Tipping the Scales to Better Work–Life Fitness
by Scott Poston
This complaint used to puzzle me, because I consider physical activity to be as important to our existence as food. You wouldn’t skip eating for a day, so why would you neglect your body’s hard-wired need for regular exercise? My wife is an attorney and a great example of someone who maintains a healthy work–life balance: she is able to balance the demands of her job along with her responsibilities as a mother and she still makes time for friends, family, and fitness.
I believe the answer lies in one of the most common misperceptions about making fitness a regular part of your life, and that is that you need to sweat and "feel the burn" to accomplish anything. That is patently false. You do not have to punish yourself to make gains.
Your workout should be something you look forward to, not something you dread. This is your time for yourself, so make the experience an enjoyable one. Oftentimes, my clients talk about how refreshed they feel by just walking in the door of the athletic club, seeing friendly and familiar faces, hearing the music, and smelling the pool. The whole experience melts away the stress of their day.
When my clients make time for a workout — whether it’s taking a spin class, spending 30 minutes on a treadmill, or practicing restorative yoga — they feel better physically and mentally. When their schedules get moved around, as schedules always do, instead of skipping the workout altogether, they make time to do other things, such as taking the stairs at work, walking during lunch, or stretching in the afternoon.
Kristine Poston, my lovely wife, squeezes exercise into her hectic schedule as a lawyer in these creative ways:
• She sets a goal to work out at the gym only one time during the workweek. That’s tough for you lawyers, I know, but accomplishing this goal makes her feel proud of herself, which sometimes leads to a second gym workout.
• Away from the gym, she parks as far away from her office as is reasonable in high heels, and takes the stairs. She also closes her office door frequently throughout the day to stretch and to do light exercises.
• Finally, and this one is my favorite, she forces herself to get up out of her seat once an hour to walk around the firm for three minutes. That one is worth more than can be explained in words.
Here are a few tips for anyone who wants to make a balanced lifestyle change that includes fitness:
Set a goal. The goal could be as simple as committing to going to the gym twice a week, or as complex as climbing a high-altitude glacier. Whatever your goal, make sure it is one that will inspire you without overwhelming you.
Find a buddy or a community. It’s always easier to have a friend who will participate with you and hold you accountable; plus, it’s more fun. Even if you don’t have a partner, find a place that has a community. Camaraderie leads to longevity.
Use good form: It’s more important to focus on technique than on rigor and endurance. You will get more out of your workout and spare yourself unnecessary injury. Have an expert such as a certified personal trainer observe and instruct you.
Pace yourself: People who want to run marathons don’t start by running 26 miles. Instead, they train incrementally and build up to their goal. Easing into a routine or a training program at a reasonable rate will pay dividends in the long run. Plus, it’s rewarding to see your progress over time.
Don’t give up: If you happen to miss a workout — and you most certainly will — then just take a moment to walk around the block. It does wonders for your health; it gets your circulation flowing and even sharpens your concentration. So, if you find yourself stacked with back-to-back client dinners or if your job takes you on the road away from the athletic club that is your sanctuary, then find a few minutes to mix up your routine. Just taking a three-minute walk around the block can be a great way to clear your head and get you moving.
By using these tips as a starting point, you’ll soon find you won’t be able to imagine your life without regular physical activity. You will feel better, be more productive, and, yes, even look better. D
Scott Poston is director of fitness and endurance coaching at the Denver Athletic Club. Poston earned a bachelor of science in Exercise Science from Truman State University and a master of science in Kinesiology from the University of Texas. He served as an adjunct professor in the Human Performance department at Arapahoe Community College. Poston is a professional triathlete and Ironman finisher, as well as a Certified Personal Trainer, Emergency Medical Technician, and Strength & Conditioning Specialist. He may be reached at email@example.com.