By Catherine Ryan for Life & Beauty Weekly


Trying to shoehorn exercise into an already packed schedule often ends in I’ll-do-it-tomorrow pledges and missed workouts. The secret to fitting in exercise — and sticking with it — is to make it work for you and your life instead of feeling like it’s one more item tacked onto your to-do list.

First, you need to change how you think about exercise, says Paul Plakas, owner of Custom Fit Personal Training Studio in Edmonton and fitness expert on the Gemini award-winning documentary “X-Weighted.” Working out doesn’t have to mean monotonous treks on a treadmill or trying to somehow conjure up an extra hour for a gym visit. Check out these strategies for how to fit in exercise and feel motivated to keep up a routine:

1. Make exercise fun.
If your idea of working out is doing an activity you don’t like (jogging, anyone?), it’s guaranteed to feel like a chore. To get motivated and keep coming back for more, you need to keep your mind occupied on another task, says Plakas. “My favourite thing is playing sports,” he says. “Chasing a ball and competing against others keeps my mind busy. Going out and exercising with people you like spending time with can make it fun. Never go on a treadmill and watch the time and miles click away. That’s the worst thing you can do.”

Did you love bike riding as a kid? Dust off your old 10-speed! Even dancing — like salsa or swing lessons — gets your heart pumping and counts toward the recommended 30 minutes of exercise women should aim for per day. If you aren’t sure what will float your fitness boat, test-drive one or two activities a week (such as Pilates, a Zumba class or water aerobics) until you find one you love. Most gyms and studios allow you to pay per class, usually for about $10 to $15 a pop.

2. Enlist a workout buddy.
Misery may love company, but exercise is anything but miserable when you turn it into a social activity. “A workout buddy can keep you accountable not to miss workouts,” says Plakas. “They can also push you to another level of intensity if they’re in better shape than you.”

Talk to your friends about what activities they’re interested in and sign up together. Or suggest walking and talking instead of a weekly coffee date or even walking to a restaurant instead of driving.

3. Think quick.
Research shows three to four ten-minute bouts of exercise can be more beneficial than one 30- to 40-minute session, especially for sedentary people, says Plakas. “For someone just starting…they’re more likely to work harder if they know they only have to last ten minutes at a time, so the overall energy expenditure in the day would be greater.”

You can increase your fitness level and positively impact your health by doing short bouts throughout the day. That’s good news since it’s often easier to find a few five- or ten-minute windows than a big chunk of time. These short bouts don’t have to include gym clothes or even runners. Any activity that gets your heart pumping counts: brisk walking around the office, climbing the stairs or playing tag with your kids. As long as they all add up to 30 minutes at the end of the day, you’re set.

4. Set a reachable goal.
Goals don’t work if they’re unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be challenging, says Plakas. “People are afraid of failure and they shouldn’t be,” he says. “The only failure is not trying one more time. Make goals that are really hard and never stop going after them. The ‘hard’ is what makes accomplishing something truly great.”

Aim for something specific, like running a 5K race in two months or walking three times a week. Then, create a detailed game plan to reach that milestone — schedule the time, recruit a friend and keep yourself on track.

Fitting in exercise may take some effort at first, but if you experiment with these strategies, you’ll find a routine that works so seamlessly with your schedule and lifestyle, you won’t be able to remember what life was like before.

Catherine Ryan
is a freelance writer and editor who writes on health, nutrition, beauty and green living for such magazines as
Self, Ode and
Parents. She is a frequent contributor to
Life & Beauty Weekly.

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