The summer is coming to an end (small tear). Real life is about to begin again and, let’s be honest, times of transition can be challenging, especially when it comes to “staying on the health horse”!
If you find yourself thinking “transitioning back to reality is stressful and busy; I will get back on my horse in September,” tell yourself two things.
First, say “Self, it is always easier to keep up than to catch up; if you fall off your health horse now you will feel completely demoralized come September. Your future self will not be happy!”
Second, say “Self, the more stressed you are, the MORE important the workout! Yes, finding the time is challenging, BUT finding the time is also critical. You will be a healthier, happier, and more productive version of you if you stay active!”
The solution? “Back to real life” health hacks.
“Health hacks” are innovative ways to fit exercise into a busy schedule AND motivate yourself to actually do the exercise! (It is one thing to know how to fit motion in — it is another thing to actually do it. You know what they say, “if knowledge were enough we would all be billionaires with rocking bodies.”)
Hacks are always useful, but they are especially useful in times of stress and transition. Getting yourself and your family back into the swing of “real life” qualifies as both stressful and a time of transition.
Kathleen-approved “back to real life” hacks!
Turn “back to school” chores into a workout
For example, do fartlek intervals as you walk the malls for school supplies. To do fartlek intervals simply pick random intervals — like the shopper 3 stores ahead of you — and speed walk towards them! Other options: always take the stairs, park far away from your destination (parking lot X vs A), stand on one leg as you wait at the cashier, do a few biceps curls or shoulder presses with books and other supplies in lines, or do 10 squats before you get into your car.
Make exercise a game with your kids and family
The options for this hack are endless. A few examples include setting up a family challenge (e.g., track who can fit in the most steps the week leading up to “back to school”), racing your kids to the end of the block, challenging your family to a push-up or squat competition in front of the TV, or practising your kids’ sport with them.
Stop associating working out with the gym
Your workout doesn't have to be in a gym to be worthwhile. Thinking it does simply gives you another excuse to be inactive. If the gym is not convenient, find an alternative. We all have enough reasons to skip a workout; don't make convenience one of them.
For example, set up a home gym. Buy a few inexpensive pieces of fitness equipment — a band, the Pilates circle, the Glider,the TRX, and maybe some rotating discs. Train at home. Just commit to something realistic — anything — and do it!
Reward yourself (and/or reward your family)
Set goals and non-food-related rewards: a hot bubble bath, a new workout outfit, or a movie with friends. Don't let yourself have the reward if you don't reach your goal.
Get your family involved. Have everyone establish an exercise goal and a non-food-related reward. Prizes could be “the winner gets to pick the movie for movie night” or “the winner gets to pick the music on the next family car trip.” Get everyone to establish a goal and track their progress!
Find someone who inspires you ... and learn from their experiences!
This could be someone from your real life or someone on social media. For example, talk to the mom or dad you know who seems to be able to stay fit and in control of their life. Ask how they do it.
Or start a Facebook chat.
Or try sending a message to someone on social media you admire. Ask them how they manage and/or overcame obstacles. Then extrapolate and apply their experiences to your own life.
Exercise at work
Walk as you take conference calls, invest in a treadmill desk, always take the stairs, do 10 squats before you sit in any chair, bike or walk to work, or go wild and crazy and dance around your office.
Another option is to bring a few pieces of equipment to work — such as a SITFIT and a band — and do exercises at your desk.
Couple exercise with something you enjoy
Watch TV or listen to a podcast, an audio book, or music as you work out. Better yet, have a program you are only allowed to listen to or watch when exercising.
Have an internal hashtag or a pep talk ready to go
We all have moments of low motivation. I love exercise and I still sometimes want to bail on a workout, but I don't. When I don't want to train, I use self-talk to convince myself to move.
I say, "Kathleen, you always feel better when you move. Your health quest is something you are doing for YOU. Moving is not a punishment; it is a privilege. If you don't want to do your entire workout, fine, but you have to do something. Something is always better than nothing. Just start."
Or I repeat simple internal hashtags. My current favourites are #blahblahblahGOWORKOUT and #TheWorseYourMoodTheMoreImportantTheWorkout
Get a fitness buddy
Friends make everything more fun. Plus, you are less likely to skip a workout (even if you are REALLY busy) if you are meeting someone. Meet your buddy and do fun fitness classes, go for a walk, do fun partner strength exercises at the gym, or simply meet and do cardio on side-by-side machines.
Create unique strategies for success
Working out in the morning? Sleep in your exercise clothes. Have an unpredictable schedule? Always have a gym bag packed and ready to go. One of my clients gets up and puts her sports bra overtop of her night clothes and then hops on her treadmill. She knows that if she stops to change she will skip her workout. Adopt the mindset that motion is a "non-negotiable." Then, create a unique plan that works for you.
Create friendly competition
Figure out what drives you. If you care about saving money, pay yourself every time you train. When you reach a pre-established amount, splurge on something you normally wouldn't buy. If competing with others is more your jam, sign up for ClassPass or a virtual activity tracker; compete with friends on how many classes you attend or how many steps you take.
Create visual reminders of your success
Have a calendar on the fridge and place a sticker on it every time you exercise or create a spreadsheet or graph and record your workouts.