exercise tips

Secrets to Making Midday Workouts Work

When I was working my full-time office job, I had good intentions when it came to exercise. Each night I would set my alarm for 5am, which would give me plenty of time to fit in a workout. And then my alarm would go off at 5am and I'd think, "I will feel much more like exercising after work than I do now." Snooze button hit.

But the thing was that I never felt like working out after work. I was exhausted by the time I got home. So, I'd give myself a pass--skipping one day won't hurt--and make big plans to go to bed early that night. That way, when my alarm went off at 5am the following day, I would bounce out of bed and into my workout clothes. 

And....that never happened. What I ultimately ended up doing was fitting my exercise in during my breaks at work. But that provided its own set of challenges--namely how to get myself looking, smelling and feeling presentable for the part of my work day that took place after my workout. 

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One part of the solution was to have the right products available to me at work. I kept a pair of workout shoes and a set of workout clothes in my office, so that I didn't have to remember to bring them with me in the morning when I was rushing out of the house to get to work. I also kept a bag with some post-workout refresh essentials, including:

Deodorant Wipes. I love these ones from Pacifica, but I'm sure other brands sell them too. 

Dry Shampoo. This was a lifesaver when I had a more intense workout and my hair ended up a little sweaty or windblown or whatever. Dry shampoos just soak up that moisture at the roots of your hair, and refresh the scent a bit. My favorite is this one from DryBar, but it's expensive. I also really like Batiste brand, and Hask makes a good one. Both of those are a little less expensive. 

A Washcloth, Hand Towel, and Travel-Size Body Spray. This is basically a makeshift bath kit. 

Travel-Size Facial Spray. I love this one from Mario Badescu. It's inexpensive and it smells like one of those high-end day spas. I'd just spray a little mist of this on my face to refresh my makeup after a workout. It was rare that I exercised hard enough that I had to reapply my makeup. But a little of this was so refreshing and kept my skin looking hydrated and alive. 

Travel-Size Powder and Blush. If my face was looking a little worse for wear after a workout, I found that all I needed was a little pressed powder and some blush to look like myself again. I would buy the travel-size versions and keep them in my bag. 

Make--Up Removing Wipes. I love these ones from Aveeno. These were great if I needed a bit more of a refresh than a mist of facial spray could give me.

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The second part of the solution was how I went about my midday workouts.

Let's say I wanted to get 30-minutes of exercise in each day. And let's say I couldn't, or didn't want, to do that all in one session. I would do 10-minute walks, three times a day--one during my morning break, one during my lunch break, and one during my afternoon break. There isn't a rule that you have to get all of your exercise in one long workout. Break it up as much as you need to, either for logistical reasons or because that's all you can take at one time.

On days when the weather prevented walks from being feasible, or on days when I just wanted to do something different, my phone was my friend. I was lucky enough to have my own private office with a door, so I could close it and do some YouTube yoga, or strength training exercise in there. I kept some resistance bands, a yoga mat and some weights in my office for that reason. If you don't have your own office, maybe there are other solutions. Are you allowed to reserve meeting rooms over the noon hour where you work? Could you do that once or twice a week?

Are there other people in your office who would like to work out with you? There are personal trainers who will come to you and lead a session. If you got a couple of friends together you could split the cost and have a workout with a trainer, without having to spend any of your limited break time driving to a gym. 

I hope some of these tips are helpful to you as you try to fit exercise into your day! If any of you have found things that work particularly well in making midday exercise work, please share below. 

 

June-in-Review

Make Friends With Your Abs

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This post is about one of those things you hear trainers, or group fitness class instructors say a lot: engage your core. Incidentally, you know what form of exercise is a great one for getting really good at engaging your core? Pilates. They talk about it all the time and I had great instructors who taught me how to do it well.

Anyway, it's a great cue and an important thing to do in almost every exercise (Pilates or otherwise), but it's only helpful if you know what it means, right?

Right.

So, here's what I mean when I say it.

But first, a little context.

Your core is more than just your abdominal muscles. It encompasses your stomach muscles for sure, but it also includes muscles in your back as well as your gluteal muscles. This group of muscles: supports your spine and your pelvis;  it promotes healthy posture; and is responsible for moving your torso through all of the activities of daily living (including exercise) safely.

Ignoring your core muscles can lead to pain and injury--bad times, really.

So, that's what your core is and what it does. Now on to how you go about engaging it.

Let me preface this by saying that this is a subtle combination of movements, which makes it kind of difficult to explain, but I'm going to do my best. It's not sucking in your stomach. Don't do that. It will make it hard to breathe, and breathing is important.

You might remember that I've said before that the way to communicate to any muscle is simply to think about it. That applies here for sure.

I tighten my stomach muscles slightly. You do not need six-pack abs to do this. You have stomach muscles whether you can see them or not. Sometimes I think about them bracing up against my spine, or sometimes I imagine someone is about to bounce a coin off my stomach. (Bracing for a punch to the stomach probably also would work, but that's a little more violent than I like to be with my visualization techniques.) That's usually enough to get the subtle tightening of those muscles that I'm looking for. Another one that might help you is to think about how your stomach feels right before you're about to laugh or cough. If it helps, laugh or cough and then try to hold that level of muscular engagement. You might feel kind of silly, but once you get the hang of how it's supposed to feel, you won't have to do the coughing or the laughing anymore.

Then I think about lifting up through the bottom of my pelvis, or tucking my pelvis forward. At the same time I tighten my gluteal muscles slightly.

And finally, I roll my shoulders up and back and imagine them sliding down my spine. Ever heard someone say, "shoulder-blades in your back pocket"? I heard that visual years ago and it stuck with me. Use it if it helps you too! Anyway, now my shoulders are down and back and my chest is open.

That's it. Core is engaged. If it feels difficult at first, that's okay. Like anything new, you have to practice before it feels natural or easy. You can practice it outside of the context of exercise as well. Try it while you're sitting at your desk, or walking through the grocery store.

If you have questions, please post them in the Comments section below.

See you back here again soon!