Our modern lifestyle is generally more sedentary then that of our evolutionary ancestors. Whereas they spent large portions of their day walking long distances, lifting heavy things, sprinting, and stretching as needed; we tend to sit a lot more and move a lot less in general. While we move less, we still are incredibly busy, and the idea of finding the time to work out can be overwhelming. I know that with working full time and three little kids at home, the days of going to the gym or spending two hours doing yoga are over for me (at least for now). Many nights I can barely keep my eyes open long enough to get the kids in bed and fold the laundry (many nights the laundry pile grows instead of being folded). I often do not feel like I have enough time for playing with my kids or leisure activities as it is, but I like being active, and the benefits of an active lifestyle are many. In fact, recent studies say that are sedentary lifestyle is extremely bad for us. Read about this in depth here or here: Sitting is the new Smoking. Unfortunately, the effects of a sedentary lifestyle are not reversed by exercise and diet, so it is important we start moving now. There are many benefits to getting ourselves moving.
Benefits of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and yoga include:
The problem is of course, in spite of all the great benefits I do not have that much time in my day. Although I can't get to the gym, I have found ways to 'sneak' fitness into my day that have given me results that work for me. By this I mean, I feel stronger, more flexible, and have more energy. I do NOT have the "perfect body", this was not, and is not my goal. If your goal is also overall good health, strength and flexibility below are my tips for fitting in fitness when there isn't any time! Of course, I am not a doctor or yoga teacher so consult with a professional if you are worried about injury or health risks.
Yoga/ Resistance Training was the health activity I missed the most, and I added it back in, by starting with these 7 Yoga poses to do every day (look them over to understand the rest of the post).
These are 7 basic poses spread out throughout the day, so that you only do a few poses at any one time. Starting with just 4 breaths a pose, each set takes less than 5 minutes to start. As the poses became easy for me at 4 breaths a pose, I added an extra breath to each pose. I've been doing this set (with a few add ons) for almost 2.5 years daily, and am now up to 20 breaths per pose. While this takes slightly more time to do then when I started, I have noticed increased strength, balance, and flexibility. No extra equipment needed! I do these poses even on days when I am very tired, and I always feel better after I do them.
Once I had been doing the above poses for over a year, and was at 10 breaths, I felt the need to increase the challenge. I added a few modifications to increase resistance training. This is how I fit it in a little extra resistance training without a trip to the gym (this won't make sense unless you click on the 7 Yoga Poses link above, as these poses are in addition to the 7 Yoga poses at the above link).
1) I start with the morning cat/cow from the 7 poses above; after I have finished cat cow. I do plank pose in the morning, for the same amount of breaths I did for cat/cow (20 breaths currently).
2) Mid-morning or after lunch I do the forward bends as is in the set above. After lunch or at the end of the school day I do a more challenging lunge set. I start with Warrior 2 (first picture), then add a bending lunge (second picture) and a twisting lunge (third picture). In the twisting lunge, you can get an even deeper twist, if you twist the opposite way. After I do the lunge poses, I hold downward dog for an extra set, and then do yoga push ups. How many push ups should you do? As many as you can do and still do them correctly. Once they are easy, add another. I started with 5 yoga pushups, and now I do 15 (but I added extras slowly over time). If you want to see perfect Yogis doing these poses, you can Google them easily. Please excuse the selfies below, I couldn't find pictures that would show the actual poses without taking them myself or paying for them. I had planned to re-take them in looser clothing, but realized I would never get around to it, and thus never publish this post, so I went with what I captured on my first (and only) attempt.
I do the evening yoga poses as is in the 7 Yoga Poses to do everyday set before bed.
For those that have the time to add a little bonus strength training to their week, I highly recommend this 5 minute yoga routine for your arms 3 to 5 times a week.
If you are new to yoga, or worried about flexibility you may want to start with these poses. Yoga should be a stretch, and may strain muscles occasionally, but it should not hurt. If a pose hurts, you probably have something that is not lined up correctly. I recommend stopping, and researching or taking a class if necessary to correct these errors, you don't want to hurt yourself!
Aerobic exercise is slightly harder for me to fit in, as I don't have a long block of time in which I can do it. I fit little bursts of increased heart rate throughout the day by doing things like running up and down the stairs (often two at a time). I even do this at school if I don't think anyone is looking (though I don't recommend this if you are worried about falling. I will volunteer to get things on a different floor so that I get an extra chance to move sometimes. In class, if I notice my students looking tired we will stand up and do some in class jumping jacks or fast walking together. There are lots of ways to do little TPRS/CI (comprehensible input) workouts. These are good for you and the students, and can increase energy and learning ability. My students and I dance, run virtual obstacle courses, jump, run, walk, and do yoga all in the target language. Studies show that students often retain information better when it is tied to physical exercise.
I've also started doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) three or four days a week. There are 10 years worth of studies showing that HIIT training can provide many of the same benefits of longer aerobic workouts. I've only been doing this for about a month, so can't attest to it being the perfect answer to needing to fit more cardio in, but it gets my heart beating faster, is fun, and can be done in about 10 minutes. I'll update this post if I keep it up and find benefits.
In addition to all of the above, I go for walks, bike ride, play the tickle monster, and have dance parties with my kids. None of this is done with the goal of working out, but just to have fun while moving!
I hope this post helps a busy teacher (or anyone) sneak some extra fitness into your day. If you have other tips, or favorite fun activities to help others get moving, please share in the comments!
Entering my 13th year in the classroom; I am a TPRS/CI Elementary Spanish Teacher. Passionate about TPRS/CI, Brain based learning, and using technology to bring the world to our students, and our students to the world.