January 3, 2010
Fitting in fitness: Effort, creativity can make workouts possible for busy workers
Special to NWjobs
While the end of 2009 found 10 percent of the U.S. population unemployed and with a bit more time on their hands, other workers who were asked to pick up the slack ended up more strapped for time than ever before.
Longer work hours -- not to mention the usual roadblocks to regular exercise, including parenthood, offbeat hours and multiple jobs -- can make a personal-fitness routine one of the first things sacrificed when life gets too busy. But does that mean that making the classic New Year’s resolution to get in shape is destined for failure by February?
“In today’s economy, it’s just a scramble,” says one employee, a marketing manager who says she has been working 10-hour days since a round of layoffs in June.
The employee, who works for a local company focused on sustainability, asked that she not be named for fear of tarnishing the company’s image. She says her employer “used to be more generous about the work-life balance, especially being a company that promotes healthy living. But I’ve put on 10 pounds in the last year.”
Mike Hardin, a personal trainer who makes house calls, hears this a lot in his business. “A good amount of the people I’m working with now are all stretched for time,” he says. “But for one reason or another, they’ve decided they need to make exercise a priority.”
Talk to your boss
Changing your workplace culture to a more fitness-friendly one may be easier than you think. Try these strategies when raising the topic with the boss:
Remind him or her that numerous studies, including a report in 2008 by the University of Bristol published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, have shown healthy employees have increased productivity, concentration, energy and creativity.
Propose a weekly lunch-hour workout with a fitness instructor, where employees pitch in a few bucks and the employer makes up the difference. It will be cheaper than the insurance costs down the road.
Invite the boss to participate. Working out together is a great equalizer and builds camaraderie.
One of Hardin’s clients is Rebecca Pellman. With a full-time job in corporate communications for T-Mobile, plus several freelance PR projects on the side, Pellman finds free time hard to come by. She doesn’t own a car and doesn’t feel safe walking in her neighborhood alone at night, so she hires Hardin to come to her Central District bungalow. For $90 an hour, he temporarily transforms her 450-square-foot space into a mini-gym three times a week, using everything from stacks of books to cat toys as workout props.
“The thing that’s really made my fitness regimen successful is that I’m accountable,” Pellman says. “I pay in advance, and it’s not just my time anymore; it’s his time, too.”
For those who can’t hire an in-home trainer for lack of either time or money, Kelly Singer, co-founder of the mobile personal-training and yoga company Sassy Fit, suggests doing calisthenics at work to help tone and burn calories without getting sweaty. “If you’re sitting down in a chair, you can just flex a particular muscle group, like your butt or abs,” she says. “Start with one minute and work your way up to five minutes, and you’ll feel it the next day.”
Other subtle activities can help, too, Singer says. Drink more water, which gets you out of your chair and walking to the cooler and the bathroom more often. Do calf lifts under the table during meetings, or schedule five minutes an hour on your calendar for jumping jacks in your office. “It’ll really get your blood flowing, and you’ll feel more energetic throughout the day,” Singer says.
Many trainers also make office calls. Hardin says that recruiting exercise-starved co-workers to pitch in for a lunch-hour workout makes the cost more affordable and helps co-workers motivate each other. “It gets people talking and exchanging ideas,” he says. “That creativity comes from being accountable.”
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