“Fitness when it’s hard” week: How to work out when you’re totally, completely, drop-dead, epically exhausted

You’re out there. You’re burning the candle at all ends during the holiday season trying to keep track of family responsibilities and work responsibilities and getting things done. You might have been looking forward to the season…or you might have been dreading it, anticipating the energy crush of too much to do, with too little time to do it.

And what’s the first thing that falls by the wayside when we look at our daily schedules and see every hour packed to the rafters with tasks to accomplish, people who need us, responsibilities we just have to attend to right now?

Yes. This is what goes by the wayside when we're crazy busy or just super-tired. But it doesn't have to be that way. Read on. (Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Yes. This is what goes by the wayside when we’re crazy busy or just super-tired. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on. (Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Um, yes. Exercise. And I am Exhibit A in that category this week.

It’s so easy to let a workout fall by the wayside. It feels extraneous sometimes, doesn’t it? A little self-indulgent, perhaps? One of my “a-ha” moments this fall came when I started creating a presentation for business leaders. When I presented to them, I realized just how strong the pull of workaholism can be in our culture.

We don’t have guaranteed vacation. We don’t have federally mandated paid parental leave. We don’t have nap rooms on site at our offices. We don’t even take all of our vacation time because we’re afraid of being judged to be less committed to our jobs if we take it. (And some CEO’s admit that they think just that about workers who take all of their allotted vacation time.)

Absolutely none of this is good for our health. So…here’s what I do when, for whatever reason, the “real workout” can’t get done that day. It’s not my goal to jettison my workout on a busy (or exhausted) day, of course, but when it happens, I go to my backup plan.

1. Move, in any way that you can, to start your day. When I can’t get to the gym or to my planned workout, I do everything I can to get in a walk before my day begins. Power-walk when you can (moving fast is a more efficient way to get conditioned than slow strolling).

2. Do a simple calisthenic routine first thing in the morning. Or last thing at night. Or during a break in your workday. Whatever works for you. I’ve always been partial to the Daily Dozen in Fit by Nature, but you can literally make up a workout from very simple bodyweight exercises. Here’s just one of the buhzillions of short, bodyweight-only workouts you can find online with a simple search.

3. Make movement a priority all day. Standing at your desk? Do 10 squats or lunges. Yes, right now. Have a wall nearby? Do 10 wall push-ups. Yes, right now. Get it? Take the stairs instead of the elevator and do a couple more flights than you need to do. Park further away from your destination. Get off the bus a stop or two before your actual stop, and power-walk the rest of the way.

There you go. Three things to do on the day when a full workout just isn’t happening. Even when you’re seriously, epically tired, you can do 10 squats. Then wait a while. Then do 10 more.

Recent Every48 workouts: Getting back in the saddle. Two big WALKS yesterday, morning and afternoon (my activity monitor said I moved for a total of 80 minutes at moderate pace—I’ll take it). Today, I started my day with the DAILY DOZEN from Fit by Nature: a combo of upper-body stretches, squats and lunges, push-ups, and core exercises. I feel better already! Cardio to come this afternoon.

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