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The Thirty-Minute...

The Thirty-Minute Workout: An Attainable Goal for Harried Moms

It’s easy to make excuses—I do it all the time. If I didn’t have a dog to walk two times a day, I seriously wonder if I’d get much exercise at all. If you’re like me and loathe gyms (or rather the amount of time it takes to get to them, work out for an hour, then shower and get home)—there’s hope. Basically, we just need to lower our expectations and make a back-up plan.

“There’s the real and then there’s the ideal. Just because you can’t do your ideal: say go to the gym for your favorite one-hour class, does that mean you do nothing at all? You have a have a plan B,” says Ginger Tracy, CFT, CNC, a nutritionist and exercise consultant in Beverly Hills.

Tracy knows by experience. This forty-five-year-old mother of two, and grandmother of four, understands the importance of squeezing in fitness between jobs, children, and myriad demands. One of the keys to making a realistic plan B is to lower your exercise goal to just thirty minutes a day and to determine when to squeeze it into your schedule.  

“Find the time. Some can do it first thing in the morning—I’m just not a morning person. But everyone can eek out thirty minutes a day. It’s a noble goal. Choose your time and place. Some like to workout at home with a DVD, and there are lots of good ones out there. Some like the gym. So if you like to work out after work, make sure you have that gym bag packed and in the car. It’s all about preparation,” explains Tracy.

If you aren’t a morning person either, or if you’re packing children’s lunch boxes and dropping off kids at schools and want the extra hour to sleep, rather than have a 5 a.m. work out—that’s totally understandable. Maybe you can’t find time to exercise after work either since you may have to relieve a sitter and then tackle the “what’s for dinner” daily struggle. This doesn’t mean that you’re destined to solely be a weekend warrior, however. 

“At lunch time, take thirty minutes to have a brisk walk outside and get a bit of Vitamin D in the sunshine. Or if you have a gym in the building, get on a treadmill for thirty minutes or lift weights. It doesn’t have to be for an entire hour, so lunchtime can be used for a workout,” explains Tracy.

Make exercise fit into your schedule, instead of trying to alter your schedule to fit it in. A thirty minute lunch routine will still give you time to eat a healthy lunch that you bring to the office. If this does not sound terribly sociable, recruit a buddy to exercise with you, with the goal of three lunchtimes a week. The point is, even if you can’t do this every day—you end up exercising much more than you normally would.

Once you start with the daily weekday exercise, make sure you’re flexible. Determine which workout is best for you by listening to your body, says Tracy.

“Ask yourself: ‘How do I feel after I do this?’ If you feel completely beat up afterwards, it’s too much. You should try something else. Tune into your body,” Tracy says.

This means not chucking the workout all together, just because lifting weights in the corporate gym hurts—but determining where you can reduce the intensity in your routine.

For those going to a gym after or before work, perhaps you need to shorten your workout.

“Being in the gym for longer than one hour can be harmful. You can raise cortisol levels. For those people who are already highly stressed, this might be more than you can handle. For those people juggling family and a demanding job, I suggest yoga and pilates to relax you—calming exercises will be better for your life,” says Tracy. (She suggests the Rodney Yee: Yoga and Paul Gilley’s “Yen Yoga” DVDs.)

Some women feel continually run down because they are working too hard in their workouts trying to lose weight. If your main goal is to drop stubborn pounds that haven’t come off since baby arrived, Tracy says you may want to optimize your exercise with interval training. To do this, you may initially want to work with a trainer (after discussing it with your doctor first) to do thirty minute "power burst" routines.

As its name suggests, power bursts incorporate one minute bursts of high energy sprints between minutes of cool down jogging or light walking in a thirty-minute routine on a treadmill. The idea is that it will ultimately speed up your metabolism and burn fat.

“Power burst workouts are the most efficient way to burn fat. I’d recommend three days of power burst work-outs, with two days of weight training and then throw in a day or two of yoga and you’ll definitely lose weight and tone up,” Tracy explains.

(If you don’t have a gym at the office, power bursts can easily be incorporated outside, by infusing one-minute bursts of running into your power walks or jogs.)

An example of a Power Burst Treadmill workout:

  • Five minutes of a warm up on a treadmill—walking fast or jogging lightly
  • One minute of a power burst: running as hard as you can
  • Two minutes of recovery, light walking/light jogging
  • One minute of a power burst

The goal is to do six of these with one-minute burst intervals for a total of thirty minutes. The treadmill can actually be programmed to follow this format for you, so you can just bring your ipod, groove to some tunes, and be done in half an hour.

Squeezing a half an hour of exercise into your day—whether you just walk around the block at lunchtime, or do a sun salute yoga routine in the morning—is obtainable. And if the results bring smaller waistlines and more energy into your life—how can it possibly not be a noble goal?

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