What to do when you don’t have time to workout

Even the most dedicated gym junkies can have days where they are just flat out and can’t make it to the gym. That’s OK! No one is ever going to get their routine perfect 100% of the time. Period. However, even on those days where you’re stuck in the car or in back-to-back meetings, there is a lot to be said for getting a little movement in. So what can you do on those days where your calendar simply doesn’t allow for your 3 mile run?

1. Stretch it out

If you’re spending a lot of time behind the wheel or at your desk, some stretching will go a long way to help you feel better, keep your muscles limber, and get you a little more energized. Try opening up your chest to counter hunching by clasping your hands behind your back and pressing them away from you. Stretch out those hamstrings by extending your legs and reaching for your toes (you’ll get a little lower back release as well!). Or try a seated twist to give your spine some lovin’. Here are a few more examples of exercises you can do at your desk. 

2. Find the opportunities for movement that you can

Every little bit helps, so find those opportunities to get your blood flowing when you can, even if it’s just little things. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Try parking a little further than usual to get a little bit of a walk in. Or set a reminder to get up and take a quick spin around your office every hour or so. This will give you a few extra moments to recharge and re-energize.

3. Work your legs

If you have a little bit of time for a workout but aren’t sure what to do, working your legs will help you get maximum burn for what little time you have. Your legs contain one of the biggest muscle groups in your body and bigger muscles mean more calories burned because it takes more to move them. Working some squats, lunges, and resistance band exercises will get those legs moving and those calories burning.

Getting even a little bit of movement in will help you de-stress, feel better, and have better energy. It will also help counteract some of what sitting all day can do to our bodies. So move when you can and don’t stress about your missed workout.

Don’t Do These Things

Don’t – Try to compensate by eating too little

Skipping a meal or two to compensate for a missed workout is not going to achieve any good. If anything, it will leave you cranky, tired, and less able to recover from your regular workouts. Yes, you do not need to consume as many calories on days when you’re not working out. So be mindful and pay attention to your hunger cues instead of trying to overcompensate. Eat healthful foods when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied. I can promise you that the impact of one skipped workout is not as drastic as you may worry it is.

Don’t – Try to make up for it with an excessive workout the next day

This just isn’t how our bodies work. You can’t make up for a missed workout by pushing yourself too hard the next day. All that’s likely to get you is injured or too sore to workout the next time. Just pick back up where you left off.

Don’t – Beat yourself up about it

Like I said before, no one will ever get their routine perfect 100% of the time. We are human and life happens. Be gentle with yourself and don’t let this missed workout derail your efforts. Just assure yourself that you’re getting a break today and you will get back into your routine tomorrow. The wonderful thing is, you can always start back on your routine. 

Coping with an Injury

Back in February, I took a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. Being rather clumsy, I thought “wow, that really sucked,” made sure no one saw it, and tried to stand up, only to be met with the worst searing pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I truly thought that at the ripe old age of 31 I had broken my hip. I used the snow and slush I was stuck seated in as an ice pack while I waited for my fiance to come home from work (fortunately closeby) and pick me up off the ground and get me to the hospital (sorry, to stubborn to pay for an ambulance).

Long story short, I spent several days mostly immobile followed by almost 2 weeks out of work. I had a lot of time to sit and think…about how much this sucked, about how useless I felt, about how I didn’t know how long it would take to get better, about what the loss of my income would mean for us, about all the progress I had made in fitness that was being undone seemingly with every hour I laid on the couch. Your mind goes to some dark places when you’re laid up and home alone with a cat who runs away when she so much as thinks you’re about to cry.

This was a depressing time for me. For someone who relied so heavily on their fitness to make a living – to teach barre, to visit health coaching clients, to wait tables part time – I had to recognize how quickly and easily all of that could be taken away.  Not to mention that my major source of stress relief, exercise, was not an option.

Don’t get me wrong, I was very, very lucky because I could have been must worse off. Nonetheless, this was a challenge for me and I know there are others out there with even bigger obstacles. So I wanted to share some of my tips for getting through situation like this.

8 Tips for Coping with an Injury

1. Ask for help

I don’t mean just with your physical limitations. Have someone you can call when you’re wrapped up in those dark thoughts. Better yet, have a couple different people. Sometimes it helps to have someone outside your family give you the pep talk. I’m so happy that my mother was around that week and could come to my house to keep me company. And one night when I was really wallowing in self-pity and I didn’t want to trouble my fiance with it again, I had a great call with my best friend. Having a support network is key.

2. Focus on what you can do

It is literally too easy to focus on all of your limitations when you’re on the injured list. As corny as it sounds, try to refocus your thoughts on the things you CAN do. Even better, write them down so you have that concrete reminder. I couldn’t go to work, but I could hobble my butt to my desk and get it organized. And, later on, I couldn’t demo the exercises in my barre class, but I could do a damn good job describing every exercise to my students in detail so they could do them (PS thank you to all my students for being to supportive and bearing with me through that!).

3. Keep an eye on your progress

Celebrating the little victories was key for my motivation and spirit. I walked around the house without crutches! I didn’t take a muscle relaxer today! I figured out how to stand up without triggering an excruciating spasm! These were all mini victories that I proudly proclaimed to my fiance every night like a toddler who just went potty for the first time. Instead of dwelling on how down and out you are, look for those little victories and celebrate them.

4. Don’t be discouraged by ups and downs

At the same time, know that progress isn’t linear. You are going to have a couple great days and then one day that feels like a huge step back. It’s normal and it’s still part of your overall forward progression. Take it in stride, listen to your body, and stay focused on your goals.

5. Find some outlets for your stress

Got a hobby you’ve been wanting to pick back up? Or maybe a new one you’ve been wanting to try? Or maybe, like me, you realized you hate where all of your pictures and art work are hanging and want to completely rearrange them. Whatever it is, find something that you can do to keep your mind occupied release some stress.

6. Keep it in perspective

I don’t have a real statistic to back this up but I would say from my own experience that 9 times out of 10, there is some way that whatever is going on could be worse. And sometimes the only way to calm those voices in your head is to to remind yourself that you are grateful it wasn’t worse. There were many times when I had to say to myself “at least it wasn’t broken. Be grateful you still have both legs. You could have hit your head but you didn’t.” Kind of dark, yes, but it did help me realize that I had a shorter road to go than I felt like I did.

7. Feel the gratitude

For every little thing that someone does to be helpful or supportive, really take a moment to think about it and feel genuinely grateful for their help. You might be out of work and have no money coming in, but you’ll feel much richer just by taking 5 minutes to really feel thankful for that phone call from your best friend, or the dinner your neighbor dropped off, or that hug from your significant other when you were having an irrational meltdown… again.

8. Take care of yourself in the ways that you can

Exercising was out for several weeks, and I knew that. And as much as I wanted to smother my sorrows in a bottle of wine and a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, I didn’t. Well, I had a little bit, but not the whole bottle or the whole bag. I knew my body needed my support to heal fast and I had every reason to want to heal faster, so I did all I could in my power to help it. I focused on good nutrition and hydration, I got plenty of rest, and, as soon as I was able to, I started with chiropractics and physical therapy.

When all was said and done, I “graduated” from physical therapy 7 weeks after my fall and I’m able to run and teach barre again. Still doing some strengthening exercises on that side and I need to be careful I don’t go too crazy, but I’m beyond happy to be back at it again.

Why #noexcuses is not healthy

Knowing that I’m opening myself up to criticism here, I’m going to share something with you. Back in August, I completely stopped working out and didn’t start back up again for about 3 months. At first, it just kind of happened, – I would skip a fitness class here or there. But then I made a conscious decision and said “I have too much going on right now. I’m going to stop working out for a bit.” At the time, to say that I had a lot going on would have been a massive understatement. I was barely keeping my head above water and I knew that what little time I had I needed for rest… at least for the time being. Long story short, I only started putting together a regular workout schedule again nearly 3 months later.

I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it.

I hid this fact about me and I felt embarrassed about it and even ashamed of it. Who would want to work with a health coach who wasn’t even forcing herself to work out? The more I thought about it, though, I realized I would want to work with that coach because they’re a real person, too. I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it. So I’m OK with my decision and with my struggle to get back into it.

One thing I noticed while I was making that decision not to work out is that I was literally being bombarded by an Instagram feed full of gym pics and #noexcuses. And if I logged into Pinterest, it would have been the same thing. I realized that I really freakin hate that hashtag and I’ll tell you why.

To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not.

#noexcuses is part of that fitness extremism known as fitspo or fitspiration – pictures of thigh gaps, gym selfies, and fad diet miracle before-and-afters. In general, this trend creates a constant striving for largely unattainable physical perfection characterized by extreme behaviors and unhealthy habits. The focus is entirely on looks. It engenders self-hatred and depression because it pushes constant comparison to others. What makes #noexcuses even more destructive as part of this paradigm is that it is based on blame and inferiority. To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. #noexcuses also implies that whatever reason you have to skip your workout is unimportant, insignificant, so just get over it. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not. #noexcuses is the stuff unhealthy body image and disordered eating and exercise habits are made out of.

Life is not all black and white. Fitness doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s not that either you work out every day or you’re lazy. That’s just not how it works, regardless of what the #noexcuses crowd would have you believe.

Your body needs rest just as much as it needs movement. Obviously, there is a difference between a reason and an excuse. That I’m mentally and physically exhausted and I don’t have the time are reasons. That I can’t find a hair elastic is an excuse. But on the days when you need a rest, take a rest and don’t feel guilty about it. When you don’t have time, don’t make yourself crazy trying to find time. Sometimes, it’s just that simple – there is no time.

Here is the truth. No one is perfect and even those #noexcuses people skip their workouts. They also drink beer and eat pizza. But they don’t tell you that because they need you to believe that they are perfect. Maybe some of them are good-intentioned and hope that their perfect image will somehow motivate someone. And I’m sure there are some folks out there who do find it motivating. But, in reality, it’s likely that it’s making more people feel like garbage.

There are excuses, there are reasons, there are needs. What is more important than hitting the gym without exception is listening to your body and what it needs. What’s important is that when you get out of your workout habit, you find a way to get back into it. That right there is often the hardest part. And that’s OK and that’s normal. You are not defective if you struggle to get back to the gym. You and your body are capable of amazing things. Listen to your body. Take what you need. Do what you need. And don’t let the Internet dictate your worth.

Why Do I Get Sick When I Start a New Workout Routine?

Does it seem like every time you try to start a new exercise routine you get sick and end up having to start all over again? You’re not alone and this is an actual thing – it’s not just your body betraying you, though it may seem like it.

So let’s look at what’s going on when this happens and the steps you can take to stop it from happening to you next time.

Stress on Your Body

While exercise is really good for your body, it’s important to remember that it is also a stressor on your body, especially if it’s different or more vigorous than you’re used to. That stress on your body can temporarily run down your immune system, making you more susceptible to germs and viruses. It’s similar to how your immune system can get run down if you’re lacking in sleep for too long. One way of thinking of it is that your body only has so many resources to allocate. If it needs to move more of them to exertion and healing/recovery from a workout, there are less resources to allocate to your immune system. So if you combine a new, intense workout routine with lack of sleep or exposure to a lot of pathogens, then something has to give and sometimes it’s in the immune system department.

Gyms are a Germ Pit

I’m not being dramatic- they are a germ pit. Unfortunately, civilized human beings who actually thoroughly wipe down the equipment they use when they’re done are few and far between, so you’re sharing whatever they left on the treadmill before you. Free weights in particular are the dirtiest piece of gym equipment. In fact, one study found that free weights contain more than 300 times the germs found on a toilet seat. Sorry, but you needed to know. It makes sense when you think about it – how many times have you seen someone actually wipe down the weights before they re-rack them? Exactly. Never.

Your fitness classes are also guilty of being germy places. Yoga mats in particular are fantastic incubators for a number of infection-causing bacteria. And, just as at the gym, you can’t count on your neighbor wiping down her equipment as diligently as you do.

Add to this germy mix a rundown immune system and you have a perfect equation for a fitness de-railing illness.

Getting Enough Rest

For many of us, early mornings are the only times we can fit a workout into our busy schedules. Getting enough sleep is critical to all the basic functions of your body, including your immune system and healing. If you are just starting out with a 4 or 5 am alarm to get your workout in, that adjustment period can make you more vulnerable to getting sick if your body is accustomed to getting more sleep and, therefore, more time to recover and rebuild. Making sure that you are getting enough sleep each night when you begin cutting into that morning snooze, is important.

So what can you do to end the vicious exercise-sickness-exercise cycle?

Tips for Keeping Healthy

  • Wipe down your equipment BEFORE and after use.
  • Avoid touching your face until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
  • Bring your own towel – some gyms transport their dirty and clean towels in the same bin, thereby recontaminating the clean towels with bacteria.
  • Try to make sure you wipe your face with the side of the towel that hasn’t touched the equipment – you can do this by putting a mark on one side of your towel or using a towel that has a pattern on one side.
  • Ease into your new workouts instead of running headlong in so it’s less of a strain on your body. You can do this by taking more modifications in your first class or starting your runs shorter or at a slower pace, for example.
  • Do what you can to support your immune system – drink lots of water, take your vitamins, get enough rest, and eat lots of fruits and veggies for those phytonutrients.
  • Make sure you are fueling your body. Eat healthful, whole foods rather than overprocessed, prepackaged foods lacking in nutrition. I like to say “eat the rainbow” – the more different, vibrant colors you’re consuming in fresh fruit and vegetables, the greater the variety and concentration of nutrients you’re getting.

My Routine

I’m a fairly fit person, but I’ve dealt with the struggle of starting a new exercise regimen and getting sick immediately many times. Most recently, I tried a new HIIT class which is very different from what I’m used to and I got majorly sick within a couple days. So I have developed a new routine to avoid that.

Hydration. Not only do I make sure to drink water while I’m working out, I make sure to refill my water bottle before I leave and continue to drink it on my way home with the goal of replenishing fluids and then some.

Hand Washing. I try to be mindful about not touching my face during my workout and I wash my hands in the locker room before I leave. I also wash them again when I get home even if I’m going to shower right away (Confession: I usually eat before showering #priorities).

Immune System Support: I’m a dedicated vitamin-taker.

Rest. I’m an early to bed person. I have always needed a lot of sleep and that hasn’t changed with age so I listen to my body for bedtime.

Restore. I don’t go right back to it the next day. I give my body a break by doing something lighter that will still get my blood pumping, like a long walk or yoga. Then I’m giving my body some chance to recuperate while stimulating the lining of my blood vessels, the endothelium, which releases its own natural “medicine” to help me continue to recover.

Once you’ve gotten over this hurdle, be sure to check out my tips for keeping yourself motivated to workout so you can keep up the good work!

10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Motivated to Work Out

We all lead very busy lives and it can be all too easy to find a reason to skip the gym for the day. I think we have all been in the place, though, where one excuse becomes many and before you know it, you haven’t exercised in weeks and have 0 motivation to get back into it. Taking that first step to get to the gym or hit the road for a run can be the hardest part, but if you can get that momentum started and keep it going, it gets loads easier from there. So how can you get yourself started and keep yourself motivated? Here are some tips that have worked for me and for my clients.

1. Find a workout you enjoy.

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, everyone has an opinion or story to tell. “Oh well, I ran 5 mi a day 5 days a week and I lost 30 lbs without changing how I ate!” “My cousin started doing Zumba twice a week and she has had amazing results.” It’s wonderful to try to share your success tips with others, but, here’s the thing, every body is different so what works for one person may not work for another. This isn’t just a physiological fact – it’s a psychological fact as well. If you hate running, then you are not going to get the same results as your friend who loves running and does it religiously. Why? Because you’re going to be miserable doing it, you’re unlikely to push yourself as much through it, and, chances are, you’re going to find any excuse not to do it because you hate it. If you find a workout that you have fun doing, then you are far more likely to stick to it and you’ll see better results.

2. Like your fitness clothes.

Fact: if you are uncomfortable with your body, you are not going to want to work out. Period. However, if you can invest in fitness clothing that you are comfortable in – that cover the spots you want covered, that fit the way you like, that breathe and allow flexibility – then you will be much more comfortable working out. Plus, I don’t know about you, but, if I have a fun new workout outfit I just bought, I’m way more excited to workout in it.

3. Track your progress and praise yourself.

It can be really easy to get discouraged and want to give up for a number of reasons. My advice, then, is find something about your workout that you can be proud of or makes you feel good and focus on that. For example, maybe you didn’t run as far as you wanted to or you struggled through your workout the whole time. Instead of focusing on the things you wish were different, high five yourself for getting out there when you weren’t even feeling it in the first place or for sticking it out even though you were struggling. Hold onto that self-praise and set a new goal for you to meet the next time.

4. Reward yourself.

Now, I don’t mean go out for a burger or ice cream here – not only will that defeat the purpose of your workout, it will also start you on a very unhealthy cycle. What I mean here is set a goal for yourself that you will continuously be working towards – maybe it’s running 5 miles or dropping a pant size – and pick something that you will reward yourself with once you reach that goal. It can be a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting or a new Fit Bit or a massage. Having something that you are working towards will help keep you motivated. The trick here, though, is that you can’t give in to the temptation to say “good enough” and treat yourself before you reach your goal.

5. Once you get that momentum going, don’t stop.

I think we can all agree that once you take a couple days off from working out, it is really hard to get back into it. To make sure that doesn’t happen, try to stay active regularly to keep that momentum going. You don’t have to keep at your regular workout routine every day, but commit to taking a 30-minute walk or doing some yoga while you watch TV. The goal is just to have something that keeps you moving so you don’t lose that momentum.

6. Find a workout buddy.

Accountability makes a huge difference when it comes to motivation. Find a reliable workout buddy and set a regular schedule to work out together. Make sure they are reliable though! I often see people declare themselves gym buddies and they just make excuses for each other to skip the workout.

7. Don’t make it a project.

If you have to drive 30 minutes to your gym or rush to and from commitments to get your workout in, you aren’t going to do it. Maybe you’ll do it a couple times, but it will fall off. Your workout doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. Take a run around your neighborhood or do a fitness video in your living room. Working out doesn’t have to include a gym membership and a commute.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy; it can also be the thief of motivation. Constantly comparing yourself to others can make you feel self-conscious and defeated. Too much of those comparisons and negative self-talk can quickly slide into thoughts of “I will never be like that so why should I bother trying?”. Who are you exercising for? Yourself or them? I hope the answer is for yourself so you can live longer and healthier. If that’s the case, then who cares about anyone else at the gym or on Instagram? You’re in this for you, so focus on you. Confession: I get really self-conscious when I’m out running. My solution is to wear my sunglasses and listen to good music so I can drown out the rest of the world (but still hear traffic. safety first, after all) and focus on myself.

9. Find some music you like.

Music is an amazing motivator. It shifts your energy and affects your mood. Put on some music that makes you feel happy and energized and get out there!

10. Change it up.

If you do the same workout or run the same route every day, not only will you stop getting the same benefits from it, you’ll get really bored with it, too. Keep yourself interested in your workouts by switching it up and trying something new every once in a while, whether it’s running somewhere new or trying out a new fitness class like Zumba or kickboxing.

Your health is simply too important to let excuses get in your way. Follow these tips and get yourself moving so you can feel your best and live your best life!