Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WNW Saving Time Edition, Part 2: You Want Me to Exercise When, Exactly??

Since 'tis the season, I thought it might be nice to devote a couple of posts to saving time.  If you missed last week's post, it was all about getting things on your to-do lists done in a more efficient manner.  Today, I thought we'd devote a little attention to the E-word.

(...and since this post is actually about SAVING time, if you don't have time to read this, skip to the end of the post for the basic points...)

Now, I gotta be upfront here:  I LOVE exercising.  I hate sitting still.  Anything that gets me moving -- whether it be a walk, a bike ride, or even just housework -- makes me very happy.  So the reality is that I go out of my way to exercise because it gives me sanity.

I know not everyone loves to exercise, but it's so important to stay active.  But if you're like everyone else in America, you're busy doing **insert crazy-busy-lifestyle here**, so it's hard to find the time, energy, and motivation.  I wanted to share a few tips in hopes that you might be inspired to fit it in!

As far as I can tell, there are three main issues/excuses people have with regards to exercising:

"I don't enjoy exercising."
"I don't have time to exercise."
"I don't have energy to exercise."

The Enjoyment Issue: The biggest secret to getting good exercise is finding something you absolutely love doing.  If you're not really sure where to start, search for different things on YouTube.  Maybe it's yoga or pilates or dancing.  Maybe it's something as simple as running.  Maybe you need to be outdoors, and hiking or biking is your thing.  Maybe you need to be a part of a group, so check out a local gym for different classes.  Personally, I like... um.  Everything.  But my favorite things are running, yoga, and the bootcamp at my gym.  I find I like anything that stretches my limits because it helps to keep my mind/body interested in the task-at-hand.  I also really love hiking and biking, but I just don't get the chance to do them that often any more (it's a time/location issue.  I biked everywhere when we lived in the city; now, not so much).

The Time Issue: Once you find something you really enjoy, finding time might become an easier thing. But just in case it's not, here are a few suggestions:

  • Getting Up *gasp* Earlier:  If exercising is to become a priority, and if you find something that's worth getting up for in the morning, then sacrifice that extra hour of sleep (or go to bed earlier).  Even if it's a half-hour earlier, it will be worth it.  Once it becomes a habit, you won't even really think about it.  I started getting up early about five years ago.  Yes, it was hard.  And yes, sometimes it's still hard, and yes, it's a sacrifice.  But the benefits are worth it.  I have more energy throughout the day.  I make better choices with food (neither eating too much or too little, but I think about food as fuel for my body).  And it's become ingrained in me.  My body just wants to move.  I crave movement when I spend too many days sitting still.
  • Working Out Smarter, NOT Longer:  Alright.  Listen up.  The reality is that I know you probably don't have the time to work out 5-7 days a week.  I used to work out at least 5 days a week, but I'm a mom now. It doesn't happen.  I aim for 3 days of vigorous exercise a week and 1 day of yoga.  If I get more in (I rarely do), then yay!  If I don't get all those days in, then whatever.  But the trick to working out less days is to work out smarter.  Think about what your fitness goals are, and write them out. Maybe you want to lose a few pounds to be healthier, or tone muscle, or build endurance.  Goals help you stay focused and motivated (sometimes signing up for a race is good motivation!).  Find a way to turn the workout into interval training.  When I was working out 5 days/weekly for an hour at each session, I sort of got into a lazy routine and did the same thing every time.  Once your muscles get used to a routine, they stop working hard.  Your muscles become bored and lazy too.  What you have to do is confuse your muscles.  
    • Basically, just try to work in fast-paced cardio with multiple/simultaneous-muscle-building exercises.  Do it in bursts, and then repeat it -- again and again -- until you either are about to collapse or until your time is up (some days, it's 20 minutes; other days, it's 60 minutes).  I'll give you some examples...
    • For Running:  Instead of just putting the treadmill on for a safe tempo run, I might up the incline and run sprints every two minutes, and repeat until 30 minutes is up.  Or I might keep the incline level and just sprint as hard as I can for five minutes, take a one minute walk, and then do it again four times or so.  My muscles don't really know what's going on and they have to work harder (which means more muscle tone built and more calories burned throughout the day).
    • For Yoga:  Instead of going through the same flow that I know in and out, I'll go through sun salutations pretty rapidly, while breaking in between a flow of five salutations to work on the positions that I have trouble with (uugggggh eagle pose!!!  How I despise you!).  It also helps to focus on balancing poses, because it is working pretty much every muscle group at the same time.
  • Work Around Your Life Situation:  Do you work?  Take a walk during your lunch break.  Are you home with the baby?  Invest in a jogging stroller.  Or just go outside and take a walk with a regular stroller.  Or try doing some exercise indoors -- the baby might just be entertained!
The Energy Issue:  I know you might not have energy now, but if you get decent sleep and eat well, exercise will increase your energy level.  Please take it from the girl who still gets up for 3 AM feedings with the baby and then gets up to make it to the gym by 5:30 am.  Okay?  If I can do it and it increases my energy, YOU can do it and you will get that energy!  It's also super important to make sure you are fueling your body in the right way, otherwise you won't be getting the energy boost.  In order to eat well throughout the day, take into mind these considerations:

  • Eating six smaller meals a day will increase your energy, help your metabolism burn energy in a more efficient way, and decrease your hunger.  It looks different for every person, but it just means eating healthy snacks in between smallish meals.  A typical day for me might be: 
    • Breakfast: Oatmeal, NF Yogurt, Frozen Berries
    • Snack: Apple and Cheese
    • Lunch: Big Salad w/ Homemade Dressing, Tofu in a Rice Wrap with Salsa and NF Sour Cream
    • Snack: Banana and Peanut Butter
    • Dinner: Chickpea Patties with Homemade Tzaziki Sauce on GF Bun, Broccoli
    • Dessert: Fruit (I like frozen mango for dessert.)
  • Getting your portion sizes right (as well as the right proportions!) will help you from feeling either sluggish or ravenous.  I forget what the exact recommendations are, but here's what I do to stay satisfied (and this is coming from many trials and errors at healthy eating):  I first fill my plate at least half-full with vegetables, and vegetables only.  Then I split the remaining half in two, and fill one of those halves with protein, and the other half with a whole grain.

Okay, okay -- yeah, I know.  That was just a lot of information.  And do you really have time to sift through this post and figure it out?  No!  Absolutely not!  You should be cooking/eating turkey/exercising instead of reading this post!  So to sum it up...

  • Get Up Earlier
  • Work Out Smarter, NOT Longer (think: intervals!! and muscle confusion!)
  • Eat to Fuel Your Body
And viola!  Look at you!  You just found time to exercise!

Broad Street Run 2010

(Don't let the smiles fool you.  I was pooped.  We ran in 94 degree weather after having trained in early-spring 65-70 degree weather.  It was definitely a challenge, but totally worth it.  I was eight months pregnant for BS2011, so I had to skip out -- looking forward to 2012!!!)

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