Stay healthy while working a jam-packed schedule: Weigh in with suggestions!

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<Sorry to start with a fitness joke>

I got a great email this morning from a long-time blog reader who was asking for suggestions to stay fit while working a full-time job, doing a side-hustle and taking care of his family. An excerpt:

One of the big things I’m struggling with as I have one foot in the corporate world and one foot in our family  business is finding time to do it all. More often than not, the first thing I sacrifice is exercise. In fact, I seem to be able to make it all fit (barely) except for exercise. I haven’t been to the gym regularly in months, and my weight has started to creep up, and that worries me.

Boy do I feel your pain! After an attempt to get my mojo back a few months ago, I slipped back into another period of poor diet and exercise habits. Finally, three weeks ago, I started going back to the gym, and just signed up for mixed martial arts classes. But I have a loooong way to go!

Here are my thoughts on the topic, and a call for suggestions from you smart readers. I would love your ideas for ways to integrate health and fitness into a busy life.

Weigh in with health and exercise advice for the over-extended! from Pamela Slim on Vimeo.

And I cannot believe that the first example that came to mind for killer six-pack abs was The Situation from Jersey Shore. I actually watched that show for 15 minutes last night and was horrified.

Please replace that thought with this picture. Rock those abs Gwen Stefani!

2009-07-14_232645

Conversation starters:

  • How can you fit exercise into a busy schedule?
  • How can you honor your health as much as you honor your commitments?
  • How should you think about exercise to be more motivated to do it?
  • What tips do you have for starting a fitness routine when you are very out of shape?
  • How is it fair that Gwen Stefani is a talented, sexy rock star AND mom to 2 toddlers?
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53 Responses to “Stay healthy while working a jam-packed schedule: Weigh in with suggestions!”

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  3. Great topic, Pam! I happen to be a “fitness expert” and coach people around getting (or staying) healthy & strong. In fact I just kicked off a Virtual Trainer program that is tailor-made to meet where people are in their fitness program while coaching them one on one on their health and fitness.

    That being said, I believe that my health must always remain my #1 priority. If my health suffers EVERYTHING else in my life will suffer. The single most important thing I can do for myself, my family, and my work in the world is to be sure to do what ever it takes to stay physically healthy (for me that includes being fit).

    Gwen S. has famously commented that looking as hot as she does takes hard work. Being THAT hot – is a part time job.

    This from someone who has held down 1 full time job w/a part time job AND was a competitive cyclist training up to 20 hours a week. There have been years where I finished my 5 mile trail run while wearing crampons (due to the snowpack) while the sun HINTED at coming up when my run was finished.

    Remaining healthy is my most important job, and a mindset.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I will follow up with some actual practical suggestions for when working out IS an actual “want to do”. =)

    –Get a workout partner. I got into the fitness habit because I went to a Zumba class with coworkers and none of us wanted to be the jerk who didn’t show up.

    –Don’t make it a huge time sink. I started doing Couch to 5K because I hate running and yet feel the overwhelming urge to conquer it, and I was gobsmacked at the idea that I’d be done with a workout in 30 minutes. But on all but the very busiest days, 30 minutes is very do-able.

    –Make it easy for yourself. Keep your workout clothes clean and in a bag (mine is usually in the car, as is my yoga mat). Go where it’s easy to go to work out– for me home is a terrible place to work out because there’s no room or privacy, but my gym has a ton of convenient locations along my usual routes.

    –Do one thing at a time. Before I started working out regularly, I slowly weaned myself off of soda, then off of all sweetened drinks, then off of anything but water, unsweetened iced tea, coffee (gotta keep some vices!) and occasional wine. After that I worked on the habit of taking some vitamin supplements as an insurance policy against weeks when eating well was harder. Then I worked on finding the best healthful breakfast for me, and always eating breakfast. Etc. With fitness, I started with one class per week, then added another. Etc. Celebrate the baby steps.

    –Embrace what makes it indulgent for you. Not just the type of workouts, though that’s important too, but the other stuff. Like, it’s a treat to me to shop for new workout clothes. Or to wrap up a workout with some time in the steam room or hot tub.

    –The social aspect really helps me. I love doing classes because I like being friendly with instructors and classmates. I do work out alone also, but in times when it’s harder to keep up my workout schedule, I am more likely to go to a class.

    –Brag about it! I’m not ashamed to say that it helps me keep going when I post to my journal about working out and people reply to say that they think it’s awesome that I’m doing it. I even made myself a workout icon to use for those posts. =)

    –I use the President’s Challenge website (http://www.presidentschallenge.org/) to track my workouts and set goals. I’ve achieved the Bronze level in the Advanced Performance Presidential Champions program, and am well on my way to Silver. I don’t know why, but that medal system is the perfect carrot for me!

    –Know what time of day works best for you. I will never be a morning person. Working out right after work is ideal for me, so that’s when I do it.

    –Plan ahead. I have my regular classes, but I also have options planned out for classes I can take on other days. For C25K, I pick which days I will run based on what days it works best with my schedule. Then it becomes part of my week, and not something I have to figure out as I go along (which means I won’t do it).

    Really, I think I am a profoundly lazy person at heart. I make it as easy and as pleasurable for myself to work out as possible, because things that are inconvenient and unpleasant that I’m not forced to do, tend to get quietly shuffled down to the bottom of the to-d0 list for me. I’m not all that interested in turning into Super Puritan Work Ethic Lass and feeling all righteous because I (literally) worked my butt off. I’m much more interested in fully enjoying and being present in the life that I’ve been allotted in this spin around the karmic wheel. So I invite you to be lazy and indulgent with me and to figure out how to make working out into a sensual act of fun and pampering for yourself instead of yet another Sisyphean trudge up the hill.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I can SO relate to this dilemma. I’m an on-the-go-16-hours-a-day-or-more kinda gal and always have been. I also, I am proud to say, have been committed to at least 2 and as many as 5 workouts per week more or less without fail for the last couple of years.

    I think before anything else, there’s a hard question you have to really ask yourself: *Is* this a priority for you *really*? Is it a “should do” or a “longing to do”? Fitness is, IMO, never a “have to do” unless maybe your doctor’s told you you’re going to fall over dead if you don’t…and what I mean by that is, almost none of us are so strong in our self-care that sacrificing it is never an option. When something has to give, it will almost always be the stuff that’s just for us, because we don’t put the consequences on ourselves that others will put on us if we let them down. So trying to rely on “have to” means you’re trying to delude yourself when you know full well that you will break that promise when the kids need a ride somewhere or the work deadline gets moved up or something that *really* feels like a “have to” comes up. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll rebel against that inner authority because you’re mad that there’s one more obligation to satisfy, and at least you can tell that inner authority to go stick it even if you won’t ever say it to your boss at work.

    This may be a wildly unpopular opinion, but I say, if you don’t want to do it so much that you look forward to it, that you will say no to happy hour with your buddies in order to do it, that skipping it would be like skipping a meal when you’re hungry, then don’t do it. Spend that time crashed out on the couch with a bag of Cheetos. Enjoy it. Own it. Let yourself be a puddle of sloth. Stare at the wall for a while. If you’re not ready for change yet, then the best motivational tips in the world aren’t going to help you. Accept that you’re not there yet, and that maybe right now you need to crash and burn when you’re not “on”. Let me tell you, I’ve had times when I was working full time and rehearsing more than one show and preparing for a conference and keeping up with life that I decided to say screw the gym for a month. I went home and played video games and ate takeout and decided to give that to myself as a gift, and the world didn’t end. And when the schedule ebbed a bit again, I was happy to go back to the gym. I missed it. I wanted it. So I stuck with it.

    I work out every week because I *like* it. It’s not just feeling good physically, though there also is that. I like talking to my instructors and classmates, or getting outside, or using the steam room after a workout, or the amazing way I feel after a post-workout shower. I like it because it’s a guaranteed hour when I don’t have to think, just do…it’s a vacation for my busy brain. If there’s a day when I feel like working out is a have-to, sometimes, I skip it. Sometimes I go anyway, but if I’m really not feeling it, I’m not going to pitch a Wagnerian opera about skipping. I trust myself to know when I’m better served by a nap than a run.

    Even the busiest among us find time to fit in our little pleasures, sometimes at the expense of our responsibilities…surfing the web or playing Facebook games or IMing people or watching TV or whatever it is. Why are those things so good that they will make us put off something that has consequences, like getting enough sleep or finishing a project at work? I think if working out has things about it that are equally seductive, we will make the time for it. It’s when it feels like just another part of the daily grind that we kind of secretly want to find an excuse not to have to do it.

  6. Iris says:

    Hi, Pam! I’m glad you’re bringing health and exercise into the discussion because I really do think it’s an important part about being a productive and successful entrepreneur/employee/person.

    I think the number one thing you have to do is change the way you see yourself — from couch potato to active person. I think so many people find it hard to exercise because they just don’t identify with the idea of being this active-lifestyle kind of person, so exercise feels unnatural and forced. Then try to incorporate this active lifestyle everywhere — take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk a little extra instead of transferring to another train, sit up straight at your desk rather than sink deep into your chair, etc.

    After you sneak in exercise everywhere and make being active a habit, exercise is something that’s more doable. Here are some things that work for me but everyone has to figure out what works for them:
    1. Run/Workout on my lunch break — not everyone has this luxury, but lunch time is a great way to sneak in exercise without using after work hours.
    2. Fitness videos — buy a couple of DVDs which have good reviews. If you’re starting out, find one with short 20-30 min workouts. Then you really have no excuse. You don’t even need a lot of time or need to leave the house!
    3. Find an active hobby — I like dance class so I try to go consistently. It’s not as intense as running but that’s 3.5 hours a week that I’m up on my feet instead of sitting at a computer. Martial arts, dance, MMA (like Pam), yoga, gym classes, and sports are all good options.
    4. Finally, even though exercise is extremely important for health, if it’s your waistline you’re worried about, change your eating habits. Eating good is 80% of the weight loss work. Think about how long it takes to burn off a donut and how fast it takes to eat one. If you’re not super knowledgable about nutrition and how to eat right, I highly suggest you reading some Michael Pollan or getting a nutritionist.

  7. Tia Sparkles says:

    1. Making health / fitness a value and adding it to my values list
    2. Baby stepping it. One change at a time. Steel cut oats for breakfast till it became a habit.
    3. Relapsing every now and then and realising, that’s fine cos some changes are now permanent.
    4. Making another small change.
    5. Giving myself huge kudos for every little step (this, I am VERY good at!)
    6. Waking up earlier, eating a banana and heading out the door before turning on the computer.
    7. Relapsing every now and then but always coming back to “I’m WAY healthier than last year, baby steps Tia, baby steps”!

    🙂 🙂 My magic formula!

  8. Aloha! I have been interested in health and fitness since I was young, so I decided to become a nutritionist. After working in that field for awhile, I realized that our foods are not as nutritious as they once were (there are several scientific studies proving this). Always being one to optimize, I decided to “go back to the dirt” and learn how to “create health from the soil up”. My thought is–“Perfect Soil, Perfect Food, Perfect Health”. I term my research “Going Beyond Organic to Nutrient-Rich”.
    How does this relate to weight loss? My theory is that if the body is ideally nourished, it will be able to function optimally. We will feel great and not crave excessive food because we are nourished!

  9. Grace Menzel says:

    Hi Pam,
    Here is another angle to consider. How healthy is your work environment? Many of us, especially those who are working at home, are sitting in poorly organized and arranged work stations. It is amazing how much energy it takes to maintain bad habits such as slouching in your chair, leaning forward without support for your back, resting your arms on the work surface or looking down to view a laptop screen that is also probably too close. Our bodies have to do much more work when the equipment and furniture are not adjusted properly. As ergonomic consultants, we find that people experience improved comfort, energy and greater ease when their workstation is designed for their unique body style. Your readers might be interested in checking out our virtual assessment service at our website. We don’t sell products so it’s a very straightforward and affordable option.

    I am curious if others have found increased energy and comfort after making physical adjustments to their work environment?

    Best,
    Grace

  10. […] Get it? Weigh in?I got a great email this morning from a long-time blog reader who was asking for suggestions to stay fit while working a full-time job, doing a side-hustle and taking care of his family. An excerpt:One of the big things I’m struggling with as I have […] Original post […]

  11. I just try to focus on getting little tiny amounts of activity accomplished. Even if it’s only 15 minutes in the pool at the gym or walking a few blocks extra with the dog or pulling myself away from the computer screen to take a tiny walk around the building, every little bit counts. I have to trust that that little bit will eventually turn into a bigger bit and even if it doesn’t, then it’s better than doing nothing.

    • Erik Proulx says:

      Rachel,

      I’ll have you know that I am in my hotel room right now, and I just got back from a 20-minute jaunt on the treadmill thanks to this sage advice.

      I have a great outlook on my day ahead thanks to you and Pam.

      Erik

  12. Stephanie Slater says:

    “Integrate” is the key to Pamela’s question – how to integrate exercise into a busy life. If you’re a parent, what can you do with your kids? Play frisbee or tag? Invest in a runner’s stroller or a child’s bike seat or tag-along? If you’re an office worker, how about avoiding the elevator in favour of the stairs, riding your bike to work a couple times a week (after taking a commuter cycling course to maximize safety and comfort!) or getting off the bus/subway a few stops before your destination? How about looking for the parking spot furthest from your destination rather than closest, or using your lunch hour to go for a walk rather than to a restaurant or the lunch room?

    Buddying up is crucial for me as it provides incentive and turns exercise into an enjoyable social activity. I have running friends, walking/hiking friends, outrigger paddling friends, yoga friends… I know one man who has lost weight and gotten in shape by taking up ballroom dancing. That’s his social activity as well as his fitness activity. Exercise doesn’t have to wear sweats or leotards and get sweaty, you know!

    In summary: integrate exercise into your regular life; buddy up to maximize incentive, and make sure you’re having fun!

  13. Beto says:

    Probably one of the perks of still being an employee is having the gym I’ve been to over the last 3 years 5 minutes away. It wasn’t easy to make going and sweating it up an habit (I was one of those saying that never had time to work out – and I’m still short on time for many other things but working out is now essential for my life. Read on.)

    I think it took me like 4 months of conditioning or so. However here’s the main reason why I go several days a week, more than the obvious physical benefits: It helps me keep my sanity and my head clear. If I did nothing but be at my highly stressful job and then jump into hopeless trafic jam on rush hour time only to plop down in front of the TV, I’d be… I don’t know, maybe probably dead by now. It’s that important for me.

    I think one shouldn’t obsess with building a supermodel physique (I’m far from being so). Think about doing it not just for your body, but for your head. And while exercise itself is great, managing your diet is the other 50%. You may not likely see a drop in weight if you still take in more calories than what you need, no matter how long you sweat it at the treadmill, so it pays to consult with a nutrition specialist to create a special program for you.

  14. Yael Grauer says:

    I agree with scheduling time to go to classes or the gym. Working out with a training partner, as you mentioned, is also a great solution. I write and work all day and then when my boyfriend comes home from work he asks me when we are going to the gym and drags me away from my computer.

    Working out at home is also an option I use in a pinch.

    As far as food, I have emergency healthy quick foods I use in a pinch or on deadline… Chicken (pre-cooked works) in a curry sauce that came in a jar (mix, simmer, voila), rotisserie chicken from the grocery store with a nice salad, frozen Paleo meals, ground beef and frozen veggies, that kind of thing. I also try to make a big soup and a big salad for the week ahead of time. And crockpots = lifesaver.

  15. Hi Pam: For me, there are often times when getting regular exercise is a challenge. When things get really hectic I still make sure that I’m drinking enough water and stretching, however briefly, several times a day. (FYI, Bob Andersons’ books, ‘Stretching’ http://amzn.com/0936070463 and ‘Stretching at the Office’ http://amzn.com/0936070293 are both great guides.) This practice helps me manage my stress level – and I find when I’m less stressed I eat less, too. Hope this helps.

  16. Lisa says:

    My suggestion is play, play, play, whenever you get a chance! Dig out your old toys, jump rope, hula hoop, bike, skates, whatever. Dance. Play ball. Goof off. If it’s fun you’ll make time to do it and you won’t feel obligated and guilty when you don’t. But have anything you need (your toys, sneakers, etc.) nearby for when you get the urge.

    I recently decided that after a long hot summer of too much rum punch and potato chips on the sofa in the air conditioning that I need to leave behind a few pounds of fat. I didn’t obsess about it or loathe myself. I know I hate gyms and I don’t do diets so why make lifestyle changes I know I won’t maintain? They key is to get (and stay) active. Sure, you’ll have ups and downs but if you don’t give up it will balance out over time.

    So just relax and have some physical fun every day. The stress relief will help your body release the excess weight more efficiently.

  17. Cheryl Dolan says:

    Hi Pam, Great comments from folks – shows how we all have such different systems both in terms of biology and practice. Always a challenge for me, I have recently found myself easily and eagerly responding to the latest research which points to the tremendous benefits of regular exercise for long-term brain health and plasticity – well into the 80s and beyond. “It’s time to exercise my brain” really seems to work for me! No longer about weight and food and, and, . . .

  18. Jonathan says:

    Here’s where you need to start: your diet. The one thing every doctor and nutritionist will agree on is if you eat healthy and cut calories you will lose weight. If you spend some time up front determining how many calories you should be eating and then creating a meal plan around that, then you are on your way to success.

    The debate only surrounds exercise. What’s shocking is the more studies you read about exercise, the more you realize how little exercise helps unless it’s for extended periods of time AND if you do not reward yourself with FOOD. That’s the number one mistake people make – they eat more, or they eat junk, as a reward for working out.

    I personally have lost more weight through an active lifestyle and cutting my calories than I ever did by going to the gym almost every day. By focusing on eating a healthy diet things are easier long-term because you’re already eating what you should be and you’re not depending on exercise to do the work for you. It’s not exciting in the traditional sense, but it IS exciting losing pound after pound by just eating right.

  19. You know what Pam? I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t ‘fit exercise in’. Instead, you have to fit life, work and everything else around exercise.

    I figure that I can work better, be nicer in my relationships, feel more confident, and have more to offer my family and friends if I’m a regular exerciser.

    As someone who works from home, at a computer, and whose extra-curricular interests are reading, watching DVDs and having dinner with friends, I’ve found the only way to stay slim and healthy is to schedule exercise first. My gym classes are chosen in advance and put into my diary each week. I make appointments around them – I’ve become perfectly comfortable saying I have a commitment at that time, because I do. 🙂

  20. John says:

    Less talk more action.

  21. j. says:

    One thing I saw suggested once, though I don’t remember where, was to just turn on a song and dance full out for the three minutes.

    We’re all supposed to be taking breaks from the computer every hour anyway, for our eyes and wrists, so why not take part of that break for quick exercise? When it’s time for a break, grab your iPod or turn on the radio and do something physical for 1 song- dancing or crunches, or even just plank or stretching. It’s only 3 minutes, so it isn’t a huge scheduling problem. Maybe not as much fun as classes, but much easier to fit into a super busy schedule.

  22. Judy Martin says:

    Pamela,
    Those Gwen abs did it for me. I’m going to print it out and post it on my wall. Seriously, I think it’s about small steps that eventually form good habits. It’s a commitment to be kind enough to yourself – to allow it to happen while riding the edge between discipline and not beating yourself up. I’d like to think it’s more about the mind, but the body must follow. A teacher once told me, “once you surrender to the decision, the doing becomes effortless.”

  23. Janet says:

    I do so much better if I set out my workout clothes the night before. Then I have to make a conscious choice to NOT go walking in the morning first thing. Am I *really* gonna just put those clothes back in the drawer? Then I use my power-walk time to listen to the downloaded audios I never get the time to listen to otherwise — about business growth, my own field, etc. So I get my workout in and invariably some ideas are sparked by whatever I’m listening to. I carry a little voice recorder in my pocket so the ideas don’t flit away.

  24. Deb Droz says:

    Pam, this is something i’ve worked on over the years, but especially this year. As we get older, and or overweight, our bodies cannot handle neglect as gracefully as when we are younger and/or thinner …and one of the many dangers can be pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome.

    So, here is what I did, and it can easily work for anyone trying to make healthy changes in their life. One of the things I learned in both my coaching from Martha Beck and my Wellcoaches training is to incorporate baby steps, or turtle steps – and it really works. It is what I did for myself on my new trek to staying healthy and not going down the slippery road of being unfit and overweight.

    Tell yourself that for the first week, you will work out (whatever that looks like – walk, jog, stretch – but if you can get your heart rate up, that’s best) for 10 minutes ONLY and only THREE days a week. Second week, add 5 minutes…ONLY. Your body starts to like what you are doing, which makes you feel better, which makes you more motivate to add the 5 minutes the second week. And on and on until you are up to the 30 minutes. Now this may sound slow, but in 5 short weeks, you will be exercising for 30 minutes, 3 days a week. THEN, you add days, one day each of the next 2 to 4 weeks. Your goal should be at least 5 days, but 6 is better, and if even one day off is going to lead to another day off, then your goal is 7 :).

    I have to say this worked really well for me, lost 15 to 20 pounds, and i LOVE to exercise because i feel good! Another tip is music…it helps with motivation and can keep your energy high.

    You can use this same approach to add healthy foods to your diet, or subtract not-so-healthy foods from your diet.

    In the end, you will have more energy, be more productive, and you will find you have more time! Funny how that works!

    And as a previous reader said, this is something you can try to make non-negotiable, because it really will affect your quality of life for years to come.

    • Barb says:

      I hear you, Deb. Let me add my own cautionary words to yours — each decade you carry that extra weight, it gets harder to get rid of. I’m in my mid-50’s now and it’s brutal. I’m making progress and determined to be looking the best I can by the time my son gets married next May. I’m actually working on a blog post about my journey (I’ll share it privately with Pam when it’s done).

      To honor the spirit of this request, though, here are a few ideas for those with young children and/or busy cubicle careers and side hustles.

      – If you commute to work and have decent public transportation, take the bus or train. Walk to a bus stop a couple of blocks beyond the closest one both morning and evening to get some walking in. Side benefit: time to decompress before starting and ending the day.

      – If you must commute by car, try parking somewhere that requires a good walk. I used to park on a side street about 1/2 mile from my office that required walking up a steep hill at the end of the day.

      – If your office building has several stories, use the stairs instead of the elevator. If it’s only a couple of floors, take some time at lunch to walk up and down them multiple times. Try to work up to trotting up and down them. Or take a walk at lunchtime; maybe one or more of your co-workers will join you.

      – Try to find a friend or neighbor to walk with you, either early in the morning or early evening. Making a commitment to another is a wonderful way to bolster your own commitment to exercise.

      I’m not going to tackle food, which remains *my* biggest challenge. For me, getting the exercise habit down remains my #1 fitness accomplishment this year. I feel prepared now for the next step: getting my eating in healthy shaoe!

  25. Loving the posts!

    These are a few tips that work for me:

    1. I eat at least 25-50% of my veggies raw – I make it fun, asparagus with lemon, carrots and roasted red pepper hummus….
    2. I have oatmeal for breakfast with hemp hearts, ground flax and soy milk – hard not to feel saintly after that!
    3. I don’t drink soda but I do like sparkling water with a splash of pomegranate juice – really refreshing
    4. I’m a night-time binge eater so no tasty morsels sitting in the cupboard for me (potato chips…hmmm).
    5. exercise, I convince myself to “try” 15 minutes, I never stop at that point but it remains an option. Even if I only get 30 minutes in – it all adds up.
    6. I do what I love – kayaking, yoga, hiking, taking a few extra stairs…it hardly seems like exercise.

    When I feel lazy I remind myself that health is a privilege not a right and I get up and put those running shoes and go!

  26. This has always been one of my biggest weaknesses. I have never been athletic in the traditional sense of the word, so I always came up with an excuse – which typically revolved around not having time or not being “good enough” to do something athletic. I knew the way to make it work was to come up with a reason to work out that I actually looked forward to and that didn’t require levels of coordination that I don’t have.

    About three months ago, I stumbled upon the idea of “moving mediation.” I started walking and jogging in the wee hours of the morning as a way to meditate, daydream, think, and process what was going on that day. I’m now addicted to it. If I don’t get my moving mediation time, I’m not as focused mentally for the rest of the day. While not feeling good physically is annoying and obviously negative in the long term, not feeling good mentally is something I notice immediately.

    I’ve also developed something I didn’t expect – a feeling of community as I’ve gotten familiar with the way my community wakes up. The people delivering produce to local restaurants, cleaning the streets, watering the flowers, working out like me… now these folks actually inspire me to get out there. In a warped kind of way, I feel like I’m letting my neighborhood down if I don’t do my workout.

    Caryn

  27. Stanley Lee says:

    First of all, love the messages you have been conveying on your blog for those cubicle workers over-extended and frustrated themselves despite haven’t read your book yet. Secondly, exercising shouldn’t be a habit of self-debate, but an actual habit itself. If done properly, your body should feel like trash if you skip out too much causing the negative downward spiral or momentum. I have just recently wrapped up a reading list including a section on it (search “Exercising Mistakes for Healthy Lifestyle Design” in http://blog.sysil.com/2010/09/19/bookmark-sunday-001-inaugural/ )

  28. Tina says:

    I’m totally at the age now where if i don’t work out i feel like a creaky old lady…

    I find that if something is 30 mins or less I can talk myself into doing it in the mornings. I’m a big fan of the Jillian Michaels videos – her 30 day shred is a butt kicker (20 mins workouts that make me want to cry, but in a good way.) plus her newest yoga meltdown video is great if you like yoga but want to make it more cardio-ish. I also love the 20 minutes yoga workouts here http://www.yogadownload.com/ – they have a bunch of freebies if you search for their podcast on itunes.

    Now, to get my eating in check… that is another story (and I have a craving now for blue cheese burgers thanks to ricardo 😉

  29. Sachit Gupta says:

    Continuing our conversation from Twitter; I think the key is to eat better before going overboard with exercising. Related article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/sep/19/exercise-dieting-public-health

    The key is to start out small, with any major goal. Some things that worked for me:
    – Stop drinking soda
    – Eat till I’m 80% full
    – Drink water before eating
    – Start eating healthy snacks: almonds, fruits, walnuts, salads

    Also, like many goals, sometimes you just need to get a mentor / coach.

  30. Linda Lopeke says:

    I’m an early morning exerciser (it’s a 4-hour daily rehab commitment for me as I’m recovering from numerous injuries sustained in a near fatal collision caused by an impaired driver).

    Prior to the current situation, I had a lot of *walking* meetings with people (they needed/wanted exercise too so it was a win/win). I’ve also been known to wear weight bracelets on my wrists and ankles. And I do a lot of lifts from my desk chair (good for triceps). I guess you could say I sneak things in all through the day.

    And now that I no longer have a car, I walk everywhere so that’s helped too.

  31. I started becoming very aware of how low energy and stressed I felt around this time last year. I was always someone who liked fitness, but who could hardly be called athletic. Crazy tough puking workouts were not for me. I knew I just needed to move. So, I started doing a little walking around my neighborhood. I let it be OK to not push myself to my limits (or past them). I made a conscious choice to do my workout to feel mentally better. Any weight that I lost or if I looked better was just icing on the cake. I added weight training later, which is a love, but it’s hard. There were lots of days that I didn’t want to workout. However, I found an at-home workout that I loved. The lady on the DVD would say, “Give me 5 minutes–I promise you after 5 minutes, you’ll want to keep going.” She was always right! Then, at the end, she would say, “On the days you don’t want to work out, remember how good you feel right now.” I don’t think you need to delude yourself into thinking that you need a six-pack. That takes some serious focus, priority, and discipline. If you want to feel better, find something that you like to do and carve out 15 or 20 min. I think the key is that it is good for you mentally, as well as physically. I do believe in scheduling your workouts–I even did mine at the same time everyday.

    The food thing–that takes some planning and discipline. However, I still believe that you have things in moderation. I don’t think it’s healthy to deprive yourself of food that you genuinely love, but I found that cutting back on the junk and eating more whole foods was the best thing for me. All food started to taste better because it wasn’t processed to death. I packed my lunch and tried to keep healthier snacks in my cooler (I am in sales and I drive all day–if I can do this, then anyone can!) However, if I want a Big Mack, then I get one and enjoy every damn bite!

    I think if you can keep the thought in your mind that exercise is just as good for your mind as it is for your body, then it’s easier for it to become a day to day part of your life and not just another thing that has to be done.

  32. Mike Tefft says:

    This has been a battle for me as well. Last year, I made a commitment to try to improve my weight. I basically started getting up 45 minutes early than I used to so I can squeeze in a work out while everyone else is sleeping. It helps get me moving for the day (and my energy level is increased during my day job) and puts me in a much better frame of mind. It actually was one of my only consolations when I won an involuntary separation package from my previous employer and weathered seven months of unemployment.

    I also started taking a Zumba class that my sister in law teaches as her side job 2 – 3 days a week. I feel like that’a personal commitment that I can’t get out of just because I don’t feel like it.

    I don’t know why things have suddenly clicked with me now on the exercise front…I’ve never been one for working out or running – now I run 3-4 times per week. I actually find I miss it when I oversleep and can’t fit it in that day – but I don’t beat myself up about it – I just redouble my efforts to get up the next day. I think for it to really take hold, you have to come to want it – it can’t be forced.

    I can vouch for what happens when you don’t take care of yourself. In a previous stint at self employment, I was working constantly from like 7 in the morning until 1 AM…doing that for a couple of weeks landed me a case of pneumonia and then I lost weeks where I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything.

  33. Alexis Neely says:

    It’s key to make it a daily discipline; it simply doesn’t happen otherwise. @Elana is right, it has to be a spiritual practice.

    And find what really works for you and you can do quickly. I LOVE CrossFit because it’s 15-20 minutes, intense activity and then I’m done for the day.

    Alexis

  34. Ugh. It’s SUCH a struggle, isn’t it? I have 3 kids under 10 years old plus my business plus running the household plus…well, you get the picture.

    I start and stop and restart and stop again. I was eating really healthy meals over the summer and feeling GREAT. Now I’ve slumped back into unhealthy crap eating and not eating at all.

    Andrea – I ate half a bag of Frito Big Scoops for lunch today. You’re not alone. 😉

    Here’s an easy way to get started on banishing blogger’s butt: http://www.themogulmom.com/2010/05/fitflops/

    And yes, they really DO work. 😀

    Heather

    • Pamela says:

      I am so with you Heather — I am not kidding that I had potato chips and dip last night for dinner.

      I say give yourself a break for falling off the wagon, and try one small thing to get back on. The important thing is that most of the year you have good habits.

      At least that is what I tell myself! 🙂

  35. I set really small minimum goals for myself–ones that I know I can meet without stressing out too much & ones that I know I can keep meeting on all but the busiest of days. Once I get rollin’ on those, I tend to go way over and above my “minimums,” but having those minimums in place ensures that I won’t beat myself up, get discouraged & quit my efforts completely if I can only do the minimum every now and again. If I set BIG goals as my “requirements,” I’m way too likely to give up on them the first time a busy day throws my goals off-kilter. I’d rather have small minimums that I regularly meet and exceed, than have HUGE minimums that I only meet every now & then.

    I’ve also been using Health Month to keep me accountable to myself & motivated. Great site.

    And finally, the biggie for me: I made it easy on myself. First, I work out from home. If I had to go to a gym, there is no way I’d work out with any regularity. Even if the gym’s only 5 minutes from my house, I won’t do it. I know that about myself so I work with it instead of against it. Second, I do workouts I really like. “Forcing” myself into a workout only ensures I’ll come up with a dozen good reasons to skip it on a regular basis!

    Also, Gwen Stefani is just so flippin’ cool.

    • Pamela says:

      I love the small minimums idea! Especially things you can do at home.

      I learned from past experience that I am much better in a group class setting — at home, I get too distracted by Law & Order or other such things when given a window of time to exercise.

      I think the key is to match your preferred motivating environment with your routine.

      And yes, I want to be Gwen Stefani in my next life. 🙂

  36. andrea says:

    oh i am so with you!!!

    i keep remdinding myself so exercise gets energy moving which inspires me and actually nurtures my energy and i end up being able to do MORE when i have taken that time to exercise.

    what i am trying to focus on this week is healthy eating. making meal plans, and then grocery lists. because right now i just rush to the grocery store when there is no food left in the house, i get there and my mind cannot focus on what i need because it is focused on the gazillion things i have to do. so i just wander around and buy what looks good and this is really not working for me – i eat potato chips for dinner a lot 🙁

    i am noticing how eating unhealthy may be faster but it actually takes time away from my work because, like when i’m not exercising, i have less energy.

    • Pamela says:

      This is a huge one for me too Andrea! When I plan meals and shopping on the weekend, it makes everything easier.

      I also checked out the cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry’s wife, I think that’s her name) which has you prepare cooked veggies to freeze and then add to food throughout the week. My awesome babysitter did a bunch of veggie prep on a Monday, so it is much easier to cook healthily now.

      The next frontier is packing a good lunch and snacks for the office so I don’t rely on Starbucks’ oatmeal and protein plates. 🙂

  37. elana carter says:

    Weigh-in, seriously, I’m rolling on the floor laughing 🙂

    Can you make it part of your non-negotiables? Like brushing your teeth. You just do it everyday.

    Launching a business has been very stressful. The one constant has been training. So many things are out of my control. But this I can do. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. If it was a rough day, I can say well, I showed up and I got a training session in.

    My mornings are almost like a spiritual practice:
    wake-up
    make bed
    2 cups of water
    brush teeth
    housework (15 mins/day. everything’s been cleaned at least once by the end of the week)
    go train (I’m middle aged, but in my deranged mind I’m an athlete. Athletes train, so I train)
    shower&dress
    prayer&meditation
    eat

    Then I’m ready to face the day.

    • Pamela says:

      What an awesome routine Elana! I love it.

      I make excuses for morning since I have the kids (they get up at 4:30 or 5:00 am, so any earlier is tough for me), but I can make exercise part of the evening routine.

      I love how you mix exercise and then prayer and meditation. No wonder you kick ass at work! 🙂

  38. I spend a lot of time on-the-go which means I tend to eat out a lot. One time at a conference I noticed that everyone ordered a salad whilst I ordered a blue-cheese burger (and damn it was goooood). But, it was a habit I needed to break if I wanted to stay and feel healthy. Since then I started ordering more salads, drinking less soda (though I suppose I’ve replaced it with Redbull so that’s no good), and I drink lots of water.

    Then, there’s a local community group that goes hiking on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They do different trails so they’re at different difficulty levels. I may not go to the gym every day but I’ve made a commitment to going hiking with them on those days. They go from 7 – 9pm.

    Both of these I considered small commitments but they’ve helped in such a big way!

    • Pamela says:

      Oh man Ricardo, those blue cheese burgers get me too.

      I love the idea of a community hike — that’s a great idea. Ways to mix socializing and exercise (plus cruising in nature, which is awesome to relax the brain) is a great idea.

      Keep up the great work!

  39. Kade Dworkin says:

    One of the smallest things that I’ve done in the last year that has made a huge difference for me was to buy a FitBit and set my browser’s homepage to my account. When I saw how low my step count was every time I opened a new browser tab I immediately started making changes which also seemed to help my side hustle and job.

    By going for a walk after dinner of at least three miles (about an hour) I hit an inspiration zone where I would get really creative and could tackle a lot of different problems for both businesses. I used the first hour where I had to just walk to get to that flow zone to prioritize emails, fire off quick responses and manage my action list through my smart phone. By doing the menial work while exercising I felt better about working when I get home.

    Time in front of my laptop is now for actually doing work, not managing what to work on, which makes my nightly walks an absolute necessity both for my health and my workflow both for the jobby job and the side hustle.

  40. Erik Proulx says:

    So, I know my reply was all about problems and not about solutions. Sorry ’bout that. Clearly, I can’t wait to hear what your other readers have to say!

    • Pamela says:

      Really dude, how about some solutions?

      Hah — I totally get what you are talking about. It may be a good idea for you to get some kind of a travel routine going where you do a certain kind of exercise when on the road that is not too intense, but keeps things going.

      And sometimes it is great to have some great high-calorie food, as long as it is in moderation.

      I will look to my smart readers for more tips.

  41. Erik Proulx says:

    It’s a constant struggle. I get in a good rhythm, then I travel for work. And there’s pastries and late nights and maybe a couple of high-calorie, hi-alcohol beers. And there goes my exercise routine.

    For me, it’s not so much about weight. It’s about my mental and emotional happiness (or lack thereof) that results from too much work and not enough physical activity.

    They say it takes three weeks to form a habit. That may be true, but when it comes to the habit of exercise, it only takes three days to break it.

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