Working out on the sidelines: Improvising exercise on a busy schedule

Silver chain link fence around a green park/baseball field
  • February 25, 2022

If you are anything like me, you live for your children.

Maybe you spend most of your days driving them to and from sporting events like I do.

My son is a competitive baseball player, and my daughter is a competitive dancer. Naturally, their extracurricular activities end up eating up most of my after-work hours. Of course, it isn’t even my shuttling them to and from events that takes the most time. It’s often –as you may well know- my taking these activities way too seriously and thus, spending plenty of additional time every day making sure that they’ve practiced and prepared enough. After the busy work week (and often on weekends as well), it’s difficult to find time –or energy after a long day -to prioritize simple things for myself like exercise.

Though I most enjoy traditional strength training techniques at the gym, getting to a gym is not always feasible. Lately, instead of skipping a day and falling off track, I’ve been trying a new approach.

Keeping in mind the Pritikin ICR mantra of progress, not perfection, I’ve been doing my best to follow the American Heart Association (AHA) recommendation of “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.” Below are some of the strategies I have adopted to ensure that I am making progress towards my exercise goals.

  • Use your imagination: Use the natural boundaries the location gives to you to create a track. What does this look like for me? The baseball field’s outer fence line to the backstop. I use a free app on my phone (there are many to choose from) to measure the distance of my “track” and get to walking or running. With this trick, not only am I getting my exercise in, but I don’t miss any of my son’s practice!
  • Track your progress and set goals: Using virtual trackers can be very helpful in tracking your goals and creating accountability. This is especially motivating because as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states, “Setting goals can help you focus and set a clear direction for what you intend to accomplish.”
  • Compromise and adapt – Though the walk or run around the field may not compare to the strength training I’d get at the gym, adding resistance training to these walk/run sessions helps me to maximize my time. You can sprinkle lunges, wall sits, and planks throughout your walk/run to work on major muscle groups. Take a look around and get creative. You can use a picnic table to incorporate dips, and you don’t need anything but the ground to do a few push-ups and sit-ups to work your triceps, chest, and core.

You may not be at a baseball field, or maybe you have physical limitations that do not allow you to do some of the exercises I mentioned above but the idea here is to adapt to the environment around you. Whether you are involved in your kids’ activities or just a spectator, there is an opportunity to peck away at the recommended 150 minutes/week of exercise just about anywhere.

Getting creative, thinking outside the box, and even encouraging others to join you will help you in the long run!

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