At Parks, we strongly believe in a multi-faceted and well-rounded approach to mental, physical and psychological wellbeing. At the centre of that belief is practising sufficient levels of physical exercise regularly. Despite this, we know that people living busy lives – whether that’s raising a young family, or working every waking hour – often struggle to fit an exercise regime into a busy life.
So, to help those people who struggle to schedule in exercise around their busy lives, we have sought the advice and help of Melinda Nicci, an esteemed sports psychologist, and founder of Baby2Body. Melinda has offered her extensive expertise to offer up suggestions on finding the motivation to exercise, and finding a time to schedule it in.
Hi Melinda, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Firstly, I’d like to ask what motivates you to exercise? What drives you to lace up your trainers and get active, rather than spread out on the sofa?
Hi there, thanks for having me.
I’ve worked in and around the fitness space for so long, and at this point my motivation to exercise is completely ingrained into who I am and how I define myself; I just don’t feel like myself if I’m not on a regular exercise schedule. I love how working out makes me feel, and I hate how not working out makes me feel, so what motivates me to exercise is knowing that it will help me feel my best and wanting to achieve that feeling every day.
Do you have any advice to help motivate people who are averse to sports and exercise? Any quick tips and cheats to get them in the right frame of mind to take action and get active?
It’s so important that you have fun with whatever workout or fitness class or exercise you’re doing because you’ll want to go do it again. Find an exercise or activity you genuinely enjoy doing, because it will be easier to stay consistent with it, and consistency is key to making exercise a part of your lifestyle. If you’re going to make something a regular part of your life, you might as well love it.
If you’re just starting an exercise schedule, be careful of setting big expectations right off the bat. You’re not going to hit all your fitness goals in a week and chances are you won’t be able to jump into a 5-day-a-week, 45-minute-a-day workout routine overnight – so don’t put that pressure on yourself or your workout. Similarly, if you go to a new exercise class and push yourself too hard from the start, you’ll be turned off to the whole thing. Start small and build. Set attainable goals and continue to up the ante every week.
Some people struggle to fit exercise into their busy daily routine – do you have any ideas for quick 15-minute exercise bursts that busy people could sneak into their day-to-day life?
Get in the habit of morning circuits. Lay out your workout clothes the night before so you can change into them first thing. Then, jump into a 15-minute bodyweight circuit. Here’s a quick example: Do 1 minute each of the following: bodyweight squats, bicycle crunches, walking lunges, and burpees (with the pushup!). Rest for a minute and repeat 2 more times. That’s it. This 15-minute exercise gives you two benefits in one: it will help you feel more awake and alert for the day, and your workout will be done and out of the way.
In addition to this, do you know of any tips to help busy people incorporate exercise into their daily activities?
Make your workout serve dual purposes – for example, combine your social outings with regular exercise. Join fun workout classes with some of your good friends and replace after-work drinks with after-work spin class, or sign up for personal training with your partner and make it a kind of date-night activity.
Other quick tips: do squats while brushing your teeth, do calf raises while doing the laundry, dishes or other chores around the house, and take phone calls on the go and get in a walk while you talk. The message is: look for ways to stay in motion during your daily activities; it may not be a technical ‘workout’ but it’s increasing your daily activity levels, which is the most important thing.
Is there an optimum time of day for people to exercise, and how many hours per week should a person look to exercise?
The best time of day to exercise is whatever time you can exercise. I’m definitely a fan of a morning workout because it gets me energized for the day ahead. But some days when I’m already inundated with emails by 6am, I’ll switch my schedule to fit my workout in at night. Hitting the gym after work has its own benefits – it allows you to unwind and process the day you’ve just had.
The only thing I would keep in mind is that it’s best to avoid late night exercise, especially if you’re trying to get to sleep shortly after. Exercise naturally wakes our bodies up and revs our systems – so you’ll find it more difficult to fall asleep if you exercise right before going to bed.
As for how many hours a week you should exercise, it depends on where your current fitness level stands. It’s more about exercise consistency than exercise longevity, especially at the start. It’s better to get out 4 or 5 days a week even if only for 20 minutes at a time, rather than doing a long workout once a week. Once you’ve used consistency to build a habit, aim for 30-45 minutes a day 4-5 times a week.
One of the biggest issues many busy people face when trying to find time to exercise is the weather. Often when the working day is done, it is cold, wet and dark outside. Do you have any tips for home-based exercise?
Yes, remember that on those cold, wet days all you really need for a great workout is your body, a good playlist and a circuit exercise that combines a bit of cardio with bodyweight workouts. You can get a great exercise doing high-intensity circuits from the warm, dry and bright comfort of your home.
For those looking to create a home exercise centre – do you have any tips for building a comprehensive and supportive environment for exercise?
You don’t need loads of fancy equipment, and you don’t even need to dedicate a full room to an exercise space. If you don’t have much room to spare, I’d suggest getting a yoga mat – so you can do your workouts on a designated, comfortable area that you won’t slip on – and a resistance band. You can do so much with these two things.
If you have a bit more space to work with, I’d invest in exercise balls (one large, one small), a set of 5-8kg dumbbells and make sure you have a floor-length mirror in the room so you can observe your form when doing any resistance or weight training exercises.
Make sure the space you dedicate to exercise in your home is well ventilated. It’s even better if you can use a space that gets a lot of natural light, as it will be more uplifting than working out in a darker, artificially-lit environment.
I always recommend starting with these simple basics and work on building a habit of using your home exercise space before purchasing any large equipment. The last thing you want is bulky and expensive equipment taking up space in your home while going unused, as it can create negative and resentful feelings around exercise.
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