On Finding Time and Making Exercise Happen

September 13, 2011 in Fitness, Health, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Have you ever told someone that you don’t have time to do something that they suggested you do? I remember telling my daughters that I didn’t have time to do scrapbooking; now that I think about it, I guess that I did have the time. I think we quickly scan our lives and, often in a flash, realize that something else will have to be ‘booted’ out in order to do something new. It’s like prioritizing in an instant. We quickly think, “Is there anything in my life that I would replace with a new activity?” “What do I value the most?” is a question that we ask ourselves when we decide to do something or to not do something – although it may be a subconscious question.

I think that just about everyone knows that regular exercise can provide huge benefits, like lowering blood pressure, regulating blood sugar levels, reducing the chances of developing diabetes and heart disease, maintain healthy muscles, bones and joints, and slowing the effects of aging. And it’s not just our physical bodies that can benefit, but also our mood, management of anxiety and depression, and support for a sharp mind and memory and warding off dementia.

When I read the statistics of how many people are not getting in the CDC recommended physical activity, it made me think, “I’ve been there and remember being there. I remember feeling that I didn’t have time. I remember being inactive for weeks in a row.” Then I wondered if sharing the evolution of my thinking regarding exercise would help someone who wants to do it, but hasn’t worked it out consistently.

Thinking back – I believe that one of the essential steps in becoming ‘converted’ to regular exercise, was a simple realization that it was critical to health. I even remember saying when teaching weight management classes, “We don’t rationalize away brushing our teeth, because a picture of being toothless flashes before our eyes and we grab the toothbrush and begin brushing.” But we know that if we don’t exercise today, it really is not going to be a 10 pound weight gain, diabetes, or a heart attack as soon as tomorrow. So it’s easy to let it slip; before you know it, it has ‘slipped’ for days, maybe weeks or months. This is a familiar story for most of us.  I have certainly been there in past years. Getting our thinking committed to our physical activity goal is a very important step. It’s going to be difficult to make it a priority, if we don’t really embrace it as absolutely necessary.

Making Exercise a Priority

You may want to start by asking yourself some questions?

  • Is exercise on my list of priorities?
  • Am I waiting for better weather (warmer or cooler, less humidity)?
  • For the baby to grow up?
  • To graduate from school?
  • To get a job or end a job?
  • Waiting for space on the schedule/calendar?
  • Till things calm down?
  • Waiting to find something that doesn’t sound boring, exercise that you will love.
  • For life to be less busy/stressful?

The fact is that life is not going to slow down – at least for me that has never happened. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I can hardly wait to exercise!” We have to start somewhere, and making the decision that ‘This is it, I’m going to do it.” May be the hardest part of beginning a new routine, a new habit. The funny thing is that when the decision-making phase is behind us, it takes away a huge barrier and a huge load of negative energy. We find the time (not always easily) but it happens, when we believe it is important to us. We need to realize that now is the time to start. So let me see if I can help you find the time, commit yourself and make the exercise actually happen. Excuses can be given up; it doesn’t matter how grudgingly it happens. Begin thinking, “How can I make this happen?” and let go of the excuses, like, “I don’t have time.”

I think one of the biggest problems is time – finding time to do exercise. It’s not just how much time we have, but how much time we think we have.

One of the most interesting bits of research that fitness experts have determined is that people don’t need to do their exercise in long periods of time or to do really tough workouts.  Realizing that exercise can be done in 10 or 15-minute blocks during the day can make it possible to wedge in a little exercise here and there. Some moms are dropping their children off for team practice or music lessons and using the time that they would drive back home to walk around the block, building or field.

Finding or Making the Time – Hints on Being Creative

  • The first one that I remember is counting walking across a very large California University campus. It’s walking no matter where you’re walking.
  • Use the stairs to go to the restroom, even if there’s one on the same floor as your office. Take the stairs to meetings. If that’s too much, how about just doing a few flights, going and coming from the meeting?
  • Some people have resistance bands at their desks and do some strength training when they have a little break.
  • I used to tell myself that if I didn’t exercise in the morning, I couldn’t do it at all; so I’d get up at 4:30AM and get onto the Nordic Track, in order to make it to the Moorpark train station by 6:30. I’ve now learned that I feel better if I exercise each day – regardless of the time. The new way of thinking also ends an ‘escape clause’ if the day ran away with itself.
  • Hopefully, you don’t need to get up at 4:30 AM (an inhuman hour); but setting your alarm just 30 minutes earlier than you usually get up; walk around the neighborhood or on the treadmill – what a great start to the day.
  • If you have TV time, maybe you can watch while riding a stationary bike, walking on a treadmill, get a block or machine for stair-stepping, using hand weights, running in place, push ups, squats, stretching and body mechanics routines. Equipment can be inexpensive: milk jugs partially filled with water or sand; elastic tubing to make inexpensive resistance bands.
  • If you ride a bus or train, get off a little early and walk part way. Or if it is possible, how about a bike ride?
  • Some employees have started lunchtime walking groups.
  • Parking at the farthest spot in the lot, maybe even a block away, can help turn shopping into a little exercise.
  • If you have little ones, the stroller seems to be fairly popular. Also, you may want to consider exercise videos, dance aerobics, cardio-kickboxing, tai chi, or an activity-oriented video game. You may be able to have a variety by borrowing them from your local library or trading with a friend.
  • Make a picnic lunch and play a game of kickball or tag.
  • Make regular chores count: Mow the lawn with a push mower; rake the leaves; weed the garden quickly; scrub the floor – fast; clean the house with vigor.

Planning and Scheduling

  • I like to start with an idea that our family physician suggested. He says, “You only need to exercise on the days that you eat. I admit, I fairly frequently skip Sunday exercise, despite eating that day, but it is the only day I don’t feel guilty if I pass on physical activity. Just consider walking around the yard, gathering flowers to make a bouquet, delivering the bouquet to the nursing home and walking to church. That’s not much moving, but I cut myself some slack on Sunday.
  • Plan, from the beginning of the day, what you will do for exercise and when you will do it. Put it on the calendar to make the time safe as possible from intrusion.
  • Planning the exercise schedule is critical in busy lives. Sometimes it needs to be adjusted, but don’t let it be an option to eliminate it. On date night, Vic and I have frequently scheduled to start our date earlier, to accommodate a walk on the path next to the Provo River near our home. It’s fun to share, talk and get our exercise in such beauty.
  • Have your gym clothes and shoes with you. Pack clothes the night before and put near your case or purse, so you won’t forget to take them.
  • If you have walking shoes in your car, you can always turn a delay into an exercise opportunity.

Making It More Fun

  • Having an ‘exercise buddy’ can not only make it more fun, but, in addition, can help with motivation. For many years, I would not go to the gym; but when Vic and I started going together, it motivated me to go – I wouldn’t want to break a commitment to him (it is much easier to break it to myself).

If I tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I really didn’t like going to the gym, even with Vic. One thing that helped was going to a gym that was not designed as a meeting place for the twenty-somethings. Let’s face it, even if we’re fairly fit, we don’t look twenty-something forever. I remember telling Vic several times: when it comes to going to the gym, I feel like a cat who is about to get a bath – all fours on the door jams. Funny thing – persistence – after years, I lost the reluctance. I will admit, it really did take me years for the reluctant feelings to go away. I knew that my tiny bones have to do the weight lifting and resistance training to stay as healthy as possible. The other thing that I noticed over the years, is that on the very most difficult days, I’d always walk out saying, “I did it!” That feeling of disciplining myself to do it (plus an increase in endorphins) was quite a motivator. Now, I don’t really have days that I feel any great degree of resistance. I’ve also learned, over the years, that I can trust myself when I make a commitment. Trusting oneself with commitments can spill over into eating also, which is an added bonus.

  • I remember when I first started with the gym, some ten or so years ago. The ab machine was my least favorite. To do the two sets of 15 sit-ups was so very difficult. Now I do two sets of 100, twice a week – it’s not really difficult. I like the feeling of conquering/overcoming the challenges; making positive progress with my body. It feels good! I’m not competing with anyone, but improving myself.
  • Mary Ireland makes it fun by walking/hiking with her dogs. She even takes neighbor dogs.
  • Vic and I are working on taking days off. We were so successful this past week; we took Labor Day to go to Thanksgiving Point. Our day off at Thanksgiving Point wasn’t much of a cardiovascular workout, but we did walk up the hills and down dells. We strolled and stopped and looked at the eye candy (the most amazing flowers) during the 5 hours that we were there. Also we ate lunch – so that hour was just using our jaws. Fun, fun, fun – build some activity into your day off; it can be fun.
  • For the past 2 or 3 years, our youngest daughter, Heather (who completed an ironman this summer), has made it a new tradition to go to Stewart Falls at Sundance and have a family hike with her two children and the two of us. It’s part of her Father’s Day gift to Vic, but it’s really a gift to all of us. It takes hours, but it’s so nice to have fun while exercising and enjoying nature together.
  • Join a team: soccer, baseball, volleyball; some parks and recreation departments have them just waiting for you to join. You won’t let your team down – so it spells – motivation.
  • Take a dance or golf class, or a join a hiking group.
  • Why not consider a bike ride (maybe even a tandem), a hike or a trip to the community pool as a family activity. Maybe one fewer movies.
  • Vic and I have had a lot of fun walking around our community. It’s interesting how much you don’t notice when you drive through the community. You can even get ideas for the garden, while you’re breathing fresh air and moving your body.
  • How long has it been since you’ve been to the zoo? The botanical gardens? The museum?
  • How about a little walk after dinner? Play catch in the back yard?

Just doing it, that’s what forms the habit. Robin, who works with us at Dr. Grandma’s, always says, “Twenty-one days, that’s what it takes to make something a habit.”

It may take some grit and determination to get started. Sometimes the habit of inactivity saps your energy. It’s a vicious cycle – no exercise, often equals no energy. So it may take some “mind over matter” to create a new energy cycle. If you stick with it, you will no longer feel worn out after exercise, but actually feel more energized.

You will be so pleased when you ‘find/make’ the time to fit exercise into your life. Exercising has the potential for a happier, healthier and fuller life. If you already have an exercise program, no matter how modest, built upon it with continuous small improvements. If not, commit to taking the first step, and make that commitment today!