Finding the Time
Let’s talk about how to fit exercise into your day. Finding the time to fit in a dedicated exercise program can be difficult. Our lives are busy, gym memberships are expensive and we can quickly feel like we are failing at trying to keep our bodies fit and healthy.
I’m going to list five activities I “sneak” into my day that I barely notice. They take very little time to do and require only a small amount of effort. But I can honestly say I’ve noticed the positive effects of these small additions in a short period of time. I will also list some other great ideas on how to fit exercise into your day while you’re out and about.
When the End Goal is Overwhelming
We hear about all the things we should be doing to ensure optimum health and prevent pain and injury. But if we went to allocate all the time required to all the different areas that are recommended, there simply wouldn’t be enough time in the day.
The good news is, incorporating basic exercises that take little time is still highly worthwhile. Little efforts of consistency add up to the big picture. When an activity takes up very little time and relatively little effort, it is incredibly easy to achieve.
The Leaking Bucket Theory
There is an analogy that fitness is like water in a leaking bucket. It requires regular topping up or it will soon disappear. And while small efforts may not seem like they are contributing, we all know how a leaking tap can quickly escalate the water bill! Even little drops add to the big picture.
These small actions of consistency can add up to some fantastic results. You will feel better and your body will be stronger. Your body will be better equipped to prevent pain and injury and move freely through whatever activity you choose to do.
The Perils of Sitting
One of the biggest causes of common problems like lower back pain are weakened muscles. In today’s environment we all commonly suffer from sitting far too much and our bodies soon respond with the ill-effects of this unnatural position.
Common weak areas are the glute muscles (bum), hip stabiliser muscles and the core. Regular strengthening and conditioning of these muscles will not only put you in a great position to prevent injury and pain but will also aid you in all activities – running, cycling, swimming, every day movement and posture.
So without further ado, let’s get onto how to fit exercise into your day with the fab five I am currently doing!
Five Fab Sneaky Exercises
ONE Stretch! Yes, just a good ole stretch when you first wake up, before you even get out of bed. Stretching is a natural behaviour that a lot of animals do that we seem to have forgotten about. It is a great way to wake the body up, turn the muscles on and get us prepared to move.
I start by flexing my feet forward and back – point the toes, then bend the foot up with toes back towards you. Start soft then take it up to a strong flex either way. Try 10 of these.
Next stretch your arms up above you and just stretch your whole body out. Let out your inner animal with a primal “stretching” vocalisation. Arch your body one way then the other while making yourself as long (and stretched) as you can. It feels great right?
Do this in a natural way, stretching out the body in the position and direction it feels it wants or needs to go in. This is a small action but has really positive effects. When you think about it, jumping straight out of bed from 8 hours of no movement can’t be good for the body.
TWO Glute Bridges: I started incorporating glute bridges after lower back issues when I discovered weak glutes were a major contributing factor. I now do them daily. They have made a significant difference in alleviating my lower back pain and also having improved effects on my running form.
Not only are glute bridges a great exercise for strengthening the bum muscles, they are a great exercise to counter the position of prolonged sitting. As you arch into a glute bridge position you are tensing the glutes, hip stabiliser muscles and core. This is also a great exercise to wake you up and make you feel energised and focused.
Start by doing just 10 of these before you even hop out of bed. Make sure you hold for a few seconds at the top before lowering. Boom! Another easy one ticked off and you haven’t even got up yet!
THREE Balance – Stand on One Leg: I love this one! SO easy to add this in, you won’t even notice it. Balance and lower leg stabilisation are really important for trail running. There are several really helpful exercises for incorporating strength, stability, power and co-ordination. Actually fitting these in and doing them is not always possible. But doing a small activity daily that you barely notice is easy.
Related: Exercised to Improve Running Form
This is one of my favourites because it’s so easy and it’s actually kinda fun. We all brush our teeth right? (I hope so). And I believe it’s recommended to brush them for two minutes. So, let’s do this activity for one minute on each leg while brushing our teeth.
Start by simply standing on one leg for one minute each side. Nothing else, just balancing there. To begin with even this can be a challenge. Once you get the hang of it you can build up to a little more difficulty.
With one leg lifted about 90 degrees to the body, turn the body out and away from the standing leg – about a quarter turn. Repeat this about 10-20 times (or about a minute’s worth). Then repeat on the other side.
Balance and proprioception are really important in our every day lives. This is something that can deteriorate as we get older so this simple activity can be highly beneficial to our mobility ongoing.
FOUR Incline push-ups: I have terrible upper body strength. I can probably do one full, correct push-up. Now the incline push-up is a lot easier and is also something you can modify to make it more or less difficult.
I choose to do my incline push-ups on either the bathroom vanity or my bedroom windowsill. Pushing out 10 of these bad boys is so achievable and takes about 30 seconds! All you need to do is associate the activity with something so you remember to do them. My reminder is the bathroom vanity before I take a shower or when I open my bedroom window. Hammer out my ten, done!
As with the other exercises, as I improve I will add a little more difficulty in some way. With the incline push-ups I now do them more slowly, pausing at the bottom to really work the chest muscles. I also now do 12 instead of 10 for that extra oomph.
You might think 10 a day is not enough to see any difference but I assure you it has made a difference for me. I am definitely feeling stronger and looking more toned in the upper body and shoulders. And hey, that’s 70 push-ups a week!
FIVE Triceps Dips: These are pretty much my least favourite as it’s a weak area for me. I noticed in a photo of me that this area was getting a little ‘saggy’ you might say, and I was like hell no! I’ve never had the arms for tuck-shop duty and I’m not about to start now.
All you need for tricep dips is a firm, low bench or bar of some description. I’ve found the perfect spot in my house – the bathtub. The edge of the bathtub sits about 60cm off the floor. I find these tough, but I only need to do 10 so it’s not overwhelming.
Again, associating these exercises with something will ensure you get them ticked off through the day. Bathtub – bath (or shower). So I get these done before I shower and it’s another one done! 70 tricep dips for the week and good-bye tuck-shop arms! Another sneaky exercise that takes about one minute to do!
So there you have it. Five really easy tips for how to fit exercise into your day. Small consistent efforts adding up to some real results.
Small Actions of Consistency
What I love about doing these exercises is also the positive mentality that comes with it. Not only am I getting a physical positive from it but I am mentally feeling like I’m achieving something. And with that it sets me up to want to achieve more, especially when I see results.
By starting out with something small and easily achievable we are so much more likely to keep it up. It then has the opportunity to develop into a habit. It also has the opportunity to build on the foundation we have created.
You can start increasing the reps or the difficulty of the exercise. The great thing is if you’re not feeling it on a particular day then just get the base level done. It’s easy and will make you feel you haven’t slipped off the exercise wagon. So much harder to do this when we skip a few gym days or training runs.
Tips For Increasing Difficulty
- Increase the reps.
- Hold the contraction at the top of the exercise.
- Do the exercise slowly (try this with the incline push-ups – tough!).
- Your morning stretch routine can advance to a 5-10 minute yoga routine. Try this one from Yoga with Adriene
- Ultimate difficulty with one leg balance – try closing your eyes!
- Try other exercises you can achieve within the home (ideally that you associate with something as a reminder). Ab crunches, pull ups (I wish I had a spot I could do a pull up!)
And finally, as promised, here is a list of other ideas on how to fit exercise into your day. These are more general tips for while you’re out and about doing your daily routine.
How To Fit Exercise Into Your Day:
- Take the stairs! Like really do it. I can’t believe how many people I see flock to the elevator at the metro while we take the stairs. It takes like an extra few seconds (or sometimes less time when it’s crowded!). In one minute a 68kg person burns 10 calories walking up the stairs compared to 1.5 calories on the elevator.
- Standing in line for something: Do calf raises, easy.
- While watching TV: balance on a BOSU ball or just one leg at time. Invest in a wind-trainer (attaches to your bike for stationary cycling). Go easy while your show is on, go hard in the commercials.
- Walk! Use your amazing legs and body to get you from A to B. Is where you need to get to less than 5km away? Why not walk? Leave earlier and enjoy a lovely stroll. Or park a bit further away than your destination so you have the opportunity to walk. We have been without a car now for around nine months so walking or running is our main source of transport. Love not being stuck in traffic!
- If you are in the car: there are several things you can do as you drive or as a passenger. I remember when we had our Hyundai van, the H on the steering wheel was my reminder to “hold”. I would use the opportunity to do my pelvic floor exercises – tighten the muscles and hold for five seconds, release.
- Another good one for the car (or in fact any sitting situation – in the office, on the couch…) is glute and/or abdominal squeezes. Good one for the plane too!
- Chores: save money AND get your exercise in! Don’t pay someone to wash your car or mow your lawn. Getting stuck into these activities will burn some serious calories (of course not on a ride-on mower!)
- And finally, walk the dog. Or offer to walk the neighbour’s dog. If you need some extra accountability (or guilt factor), look at those sad puppy dog eyes and do it for them.
Bringing it All Together
I really believe that looking at an end goal can be overwhelming and seem unachievable. By breaking things down into easily achieved actions, it becomes realistic and very possible. Doing 10 push-ups on one random day won’t get you there, but doing it daily, consistently, will.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any tips on how to fit exercise into your day? Do you do any of the activities I’ve mentioned? Please let me know in the comments below.