Oops. You missed your spin class again. It’s just as well—you still haven’t gotten through the day’s email, you’re hungry as hell, and American Idol is on in an hour. You’ll try again tomorrow. “Try” being the operative word. Because despite your regular attempts, these days you never seem to get out of work in time to hit the gym. An economy in shambles is forcing you to work harder than ever just to stay in the race. When you do have a bit of free time, you’re just too exhausted to face all that spandex and sweat.
You’re not alone. Americans cite lack of time, more than anything else, as a key impediment to staying in shape. Which is not surprising at all given that we’re the only nation in the world that has actually increased working hours in the past ten years.
But no matter how tempting it may be to skip your workout—don’t. Exercise is essential. You won’t just look better, you’ll sleep better, feel better, and probably even work better. But you know all that. So what are you waiting for? Summer’s right around the corner!
1. Supercharge your commute. If proximity and weather permit, walk, or ride your bike to work. Both activities are excellent for your cardiovascular fitness and are guaranteed to help you keep the weight off. One hour of walking can burn up to 200 calories, while an hour of cycling zaps more than 300 calories (depending on your weight and speed). If you are going to cycle, be smart about safety. Riding your bike while rocking out to Def Leppard on your iPod is an accident waiting to happen.
2. Get up early. Not a morning person? You should be. Just think—you can cross your workout off the to-do list before your day spirals out of control. Plus, some research shows that by working out first thing in the morning you give your metabolism a jump start and burn more calories over the course of the day. Studies also show that an early morning workout will boost your mental sharpness for four to ten hours afterward. Sure, it’s tough to get out of bed and go. But it’s kind of like diving into a cold swimming pool—once you’re moving, you’re good. And you’re almost always glad you did it.
3. Do a few simple exercises at your desk. Human beings are not meant to sit at a desk in one position for eight or more hours a day. I’ve got the posture (and dwindling stash of painkillers) to prove it. But while you may not be able to avoid this necessary evil of office life, there are ways to mitigate its impact. Try some arm raises or butt squeezes; you don’t even have to get up from your chair. Embarrassed? Just think of how much more embarrassed you’ll be when you bend over and your pants tear along the crotch seam.
4. Sit on a Yoga ball. Get toned just from sitting itself. If your HR department allows it, sit on a yoga ball instead of a normal computer chair. The benefits are two-fold. The ball forces you to sit up straight. It’s exhausting at first, but over time results in improved posture by strengthening your back and abdomen. Plus, because it’s tiring to sit on, you’ll want to get up and walk around more.
5. Be realistic. Three times a week is enough. Plan for more and you set yourself up for failure. And no one likes to fail. Especially not a workaholic like you.
6. Take a lunchtime walk. What I’m about to suggest might seem preposterous, but please, hear me out. A few times a week, leave your desk for a whole hour. That’s right. Step away from your desk, exit the building, and walk around the block—more than once even. It’s called a lunch hour. Use it.
7. Location, location, location. If you’re going to go the gym route, make sure you join one that’s on your way to work. If you have to go out of your way to get there, you’ll never get there. So stop fooling yourself. Your waistline (and wallet) will thank you later.
8. Find a workout buddy. Your office is filled with people who are just as out of shape and overworked as you are. Find someone you like, and vow to do some kind of physical activity together a couple of times a week. Most people find having a partner helps them stay motivated and makes the workout fun (or at least something closely resembling it).
9. Be a weekend warrior. Pick an activity you like and do it on the weekends. Skiing. Hiking. Surfing. Whatever it is, if you like it, you’re more likely to do it. And on the weekends, you can’t use work as an excuse. Sure it’s not a regular regimen, but every bit of activity counts.
10. Take it seriously. You wouldn’t miss an important business meeting so why should your workout be any different? Make a plan and stick to it. Treat it as seriously as you would a professional responsibility. With such a high return on investment, you’d be foolish not to.