Recent scientific research has shown most of us don’t need to camp out in the gym to get or stay fit. Short bursts of high-intensity activity can keep us toned and on time for the rest of life. In other cases, we don’t even need to break a sweat. Many of us don’t have the time (or inclination) to be a gym rat. In honor of National Women’s Health and Fitness Day, here are some easy ways to introduce a fitness program into your lifestyle.
Hit the gym hard and fast.
We can’t all spare an hour, but can you give five minutes daily to keep your body working right? How about 15 minutes every other day? The point is, short, very active visits to the gym can help build heart and cell health.
HIIT – high-intensity interval training – is all the rage in the fitness community, and recent scientific studies have confirmed that this type of training can be as effective as – or even more effective than – other moderate workouts. One study found couch potatoes can get double the health benefits with HIIT over moderate-intensity continuous training.
While there is no exact standard for HIIT, here’s how it generally works: Combine intervals of aerobic exercise and weight training as quickly and rigorously as possible for a maximum of 30 minutes. Some sessions last just five minutes. If we’ve done it correctly, we’re too exhausted to do much else. It’s an intense workout crunched into a very limited time, perfect for any schedule if – and only if – we can have a proper recovery period afterward. There’s little chance we’re going to do HIIT for 20 minutes on our lunch hour. But we might be able to squeeze in a 5- or 10-minute session.
The popular Tabata style of HIIT is supposed to last just four minutes.
Get a trainer.
One of the best opening paragraphs we ever read was in a skills-building book. It essentially said, you laid your hard-earned money down and bought the book – that’s a commitment – now learn the skills. Working with a trainer can be the same way. A trainer is someone we hire to help us reach our fitness goals. But we aren’t just hiring a coach; we’re hiring a commitment. We’re paying for this, so we want to get our money’s worth. Rather than fitting into our lifestyle, fitness becomes part of our lifestyle.
Pretty soon, we start coming back because the results are there, says competitive bodybuilder and personal trainer Damien McIntosh, who is based in Dallas, Texas. About 80 percent of McIntosh’s personal training clients are women, and all are balancing hectic schedules, he says. “Most come early before they even go to work. Others in the afternoon, after work. If they have kids, they put them in the kid’s club gym until we are done.”
A father himself, McIntosh knows the time crunch and gives especially busy clients fitness homework when they can’t make it to the gym. If they have some simple weights at home, he sets up a whole-body workout almost anyone can do in their apartment. “With 24 hours in a day, you have way more time than excuses to do something for yourself.”
Choose something fun.
One of the best workouts we’ve ever done was a Lindy hop class. Men and women from 18 to 80 were jumping and jiving and swinging around in ways rarely seen outside old movies. The energy all came from the pure joy inherent in the Lindy hop – also known as swing dancing these days. Everyone went at their own pace, and all skill levels were welcome. Even slow-moving beginners like us were soon doused in sweat (and smiles). It was as much a social gathering as it was a workout. The group included dance and music historians and local photographers, and many people even came in costumes from the era. When we got tired, we sat back, listened to the amazing band, and watched the people swirl.
We can also get creative by integrating low-impact fitness routines into our daily lives. One easy and somewhat subversive idea is to literally strap weights to ourselves. Chances are, we walk more than we realize each day. Discreet ankle weights worn under trousers can build muscle and cardiovascular fitness while we work – without a gym membership. Likewise, we can work on our core stomach muscles simply by leaning back without a backrest.
Some other integration ideas:
- Take listen-only calls from the gym.
- Walk or bike to and from work.
- Take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Plan fitness dates.
We’ve also seen simple stretch bands and two-pound weights in people’s desk drawers. There’s no need for fancy equipment and a room designated “the gym.” Mid-20th century fitness guru and bodybuilder Charles Atlas famously advocated building muscle mass without barbells.
Little habits, when performed over time, can yield dynamic results. There’s the old story of the rancher who lifted the same calf each day. Eventually, he could pick up a cow.
How do you integrate fitness into your business schedule? Share your tips in the comments below!