Find Time to Exercise
By Michele Stanten

Prevention Magazine
May 2004 With Prevention’s help, five busy women beat the number one workout excuse “I don’t have time.”

  • Intro & Just Do It–Early
  • Make a Detour for Fitness
  • Make a Date to Exercise
  • Exercise Isn’t All-or-Nothing
  • Guilt-Free Workouts

It’s the most common excuse for not exercising that I hear–even out of my own mouth. With my 40-plus-hours-per-week job, an active 3-year-old son, laundry, grocery shopping, and a little side project of writing a book, something has to give.

And I’m not alone in feeling time-crunched: 77% of Americans say that when they get busy, it’s their workouts that go out the window, according to a survey of 1,200 people by Impulse Research Corporation. “As women, we are so busy taking care of everyone else that exercise becomes an if-I-have-time item. Of course, we never have the time,” says Suzanne Zoglio, PhD, a psychologist in Doylestown, PA, and author of Recharge in Minutes.

To help, we paired time-starved women with time-management experts. Here’s what they learned, which can help you, too.

Just Do It–Early
Liza Murphy, 44, sales director for a publishing company, NYC
Obstacle: Not wanting to take time away from her sons
Breakthrough: Discovering she can work out while her kids slumber
Accomplishment: From nothing to 2 hours of Pilates a week

Her Day, Pre-Makeover
6 am: Gets herself, 2-year-old Evan, and 13-year-old Sam dressed and fed
8 am: Out the door
8:30 am: Drops Evan off at day care and arrives at the office at 9:00
5 pm: Leaves work to pick up her toddler at day care
6:15 pm: Makes dinner, plays with Evan, helps Sam with homework, does laundry
8:30 pm: Puts Evan to bed and spends time with Sam
10 pm: Goes to sleep

Murphy hadn’t exercised since her 2-year-old was born, but she’d thought about it a lot. Many of her coworkers and friends would exercise at lunch and she’d try to join them, but with five departments reporting to her, something always got in the way. “Even though exercise has really positive repercussions–looking better, fitting into clothes easier–it is the first thing to fall off my to-do list,” Murphy admits. And as a single parent, she doesn’t have someone with whom she can share responsibilities at home.

After tracking what she was doing every hour of the day, Murphy and her coach, Sunny Schlenger, author of Organizing for the Spirit, looked for holes in her schedule. Evening hours before her boys go to bed are off-limits. “I don’t want them to feel I have no time for them, so I make a point of giving them one-on-one time with me every day,” she says. And after going pretty much nonstop from 6 am until 9:30 pm, she didn’t have any energy left to exercise. Her only option: Get up earlier.

That was doable, but Murphy needed a workout she could accomplish close to home; without child care, long walks and runs were out of the question. When she heard that Pilates is great for toning muscles, she decided to give it a try. At first, she followed exercises from a book and managed only 15 minutes at a time. “I was happy to be doing even a little exercise, though,” she says. When she switched to a videotaped workout, she was motivated to go longer. Now she gets up at 5:30 and usually does 30 minutes of Pilates (a little less if her toddler gets up early or she has to do laundry) 4 days a week. “It gives me more energy, and it’s easier to hold in my stomach,” she says.

Although Murphy wishes she had more time to exercise (getting up at 5 am is just too early for her), she’s really doing more than she thinks. In addition to the Pilates, every day she walks about 30 minutes to and from the subway–time that counts as exercise.

Cecilia Pineda Feret, 40, restaurant owner, NYC
Obstacle: A perfectionist attitude toward exercise: “I feel that if I am not going to be at the gym every day, then I might as well skip it today.”
Breakthrough: Realizing that even a little exercise is a whole lot healthier than nothing
Accomplishment: From less than an hour of belly dancing to 2 hours of belly dancing and an hour-long body-sculpting workout at her gym every week

Her Day, Pre-Makeover
6:30 am: Gets up to see Elena, 10, and Julien, 6, off to school
8 am: 30-minute nap and then errands
Noon: At the restaurant to handle paperwork and phone calls
2:30 pm: Picks up kids from school and takes them to art or music class
6 pm: Brings kids home; then goes to the restaurant for the dinner rush
Midnight: Arrives home, greets babysitter, then reads or watches TV
1 am: Bed

Feret thought a PalmPilot was the answer to fitting exercise into her crazy schedule. But she quickly learned that before technology could help, she had to fix what was going on in her head. “Cecilia had to stop being so hard on herself,” says Sunny Schlenger, Feret’s coach. “Every time she skipped an exercise class, she got demoralized and used it as an excuse to not work out.” The solution: a little taste of success in her fitness life. Schlenger had Feret focus on the one exercise she really enjoys: belly dancing. The trick was finding ways she could do it more often. Additional class times didn’t fit into her schedule, so they searched the Web for a belly dancing video Feret could do at home. Now, once a week, after the kids leave for school, Feret pops in the video and shakes her hips for an hour instead of napping or working. “I feel good the rest of the day that I did something–and it’s energizing,” she says.

Her next step: Add another workout to her week to tackle her top trouble spot–her triceps. Because she quickly gets bored with lifting weights, Feret decided to try a body-sculpting class and zeroed in on the one that she was most likely to stick with–Saturdays at 10:15 am. Weekday classes were too early, and on the weekend her husband could watch the kids.

“Instead of driving myself crazy and getting down on myself for not doing it every day, I remind myself that this is for me, and it is going to help every other aspect of my life,” says Feret. “I’m more aware of how I can add bits of exercise into my life, from taking the stairs to doing crunches in the office to going dancing, and it all counts.”

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