“I’m too tired.”
“I don’t have time.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
Just a few of the most common excuses I hear from clients as to why they simply cannot exercise. I get it – life happens. Even with our best intentions the day slips by, and before you know it, it’s time for bed. We fill our days with work, taxiing kids, chores, errands, family obligations and unfortunately self-care is the first thing people remove from the list. Carving out time to exercise can be challenging, but not impossible. I am going to share some of the easiest ways to sneak in exercise to your day no matter how jam-packed your schedule is.
Here is the magical, mythical, golden, not-so-top-secret rule: Start with the things you are already doing in the course of your day and add in a few simple changes.
1. Set the tone for your day by starting with some stretching. Wake up 10 minutes earlier than you normally would (do not check your phone or email). Before you set your feet on the ground, complete some stretches while still in bed. Start with your arms extended straight from your shoulders with palms facing down. Draw your knees toward your chest and let both legs fall to the right side of your body. Remember to keep the knees stacked on top of each other the best way you can. Hold for five deep breaths. Repeat this process on the left side. Core challenge: Keep your legs extended straight and try dropping them side to side.
2. Since everyone brushes their teeth at least twice a day, this is an ideal opportunity to combine activities. Try squatting while you are brushing your teeth. Yup, squat. The American Dental Association recommends that you should brush your teeth for two minutes. That’s a total of four minutes of squats per day. Don’t like squats? Try holding a stationary wall sit. Balance challenge: Add a calf raise to your squats by lifting one or both of your heel(s) off the ground.
3. The average hourlong television program contains approximately 14 minutes of commercials. Instead of running to the kitchen to get a snack, stop, drop and plank during commercials. Only watching sports? According to the Wall Street Journal, a three-hour NFL game averages more than one hour of commercials. Imagine what a difference that could make? Stability challenge: Start in an elbow plank and place your feet on paper plates on a carpeted surface (use facecloths for hardwood). Alternating between left and right legs, slide your feet away from the midline of your body as far as you can and bring it back.
1. Waiting impatiently for the elevator to pick you up? Excited to cram into a box filled with unfiltered air during cold and flu season? No thanks. Quit elevators and take the stairs. It will save you from close contact with some germs and help tone up your legs. According to a study at Duke University, climbing two flights of stairs per day can lead to 6 pounds of weight loss over one year. Power challenge: Try skipping two steps at a time.
2. An office job is not an excuse to be sedentary. To make sure you don’t zone out at your desk, set a timer for 60-minute increments. Complete three sets of eight dips. Placing your hands on the edge of your desk bending your elbows away from your body, lower yourself down toward the floor. Triceps challenge: Use a stationary office chair and try to touch your bottom all the way to the ground.
3. Conference calls all day? No problem. Phone time = steps. Take the opportunity to stand whenever you are on the phone. If you are stuck in a confined space, walk back and forth and side to side. Cardio challenge: Put your headset on and add in some jumping jacks.
On the go
1. You know the edge of the parking lot filled with all the empty spaces? Park there. Pick a parking spot that is farthest away from your destination. It will save you from door dings and get in some additional steps. Weather not so great? Perfect occasion to turn your walk into a jog. Extra step challenge: When visiting the outlets, plaza or strip mall, park your car one time and commit to bringing your purchases back to the car after each store you visit.
2. Stopping at the grocery store? Target? Lowes? Ditch the shopping cart completely. Adopt an “I can only buy what I can carry” policy. It will force you to be selective in what you are buying, save you from unnecessary purchases and help with upper body strength. Remember to alternate the arm you are holding the items in while you are shopping. When you’re done checking out, equally distribute the weight of the bags as you are walking out. Farmer’s carry challenge: Hold the bags a few inches away from your body like a suitcase and walk as slow as you can.
3. Take the long way – everywhere. When you have to use the restroom, don’t use the one closest to your work station. Walk up a flight of stairs or down a long hallway to a different bathroom. Looking to hydrate? Locate the bubbler farthest away from your desk and fill up there. Combo challenge: Fill up your reusable water bottle while walking to the restroom on another floor.
(Crystal Reynolds is an owner of 43 Degrees North Athletic Club and insists on carrying all her groceries in the house in one trip.)