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Balancing Exercise With the Rest of Your Life

The following is a guest post from Peter Hirsh, a personal fitness instructor who’s been practicing holistic and kettlebell training with clients for over 10 years. You can find Peter over at Kettlebell Movement.

I have been training clients one on one for over ten years and have seen just about everything. A reoccurring issue I see for many people is finding the time to workout. Between family, work, and friends it’s easy to let your workouts slip away. I am going to help you develop a plan to stay in shape, even if you have little time to do so. If you are following a Paleo diet, you already know that weight management is 85% diet. Physical exercise is more about strength, flexibility, balance and posture than burning calories. That doesn’t mean that exercise won’t help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, just that diet is far more responsible for your weight management than anything else. With that said, getting in a few workouts each week will benefit your health in more ways than just weight management. Creating time for yourself to move your body and get your heart rate pumping improves your sleep, decreases your stress levels, and even improves the digestion of all those healthy foods you’re eating!
Over the years I have observed some methods that really seem to help people find time for their workouts.

1. Routine

Typically people that go each day hoping they will find some spare time to squeeze in a workout, rarely find that time. Instead, make a plan for your week and schedule in that time. Commit to it like you would a meeting or a doctors appointment.

2. Find a group class or personal trainer

Although this probably won’t cut your workouts any shorter, it will keep you both motivated and committed. If you have a group class or personal training session that you attend every Tuesday at 6pm, you are committed to this class and you are making time for it. Go with a friend for even more motivation!

3. Walk/Bike/Run to work

You have to get to work somehow so why not do it by using your body? This will take some time management and coordinating but you will show up at work awake and ready for your day, and your workout already finished!

4. Get your workout done first thing in the morning

With a lot of my clients I see them slowly dwindle away as the day goes on. By the time 5pm rolls around they have found a million excuses why they can’t workout or they are just plain tired from a long day at work. By getting up an hour earlier and fitting a workout in, it’s out of the way and you can focus on responsibilities the rest of the day. Keep in mind I am not recommending you sacrifice sleep to fit this workout in. It’s a must that you are still getting 7-9 hours of sleep (depending on your body) each night or the workout may do more harm than good. Go to bed an hour earlier in order to wake up earlier for your workout!

5. Bring your kids

A common obstacle people run into is no babysitter for their kids. My solution to this is to do your workout at a local park. Your kids can run and play and you can do a small circuit in the grass. Exercise and fresh air for both of you!

The above tips are some of the most common lifestyle changes I have recommended for my clients over the years to help them fit in their workout. I also have some recommendations for what your workout should consist of in order to get the full benefit in a lesser amount of time. Here are your biggest assets when it comes to working out on a tight schedule:

1. Train exercises that use your whole body, instead of muscle isolation

Around fifty percent of my practice sessions utilize only two lifts. This is a methodology I have used for many years and is highly praised by many mentors of mine. For example, consider a workout that consists of five to ten rounds of 10 kettlebell swings and 10 pushups. Both of these exercises rely on strength from very different muscle groups yet both are full body and highly functional. The swings can be varied in challenge by changing the weights and the pushups can be altered to match any ability level. You can accomplish this circuit in approximately 30 minutes, depending on your experience level, and by the end you will have gotten a full body strength and cardio workout.

2. Train your brain and your body together

A good physical practice will develop coordination, balance, and proper lifting patterns. These skills will carry over to the real world and help you progress to more challenging lifts. Rather than running mindlessly on a treadmill you will get the most out of your workouts if you are using your brain to move your body.

3. Get your cardiovascular training through your strength training

Rather than separating these two out as different workouts, do them together! By training your entire kinetic chain as a single unit you will find it demands far more from your cardiovascular system than muscle isolation. Use this to your advantage by moving quickly to different movements or taking a break when it is time to get the heart rate back down. Interval training nearly always gives better results than endurance type cardio that may also have a negative impact on your sympathetic nervous system over time.

4. Learn to do more with less (more exercise, less equipment, less time)

It shouldn’t require a gym load of equipment to get the results you want. I recently hiked into a campsite where I wasn’t prepared to bring a kettlebell (my primary exercise tool), but was very happy to build a rock stack taller than myself! If you can keep one kettlebell in your car, you have a gym anywhere you go. If you don’t have a kettlebell, use your body and do push-ups, lunges, pull-ups, or other body weighted movements.

Exercise balance

5. Remember that frequency trumps intensity

For best results in your exercise, and usually for scheduling, avoid the lengthy workouts that leave you crawling to your car. Leaving with absolutely no gas in the tank can be fun once in a while but on a regular basis it is likely to cause injury and diminish the reward for your effort. If your workout leaves you feeling ready to conquer the world, you’re doing just fine.

All you need to get a workout in is your body and motivation. If there is one tool I recommend people invest in for fast and efficient workouts, it’s a kettlebell. Kettlebells can fit in the trunk of your car and go with you virtually anywhere. In 30 minutes you can get a full body workout, including cardiovascular. Kettlebell training tops running on a treadmill any day and is much more beneficial for your body. Many people feel intimidated by kettlebells at first. I use them with a majority of my clients and most are surprised by how capable their body is when learning to use a kettlebell. If you want to get started with kettlebells learn the deadlift, kettlebell swing, kettlebell clean & press, and the kettlebell snatch. With these four movements you will have workouts to do for life that will benefit your body and health tremendously.

It is my goal to help everyone enjoy living their life at a healthy bodyweight, with excellent posture, and the ability to function without injury or stress in the world we live in. I also believe you should be getting many benefits from your practice and that you can achieve this in just a short amount of time. I am very grateful to be able to provide people with the knowledge and inspiration to live life to it’s fullest and discover what vibrant health feels like. Make the time to get out there and move your body, you won’t regret it!