How to Fit in Daily Workouts with a Full-Time Job

Actress-turned-life coach Alexandra Paul shows us how to stay active by just thinking creatively.

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You need to exercise, and you want to exercise, but it seems like there are many things that end up getting between you and a treadmill. Of these obstacles, perhaps nothing distracts us most from our workout routines than having a full-time job. Hitting the gym (or whatever your preferred exercise method) with a nine-to-five can be challenging, but with preparation and planning, breaking a sweat on a daily basis can fit into your busy schedule. The first step is to decide what time is best for you, plan your workouts ahead of time, and put them in your calendar. This is what you do for other important things in your life, so why not for exercise? With a plan in place, all you need to do is follow these simple tips to stay fit, no matter how busy your life is.

This is my favorite time to exercise because it’s early enough that there’s nothing to compete with my 6am workout … except being tired. Waking at the crack of dawn might sound difficult, but that isn’t the hard part—it’s making sure I go to bed seven or eight hours prior. Studies show that morning exercisers are the most consistent, so set the alarm and develop a new habit of getting to sleep earlier. Trust me—it’s worth it.

Business lunches are a reality for many of my clients, but be more selective about your schedule. Do you really have to meet for lunch, or will a phone call suffice? Or, rather than a meal, suggest a walk. You’d be surprised at how many people would prefer to break up their day with a walk instead of lingering over a heavy lunch. When you don’t have a lunch commitment, use that time to go to the gym or for a walk yourself because you’ll feel energized when you get back to the office. But don’t forget to bring a washcloth and towel to give yourself a wipedown before going back to work. Too hot to exercise outdoors? Do the stairs in your building.

Work time
In our society, we expected that most office work will be done sitting down. But why? If I don’t have to take notes, I do all of my conference calls while walking outside. Being active makes me a better participant because I’m not quietly multitasking on my computer like so many people do on calls. Walking keeps me totally present in the moment—even if the conversation is boring—because my body is moving. And because recent studies show that sitting all day is extremely unhealthy (even if you spent an hour at the gym), consider buying a treadmill desk, which is a small, quiet treadmill belt that runs under a standing desk and allows you to work at your computer and do phone calls while walking. I’ve had mine for six years, and it is the best gift I ever bought myself (yes, I am on it right now while writing!). Move between walking and sitting throughout the day—you will have more energy and a brighter mood.

If you exercise in the evenings, bring gym clothes with you to the office so you can go straight to your workout. One of my clients has found a pilates studio between his office and home, which makes it convenient to exercise on weeknights. Whatever you do, do not go home first—you’ll find too many distractions there, and it will be very hard to get back out again for your workout. If you have to go straight home because of family commitments, you can still get your exercise in later: instead of lounging on the couch while you watch television (we Americans seem to find plenty of time to watch TV each day), get moving! I do yoga in front of my favorite shows, but you can also bring out a stationary bike or free weights to create a workout of your own as you watch TV. Going for a walk with your partner or kids is also a great way to spend quality time together instead of everyone going off to their separate screen.

Alexandra Paul is a health coach with a certification from Cornell University’s plant-based nutrition course, a former EMT, and an actress who has appeared in more than 75 films and television shows, including Baywatch.

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