The Dreaded Exercise Tab

Like it or not, exercise is important. This tab is dedicated to exercise/physical activity, as well as motivations and ideas that will hopefully encourage you to start exercising yourself. I am typically very focused on diet and have always felt that as long as my diet is reasonable, then the exercise is not that big of a deal. However, over the years of reading more and learning more, I am forced to admit that that is just not true. Good health is a combination of a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, and peace within.


10/2012: I am not really sure what to do with this page. All I can think about when I think about exercise is that I don't really have time for it. I know everyone says, "make the time" or "you have to prioritize it in your day" and logically, I totally get that. But practically, how in the world do you fit it in your day when you have a full time job and a family? We aren't spending our free time here watching TV or napping. We don't have free time, and maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe we work too much or we have the boy in too many activities. Maybe we spend too much time on homework or too much time on cooking dinner. I really don't know, but what I do know is that even with exercise as a priority, it still gets skipped some days. So, all that being said and assuming that many people out there have this same problem, I want to share with you a few things that have worked for me to enable me to fit exercise into my life on a regular basis.

Exercise Tips for a Regular Person

Set reasonable goals for number of days per week of exercise:
Realize you are probably not going to be able to exercise 7 days a week. That's ok. I set a goal for 3-5 days per week of additional physical activity. Sometimes I don't make it. And sometimes I exceed it. Life is about balance, and I figure it all works out in the end.

Set reasonable goals for amount of time you will exercise:
Realize you may not be able to do an hour of exercise. Now this really used to get me. I was always trying to fit in an hour work-out and maybe I only had half an hour of available time, so I would just say "forget it, I don't have time for this today"! Well, when I stopped thinking of exercise in terms of "hour blocks” that really opened up my options. Now, I am really happy with anything over 20 minutes, thrilled to death with an hour, and just-glad-I-did-something with 10-15 minutes.

Find something you like to do:
I know we’ve all heard this before, but seriously, when they say, “find something you like to do”, that's really good advice. It's not the end-all, be-all, but it's a good start because you are not going to do it if you hate it. Period. Obviously, you're not going to squeeze something you hate into the only free hour of your day that is available. So, really try to find something you like and try to think outside the box.

By definition, any physical activity is exercise. So, think family time, which could include walking, biking, playing catch, practicing soccer drills, or practicing katas. Think back to your childhood (i.e. something you loved, not something your parents forced you to do). Or take this opportunity to try something you are interested in and have never had a chance to pursue... maybe you were in dance class as a child or always wanted to learn to dance? Pick up a dvd for ballet or Hip Hop Abs or zumba. Maybe you were in karate as a child? Pick up a dvd for tai chi or other martial arts or follow Bruce Lee's workout.

You can do these at home and, remember, you don't have to do the entire dvd. Just off the top of my head, other hobby type/ special interest activities that would work include weight lifting, running, swimming, biking, belly dancing, dancing, all kinds of sports, frisbee, golf, martial arts, boxing, horseback riding, and even meditation (or try this meditation). Also, remember that you don't have to be good at any of these things to do them for exercise. The goal is to get your heart rate up, not to join a professional team or compete in the Olympics (or even to look good). 

Another example, have you ever noticed when you go on vacation, even though you eat a lot and maybe not necessarily quality food, you don't seem to gain weight? It's because you've been swimming, skiing, snorkeling, hiking, walking, etc. All of that was excercise, and you didn't even know it because it was fun. Check out these additional ideas for a fun workout.

Change it up:
The idea that "variety is the spice of life" is key to keeping your exercise habit interesting. For me in particular, I get extremely bored doing one thing all the time and I have found that I will have more motivation if I have a variety of choices. Monday I'm biking with the little one. Tuesday I'm doing P90X Plyometrics and Wednesday I'm playing tennis with my dad. Thursday is my off day and Friday is the Brazilian Butt Lift. If I'm really motivated, Saturday I'm lifting some weights and heading over to the rec center to do a yoga class. Otherwise, I'm doing 15 minutes of free yoga on ondemand freezone, just to get something in.

And, actually, that’s a great tip—don’t forget about the free exercise offerings (fitness channel and/or freezone on your PPV) on your television. I have spent many days doing nothing else except the free yoga (or pilates or whatever) provided by my cable company. And finally, if you think you have time for a commitment, then join a class (near your home, near your work – someplace convenient) if that's the kind of thing you like, although I would encourage you to consider this as only one aspect of your regular routine.

Have a workout buddy (or three):
I think the thing that worked the absolute best for helping me to maintain a regular routine was having a partner/ friend that kept me honest and accountable. For a couple of years now, I have been emailing a friend daily to let her know what I did that day to exercise and she does the same. It's been wonderful for our friendship and wonderful for my motivation (shoot, I can’t tell Marian I didn't work out today, I better get my butt in gear).

Also, I keep more than one workout buddy on hand because I have a specific focus with each one. For example, one of my friends recently told me she read that every woman should be able to run half a marathon, do 10 push-ups, hold a tree pose for 60 seconds per leg, and hold a plank for 60 seconds. So, every day we check in to see if we've practiced our push-ups, tree pose, and plank. My dad likes to bike and run, so on his days off, we try to run or bike together. Another friend of mine recently bought the P90X and Brazilian Butt Lift dvds, which I also own, and we try to coordinate with each other on those. Sometimes I will take a class with a friend (yoga, Pilates, boot camps, etc.). Sometimes I will try to make a regular date for a certain activity - biking, tennis, etc.

With today's social media, email, and texting (in addition to the more traditional methods), it is very simple to stay in touch on a regular basis. If you're interested, let's start an exercise buddy program here - I'll set up a page with dates or something like that and we can leave comments to let each other know we've done our exercise for the day. Leave me a comment and, if there's enough of us, I'll get this going. Workout partners (even remote ones) are great - they will keep you honest and keep you motivated. The more the merrier, in my opinion!

Try combining your exercise with other mandatory activities:
For example, sometimes we will ride bikes to football practice or jog around the field while we are there or run the bleacher steps during soccer practice. If you can bike or walk to work, the store, and/ or any other errands, you are ahead of the game. Not only are you getting a health benefit, but you are saving money on gas and helping out air quality by keeping that car in the garage. If you are a student or have to read for work, you can read a chapter or a section while you're on the treadmill. When I used to live near a mall, I walked to do all my shopping, which usually kept me within my budget too! Even those of you who work in an office can do exercises at or near your desk. My grandma (always very slim and trim) said she never exercised because house work was her exercise. She would reach a little further here, stretch a little more that way, and really get a good pace going on that sweeping... and by the time the house was clean, she had gotten a great workout. We have all scrubbed bath tubs or mopped floors and been surprised to find we were out of breath or had sweat on our brows. Seriously, housework like that kills two birds with one stone.

Exercise with your kids:
If you have kids, a really powerful motivator is the fact that you want to teach your children the importance and habit of a healthy active lifestyle, which includes regular exercise/ activity. My husband and I do all kinds of "exercise" with our now nearly 8 year old. He's gone running, biking, and swimming with us, we play sports, we walk, do exercise tapes, and lift weights with him. He's used the treadmill and the stair master and done push-ups and sit-ups with us. We play frisbee, walk the dog, and hike (he calls it exploring). Every year for the past two years, he runs with me and my dad in our community's annual one-mile run.

He has endless energy and, almost more than anything else in his world, loves to play with us (and yes, he thinks of all forms of exercise as play and we want him to always think of it that way). If you have not tried exercising with your little ones, I highly recommend you give it a try. There is nothing more motivating than your little one asking you to go for a bike ride or take a walk after dinner.

Remember that you really do want to make exercise a part of your life:
Finally, and even though you've heard it before, just remember, the benefits of exercise are so great (health, appearance, happiness) that it's worth it for you to make it a priority. Our bodies were made for physical activity and you will feel and look better (and younger) if you stay active. Try not to pressure yourself or make goals that are too lofty for your schedule, but just do something as often as you can. If you can partner up with a friend, incorporate it as part of other mandatory activities, squeeze it in your free time, make it fun, do it with your kiddos, and/ or mix it up, I think you will find that you will be able to turn a dreaded activity into a regular habit and part of your healthy lifestyle.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money:
As you can see from my examples above, I have a few exercise dvds. My husband bought P90X about two years ago and we still occassionally use it. I bought Hip Hop Abs in my 20's, remember it was fun, but can't find it. I recently purchased Brazilian Butt Lift at the recommendation of the girl who cuts my hair (she looks fabulous). I keep planning to find a cheap zumba or ballet exercise dvd at Target to swap into my routine occassionally. But you do not need to buy exercise dvds, or gym memberships or classes for that matter. The majority of my exercise comes from the things I already do every day. And that's the point I really wanted to get across--you can find exercise in surprising places in many of your daily activities and it's those types of things that will pass the test of time.  
Well, I think I figured out what to do with this page.... I'm going to leave it here as a motivator for myself to remind me, when I am too busy, too tired, too whatever, how important and easy it is to fit some kind of physical activity into my life on a regular basis. I hope this helps you with the same. Check out the sources page for additional exercise ideas.


A Minor Case for Running (that does not involve running from zombies or other monsters): My biggest reason for not exercising was always that I was way too busy. Regardless of whatever I read, this exercise business was going to take about an hour a day. I have a completely sedentary life style (I work at a desk) and require all physical activity to come from planned exercise of some type. For many years I ran a few miles a day on a treadmill, at home, at night. However, I was single at the time, and it was easier to schedule my own time then. After getting married, there was just no way I was going to fit in night time workouts. It just seemed hopeless and I stopped trying and I just really focused on my diet. But really, seriously, diet is not enough. Our bodies were built for physical activity, there is no way around it, you just have to do it.

Actually, this was a great thing to realize for me. Once I realized that I just had to fit it in, I did. And, it was really hard at first. I had some great motivators (friends and family), but it was still hard. Since evening workouts were no longer an option, I had to do AM workouts and I am not a morning person. But, all excuses aside, I just did it. I found a small window in the morning and made it work. And I picked something that was super convenient (no drive time) and cost me relatively nothing. I started running again, but this time outside. Check out this link, which talks about why running is good for you.

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