Attempting to balance your hectic life and maintain an effective exercise program can be daunting. Mindless hours on the treadmill. A session of profuse sweating in kickboxing. All followed up by rigorous strength-training. Yeah, you get the picture. Do you have to be a “gym rat” to get results? Is two hours of exercise the minimum requirement to reach your goals? Being allotted a maximum of 24 hours per day, you must learn how to prioritize your life to become a well-balanced individual with some form of physical movement in your days. If you're a busy parent—or Smom—like me, you want the most bang for that exercise buck.
Here are my five simple tips for the non-gym rat:
Designate a time.
This is essential if you are hoping to get in shape for life. Everyone follows a schedule, whether you realize it or not. The secret is to arrange your schedule in the most productive manner for YOU. If you are energetic in the mornings, choose to start your day with a few minutes of calisthenics, a brisk walk or some body-weight exercises. Add 10 minutes to your morning or evening routine daily.
Maximize your workouts.
You may believe you have to spend at least an hour (or two) exercising to improve your health. It's not true. My favorite workout length is always less than an hour. One technique of personal trainers and professional athletes is to perform as many exercises as possible within a limited time span and always use "big" movements. For instance, after you complete a set of squats, immediately do a set of burpees. By alternating between muscle groups instead of resting, you can shave that 45-minute workout to less than 30 minutes. Your metabolism will also be revved for the rest of the day.
Prepare ahead of time.
If you work out at the gym, make sure that your gym bag is packed the night prior to your workout. Pull together any clothes, gym equipment, and post-workout snacks. You will then be equipped to head to the gym, the park, or the running trails before/after work. If you work out at home, just set out your exercise gear on your nightstand. Preparation is key to a fulfilling life.
Minor activity for major results.
When do you have a few extra minutes during your day? While sitting at your desk, you can even take some short breaks to do chair stretches, stand up and do a quick yoga stretch or take a brisk walk around your workplace before eating lunch. Instead of taking the elevator, use the stairs. Park a distance from the entrance to the grocery store. There are many little steps you can take towards improving your fitness. Just think about little extra movements—even fidgeting—that will keep you moving and changing up your body's alignment throughout the day.
Effective eating for energy.
Ensure that you eat enough food throughout the day according to a diet that works well for you. This will take some planning, as you will most likely need to pack your snacks and lunch before you leave for work. I've tried every diet from Raw Vegan to Low Fat High Carb to the Zone Diet to Intuitive Eating to Atkins to the Bulletproof Diet to my current Carb Nite™ protocol. They each have their pros and cons, and it all depends on your nutrient status, your stress levels and your goals. For most people, a good balance of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, and fruits/vegetables makes them feel their best. Avoid that afternoon slump, as you keep your energy levels high all day. Experiment until you find a way of eating that works for you right now. When it stops working for you, don't be afraid to try a different eating plan.
I hope these five tips were helpful, and they're just the first steps to take towards designing your unique healthy, active lifestyle. Sit down with your schedule and make the necessary adjustments and make each effort count towards your ultimate fitness aspirations.
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