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Fitting Exercise into Your Schedule

Even when you can't wrestle the time to go to the gym to do your full workout, you'll find that a short workout can do a world of good – making you more alert and relaxed throughout the day. In addition, by keeping active you avoid any setbacks in your fitness program. So while a 15-minute workout isn't enough to make huge improvements in your fitness (unless, of course, you've been inactive for a while), it can prevent any "detraining" effects. Plus if your goal is to lose weight, burning a few extra calories never hurts.

Often people say they don't have enough time when in fact what they lack more of is energy and willpower. Don't get us wrong: We're sympathetic to the demands of a busy life. But we've stood in the catbird seat countless times and seen that the same busy people who can't find 30 minutes to work out, spend an hour a day checking their e-mail, talking on the telephone, and/or watching TV and playing solitaire on the computer. If you think you don't have the time, think again. You can make it work if you just make some adjustments in your daily habits. And while it sounds a bit dramatic, it's crucial to know that if you don't work out now, you're likely to pay for it later.

Excuses, Excuses
Before we continue, let's see if any of the following reasons for not working out sounds familiar:

  • I have to work late tonight.
  • I've got to pick up the kids.
  • I have to make dinner.
  • I travel so much for my job I can't stick to a workout routine.
  • I spend so much time working I don't want to spend my free time working out.
Free time? What's free time? We're here to tell you that you don't have to spend every bit of your leisure time exercising and that you can have positive results with as little as 15 minutes a pop. Armed with the knowledge that exercise – any exercise – can energize you and make you more productive during the day makes people more motivated to do even the shortest of workouts.

Therein lies the rub: If you lack the energy to work out, you're less likely to get to the gym or do an at-home workout. However, once you get to the gym or your exercise equipment in your TV room (isn't that where you keep your Stairmaster?), you'll see that you have more energy. What will get you over the hump? Willpower and the belief that you don't have to workout like an aspiring Olympian to improve your fitness. And, as we've already stressed, finding activities you enjoy is crucial.

Time Management
There's a great expression, "If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person." While that's probably true, if you are busy the only way to remain productive is to be organized. In fact, the busier you are, the more organized you have to be if you want to keep body and soul together. The catch-22 here is that often people who think they're busy assume they have less time because they're poorly organized. We all know people who spend much of their time sifting through papers in search for their to-do list. (The first item was undoubtedly "straighten up desk.")

There are, of course, different ways to skin a cat. Witness this goofy example: While writing The Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training, it became increasingly clear that the husband-and-wife team of Deidre and Jonathan have very different styles of organization. Jonathan is Oscar Madison: papers scattered all over, books piled on his desk and around his chair like a minifortress. (Deidre calls it a disaster area; Jonathan considers it a sign of high intelligence.) While Jonathan's personalized system looks chaotic, he knows which end is up and is very efficient at organizing and prioritizing. On the other hand, Deidre, the Felix Unger of this odd couple, cannot tell you her middle name if her pencils aren't sharpened and facing in the same direction. The bottom line is that while no one way is perfect, you need to be organized if you want to get things done. Still dubious? Here are some ways to help you manage your time more effectively:

  • Plan a week at a time, keeping your long-term priorities in mind. Considering the many hats you may have to wear in the course of the day (not to mention the various goals you have), it's easy to get distracted and lose your focus. By planning for the entire week, you can factor in your multiple roles and goals and get things done.
  • Make a to-do list with no more than seven key items. Assign a letter of priority to each item on your list: A for must do first, B for should do after A, C for must get done but not necessarily today, and so forth. Cross each out when completed and make a new list of your top goals.
  • Keep your written goals where you can see them – and not under a pile of papers on your desk. Seeing them is like having a benevolent drill sergeant at your side so you stay on track.
  • Just say "no"! Essentially, this means prioritizing your needs. Participate in a few key activities and politely decline others.
  • Stop trying to be perfect, when you don't have to be. Instead of taking tons of time writing the perfect thank-you note to your Aunt Tilly, jot down a quick heartfelt card or note. When leaving a message with a friend or business associate that doesn't need a reply, call after hours and leave a message on his answering machine.
While all of these tips sound good in theory, let's give you a few day-to-day tactics to illustrate just what we're talking about.
  • If you take a lunch to work, make it the night before. This will give you more time in the morning to get the children ready for their day.
  • If you have school-age children, make their lunch the night before.
  • To leave more time in the morning, lay out the clothes you plan to wear the night before. (Make sure you listen to the weather report.)
  • Bring work-related reading material with you when you're running errands. If you're on a long line at the supermarket, for example, whip it out and read while you wait.
  • Establish routines with regular chores like paying your bills. This way you won't fall behind (which means paying extra) and it won't absorb much of your mental energy.
The key to time management is learning how to reorganize your life so that you have some stress-free time to exercise.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Workouts © 2001 by Deidre Johnson-Cane, Jonathan Cane, and Joe Glickman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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