Making Time for Exercise

I notice it first in the mornings: It’s darker when I head to work. Evenings are getting cooler, faster. Yes, autumn is upon us.

For most people, autumn means crazy days of back to school, new school and work schedules, and the end of the summer vacation lull. With all the additional stress there is often not much motivation – or time – left for exercise. Who wants to leave a warm, comfortable bed to face the cold wet? The snooze button is so close and allows that few extra minutes of much-needed rest.

Except that when we don’t get enough exercise we feel more drained, with less energy to handle the ever mounting stress of responsibilities. So how does today’s busy person find time for fitness in our shortening days?


Walk with a whistle for safety.

Get a Buddy (and Get Visible)
If you’re finding it harder to get motivated for an outdoor workout, see if a friend or neighbor will join you. Often being accountable to another person can help overcome resistance to leaving a warm, dry house for cold rain. If you’re happy with your solo workout routine, it’s time to adapt to changing weather conditions. It only takes a few key pieces of clothing to help make you dry and visible. Look for bright, reflective colors and water repellant/resistant materials.

But whether alone or with a buddy, make sure you exercise safely in the darkening days. Eric Rodriguez, captain of the Security Team at Virginia Mason provides this expert advice: “If you are walking or running, no matter what time of day it is, be aware of your surroundings and walk or run with confidence. Do not look down or away when approaching another person; maintain eye contact. Try to stick to well-lit areas with a populated route and always keep a cellphone at hand, but not in hand since it could attract would-be robbers; be ready and able to call 911.”

I know I always run with a whistle, as well as a phone.

Take It Inside
If facing the dark and elements doesn’t appeal, it could be time to discover a new indoor activity. Did you like bicycling as a kid? Try a cycle class. Always wanted to mountain climb? Try indoor wall climbing. Maybe you were like me and danced in the living room, the kitchen or any place you could find. Try swing or another type of dance class that sounds appealing. Let your imagination lead you. Many gyms and local community centers offer fitness options based on dance (Zumba, Bollywood), mind-body movement (Tai Chi, yoga) or martial arts (kickboxing, Tae Kwan Do) – just to name a few. Odds are you’ll be more motivated to attend a class if it’s fun.

Maybe you prefer a more traditional regimen but don’t have enough time for a full class. Try a high-intensity class that compresses a quality workout into a short time frame. These high-intensity workouts can be challenging, but they pack a big health-benefit punch.

copier calisthenics

Work in your workouts during your work day. Copier calisthenics, anyone?

Workout the Work Time
For some folks with busy family schedules, work time is their only “alone” time. If that is the case, try squeezing in a walk at lunchtime. Again, finding a work buddy to walk with you can help with motivation. If walking is not an option, try the stairs. Take five to 10 minutes to walk a well-lit stairwell. Do it two or three times a day for even greater cardio benefit.

Regardless of how much or little exercise you can squeeze into your workday, make it a point to get up from your chair once an hour. Stand, stretch, refill your water bottle — anything to move your body and release you from the mental and physical energy fog of sitting too long. I like to do leg lifts whenever I’m waiting at the copier or microwave. Sure, people may look at me funny, but I don’t mind. Those two minutes of calisthenics add up over the day.

Boogie that Burger
Feeding yourself and/or your family is a daily necessity. But it doesn’t have to be dull! Try turning on your favorite tunes and cook to a groove. Shaking your “thang” while shaking the seasonings or stirring a pot is a fun way to get moving without even realizing you’re exercising. Just be careful if you’re busting a move while handling sharp knives!

Make Down Time Active Time
A stationary bike or other indoor exercise equipment can help you carve out time for exercise. Don’t want to give up your favorite TV show? Use that time to be riding a bike while watching your favorite show or sports event. If you don’t have the means or space for equipment, walk in place or lift light weights. You’d be surprised the common household object you can integrate into a workout: soup cans for weights, a step stool or low chair for a stepper. I like to walk around the room while on the phone or watching a movie.

Make Sleep a Priority
Too often we cut into our sleep time by trying to finish up all those tasks we didn’t get to during the day. But losing sleep is a terrible thing for our health, no matter how more important those tasks seem. Lost sleep leads to energy loss and weight gain. Try to make sleep a key part of your healthy routine. If you have trouble winding down (especially if you’re still mentally running through your “to do” list), try a few stretches, Yoga positions and/or deep breathing.

Your fitness journey starts like any other – with small steps. Finding time for fitness is much easier if you are creative with your choices and time. You’d be amazed how even a few minutes of exercise a day can refresh and empower you. Grab (and hopefully do-si-do with) them where you can!

Exercise and Support a Good Cause
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While many women will never have breast cancer, nearly all of us have a friend or family member who has been affected by this disease. The Breast Care team of Virginia Mason is dedicated to decreasing that impact every day.Join them at the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk to raise awareness and funds in the fight against breast cancer.Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013

8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Downtown Bellevue Park, 10201 NE 4th Street

To join the team, go to: > Team name: Virginia Mason

You can find Marianne Beirne doing office calisthenics periodically during her day as a web producer for Virginia Mason.

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