Incorporating Exercise Into a Busy Life

Jay Hewitt says two important keys to incorporating exercise into your busy life are flexibility and good habits.

| Jul 8, 2009

I would exercise if I had more time... if I had a health club membership... if it didn't hurt so much... if I knew what exercises to do... if I could do it with my family... if I could control my blood sugar...

Have you ever said anything like that?  I have. Yes, I race the Ironman triathlon, but I also live in the real world.  I have a job (two actually-lawyer and motivational speaker), a wife and child, a house with chores that need to be done, and a demanding training schedule. Oh, yeah, and I also have type 1 diabetes.  I know how hard it is to balance life and exercise.  Let's see what we can do.

If I had more time...

I remember thinking about running my first marathon in 1999 (eight years after I was diagnosed with type 1) and wondering, how does anyone have time to do that?  A few years later I decided to race triathlons, then to enter the Ironman triathlon, and finally to qualify for and race with the long distance triathlon U.S. National Team.  How does anyone with a job, a wife, and children have time for that?  Time, however, is the great equalizer.  Unlike money or talent, we all have the same amount of time, and it passes at the same speed for everyone.  In his sage poem If, Rudyard Kipling reviews the many challenges in life and reminds us to "fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run."  Suddenly the unforgiving minute is gone.  The year is gone.  The decade is gone.  I sure am glad I decided to run that marathon a decade ago.

Two important keys are flexibility and good habits.  One good habit is early morning exercise, before the kids are up or the day gets too busy.  For the working man or woman, I recommend that instead of sitting in a restaurant during lunch break, you work out for a quick 45 minutes or hour several days a week.  Pack your workout bag before you leave the house every morning, even if you think you won't have time.  Like a Revolutionary War minuteman, you'll have your gear ready to go when the bugle blows.  Of course, you must be flexible enough to shorten or skip exercise when your job or family needs you more. They are the most important, especially in this threatening economic recession. Still, you have to be healthy to enjoy your family and handle your job, and exercise is the key to that.  Do you find time to sleep, watch TV, or play on the Internet and Facebook, but believe that you don't have time to exercise?  You always make time for the things that are important to you.

If I had a health club membership...

The world is the greatest health club, and it's free!  Walking, running, cycling, roller blading, and hiking are all there for the taking.  I belong to a health club for swimming and weight training, but I love to get outdoors to ride my bike or run.

If it didn't hurt so much...

Who said exercise has to hurt all of the time?  Yes, you do need to push yourself, and everyone likes the satisfaction and challenge of making it through that hard workout or up that steep hill.  But some days all you need is a good steady effort, just enough to keep your heart rate going.  You actually burn more fat when you exercise for a longer time at a pace that is not too intense.  I call it the labored-conversation pace.  Work out hard enough that your conversation with the person next to you is a bit labored.  You don't have to go all out for 20 to 30 minutes with your chest and muscles searing like you drank battery acid and your eyes popping out of your skull.  Forty-five minutes to an hour at a labored-conversation pace will burn more fat.

If I knew what exercises to do... 

I am a big fan of cross training, which can include walking, swimming, cycling, tennis, softball, playing golf without a cart, hiking, rollerblading, and aerobics.  I like to weight train one day a week in the gym, but combine it with endurance training outside on other days.  Once you are out of your twenties, sports like basketball, lacrosse, and soccer are hard on the knees and ankles, so I encourage "straight line sports" like running, cycling, and swimming.

If I could do it with my family...

Make your family a part of it.  I love to push my daughter in the jogging stroller or pull her on my bike.  Play co-ed volleyball or tennis with your spouse at the Y and take your family to watch Dad or Mom run the local 5k or 10k. Let them be excited with you.

If I could control my blood sugar...

Use technology.  I keep OneTouch blood sugar meters in my workout bag, car, office, and home.  Test before and after exercising.  Keep nutrition and sport drinks available before, during, and after workouts.  Adjust your insulin after some experimenting and checking with your doctor.  I adjust my basal dose on my Omnipod insulin pump for long workouts. 

The most important thing is to have fun.  Whether you are racing or just getting in shape, she or he who has the best time, wins!

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Columns, Community, Diabetes, Diabetes, Exercise, Fitness, Insulin, Insulin Pumps, Jay Hewitt, Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues


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