Walking vs. Working

I’m getting so many calls that I’ve started hitting “ignore” half the time, which makes me feel like a freaking call center. I can’t take your call right now, I’m inaudibly saying. But your call is important to me. So please listen closely to the following options, because my menu has changed.

That menu in my own life now includes walking as well as working, talking and eating, which used to fight over the top rungs on my priority ladder. Well, other exercise should be up there too, and it will be. But walking comes first.

They didn’t find a source of blood clots in my legs, but when one ends up in your lungs, a leg is where one usually begins. You get them there by sitting. Being a passenger in a commercial airplane is often blamed, and I’m certainly guilty of being plenty of that. But I’ve sat longer in stretches at my desk than I’ve sat on transcontinental airplane flights. The line “I’m a desk potato” is one of the first my wife heard me speak. And it’s no less true now than it was way back then.

So, post-clot, I’ve developed an aversion to sitting, if not an outright fear. And my natural hyperactivity urges me toward the road and the path rather than the office and the desk. That way lies survival. But not much work. Because to go walking is to snowplow already overdue work off into the future.

So I do the one to have a future, and the other in the future the first helps make possible. At sixty with a clot in one’s lung that still hurts, these are the kinds of thoughts the mind mulls.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ll return to the old normal. Instead I need to make a new one that keeps me alive longer, and still allows me to do just as much work, only better.

I’ll be thinking about how on the walk I’m about to take.


  1. PXLated’s avatar

    Maybe a standup desk (ala Rumsfield). Over the years I’ve worked with three people that have had them, they never sit down. One had a high drafting table type chair to rest a cheek on once in awhile though. Don’t know if they still make them but Hamilton made electric drafting tables you could adjust from sitting to standing with the touch of a button.

  2. Steven Hodson’s avatar

    As a 52 year old man with undiagnosed chest pains who has to wear a nitro-patch daily I have learned that even a slow walk (and I use to be a power walker) everyday can sometime do wonders for the thought processes and make it easier when you do sit down in front of the keyboard to get those words out there.

  3. Mike Warot’s avatar

    Take your camera with you on the walks, please. 8)

  4. Geoff’s avatar

    Nothing to beat walking šŸ™‚ Also get an exercise ball to sit on at the computer. I use one all the time, much to my kids annoyance when I’m using Skype with a camera – I bounce away on it!

  5. Terry Heaton’s avatar

    When Reuven Frank was president of NBC News, he did all of his reading standing up with a desk that resembled a draftsman’s table.

  6. Chip’s avatar

    Been on my daughter’s “elliptical” the last two days

    Combination of my need (similar to yours, sans clot) and your news means one goes in at home.

    Esp. for when Iā€™m not out cutting trees, bouncing through the woods tossing logs.

    Already plotting on how the laptop get strapped to it (G)
    Worst case ā€“ time to think


  7. Bruce Fryer’s avatar

    Stick some index cards and a pencil in your pocket, leave the phone at home and go out twice a day. On the morning walk write down the three things which must happen that day. And one of those things is relevant only in the future.

    Everything else is optional. Put a filter on your email inbox which dumps everything after 7 days into a later email folder (just in case you have to find something). Toss the “later” folder once a month.

    Health and Family trump everything else.

  8. justcorbly’s avatar

    I’m not quite 60. Several years ago I was able to retire early from a stressful job. A few months later I was a cancer patient in surgery.

    Happily, the disease was caught early and I’m now a cured cancer patient.

    But, that scare taught me it is not selfish to tend to my own needs and desires. Life is short enough without clots or cancer.

    Consider what’s important to you. Consider their costs. Decide how much you are willing to pay. No one else is keeping score.

  9. PJ’s avatar

    Sounds like an excuse to try out a treadmill desk ala the guy at http://treadmill-desk.com/ !

  10. mike seyfang’s avatar

    I did the big work/life change about three years ago, find walking / riding bike with ONE earbud of iPod, devouring tons of podcasts has helped reshape my mind and body.

    All the best.

    Fang – Mike Seyfang

  11. vmarks’s avatar

    Hi Doc,

    I imagine that a taller desk and more time spent standing or pacing while working would be a good contribution in addition to walking.

    I never lost as much weight around my middle, or had my calves become as strong, as when I stood most of the day, teaching high school.

    Now that I work from home, I find that I get up every 15 or 20 minutes and walk around while thinking about what it is that I’m working on.

  12. Andrew W’s avatar

    Feel better, Doc. My fiancee and I just talked through a parallel problem. Like justcorbly above, I’m a cured cancer patient. My Hodgkin’s came with a side of memory loss, and after going back to work, because of being scared of memory problems, I became really obsessed with making detailed to-do lists.

    So we were talking last night about why I seemed so frustrated lately, and we realized it’s the damn to-do lists. They were a reaction to the fear of cancer coming back–even though it’s not. Learning to take a deep breath and trust my brain again, stupid as it sounds, has made a big difference.

  13. Robert M. Lefkowitz’s avatar

    I just got a few sets of these (the 1.6 pound version). http://www.jugglingstore.com/store/detail.aspx?ID=143
    You can do it desk-side. And these ( http://www.jugglingstore.com/store/detail.aspx?ID=167 ) fit in your laptop bag and are best for airports

  14. Keith Hopper’s avatar

    Walking meetings! Yeah, I know that sounds lame, but I know you’re a fan of chewing the fat.

    You should find walking buddies. I’m down.

  15. JD Lasica’s avatar

    Just well fast, Doc!

  16. Dan Bricklin’s avatar

    Podcasts are a great thing for walks when you don’t have others to walk with. That way you feel like you’re getting stuff done both for work and health. Your participation in podcasts helped launch the genre, so now you get to benefit on the other side.

    Take care.

  17. George Luft’s avatar

    Doc, get better, dude. If you want a walking companion one day, I’m only a couple hours away. I need to get off my butt, too.

  18. Adam Fields’s avatar

    Been out of touch the past few days and just catching up with this. Very glad you’re okay!

  19. Dave the Lifekludger’s avatar

    I sit all day in a wheelchair, have for 26years, no clots. Have also worn anti-embolism stockings all that time. Not a good look for shorts, so I don’t wear shorts anymore. I’d rather the health than the looks. Give it some thought Doc.

    And on your walks, how about a digital recorder thing from Nuance that you talk into then it auto-syncs to your PC where it gets converted to text?

    Walk on!


  20. Liz Ditz’s avatar

    Consider the walking desk — mine’s not used often enough, following a knee problem.

    Consider the the 1 minute of jump-rope for every 15 minutes of sitting (sorry, no photos). When I remember to do this (I work in a home office, so the thumpity-thump doesn’t disturb others) I am much more productive.

    Consider my dad’s rule of thumb (well, it wasn’t actually a RoT, he explained that he spoke better when pacing): if you are on the telephone, you are on your feet and pacing. A whiteboard is handy for taking any needed notes.

  21. Rob Knight’s avatar

    The Mayo clinic has an experimental “Treadmill Workstation.” I’d love to hack one of these together myself. They’ve shown it’s a great way to stay active while working.

    Might be just what your looking for:

  22. Russell Nelson’s avatar

    Hey, Doc, you need one of these: http://blog.russnelson.com/chordite/MarkXII.html and one of these: http://blog.russnelson.com/770/N800-external-battery.html — gives me all-day walking around typing. Plus if you have a bluetooth cellphone with data subscription that allows tethering, you can be online (and blogging!) wherever you are.

  23. Bradley Horowitz’s avatar

    Get well soon, best wishes…

  24. Stephen Lewis’s avatar

    Bicycle! Your Boston abode is near a major bike path so you have no excuse not to. Just be sure to spare your back by buying a configuration that allows you to sit-up relatively vertically and a seat of a sort that spares your manhood (writing from the Balkans I can use such forbidden-in-America concepts). As I said over the phone yesterday, you get away from your desk and I’ll get away from mine; you won’t be alone! S.

  25. dave rogers’s avatar

    Doc, there’s no shortage of advice here, and free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it, so I’m a little embarrassed to add my own, but here it goes:


    Don’t bring your phone. Don’t bring your camera. Don’t bring a note pad or 3×5 cards.

    Pay attention to what’s going on in your head. Don’t critique it, just observe it. Chances are, there’s a lot going on that isn’t about walking or that present moment.

    And this isn’t really about walking, is it? It’s about your life, right? So, for those several minutes when you’re out on your walk, try to be in your life – which is not all the work you’re not doing – at that moment. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, at least at first.

    Since this thing happened in your lung, let me make another suggestion: Focus a little of your attention on your breathing as you walk. Breathe from your diaphragm, “belly breaths.” Relax your shoulders. Check your posture. Experience being yourself in your body. Maybe your mind needs to get reacquainted with your body?

    Try to see your surroundings not as something that would look nice in a picture, but see yourself in your surroundings. Think about that one. Don’t let the existence of a camera mediate your experience of yourself in your environment.

    You want to take pictures? By all means, bring a camera and be a photographer. You want to just be? Don’t bring the camera, and that includes the one in your head. Two different experiences.

    Of course, you’ll do whatever you want and believe whatever you want. But just as a sucking chest wound is nature’s way of telling you it’s time to go home from the war, blood clots lodging in your lung may be nature’s way of tapping you on the shoulder: Breathe.

    You might try to look up John Kabat-Zinn somewhere around there. Then again, maybe not.

    Whatever you do, I hope you feel better and get better. We only have moments to live. May you have many, many more.

  26. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, everybody.

    And Dave (Rogers… there are so many Daves, including myself, actually), I especially appreciate your good advice and wishes.

    I was planning to walk (and soon enough, bike) without mediating encumberances such as phone and camera.

    And thanks for the lead on John Kabat-Zinn. Hadn’t heard of him before, and it’s cool to discover that he’s local here. I’ll follow up.

    Best to you all.

  27. Ted Gilchrist’s avatar

    Get well, be well Doc. Our thoughts are with you.
    – Ted Gilchrist

  28. Henri Asseily’s avatar

    Doc, hope you get better soon.
    I guess I’m repeating what everyone’s said already: fresh air and easy “natural” workouts such as walking, swimming and bicycling. Mostly get the body’s whole machinery working at a decent (not harsh) pace.

    Best wishes

  29. dweinberger’s avatar

    Doc, walking and thinking go together like sitting and chatting. (Well, walking and chatting is pretty great, too.)

    Get well. Stay well. We need you around for at least another 30.


    David W.

  30. Cameron Reilly’s avatar

    Doc, as you do in so many other things, it’s great to see you pushing our thinking around the subject of work and health. How do we desk potatoes stay healthy while we try to change the world? Perhaps a chat with Ray Kurzweil might be useful as well. He’s one of the biggest brains I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with on G’Day World and I know he’s fanatical about the subject of living long and healthy and he also seems to be extremely productive. All the best mate, as DW says, the world needs you around for a long, long time.

  31. Mike Taht’s avatar

    I take off on an airplane for 16 hours and the world changes. Jeeze, Doc….

    Lots of great suggestions on this list… I should take a few myself… but here’s mine:

    Back when I was getting back on my feet I found my ebike solved a few problems:

    1) It was fast – so I could get to where I was going – be it the store or the beach – almost as fast as I could go via the car. Having destinations made it much better than “walking nowhere”. To this day, I still hate “walking nowhere” without someone or something to talk to.

    2) The motor averaged out the effort – it made uphill climbs far more bearable, and long rides tolerable.

    3) Getting further from home meant that I’d run the battery flat and force myself to struggle further and further distances home.

    4) I’d carry my handy voice recorder for any thoughts I had along the way in places without cell service. Being able to store them would clear my head enough to keep pedalling, and stay offline for longer and longer periods.

    5) After a while (20 mile days) – I didn’t need the battery anymore.

    Get well!

    And you make me want to quote Bugs Bunny:

    “Remember Doc, Keep Smiling”

  32. Mike Sanders’s avatar


    You are one of the most wonderful I have ever met. G-d should grant you a complete and speedy recovery.

    Be Well
    Mike Sanders

  33. Kathy Sierra’s avatar

    I’m so relieved to know that you’re taking the walk vs. work thing seriously — these ‘hits’ often end up making us healthier in every way. I have four little tips:
    * Put movement-inspiring things where you will literally trip over them on your way to key places in your home. Things like a big exercise ball, hand weights, your kid’s skateboard. And my number one favorite is:
    * a Weeble board http://www.fitter1.com/Catalog/Items/WB11.aspx
    * The Swing Seat chair http://www.swingseat.com/ I got it for my back, and it’s the only chair I’ve ever been able to use that keeps me moving.
    * Maybe a dog that really, really, really loves to walk. One that begs, guilts, or barks you into frequent outings, and that appreciates the value of even the three-minute physical play break. Puppies are far more effective than official ‘mindfulness’ workshops — maybe you can volunteer or dog-sit for a friend?

    I don’t know if you’ve read or talked with Tim Ferris (author of The Four-Hour Workweek), but he has some awesome advice that–at the meta level–is about how to shift the balance of your life toward things you love, and how to find the time to do it. Hard-core restrictions on email/blog/Tweeting, etc. is part of the plan…

    Feel better.

  34. Edward Vielmetti’s avatar

    Doc –

    I keep track of how much I walk with Walker Tracker:


    and an Omron pedometer. Remarkable just how making yourself mindful of how much exercise you get makes you get more exercise.

  35. Jerriann’s avatar

    The WalkStation I have been reading about works but at $6500, it better. The concept is simple really. We are built to walk, not sit. Combine that with all the medical studies showing that walking reduces your chances of contracting just about every major health ailment it is a no brainer

    We should be doing a lot more walking. But when? Who has the time? That is the beauty of a treadmill desk. I found one at http://www.trekdesk.com called the TrekDesk that will be much more affordable and even incorporates an exercise ball chair so you don’t need an additional desk and chair in your office. Cool!

  36. finding work from home’s avatar

    I really like that treadmill-desk. I’d love to have one of those at home šŸ™‚

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