‘All or None’ vs. ‘Something’ Smackdown

messages Feb 19, 2009

The irony of this title is not lost on me today, as I haven't been blogging as much as I would like in the last week or two. I've been sick, but have also been waiting for something really exciting to happen worthy of a blog entry. When you put February in Minneapolis together with not feeling well, you really don't get much. So instead of not writing anything, I've decided to write something.

Which can quite often be the case when contemplating a workout, no?

How many times have you had the internal dialogue that goes something like this:

"I really need to get in a workout today. Oooh, it's going to be hard though because I've really got a lot going on. I don't know when I'll be able to squeeze in 30 minutes. I just don't see it happening. Today is not looking good for working out. I guess I'll just have to skip it. I just don't have time."

The "I don't have time" statement is by far, bar none, hands down, the most popular excuse (notice I said "excuse" and not "reason") for not working out. Now before you stop reading because you think this is going to be a lecture, hang on a sec and keep reading. I'm not saying that I never have crazy battles in my head about whether or not to work out, or what it should be, or for how long. They go on quite often, actually. Which is why I feel like I can speak to this subject.

Science has shown that you do not have to do long, continuous workouts to get benefit. Studies have taken two groups of exercisers and divided them in to '30 minutes of continuous exercise done in one session' and '30 minutes done in 3 bouts of 10 minutes each, spread throughout the day'. Guess which group got more benefit? The second group that spread out their three 10 minutes sessions reaped more benefit, and here's why: Every time you exercise, your metabolism increases. When you finish exercising, it takes a while for your metabolism to slow back down. This means free extra calories being burned! I like to think of this as the "Afterburner Effect"... The group that did 30 consecutive minutes got only one "afterburner effect", whereas the second group got three!

Another benefit to splitting your workouts is that it may be more do-able from a time management perspective. Finding a big block of time can be very challenging, but finding 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes mid-day and 10 minutes in the evening definitely has possibilities. Instead of bagging a workout because you don't have 45 minutes or an hour, see how much you can accumulate throughout the day or week.

Here's another hole in the "no time" excuse: the average American watches a little over 4 hours of television each day. I don't think I have to extrapolate on this one as it's self-explanatory. Stop and calculate how much time you spend watching tv each week. It may add up to quite a bit. Could you decrease how much time you spend watching tv to get in a little more movement? You can even do it while you watch if you're not willing to cut back. Designate each commercial break as a time to get up and move (and not to the kitchen). Do some Hit the Deck cards or choose one muscle group to exercise and do some exercises on the floor. You could also stretch while watching. Just move.

Also think QUALITY, not necessarily QUANTITY. If you're really focused on your workout and don't waste time, you can get a lot done in 10 minutes. In fact, I bet I could make you barf in 10 minutes. (Ooooooh! The gauntlet has been thrown down!) Seriously though, don't mess around -- if you've only got a few minutes, work hard, get it done and you will get benefit.

Skipping workouts completely can also derail a good routine. Instead of getting in the habit of skipping one here and there (which could lead to skipping so many you feel like you've fallen off the wagon and decide to chuck the whole thing), be flexible. It may not be the ideal workout you were hoping for, but take heart that you did something instead of nothing.

Another strategy is to just do something. So you don't crank your heart rate up or make your muscles burn like crazy, but you just move. There's a lot of benefit to getting movement in your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, take that "thing" upstairs instead of amassing a huge pile at the bottom before taking anything up, stand up from your computer and stretch, take the dog for a walk, go over to the person 3 cubicles away from you and have a conversation in person instead of calling or sending an email, park further away, skip the drive-thru and go in to order, get up out of your roller chair to get that file instead of pushing yourself around your office. Just move.

You also may surprise yourself with how much you can get done once you start. It may feel so good you don't want to stop, and realize you can squeeze a little more in. Get the ball rolling and you may be surprised with what momentum can do.

Just look what it did for me. I posted "something".

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