Just because you lead a full and busy life doesn’t mean you have to let your physical fitness go out the window. In this episode, I am going to inspire you with many ways that we can build more movement and exercise into any busy day – and yes I do mean without hitting the gym/studio/track.
Some might say that I am obsessed with encouraging everyone to make movement a big part of their daily lives… and I would not argue with them. It’s not that I think building big pecs or training for a marathon is bad by any means (I have personally done both of the things), but living a generally active lifestyle will serve you much better throughout your life than training really hard event will – especially if that then means you will be planting your butt on the couch for the remainder of the day, week or year.
Exercise science has shown us, again and again, the positive power of regular physical activity in a person’s life. Whether that leads to simply feeling better, having more energy, achieving a body composition goal, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, or having better focus – which are the things that I am pretty certain most of you want in your life – movement and exercise are amazing for every aspect of being a just a little more awesome on a daily basis.
The problem is, of course, time. Most of us take on too many activities every day. But remember that self-care is the least selfish thing you can do. You can’t delight anyone with a half-deflated balloon. Am I right?!?!
I don’t have time to exercise!
Is that what you think? Is that the narrative that plays in your head every time you look in the mirror? If it is, I am here to challenge you to break that belief down. I think you’re not trying hard enough or being honest enough with yourself. I think that you are not thinking outside of the (CrossFit) box… Ahem…
The truth is that we all have time to get up and move our bodies more every day. The trick is to make it a priority and to build it into your lifestyle, habits and behaviours. If you simply can’t imagine that, I think you need to look at the amount of time you spend on social media, watching streaming shows, baking unnecessary amounts of goodies, or whatever else makes you feel too busy. You owe it to your body and mind, not to mention your friends and family, to make exercise one of your top priorities. You both need to do it and deserve to do it.
We’ve been led to believe that in order to be physically active, get the strong body that we want, or to whip our cardiovascular self into shape, we need to dedicate 45-90 minutes to going to the gym but some of the busiest and fittest people I know rarely step foot in a gym or exercise for longer than an hour – a couple of times a week.
Another common belief that we have is thinking that low-level activities like walking don’t count. Or that a ten-minute workout isn’t long enough to make a difference. or that we have to change into expensive workout gear for it to count as exercise. Or that parking in the farthest spot from the door doesn’t do anything since it only burns a handful of calories (ug!). Well, those ideas are all BS.
Make Time don’t Find Time
To help you get started or to help you dial-in your already existing routine a little further, here are some ways to make or create time for exercise — even when you don’t think you have time.
Let’s start the day off on an active note. After your alarm clock goes off, tuck your knees to your chest and wrap your arms around your knees. Now, just rock slightly from side to side. This will wake up your spine and stretch your legs a bit. After doing this stretch for about 30 seconds, straighten your legs and move them from side to side (keeping your back on the mattress). This will loosen your back and also engage your core. You can finish this quick routine with 10 to 15 crunches in bed. Great! You aren’t even out of bed yet and you have already primed yourself for a better movement day.
You all likely know about my morning movement routine, but if you don’t – pretty much every day for the last few years I start my day with a similar set of movements while I wait for the water to boil for my coffee. Here is my routine:
Another one for your morning (the time you spend in the house, apartment or condo before you launch into your day), every time you touch a countertop do 2 squats. If you are like me, you touch about 6-8 counters on average during your morning so before you even eat breakfast, you may have already done about 25 squats and that is more effective for waking you up than a cup of coffee!
During your commute or while you’re sitting on the bus or subway, do at least 5 sets of 15 ab flexes. This is where you squeeze your abdominal muscles as though you’re trying to touch your ribs to your stomach, hold for a couple of seconds, then release. You can do this literally until you are red on the face.
Now I know that one barrier to exercising during a busy day is squeezing in time for a full 30-45 minute workout with a warm-up, cool-down and (hopefully) a shower. But quick 2-minute workouts (aka movement snacks) are surprisingly effective and can be injected throughout your day. You can do them in the morning when you wake up, after lunch, between meetings, and after dinner.
For some awesome examples, check out my YouTube channel.
Ok bear with me. This may seem kooky but trust me, it is fun to do with some friends or coworkers who are also looking to stay fit. Pick a “fitword of the day” like “email.” Now, whenever anyone in your group says the word email, you all jog on the spot for 30 seconds. The next time that word is used, jog (which high knees) for 20 seconds, then ten and so on. If you manage to get down to zero, pick a new word and start from scratch.
An easy way to stay mobile and active that we often forget about or overlook is just simply making sure you are standing and walking. Make an effort to walk or stand whenever you can.
Never sit when you are on the phone. If it is not going to get you in trouble, stand in the back of the room during a meeting. Stand on the bus. Walk while you discuss a project with coworkers. If you have a meeting with a small group, suggest that you walk around the building or neighbourhood while you chat. Get creative! According to the Mayo Clinic regular brisk walking can help you:
- Maintain a healthy weight,
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes,
- Strengthen your bones and muscles,
- Improve your mood,
- Improve your balance and coordination.
The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.
Maximize Your Workout
When you are deciding what workout you should do with the fifteen minutes you have between obligations, here are four tips to keep in mind that will help you maximize your workout.
Tip# 1: Choose exercises that move as many body parts as possible. Focus on full-body exercises that incorporate multi-joint movements. An example of a single joint exercise is a bicep curl. A multi joint movement looks like this:
Tip #2: Choose exercises that move body parts quickly. The act of moving explosively activates your muscles differently (power and strength) and helps you get that heart rate up faster (cardio). Think: going up the stairs two at a time, hopping, jumping jacks and really doing any body weight exercise faster than usual.
Tip #3: Choose exercises that you don’t usually do. If you choose exercises your body is unfamiliar with, you’ll work harder because your body won’t be as efficient at those exercises. So if you usually do push-ups, try doing a pull-up, or if you usually choose squats, try lunges instead. Don’t be afraid to mix it up–it will make your body stronger, more mobile, and it will sharpen your mental skills too!
Tip #4: Make it fun. Did someone say living room dance party?!?! When we have fun while we exercise, we get a similar endorphin boost that people get from long endurance exercise, except that boost is nearly instant, constant, and often more intense. When we turn workouts into playtime, it stimulates both our brains and our emotions.
Ok. I think you are probably getting the idea now that you really don’t have an excuse to not exercise. Being a busy human meat sack is not a reason to let your fitness slide. And let me tell you, if you avoid letting it all go now, you will have an easier time later in life. You know the old saying “move it or lose it”… well, it is true in this context too.
Give Me More
To finish off, here are some rapid fire suggestions to draw on when you feel stumped:
- Find several exercise programs you can do at home (on YouTube or a podcast) and do one of them a couple of times a week.
- Take regular walks while you are thinking, planning or pontificating.
- Instead of walking up a flight of stairs, increase your speed and the number of stairs you take. Take two steps at once and you’ll target your booty more.
- Dance! Dance around the house, dance with your kids or your pets. It feels good to move your body to the music.
- Get up 20-30 minutes earlier twice a week and exercise before you start your day (or before your kids are awake). Walk, run, stretch, or do yoga — anything that gets you moving and starts your momentum for the day.
- Join a walking group, cycling peloton, or aquacise pod. You will likely be more enthusiastic to get it done if you are surrounded by other like-minded people.
- Choose an activity that you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t try to force yourself to do it. If you choose something you really like, you will find it easier to make time for it.
- Even if you live in a small or crowded home, you have space for some resistance bands and a yoga mat. Find ways to use your furniture into workout. Even a door frame or your laundry basket can be used as exercise equipment with a little imagination (I have videos for those on my YouTube channel… jus’ sayin’)
- Find other ways to get around other than driving.
- If you really have difficulty fitting exercise into your schedule, consider buying a used treadmill. You can usually find used ones for sale online from well-meaning folks who are now using them as clothing racks.
- Don’t aimlessly surf TV channels or the Internet because we all know that’s a surefire way to waste time that you could spend in more active ways. You don’t have to skip TV altogether but before you sit down, set a time limit and stick to it.
- When you do watch TV, make the most of it. Do some stretching, crunches, planks, sun salutations, squats, lunges or anything else while you’re watching. Commercial breaks are great cues to get up and move.
- And finally – always choose something over nothing. Don’t let the thought “well, I don’t have time for the workout I had planned so I guess I won’t workout today.” Stay flexible and always choose to use whatever time you do have as effectively as possible.
I am no going to lie – fitting exercise into your busy schedule takes effort, planning and forethought but it is well worth the effort. Make a plan, put it on your to-do list, add it to your calendar, put stickies on your fridge – I am serious here, do whatever it takes. I dare you to try it for a month and I know you will find that it pays off, and in ways you never expected. And it’s pretty additive too.
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