Think you don’t have time to work out? Make every moment count at the gym, at home, or at work.
As a fitness instructor I see some people regularly, some most of the time, and some who rarely come at all. I want to keep my numbers up so I won’t lose my class, so if I run into non-attendees in the supermarket I strike up a conversation.
“How are you keeping fit?” I ask as I corner them next to the meat department.
Often they tell me they’ve been too busy to attend classes. When I hear this, I want to check that they haven’t lost their motivation or lost track of their goals. When I get one-on-one time with my clients, I try to remind them of the reasons they began exercising in the first place.
All my participants know the benefits of exercise:
- preventing weight gain and obesity
- protecting against heart disease and diabetes
- improving sex life
- lowering blood pressure
- increasing energy
- lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol
- decreasing symptoms of depression and stress
- reducing the risk of stroke, cancer, and osteoporosis
- boosting self-confidence, esteem, body image, and mood
- protecting seniors from injury, reducing pain, and preparing for seasonal activities
As they tell me how busy they have been, I realize they really don’t have time to devote three to five hours per week to exercising. They may need to settle for less. I tell them that my class will still be there when they can fit it in, but in the meantime there are ways to be true to their goals on a reduced schedule.
As the holidays approach, people have less and less time to schedule workouts. I have always believed that a little exercise is better than no exercise. Most fitness classes are an hour long. It is, however, possible to get a decent workout in 20 minutes.
Many communities have outdoor circuits complete with strengthening stations such as bars and benches that you can use for free—even in the dead of winter. Try the circuit with cross-country skis in winter or on a bike during other seasons—and show off your stuff.
If you’ve ever done a run/walk program, you know about interval training. This is where you ramp up the intensity, then follow up with a short period of less intense activity, alternating for a complete workout. Interval training gives you more bang for your time-constrained buck.
Using an exercise ball for short workouts gives you extra balance and stability training while you work at strengthening your muscles. Since they’re inflatable, you can take them just about anywhere you need to fit in a workout—and have a ball.
You can stretch your quick workout options with rubber bands or resistance tubes that come in different colours corresponding to different resistance levels. They give you endless ways to increase strength and muscle tone.
Work your cubicle
You can cram in some aerobic and strengthening exercises in your cubicle at work.
Warmup cooler walk
Warm up by walking or doing a Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” routine to the water cooler and back. Then do an explosive minute of jumping jacks, lunges, and burpees in your cubicle. Your co-workers will marvel at your commitment to fitness.
Strengthen while you wait
Add some strength training to your workout. Rather than playing solitaire, you can do some squats while waiting for the webpage to load. Throw in some push-ups for the chest and shoulders and some abdominal crunches, and you have an office workout.
Make every moment count
Other office exercise tips include
- using the stairs instead of the elevators
- climbing stairs two at a time for more intensity
- standing instead of sitting during meetings
- walking rather than standing still while talking on the phone or during colleague discussions
- doing leg extensions while seated at your desk
- pushing yourself up from your chair using your hands on the chair arms
- doing bicep curls with your water bottle
- stretching (and whistling) while you work!
Funky but fading fitness fads
I confess that over the past 20-plus years of teaching fitness, I’ve fantasized about discovering one of those vibrating belt machines lurking in a storage area. I know it won’t do any good as far as fitness is concerned, but what a thrill! Just for fun, here are a few other fitness flops.
Also called inversion boots, these let you hang from the ceiling like a bat. Although marketed for aligning the spine and for ab workouts, they’re questionable at best and possibly harmful at worst (unless you happen to be Batman).
This spring-loaded exercise gizmo, championed by Suzanne Somers, was supposed to strengthen the inner thigh muscles, or adductors. Although this may be true—with very dedicated use—the promise of a toned and fit body needs a lot more than a Thigh Master—and Suzanne Somers—to achieve.
A dumbbell with a spring between the shaft and the weight, it shakes harder when you shake it and is supposed to work the muscles in an isometric fashion (the muscle is neither lengthened nor extended under stress). This weight looks comical (the infomercial has gone viral on YouTube!). It may work, but no better than a regular weight.
Electrical muscle stimulators
There is no evidence that electronic muscle stimulators work, or whether they cause shocks, burns, bruising, skin irritation, pain—or even heart attacks. While I have never heard of anyone going into ventricular fibrillation because electrical stimulation interfered with the heart rhythm, that doesn’t mean that it won’t. Remember, that’s what they say about Tasers.
During these classes, slides, a piece of vinyl measuring about 150 cm by 75 cm, were given to each participant along with a pair of wool booties. The participants skated on the vinyl—their personal skating rink. The classes magically left the schedule when the booties wore out.