Exercise when time is limited

a woman stretching

Jonathan Borba via Pexels

It’s been a very busy college semester for me. My photography class has me running around. I don’t have time for boxing classes or any kind of regular exercise. When I do have free time, I’m burned out and the last thing I want to do is exercise.

I believe many people can understand. You’ll have a great workout routine, and the next thing you know, you’ve had a busy week or month and it’s less important.

Do not despair. A regular interrupt occurs. I’m going to share some tips on how I handle times like this.

First, have grace with yourself. You are only human. There will always be times in life when other things are more important than your exercise routine. It doesn’t matter. This doesn’t mean you’ve “fall off the wagon” or that you’ve failed in any way. This means that your priorities for that week, month, or period of time do not include your daily exercise routine. Pick it up when you can.

Next, here are some simple exercises I do when life gets busy.

Toe Raise: These strengthen your calf muscles. Toe lifts are an easy habit to pick up, so I’ll start with that. Standing straight with your feet slightly apart, tiptoe lightly, then slowly lower your body until your heels almost touch the floor. Keep a steady rhythm; three seconds up, three seconds down, or whatever feels natural to you. I love this exercise because I can do it almost anywhere. I often find myself on my toes while brushing my teeth, doing the dishes, or waiting in line. It’s become a habit for me, and I often don’t realize I’m doing it.

Exercise belt: I like to use elastic bands for arm exercises instead of weights because they are easier to keep close at hand. There are countless exercises that can be done with elastic bands that are easy to do without breaking a sweat. I’ll carry them in my backpack to work and do some exercise on my lunch break. The two exercises I do the most are as follows:

  1. Holding the band at chest height, bend your elbows, stretch the band as far as you can, and slowly bring your hands back.
  2. Wrap the elastic band around your wrist, stretch it as far as possible, and raise your arm overhead, keeping your elbow bent. Lower your arms to chest height, then relax your arms.

The first two exercises in this video illustrate what I have described above.

My goal is to do 10-30 repetitions of each exercise. These straps are great for travel and fit easily in your pocket, purse or backpack. I even leave one in the shower to do my arm workout while I’m getting ready for the day. This works best for me.

Stretch: Stretching is a lot underrated, but I recommend doing it as often as possible. When you do return to your exercise routine, maintaining stretches will help reduce soreness. Pick a few stretches and set aside a minute or two to do them. When you get back to exercising, you’ll be glad you did.

Walking is exercise: As I mentioned, my photography class this month has me standing a lot. I spend a lot of time walking at one time. That’s movement! Take a walk around the block, at the mall, or at work—those are exercises. This is something I often need to remind myself. I think we tend to think that exercise only counts when we do it intentionally. While I may not have been on the treadmill for half an hour, I did walk around the city all afternoon with my camera.

Pushups/planks: Sometimes I’ll roll out of bed and do 10-30 pushups, or hold a plank position for 30 seconds before showering. Any number of push-ups is better than zero. Same goes for knee pushups or 10-second planks.

Honestly, I don’t do all of these things every day. In fact, I’m lucky if I remember to do one or two of these every day. I’m still trying to form these habits. But I’m doing my best, and I’m sure you are too. Remember, whatever you can do, no matter how much or little, is better than nothing. It’s all about progress, not perfection.

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