You mean to start exercising. Really. But then the inevitable occurs: your boss moves up that already impossible deadline, your daughter gets the flu or you begin to feel the rumblings of a crippling migraine. It often seems that life does everything possible to throw our best health-conscious intentions off track.
The trick, says exercise physiologist and ACE personal trainer and spokesperson Alice Burron, is to embrace the chaos.
Even as a fitness professional, Burron, a mother of four, finds herself constantly juggling her family’s needs with her desire to stay active. “I’m always inundated with last-minute family requests, what I refer to as ‘the Mothership calling me again,’ and have to strategically place my exercise throughout the day.”
Although she makes her living staying fit, she’s often desk-bound when writing or doing administrative tasks for her business, 2BFit. Her office solution? Constant reminders to keep moving. “My office is hilarious,” she says. “There’s a hula hoop in the corner, an iPod player for zumba practice _ even a mini trampoline.”
This doesn’t mean she’s carrying a full weight set with her everywhere, but she does embrace a range of fitness gear to track what she calls her “out of chair” time. She suggests using a pedometer to keep track of the distance you walk, noting some of the newer gadgets automatically upload the stats to your computer. “Seeing how small, frequent amounts of activity add up can motivate you to continue moving,” she says. It’s also a reminder to give yourself some credit in this increasingly sedentary world.
Even just standing or sitting with good posture is a start. “Standing takes work. It engages all of the muscles in the spine,” Barron says. The key is to engage your core and be aware of posture, which burns calories since the muscles are firing all the time. For individuals who sit most of the day, Burron suggests trying a stability ball as a desk chair or even a standing desk. Just remember to give your body time to transition. Start with a few minutes a day and ease into it. If giving up your desk chair isn’t an option, consider setting a timer for yourself each hour and performing some small exercise such as one-legged pickups or swimmer kicks.
Fredina Usher-Weems, lifestyle fitness program manager at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, clarifies that you can’t achieve optimal health just by standing for a few minutes a day; you have to perform activities that raise your heart rate. “There has to be some intensity,” she says. “But we want to focus on incremental improvement: Look at where you’re at, accept that, and be thankful for the small changes you can make.”
So if you’re currently more familiar with the couch than a treadmill, consider a lower-impact exercise like walking to give yourself time to adjust. “Low-impact exercises aren’t just for senior citizens. There’s pilates, and what I call the ‘green gym’: gardening,” Usher-Weems adds. Even heavy cleaning can burn calories. She suggests pumping up the music to energize yourself and exaggerating your movements to get a bigger burn.
For parents with young children, finding time to exercise can be especially difficult. Usher-Weems suggests integrating the family into your workouts. Ever tried a relay game in the morning? Or perhaps a game of musical chairs? “There’s so many activities you can do as a family; you have to be a little creative,” she says.
Burron considers such activities essential to her fitness regime, allowing her to have quality family time while staying fit. “There’s this unique bonding experience that happens when you exercise with your kids,” she says. “It’s also a good solution for busy parents who wish they could spend more time with their children.” She uses a variety of activities to keep her kids engaged, everything from building an impromptu obstacle course in the house to running a low-stakes outdoor race.
For Burron, sticking with a routine is all about finding what’s fun and convenient, which shows that the secret to staying fit might be easier than you think. (Fancy gym memberships and personal trainers not required.)