Tis the season to be booked and busy. Between getting ready for the holidays, meeting the end-of-the-year deadlines at work, trying to attend all the events, and everything in between, our schedules are filled to the brim. As a personal trainer, one of the things I see take a back seat is people’s fitness routines. It can feel nearly impossible to find ways to exercise on a busy schedule.
We know that working out is important for both our mental and physical health. Yet when our appointment books start to look like a great American novel, exercise typically doesn’t rank that high on our list of priorities.
But I’ll tell you something: You don’t actually have to dedicate that much time in your day to get the benefits of exercise. The key is simply to slip in more movement whenever you can. Here are the five strategies I give my clients—and use myself.
1. Do it right away
There is a quote (most likely from a meme) I once read that has always stuck with me: “I like to work out before my brain has a chance to realize what I’m doing.”
The longer I wait in my day, the easier it is for me to back out of a workout: My schedule fills up, and I come up with more and more excuses. But if I pop out of bed and go straight to my workout, I get it done, and it’s a distant memory by mid-day.
Whether you’re a morning person or not, most of us find it’s easier to fit in exercise if we do it first thing. In a review of research done by Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, the authors found that “consistent morning exercise may facilitate greater exercise levels by enhancing planning, fostering an exercise habit, and improving self-regulation.” The more often you get in your movement in the morning, the more likely you are to stick with it.
2. Get moving with friends
Hot girl walks have been all the rage this year, and you don’t have to do them alone. Something I’ve recently implemented with my best friend are “coffee walks”—basically a hot girl walk, plus caffeine. We’ll walk to a local coffee shop, then cruise the neighborhood and chat while we enjoy our beverages.
Instead of meeting up for brunch with your buds, see if you can plan an activity to do together. While walks are a good option, you could also try organizing a tennis match, a kickball game, an ice skating trip, or, really, anything that will get your blood pumping. Even holiday shopping can do the trick.
A study from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when adults participate in physical activities with friends, it may not be as vigorous, but they tend to work out for longer periods of time. Especially during the holiday season when you’re just trying to include more movement in your day, it’s more important that you move than how intensely you move.
3. Walk more, wherever you are
Even if you don’t head out on a dedicated “hot girl walk,” increasing your steps through the day is a simple way to work in more activity. Even short bursts of walking have benefits. Experts suggest you get in at least 7,500 steps per day, but really the goal is to move more in general.
Take the stairs whenever you can, park further from your destination, return your shopping cart to the store (you might even get good karma for this one), pace around when taking calls. Or try one of my favorite tricks from when I worked in the corporate world: Use the bathroom on the top floor of your building. If you are staying hydrated like you should, you might be taking a lot more steps!
4. Slip in exercise snacks
Just like a banana or almonds can be a much-needed midday pick-me-up (no hanger here), so can an “exercise snack.” These bite-sized workouts can be just one to 10 minutes long. Maybe you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, or for a meeting to start—so get moving! You could try marches in place, calf raises, jumping jacks, squats, burpees, or maybe a quick dance break.
You don’t even need to break a sweat. The goal is to amp up your overall activity levels with short bursts throughout your day to get your blood flowing and prevent stationary behavior. And just like its food counterpart, an exercise snack can also give you a boost of energy.
How about a quick boxing routine?
5. Write it down
One of the things I’ve found most helpful is to schedule my workout in my planner. It’s so much easier to commit if I see it as a meeting that I can’t cancel. We have this mentality around our jobs, so why not treat our bodies with the same respect?
Exercise is an excellent self-care tool, and the busier life gets, the more important it is to make time in our day to do it. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Well, one thing I always tell my clients is to fill your cup until it overflows. Once it does, it will go onto your saucer. The goal is to give from your saucer, not your cup. That way your cup stays full, and you are still able to give to others. Everybody wins.