I do a lot of writing and speaking on the subject of exercise and fitness, particularly cardiovascular and resistance training.
I talk about the importance of incorporating intensity and variety into our exercise, doing full body resistance training, mixing up cardio training with short burst-like activity as well as endurance-like activity (if you enjoy it), all the while remembering to include your flexibility, posture and proprioceptive exercise.
Whoa! Sounds like a lot.
As a result, I'm often asked, "How do you fit it all in?"
"Any way I can!" is the honest answer! I don't have one exactly perfect way for that I go about fitting in the various forms of exercise. There IS no one exactly perfect way!
The most important part of this entire exercise and time management puzzle is to decide that you WILL fit it in, no matter what. That has been the single most important factor for me. Sometimes, plans change or there's a serious conflict in my schedule and I'm not able to stick to my original exercise plan for the day. Having decided that I will move my body daily allows me to quickly shift gears and simply do something else to meet my body's innate genetic requirements for exercise. Not a big deal. Just move!
OK, so beyond making the decision to exercise and move for life, I've broken down my exercise regime into 4 main components: resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, posture & proprioception, and flexibility/yoga. There's definitely some overlap in these component - don't sweat the details!
I believe, and research confirms, that high intensity, varied full body resistance training is the superior method of working out. This is the number one way to build lean muscle which, in turn, most effectively burns fat and calories.
My resistance training workouts are typically 25-45 minutes long. They are pretty quick-paced, focused sessions that focus on big, multi-joint, functional exercises in order to create the highest work load for my body, and therefore the best results.
Depending on my mood and what other work outs I've been doing, 2/3 of the time I'll add "power" to these work outs. I'll add burst-like moves, like squat jumps, vertical leaps, bench jumps, etc.
I usually do these work outs 3 times each week. I add abdominal exercises at the end of these sessions. I work out at home, so I don't have any childcare issues to deal with. I'd prefer to do these work outs in the morning to maximize the metabolic effects of resistance training, but our exercise room is right next to where the kids sleep... there's no way I'm going to wake the sleeping bears!
I do resistance training in the midday, after work and home schooling items have been tended to. The kids know I'm going to fit my work outs in several times each week. They're often in the room with me, joining in or doing their own thing. It's part of their life, too.
I would get outside and go for a long run or bike ride every single day if my schedule permitted... and if it were the best thing for my body. Well, my schedule doesn't allow for that kind of time on a daily basis, and that type of exercise isn't ideal on a daily basis anyhow.
Again, science demonstrates that high intensity, widely varied exercise is ideal. This means that it benefits us to mix things up. My cardio is a mix of longer runs and bike rides (an hour or more), short, burst-like runs and sprinting sessions... and combinations of the two.
Once or twice per week, I love to get out for a longer run. At least one time per week, my cardio exercise is focused on short, intense bursts. For example, a 20 minute session of hill sprinting. Other times, I'll mix it up a bit: a middle distance run with some sprints or faster running on the uphills.
Since I've got the kids at home all day, and they're too young to be left alone, my husband and I take turns fitting in our cardio work outs. I wait until he comes home at lunch to go out on some weekdays, plus I'll fit in a couple sessions on the weekend.
Then there are all the miscellaneous cardio sessions, like running up and down hills with the kids on one of our "nature walks", and jumping on the trampoline, and pulling the kids in the trailer behind the bike and so on. Those are just icing on the cake!
All in all, I typically do 'official' cardio exercise sessions 4-6 times per week. Research clearly demonstrates that we do not need this much cardio activity in order to achieve optimal health and function. But, all those smarty pants in research haven't accounted for how much I mentally and emotionally need this! Cardio is my number one stress management tool.
Posture & Proprioception (P&P):
When I first wake up in the morning, way before the kids are up, I do about 10 or 15 minutes of specific movement and stretching to wake my body up and prepare it for the day, along with deep breathing exercises.
Since over 50% of proprioceptive input to the brain (the 'food' that truly drives the brain's performance) comes from the movement of the spine and its surrounding tissues, the majority of my proprioceptive exercises focus on moving my entire spine. For example, "Circles" exercise, as well as cross-crawl and twisting motions. The hips and ankles are also important sources of this neurological input for the brain, so I pay attention to those areas as well.
I also spend a few minutes doing postural correction exercises. Anterior head carriage and rounding of the shoulders are extremely common postural distortions that result in a lack of optimal function of the nervous system. Since I spend the first few hours of my day sitting at a computer, it's important for me to offset the negative postural effects before I even get started. Finally, I do some hamstring and hip flexor stretches at the start of the day.
This is the one category of exercise for me that overlaps with some of the others. I do some flexibility stretches in the mornings, but I also do some before and after cardio and resistance. I might do a yoga or Pilates floor routine on an 'off' day, or I might incorporate yoga poses and isometric training into a lighter resistance training day.
Regardless of how I fit it in, it's important for me to fit it in! Resistance and cardio can only get me so far. I think a big part of expressing optimal health and function over the course of a lifetime is to be flexible as well as powerful. I have to keep reminding myself to include this component... it's easier for me to get out and run than it is to slow down and stretch!
All in all, any given week may look like this:
Sunday - long distance run (or long bike ride)
Monday - start with P & P exercises and stretches
- resistance training with "power"
Tuesday - start with P & P
Wednesday - start with P & P
- resistance training with "power"
Thursday - start with P & P
- light day, yoga, Pilates, walking, trampoline, etc.
Friday - start with P & P
- long run
Saturday - start with P & P
- resistance training... and maybe a shorter, easy run. Saturdays are usually the day for a family outing, like a long bike ride.
I normally alternate a cardio day with a resistance day. It's not often that I do cardio on the same day as resistance training. If for some reason I decide to, I do cardio following resistance training, and I won't add the "power" moves to the resistance session. Also, I'd be more likely to do one of the shorter, burst-like cardio sessions on a day when I combine the two types of exercise. Ideally, I do cardio and resistance on separate days.
Does my schedule always look like this? No, not always. Sometimes, I get on a roll with running and I'll do a few days in a row. Or, if I have an injury, I may take a day or two off of the resistance training until my body mends.
The details really don't matter. What's important is to make the commitment to give your body what it needs - regular, varied movement. Motion is Life!
Dr. Colleen Trombley ("Dr Mom Online") is a leading expert in Natural Health & Wellness. Discover why the healthiest, busiest women turn to Dr. Mom for practical tips regarding healthy lifestyle, nutrition, fitness & exercise, diet & weight loss, raising healthy kids, effective stress management, and more. Request your FREE special report revealing Dr. Mom's personal formula for success, "The Wellness Formula" at
exercise and fitness