. A couple closing notes: although the official residency is over, email me at treadmill at carleton dot ca and I’d still be more than happy to meet at the Discovery Centre. And shout-outs to photographer Chris Roussakis for the amazing pics on this post and the main page, and to Hallie Cotnam at CBC, Emma Jackson at Metro Ottawa, Christine Lyons at the Carleton Learning Log, and all the others for the great coverage.