How To Sneak In Fitness When You Have No Time

Photographed by Ashley Batz.
The Anti-Diet Project is participating in First Lady Michelle Obama's #GimmeFive challenge! To learn more, click here.

In 2013, Maria Kang — a.k.a. "Fit Mom" — posted a photo of her mega-toned body surrounded by her three young children, along with the caption, "What's you're excuse?" Since then, Kang has built a career on that controversial caption, telling moms, dads, and even children that they have no excuse not to have the same rock-hard abs. If she's got the time, so do you.

It's true that we all get the same 24 hours each day. But, the thing that people like "Fit Mom" don't acknowledge is that it's not always about excuses. It's about priorities. Having a six-pack might be her #1, but some of us place greater value other things in our lives — like our education, our career, or our families. There's nothing shameful about prioritizing something else above your workout.

But.

If fitness does fall somewhere between 1 and 10 on your list of priorities, then there are ways to squeeze it in without driving yourself crazy. Fitness is not about being a fanatic gym monster, but about having an active life — emphasis on life. Here are five ways you can add a little activity into your day, even if you're crazy busy. If you are, high five! That doesn't mean you're making excuses. It means your life is full.
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Advertisement

1. Walk to one place you usually don't.
Some people call this The Commute Workout, because that trip to and from the office is a prime opportunity to log some extra steps. If you live in a city, that might mean getting off the subway one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way. If you're a car commuter, you might try parking farther away from the office (or switching to public transportation two or three days per week). But, if walking your commute is not an option, guess what? There are other places you can walk! Make a quick list of the errands you have to run this week. Odds are good one of them is walkable (maybe even two).

2. Wake up 20 minutes earlier.
I know, I know, this one is kind of cheating. I would never say, "Just get up a couple hours earlier so you can work out! Problem solved!" Because, then you'd have another problem: sleep deficiency. But, 20 minutes is a small enough shift that you probably won't feel a physical difference. You might be cranky about it, but fine — be a little cranky.

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) per week, meaning approximately 20 minutes per day. You can squeeze that in whenever it's convenient, but if you give yourself that extra 20 minutes in the morning, then you won't have to worry about forgetting when your day goes off the rails.

Still not convinced you can do it? One question: How much time do you spend on your phone after your alarm goes off? Right.

3. Change a sedentary occasion to a moving one.
Breaking: Just because it's exercise doesn't mean you have to hate it. Playing ping pong with your friends, going out dancing, walking home after a second date because you don't want it to end yet — that counts. There's nothing wrong with good-old movie night, but why not try turning your next friend hang into something you do on your feet? Now that it's getting warm outside, turn one of your meetings into a walk-and-talk. Even if you and your colleague wind up walking to Starbucks, you'll still have spent some time out of your seat and in the fresh air. Plus, just see how you feel when you sit back down: The walking meeting is the easiest route to a second wind.

Photographed by Ben Ritter.

4. Try a multitask-able workout.

If you do have a gym membership, don't waste it. We all know the particular agony of signing up for the gym and then watching our credit cards get charged for nothing. It makes you feel both wasteful and lazy, but you're not! You just have shit to do!

But, here's the thing: When I get seriously busy, I get stressed and anxious. One of the few things that help with that is exercise. So, I get on the treadmill, whip out my phone, and start taking care of business while I go for a power-incline walk. Some exercises require both my hands and attention, but things like the treadmill and the StairMaster let me work while working out. I can blow through my morning emails, prioritize my to-do list, and write "happy birthday" on my cousin's Facebook wall so she doesn't get mad at me. I do all those pain-in-the-ass things that I'd procrastinate at any other time. At the end of the workout, my head is more clear and my plate more clean. Taking those tasks off my list makes the rest of the day so much more manageable.

5. Embrace the stairs.
Sometimes, it's just that simple. Stairs are everywhere, and just utilizing them is the easiest, most convenient cardio/lower-body workout available. Plus, they're free! Think of all the places you go each day that have a set of stairs you don't even think about as you're flying by in that sweet elevator. As an experiment, challenge yourself to one elevator-free day and take note of how your body feels. A little challenged? Tired legs? Keep it up for a month and see how your body feels then (spoiler: pretty awesome).


The Anti-Diet Project is an ongoing series about intuitive eating, rational fitness, and body positivity. You can follow my journey on Twitter and Instagram at @mskelseymiller or #antidietproject (hashtag your own Anti-Diet moments, too!). Got a question — or your own Anti-Diet story to tell? Email me at kelsey.miller@refinery29.com.