2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to fit exercise into a busy day, but you may also want to check out some of our other office-to-gym issues, including our posts on gym near the office etiquette and how to fit lunch workouts into your workday.
After we linked to our last open thread on mid-day workouts, a bunch of readers expressed an interest in having another discussion on how to fit workouts into a busy day. For my own $.02, in my ideal world I get my exercise out of the way first thing in the morning, my socializing in with friends in the evening, with a long day in between to do lots of work.
But of course, that’s easier said than done. You may have work commitments in the morning, or prefer to use the time for other personal development. And as a new mother, the thing I’ve realized since having a baby is that your concept of “me time” changes drastically once you have a kiddo. Particularly that “morning/evening” time — if it isn’t already committed to work, that time quickly becomes blocked as “family time” — either because you genuinely want to see your child(ren), or you literally have no one else on hand to care for them (unless you have a nanny around the clock, lucky you). So a midday workout is the only way a lot of people can fit in exercise at all.
So if you have to have a midday workout, here are a few ideas:
- take a fast-paced walk (if you don’t want to change into a sports bra but still feel like you sweat too much, you may want to look at this reader-recommended dohickey that absorbs under-bra sweat)
- head to the gym for some weights (usually no shower required afterwards)
- office space/privacy permitting, try a “light weights high reps” workout video — you usually can get a lot of bang out of one set of 5 pound weights, and if you choose one with no cardio component you don’t have to change into a sports bra. While the trend right now is to intersperse cardio circuits with toning, there are still a few old school “just toning” videos such as Jari Love’s Slim & Lean, Karen Voight’s Streamline Fitness, or Kathy Smith’s Lift Weights to Lose Weight. (2018 Update: You may want to check out our post on the best FREE YouTube workouts on our blog for working moms!)
- I usually find the office setup bad for yoga or pilates (computer monitor on desk, you on floor), but if your setup is better, or you’re using something like an iPad that you can bring to the floor with you… then you might want to check out Exhale: Core Fusion 30 Day Sculpt, which has thirty 20-minute workouts consisting of weights with yoga. I also like 10 Minute Solution: Blast Off Belly Fat and Yoga for Stress Relief.
- I can also see the appeal of getting to work really early sans shower, and then blocking time for a 45-minute intense workout (spinning, running, time with a trainer) sometime earlyish in the day (say 11:30), and then moving your shower/pretty time to immediately after the class. The trouble I’ve always had with that kind of system is that work always seems to get in the way, and I never actually make it to the class or whatnot on time, if at all — so you need to really commit to blocking that time out in your day. (Here’s an article from Refinery 29 on ways to style wet hair; a number of readers have also noted that the Goody Spin-Pins work best with wet hair. We’ve also talked about what to pack in your gym bag.)
I recently read an interesting article in More Magazine (which I started reading after our discussion on the best magazines for smart women) about how to boost your metabolism, and it talked about the importance of getting small bursts of exercise into an otherwise sedentary day. Along those lines, office workers might want to try:
- climbing a few flights of stairs multiple times a day — for example, choose a bathroom on a floor few flights above you
- kettlebell swings — I started to get into kettlebells after reading The Four Hour Body, where he talks about how just 15 minutes of kettlebell swings can really make over your body, and — again, provided your office has enough space and privacy — I can see them being a great way to kick your heart rate up once or twice an hour (and again, without the need for a sports bra or special shoes, although I don’t think I’d want to do kettlebell swings in heels). He recommends starting with a weight of 35 pounds for women, but the heaviest I’ve used thus far is 20 pounds.
- depending on your outfit (and again, your office space and privacy) you can try other ways to get your metabolism up — pretending to jump rope, or even doing a few 10-minute aerobic videos throughout the day (I own a few of them; my favorite is probably the kickboxing bootcamp).
The big component that I’m leaving out, of course, is all of the technical devices to help you move more — FitBit, Jawbone, etc, etc., which I’ve been looking into but don’t yet have personal experience with — but the whole goal of those devices is to encourage you to get more exercise in your life.
So, readers: do you work out in the middle of your workday or otherwise fit exercise into a busy day? How else do you try to fit more exercise into your life? Are there any apps or devices that you use and love?