Lifestyle

It’s gym time: how to make time for exercise

Regular exercise is proven to enhance productivity

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It’s an easy excuse, but everybody uses it: “I’m too busy to work out.” Whether you actually are struggling to make time in your calendar or you just don’t feel like hitting the gym, here are three simple strategies to making time for exercise no matter what:

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.

Look at your calendar for the past four weeks — when is the time when you’re the least busy? Are there any trends in gaps that would allot a short (or long) workout? Plan on using that time to hit the gym, go for a bike ride or do a workout video.

There’s more to assess than your free time. When do you typically have the most energy? Working out actually increases energy, assuming you don’t overexert yourself, due to increased levels of endorphins in your system.

It’s better to optimize the excess energy (or anxiety) for a workout, and then use your clear mind and peaceful energy for work afterward.

If you tend to do well with group motivation, sign up in advance for classes at a certain day and time of the week. Whether you go with friends initially or meet regulars as the class progresses, you’ll have other people holding you accountable to show up and sweat.

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Don’t get overzealous, either. Be realistic. If you don’t wake up at 5 a.m. every day as is, planning on a two-hour prework workout and then completely canceling past 5:15 is a recipe for disaster.

Work with the time you have. Even when you schedule diligently, life has its way of interfering.

2. Getting fancy with your workout might waste too much time.

Unless you’ve never done any sort of physical activity before, you’re probably aware of what you like and dislike to burn off excess calories.

Take running as an example. It’s an independently motivated activity that can get pretty boring if you’re not in the right setting or state of mind. Although running is an activity that gets easier as you train, and it’s very possible you’ll grow to like it, it takes time.

Once you start feeling “runner’s high,” the euphoric sense you get after running a few or more miles, it might become a regular part of your routine.

When starting something new, don’t be afraid to go slow. For instance, try taking 20 minutes out of your hourlong fitness routine to attempt new abdominal techniques. If it’s not working, move on.

During a particularly busy month, you might be lucky to fit in a half hour a day. Therefore, it’s probably not a good time to start training for a couch-to-marathon program right off the bat.

3. Don’t forget: Walking counts.

Invest in a fitness tracker such as the Jawbone UP, Apple Watch or any step counter in the Fitbit line if you want to get serious fast. The average goal is 10,000 steps per day — and you’ll probably be surprised at how much you’ve been falling short.

Alternatively, you might be hitting 10,000 steps per day just from running around from showing to open house and back again. With a naturally active lifestyle, it’s not necessary to start running five or more miles to be characterized as “active” — unless, of course, you have extra time or a specific goal in mind.

Being active might not be your issue, even if you or your doctor thinks you need to drop a few pounds. A healthy lifestyle is around 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise.

When the weight just won’t come off, visit a nutritionist or start counting your calories with an app like MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal even has barcode scanners for easy input of big-name nutrition labels.

The app breaks down your daily intake of micronutrients and macronutrients, and provides a rough estimate of your target sodium, protein and cholesterol, among others.

Keep in mind that apps and classes are not intended to replace dietary professionals — they are merely a convenient guideline to keep you on target. If you have weight issues or health complications, visit your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.

Email Jennifer Riner.