Stay Fit During Back-to-School Madness

Getty Images/Julia Wheeler and Veronika Laws

When I was kid, the worst part of the year was, of course, going back to school. Now that I'm an adult, I can see that going back to school is actually worse for the parents than it is for any kid.

There is so much chaos surrounding this phenomenon, it's a wonder any parent can keep his or sanity, much less keep exercise a priority.

You may be tempted to hold out and wait for the perfect time to exercise but, believe it or not, it'll be a lot easier if you start right now.

Plan Ahead

Any parent knows that planning and preparation can make the difference between semi-control and utter disaster. Giving exercise that same kind of effort can help you make it happen:

  • Make a weekly calendar of work, family and other responsibilities so you know what's on your plate.
  • Look for times you can squeeze in exercise. Doing shorter workouts throughout the day can be as effective as continuous exercise. Even if you only find 10 minutes here or there, that's 10 minutes you'll be moving instead of sitting. Try these ideas:
  • Plan what you'll do and gather what you need the night before. Pack your gym bag or put your exercise clothes next to the bed so you can put them on as soon as you get up.
  • Integrate exercise with other activities. If your child is at soccer or football practice, use the time to jog or walk around the field. If you're at the mall, add a few laps of walking to burn extra calories.
  • Set up a home gym. Even if you prefer a health club, having some basic equipment available (think resistance bands, an exercise ball and some dumbbells) as well as a few quality workout videos means you're always ready for a workout.
  • Keep extra gear at work or in the car. If you can find a few minutes at lunch or on the way home from work, squeeze in a quick walk at a nearby park or around the parking lot.

    Get Motivated

    Planning and preparation means nothing if you aren't motivated to exercise. Finding motivation is simpler than you think, especially if you realize that there are many good reasons to exercise. Plus, there are some other ways you can encourage yourself to stick with your workout:

    Get a Pedometer

    If you haven't tried a pedometer, you'll be amazed at how motivating it can be. You probably already know that experts recommend walking 10,000 steps a day and you wouldn't believe how hard that is if you have a sedentary job. Clip a pedometer to your belt, and you'll instantly walk more just to meet your goal for the day.

    Consider Partner Training

    A personal trainer can be a huge motivator, but many people are put off by the cost. One option is partner training, which costs less than one-on-one training. By enlisting a friend to do it with you, you'll have added accountability to exercise.

    Use Your Imagination

    Too often, people have narrow definitions of what exercise is, as though only certain things "count." For many people, that means if it doesn't last an hour or leave you breathless and sweaty, it isn't good enough. It's that kind of thinking that can limit your options so, open your mind and look for new ways to be active.

    I once had a neighbor who did walking lunges when she went out to get the paper. Another friend did pushups while waiting for dinner to cook. A client of mine made it a rule that the whole family had to take a walk every night after dinner. Anything can be a workout if you work hard enough at it.

    Create Efficient Workouts

    Another way to motivate yourself is to create a workout schedule that fits in your life. If you plan long workouts that never seem to materialize, it's time to create workouts that make sense. If you're short on time, stick with strength training moves that give you more bang for your buck.

    Compound movements that work multiple muscle groups will help you save time as well as add functionality to your workouts. More on step by step compound exercises.

    The following exercises target multiple muscle groups to help you save time. To make a quick workout, do each exercise, one after the other, for 1 set of 16 reps, using enough weight that you can ONLY complete 16 reps. If you have time at the end, repeat the circuit.

    For cardio, increase the intensity for shorter workouts. Think of it this way: The shorter the workout, the harder you can exercise. If you only have 20 minutes, exercise at a higher intensity than usual or try interval training.

    Quick Workouts

    10-Minute Cardio Ideas
    10-Minute Strength
    Boot Camp Workout
    Circuit Training
    Burn 300 Calories in 30 Minutes
    More Workout Ideas

    Whatever you do, don't wait until later to get back to your exercise routine. The longer you wait, the harder it gets and the more you get used to life without it. Make a commitment and do something today. It's never too late to get started.

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