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Tips on fitting in fitness with a jam-packed schedule

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

Don't I need hours and hours of time to work out to reap the benefits of movement? Nope!

I think lots of folks believe that they need to carve out 30, or even 60 minutes at a time to be able to workout or move their body to reap the mental and physical benefits of movement. And while 30-60 minutes at a time would likely be the ideal for many, a shorter quality workout can be an alternative solution and still provide benefits.

Many of us lead busy, full lives. In addition to working and commuting, we transport kids back and forth to school, sports, activities, and to home again. We need to go food shopping, be caregivers, and do the laundry. We make breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. When are we suppose to get to the gym or go our for a run?

Here are some easy-to-follow tips on fitting in fitness with a busy lifestyle...

Something over nothing. You don’t need an hour—or even 30 minutes—to get a complete, effective workout. And, some exercise is virtually always better than none. When done frequently enough, short and speedy workouts can do wonders for both the body and mind. Squeeze in fitness wherever you are, no matter how much time you have — you can even do some exercises at your desk (see below for suggestions).

Find opportunities for movement. Taking your kids to soccer practice? Walk or run laps around the perimeter of the field while they're practicing. Same could be done while kids are practicing at basketball practice. Walk the perimeter of the gym or if practice is located in a school, walk the hallways.

Skip taking the elevator or escalator and take the stairs instead.

In parking lots, park farther away so you can get some extra movement in.

Do you work in a city that has bike rentals? Rent a bike at lunch time and take a spin around your city or area (with a helmet of course).

Commute differently. If you rely on public transportation, get off the train or bus a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way to work. If you live within closer range of work, bike or walk/run into work.

Work out efficiently. Choose a workout form that you can do almost anywhere. Ideally, this will be a form of exercise that doesn’t require much preparation and that accomplishes significant physical gains in a short period of time. Workouts such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), Tabata training, bodyweight exercises, and running are all great choices.

Register for a competition or race. Find a competition or race suitable to your skill level. Sign up, set a goal, make a plan, and get moving. I find having goals like a race motivate me to make a plan and stick to it.

Record/track your workouts. I find tracking my workouts and recording them in an app motivates me to work out more. I like to watch the hours I've worked out grow and the miles I've run, biked, and swum increase. Make it into a competition with yourself or with others and set goals to reach. I use STRAVA and Garmin Connect to track my workouts. Many of the training apps available offer tracking workouts as an option as well (see app suggestions below). Click here to follow my progress on STRAVA.

Find an accountability partner(s). Sharing workouts or a walk/run or a bike ride with someone else is a great way to keep yourself on track and hold yourself accountable.

When you travel. There are so many ways to keep working out while traveling. Benches and picnic tables can be used for tricep dips, push ups, step ups, box jumps, single leg plyometrics and lunges, glute bridges, v-ups, and more. Curbs, stairs, and chairs can also be used similarly. I also bring resistance bands and a door anchor with me when I travel. When you combine the bands with a workout app, you can get a gym-like work out in just about anywhere. Those same resistance bands can also be combined with some of the moves I mentioned above.

Move at work.

- Use an adjustable desk so you can vary your sitting and standing time.

- Sit on a stability ball instead of a chair and work your core.

- Do walk-lunges in your office or a vacant room.

- Take to the stairs — two at a time if you need a harder workout! Do this several times a day

- Do a football-like drill of running in place for 60 seconds. Get those knees up! (Beginners, can march in place.)

- Simulate jumping rope for a minute. Hop on alternate feet, or on both feet at once. An easier version is to simulate the arm motion of turning a rope, while alternately tapping the toes of each leg in front.

- Sitting in your chair, lift one leg off the seat, extend it out straight, hold for 2 seconds; then lower your foot (stop short of the floor) and hold for several seconds. Switch; do each leg 15 times.

- Tricep Dips. Can be done pretty much anywhere. Use your desk or your chair if it doesn’t have wheels on it. Position your hands shoulder-width apart on that desk or chair, then move your butt off the front with your legs extended out in front of you. Straighten your arms, keeping a little bend in your elbows to keep tension on your triceps and off your elbow joints.

- Calf Raises. Stand up behind your chair and hold on for support. Raise your heels off the floor until you are standing on your toes. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor. Do 3 sets of 10.

There's an app for that. Use technology to your advantage. Here are a few apps to check out that offer a variety of workout options with different levels of difficulty depending on what your current fitness level is. Many of these apps are made specifically for folks with limited windows of time.

Nike Training Club: Offers 185+ workouts to choose from and range from beginner to more advanced. Workouts focus on strength, endurance, or mobility and offer three levels of difficulty. The app’s audio cues let you focus on the workout instead of the screen; Nike+ Training Club can also be streamed onto a television. After completing a workout, users can share customized photos or posters with the Nike+ community. You can also manually enter activities such as basketball, gym training, or tennis.

Daily Burn: Offers live daily workouts that you can stream and work out to. Even if you miss the time for the day's live workout, you can still stream it on demand, along with a wide variety of more specialized workout courses such as yoga, high-intensity cardio, and strength training. The app also provides beginner-friendly full body workouts. You can even listen along with audio workouts — guided courses with a trainer and music that you can take anywhere.

JEFIT: Focused more on strength training and bodybuilding, JEFIT is loaded with an exercise database of thousands of routines sorted by targeted body part. The app comes complete with detailed instructions, a workout planner, exercise log, and progress tracker.

Aaptiv: Provides trainer-led audio workouts for a variety of workout styles and goals, complete with accompanying music playlists. Users can select from more than 2,500 workouts in hundreds of fitness classes, whether for running, cycling, high intensity interval training, 5k, or marathon training, with training routines streamed or downloaded to your phone for offline use. Workouts can be configured for distance, duration, intensity, and calories burned.

Beachbody on Demand (BOD): I've been using BOD for several years and can always find a workout to fit my needs. BOD offers a large variety of trainers and workouts that focus on HIIT, strength training, cardio, yoga, pilates, and more. Workouts can be streamed on your smart phone or through Apple tv. The workouts vary in duration from 10 minutes all the way up to 90+ minutes and as with other apps, they vary in difficulty from beginner to advanced.

When in doubt, take advantage of those minutes here and there, and move. Walk around your office building a couple of times, go do some push ups in a vacant conference room, or before you start making dinner, take your canine friend out for a 10 minute walk. All these little increments of time that you're moving add up to a healthier physical and mental well being.

Have questions about getting fit? I've got answers.

Check out this weeks move of the week video: Single Leg Pushup & Knee Up w/ Resistance Band

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