How to Maintain Fitness Even When Your Schedule is Crazy

Followers of my other blog know that I am in the midst of a crazy few months. I won’t get into the details here, but the gist of it is that the beginning of the school year, a house purchase and move and my wedding are all coinciding¬†like some great super storm. I’m dealing with the annual adjustment to the limited time and energy left over after a day of teaching. I’m spending my evenings and weekends packing and painting. I’m trying to cook in a kitchen at the same time I’m shutting it down and putting it in boxes.


And through it all, I’m trying to maintain my fitness and squeeze in my usual workouts, both for the physical and mental (oh, do I need that stress relief right now!) benefits.

We all go through periods of transition where our routines are disrupted and time and energy are in very limited supply. Perhaps, like me, it’s related to a job or a move. Maybe you’re welcoming a new family member and time for yourself has become something to dream about as you’re rocking the little one back to sleep. Again.

These times are when we are the most vulnerable to falling off the fitness wagon. It’s so easy to come up with excuses not to work out when the excuses are based in reality. It’s so tempting to put it off until later: “I’ll get back to the gym once the busy season falls off.”

It’s a slippery slope. Make an excuse once and it becomes easier to make it again. Get used to not working out and it becomes a habit. Once you start to tell yourself you’re too busy, you’ll begin to live as though it were true.

Furthermore, the importance of taking time for yourself and your health is heightened during periods of stress and overfilled calendars. Here are some tips on how to stay active during periods of upheaval and stress:

Be Easy on Yourself (But Not Too Easy)

Normally on the weekends, I try to fit in a long run, a yoga class and at least one visit to the gym. For the first three weekends in September, I am letting go of this expectation. Those weekends will be filled with moving, painting and generally settling in to the new place. Trying to do all that and my usual exercise would be insane.

But I’m not giving myself three weekends in a row off, either. I’ll aim for at least one run or yoga session each of those weekends. I know that it will make me feel calmer and will help to loosen muscles tight from painting. I won’t worry about distance or time or the position of my heels during down dog; I’ll just make the commitment to take a few minutes for myself each weekend.

It’s appropriate to adjust your goals based on external factors. If you approach challenging periods with an “all or none” attitude, you’re setting yourself up for none when all becomes impossible to maintain. Look at the realities of your situation and adjust accordingly. And then do what you promised yourself.

Set a Deadline

Some transitional periods come with their own hard deadlines firmly installed, but most can drag on if we let them and even become permanent. Create a deadline for your adjusted schedule. Post it. Believe it. Follow it.

For me, I’m giving myself through October. That gives time to settle in to the new house and gets me past the wedding stuff (which is super low key anyways:) ). By November, I will put the crazies behind me and recommit to a more balanced and consistent routine.

Redefine Exercise

Are you a gym goer? Do you faithfully attend the same exercise classes? Do you walk 3 miles every morning? Whatever your routine, it can easily be disrupted during transition. But even though you may not be able to attend Monday night Zumba, you may still be able to exercise.

This is a time for (realistic) out of the box thinking. In what ways does your current situation force you or allow you to be active? If you’re remodeling, you’re most likely spending hours engaged in physical labor. New baby? I bet you’re carrying around a ten pound weight much of the day. Moving? How bout them stairs?

Recognize the exercise you are getting, even if you’re not wearing your yoga pants. It still counts. Be careful, though, not to overestimate the impact, which is especially easy to do if you’re short on sleep where everything feels more difficult.

Be Careful With “Rewards”

When we are stressed, we have a tendency to reward ourselves with comfort. Maybe it’s a cupcake or an extra cocktail. Perhaps it’s a lazy afternoon in bed or hours playing a computer game. It’s okay to treat yourself after a long day, but be careful about falling in to the trap of feeling you deserve it all of the time. Those occasional treats can become the norm and before you know it, you’re spending all day in bed and eating cupcakes every evening. (Although, I gotta admit, that sounds really tempting right now…)

Try “treating” yourself in small ways throughout the day to avoid a binge at the end. Also, look for treats that don’t negatively impact your health. I have been amazed at how much better I feel after applying hand lotion in my favorite scent at work. It’s a few seconds that I take for me in the middle of the chaos. Other treats? A few minutes alone on a seat in the sun. A break in the car listening to your favorite song. A cuddle session with your pet.


Yes, your life is crazy right now. But remember what is important. Be sure to make time for yourself and your loved ones. Everything else will fall into place.

And, if you’re interested in trying out painting as a new fitness craze, let me know. I have plenty to go around;)





Taming the Monkey Mind: Plugging in the Monkey

So, I know the whole idea of meditation is to unplug. To turn off the phone and put away the computer. I get it. I’m just not very good at it. Instead of fighting technology, I’ve learned to use it to help tame my monkey mind, especially on those days when it is acting particularly unruly. The following are my favorite ways to plug in and unwind:

Yogaglo (website)

I love this site. It has thousands of hours (I’m guessing – I haven’t counted:) ) of high quality yoga instruction that can be selected by difficulty, time and emphasis. They are also growing a database of meditation videos. I find that I gravitate towards these when I’m looking for something longer and more interesting than my standard fare. The meditations are all guided and are quite interesting and varied. (free 2 week trial and $18/month for unlimited use for meditation and yoga)

Meditation (app)

This is my go-to. There are many different soundtracks to choose from – everything from chants to nature sounds. There is also a mixer so you can customize your own personal blend. I love the quick timer that I can easily set for a variety of times, even if I don’t play any music (this especially happens when I can listen to real rain outside the window!). There are no guided meditations. It’s just simple, easy to use and high quality. ($.99) (website and app)

I read about this website and app in Lifehacker (which I also love but it doesn’t technically tame my monkey mind!) the other day. This is meditation for dummies. It comes in preslugged durations, starting at 5 minutes. Each one is guided and follows a similar script. As with the app above, you can select your background sounds, although they are not as varied. I have found that this app is excellent for the days when I am struggling to get my monkey mind to sit still long enough to slip on the headphones. (free or $4.99 for the full version)

iMoodJournal (app)

This nifty little app sounds a gong at predetermined times to remind you to quickly graph your mood and tag it with key words. It is designed to help you identify your triggers both for positive and negative moods. I also use the chime as a reminder to be mindful and present. I have it set to go off at two of the craziest times of my day Рin the middle of homeroom where 30 kids and a handful of adults are competing  for my attention and at 5:00 pm when I get home. ($1.99)

My monkey mind is tired and is ready to shut down the computer and plug in the headphones. I just hope I can teach him to stop chewing on the cord:)

Key to Success: Always Have a Backup Plan

We are scheduled to run the Peachtree Road Race tomorrow, a 10 K run that is an Atlanta institution. The good news? The normal highs in the 90s have been replaced with temperatures in the 70s. The bad news? It may be more of a swim than a run.

As long as the race is not canceled, we will be there. We’ll adjust to the weather by wearing our Vibrams that don’t get soggy and making sure that we bring hats made of quick dry fabric to try to keep the downpour out of our eyes. In this case, the backup plan is to continue with the race just modify our clothing.

Whenever I’m asked for the keys to succeeding in any health or wellness initiative, having a backup plan is always the first strategy that comes to mind. It’s easy to make promises to yourself:

I’m going to walk at least 3 miles every day.

I’m going to eliminate all sugar from my diet.

I’m going to do an hour of yoga every day.

I’m going to prepare all my meals for the week on Sunday.

But what happens when life intervenes?

I’m going to walk at least 3 miles every day.

There’s a thunderstorm during your walking hour.

I’m going to eliminate all sugar from my diet.

You’re invited to a birthday party.

I’m going to do an hour of yoga every day.

You’re sick and the thought of down dog makes you nauseous.

I’m going to prepare all my meals for the week on Sunday.

You went on a weekend trip and didn’t come back until Sunday night.

Without a backup plan, these speed bumps become stop signs. In the moment, it is easy to allow yourself to become derailed and discouraged. If, however, you think ahead and brainstorm (okay, maybe not the best word with the current weather situation in the SE!) potential roadblocks and their solutions, it makes it easier to adjust on the fly.

I’m going to walk at least 3 miles every day.

There’s a thunderstorm during your walking hour.

Possible backup plans: do an exercise video, go to the gym, walk the hallways at the mall, locate an indoor track, go to an indoor trampoline park

I’m going to eliminate all sugar from my diet.

You’re invited to a birthday party.

Possible backup plans: eat beforehand so that you’re not hungry, bring a dish to share that also meets your needs, only attend for the non-food portion of the festivities

I’m going to do an hour of yoga every day.

You’re sick and the thought of down dog makes you nauseous.

Possible backup plans: do a restorative yoga session that uses props and gentle poses, meditate instead, take to time to locate a new yoga class or video and commit to it on the day you feel better (i.e. cue the video or make a reservation for the class)

I’m going to prepare all my meals for the week on Sunday.

You went on a weekend trip and didn’t come back until Sunday night.

Possible backup plans: prepare meals the week before that can be frozen and thawed, trade cooking duties for the week with a friend, choose very easy recipes with nonperishable items that can be purchased beforehand

Of course, there will always be times when something will not work, no matter how many backup ideas you have. That’s okay. The idea is to think outside the box so that you don’t give up when you can go around. The more backup plans you have, the more likely you will be to establish a new, healthy habit in your life.

As for me, I plan to run the Peachtree tomorrow. Now, I need to plan what I’ll do if the lightening or flooding puts a halt to the event. Maybe snorkel instead?:)

English: 2007 peachtree road race crowd shot

English: 2007 peachtree road race crowd shot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)