Life Hacks: That exercise thing.


I do not like working out.

But I hate not working out.

On days when I don’t go running, don’t do a lot of walking, don’t get moving, I feel antsy, irritated, and generally unpleasant. I hate going to the gym, don’t really know what to do with weights or machines, and can’t get motivated to do video workouts. Every time I try that last one, it just ends up with me lying on the floor and watching the video play, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t count as doing the workout.

But I have to move around for my days to feel productive. I recognize that exercise, like eating well, good sleep, and doing my hair, makes me feel better about the whole day. I have been a [devoted but unskilled] runner since high school, but really bumped up my running this past year, doing a 10 mile race in the spring and a half marathon in the fall (sidenote: half marathons at 12 weeks pregnant are NOT FUN. And when you cross the finish line and they offer beer and oysters instead of the standard bagels and bananas, it was EVEN LESS FUN.). Yet I also started listening to my body, and I know that in spite of what any training schedule says, I can only run 3 times a week before my knees start protesting. I run better when I do fewer but longer runs, so I carved out three big chunks of time for long runs of 5-10 miles a couple times a week. This left 4 days a week that needed some sort of unofficial exercise, especially since ye old academic life is deeply stationary, with home research days never demanding that I walk more than the distance from the couch to the kitchen. Here are my tips for making exercise a seamless part of your day in the midst of general busyness.

  • Get a Fitbit. Or get whatever equivalent you want, but do it. It will give you the “exercise mindset” of making your entire day one where you move more, rather than just looking for big chunks of dedicated workout time — chunks that can be really hard to find. I noticed that as soon as I started rocking my Fitbit, I also started parking in the back of the lot at work, taking the stairs, and being more eager to do chores like taking out the trash or going to the post-office because GOTTA GET THOSE STEPS. Yes, it also meant that one night I paced laps around our living room for an entire episode of Downton Abbey.  It meant that my days were healthier even if I didn’t have time to go for a run. Having a goal oriented target like a Fitbit count or similar app makes it a joyful and productive task to get in enough activity.
  • Rock those audiobooks. On the days where just the busyness of life doesn’t get my steps in, I hit the sidewalks to walk it out. Formerly, I felt like walking wasn’t working out and thus, wasn’t worth it. But it is, and made such a difference in my 2015 journey to health. It also gave me lots of time to chat on the phone and listen to piles of audiobooks. I use Audible and have burned through so much entertaining reading in the course of walking and running. Having these books to listen to also makes me eager to get outside and moving, eager to pick up my YA fiction where I left off. Pick a fun book that really is an indulgent treat that you look forward to.
  • Get it in early. You are more likely to do it if you get it done early. Plus, then you feel productive early and that in turn makes you more productive in the rest of your daily tasks.
  • Any workout is better than no workout. 2 minutes of jumping jacks and squats might not be as good as an hour of hard hiking or a class at the gym, but if that is the time that your microwave is running and you are standing in the kitchen and the whole day looks busy and this might be the only 2 minutes you have – then it’s better than using those two minutes to stand there and stare out the window while you eat Nutella from the jar. Because everyone knows that the absolute best vehicle for Nutella consumption is nothing other than a spoon.
  • Try something new. You know that I am kind of a junkie for trendy new workout classes. Remember Hip, Hop and Shake? Soul Cycle? Even if I don’t have some swank gym membership, I am a strong believer in seeking out deals for trials of fun group fitness classes. I knew that I needed to jumpstart healthy decisions this January, after my hardcore first trimester mac n’ cheese binge, so I jumped when a friend convinced me to do a month long Barre3 membership. A new studio just opened on the Hill and they had a great discount for a monthly unlimited subscription so I signed up. January is rough on running, as icy roads don’t make my preggo self feel so great, so I have loved turning up 3-4 times a week for a different sort of workout. Yes, I am terrible and look the worst and cannot hold some of those postures to save my life. But I am feeling strangely more toned, just as I am also feeling bigger by the day. It is a different way to mix up my fitness routine and sometimes that’s all we need. Shaking it up a little is a good idea. I know that city life offers many more of these sorts of deals than some of you might have, but even seeking out some new sort of workout video online, or from the library, or walking a different route can reinvigorate you to exercise.

How do you all fit exercise into your days? (And I promise – almost done with these life hacks- send any my way if you haven’t already!)

Photo via here.

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12 Responses to Life Hacks: That exercise thing.

  1. klyse3 says:

    Loving these life hacks! Hoping I can get around to writing a few of my own soon. Yes, yes, yes to the Fitbit. I got one for Christmas and my approach to moving has totally changed. I also enjoy a really fast run in the morning – right now I’m doing 6-7 minute miles right after I get up. They’re great because they take so little time, but they’re super intense.

    I’ve also starting jogging in place and doing jumping jacks while I wait on the microwave. I save 10 minutes during my lunch time for walking outside (even when it’s brutally cold) and I’ve started climbing stairs more often.

    Oh, and walking on the treadmill while I read! I’m a wimp about weather and my neighborhood isn’t great, so I don’t walk outside very often. But I can do the treadmill while I read homework and books.

  2. Mie says:

    What audiobooks do you recommend? I listened to Girl on the Train when I did a running program last fall and it was awesome. However, I haven’t really found anything that had my attention like that book!

    • Hannah says:

      I loved listening to Girl on the Train while I rode trains all over Europe last summer! Even if I started creepily staring into people’s homes looking for crimes. I have to confess- I usually use my audiobook time for guilty pleasure books of the YA lit variety… definitely just finished Howl’s Moving Castle and some dystopian fiction. But I also did All the Light We Cannot See on audiobook last summer and loved it. And if you are a fan of Downton Abbey, Julien Fellows’ book Snobs was a good audio one too. Lastly, I love ALL books by comedians on audiobook because they are so much funnier when the comedian reads it. I’ve listened to both of Mindy Kaling’s books, Tina Fey’s book, and Amy Poehler’s book and they were all great, though Amy’s was definitely by far the weakest.

  3. fraustrecker says:

    Those first two sentences: YES! Although the more I work out the more I really do love it. I do online barre workouts and just started running on occasion. I’m one of the weird people who feels most motivated mid afternoon. I usually let the boys play or watch a movie while I workout. Sometimes I feel bad about the screen time, and then I don’t at all, because if that’s what it takes to take care of my body, I’ll be a better mom and they’ll, in turn, have a better life. So it’s a win win. Exercise is a huge priority for me. Love to read your thoughts and I hope others are encouraged to take more steps, literally!

    • Hannah says:

      I love aspects of it…. and I do genuinely LOVE how I feel afterwards! And don’t feel bad at all- a healthy mom is the best thing you can give them. I feel that TV is a tool, a powerful one that shouldn’t be used all the time, but a treat that can help the whole family function better if used well.

  4. sanjaywa says:

    Great tips! I recently got a fitbit too. One of my fitbit friends is super-competitive so I get a great kick out of beating him, so motivating! I workout first thing in the morning, before my brain has a chance to wake up and protest.

  5. Katie says:

    Please do not stop with the life hacks because the index card thing is AMAZING and the easiest way to plot out my lessons and learning targets in advance EVER. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before.

  6. Nicole says:

    I’m so jealous you have a Barre3 closeby! I did their online subscription for part of my last pregnancy and it was pretty good, but I, too, really CANNOT get motivated by exercise videos! I NEED it to be in-person!

    • Hannah says:

      I am a little obsessed with it! Plus, I go at 9:15 every morning, which should really be on the schedule as Hip Hill Moms Hour, because that is totally the target demographic. Everyone brings their babies (childcare provided!), parks those strollers, and hits the barre. It’s been fun to meet local moms!

  7. Pingback: Life Hacks: Odds and Ends. | The Art in Life

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