While challenging yoga sequences, lengthy nature hikes, bustling health clubs, and long (loooong) runs down stretches of empty asphalt represent places of pure Zen for me, I recognize that they can translate into experiences of utter torture, boredom, intimidation, or insanity (or a combination thereof) for others.
For example, take my lovable (albeit a tad snarky) co-worker pal, who is attempting to get healthy in 2009. Recently, we engaged in the following banter:
Me (prancing into his office, brightly sipping on V-8 juice): You should drink V-8.
Co-worker pal: I hate V-8.
Me: Yeah, I know- I did too! But, now, I like it! My whole life I hated it, and now, I’ve totally changed my perspective; I looove it. [Perhaps I said this too cheerily].
Co-worker pal: Well, I don’t like you, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
He was, of course, kidding. (At least, I’m pretty sure he was kidding). Either way, I’m on a mission. You see, I don’t just go around telling people to drink vegetable juice for no good reason. My co-worker pal has made an ambitious resolution to lose weight in the New Year, and make no mistake; this is no laissez-faire, fit-into-my-skinny-jeans again aspiration. This is a buy-new-jeans (several sizes smaller), lifestyle overhaul, slated to take place over the next 10 months. The motivating event? His sibling’s wedding in the fall. In other words, I’m rooting for my friend, and I want to help.
So, when he confided in me that one of the greatest challenges to achieving his weight loss goal is the fact that he hates working out (or even wearing T-shirts for that matter—don’t ask; it’s something he feels strongly about, stylistically speaking), I went to task brainstorming the best ways to get fit sans the gym or any kind of rigid fitness program. Behold: The Non-Workout Workout Program, compliments of Om Gal (new found lover of V-8 and New Year’s resolution cheerleader/champion/resource to any and all who want her help and some who would really rather be left alone).
1.) Walk Off Your Waistline: Walking is the simplest, most natural, most readily accessible exercise program available to all of us. Plus, it’s FREE. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes or boots (yes, my friends living through wintry weather, you need to git movin’ even when the temperatures plummet, sidewalks become slick with ice, and slush is something through which you wade regularly rather than order in charming colors and flavors at 7-11). In order to substitute daily activity that fits into the context of your life for a designated exercise plan (i.e. the gym, yoga, rock-climbing, kite-surfing, whatever), you must walk in one or more of the following ways: FAR, FREQUENTLY, and BRISKLY.
The best ways to integrate this healthy habit: take a regular walk during your lunch break; run your errands on foot (bonus points for lugging heavy groceries or multiple items of dry-cleaning); park in the farthest spot rather than the closest when arriving at a destination; get off public transport 1-2 stops before your destination and walk the rest of the way; take the stairs (always); choose restaurants and leisure activities based upon location (if you can walk there, do it).
2.) Be Your Own Weight-Loss Infomercial: Chances are you watch at least one hour of TV per day/night—possibly much more, which means you have a built-in time frame for fitness, without leaving the comfort of your own home. What’s more, I’m not even recommending that you interrupt your chosen program of choice (trust me; I know how riveting reality TV can be, and you need to be firmly planted on the couch to focus wholly on such cinematographic mastery). I am recommending that, during every commercial break, you get up and move your tuckus. The math is staggering when you consider that a half-hour program contains eight minutes of commercials. If you watch 2 hours of TV (fess up, folks) and get some exercise just during commercial breaks, you will have compiled 32-minutes of exercise in total. Not to mention, you won’t be engaging in unhealthy activities such as eating a bottomless box of Cheez-its or diving into a pint of ice cream with zero cognition of portion control (a bowl, what’s that?).
The best ways to integrate this healthy habit: Do a set of push-ups during one commercial spot (knees on the floor is fine!), a set of sit-ups during the next, a wall squat for the entire duration of two advertising masterpieces, a set of jumping jacks whenever that insane ShamWow commercial airs . . . You get the picture.
3.) Speaking of Reality TV . . . Have Alliances: If you’re unaccustomed to being active and surrounded by people who are similarly sedentary, you are setting yourself up for an upstream battle. Find a friend, eager co-worker (insert appropriate amount of sarcasm here), or invested family member, and make a pact to do non-workout-workout activities together. If you don’t physically get together for a walk, night on the dance floor, or friendly po-go stick competition, promise that you’ll call, email, or text to check that each of you did some sort of physical activity that day.
The best ways to integrate this healthy habit: Stop being a baby and ask a pal to help you. He/she will be thrilled. Promise.
4.) Become the Non-Jock Jock: There are plenty of fun ways to burn calories that don’t involve the gym or any activities involving spitting, towel snapping, lycra clothing; cheering, clapping, or woot wooting of any kind. Sure, most of my friends are yogis or jocks or both, but many are simply active people. Some have never set foot inside a gym but instead traverse the city on foot, bike, or skateboard; toil away in a garden for hours; chase their kids around the playground (I wouldn’t recommend chasing other peoples’ kids around the playground); take dance lessons, join bowling leagues, or tune into fitness DVDs or TV programs from home. I even have one frugal gal pal who’s taken to acquiring cheap DVDs or VHS tapes at Goodwill and going “retro” on her fitness program. Last I checked her at-home fitness program was circling 1981 with the Buns of Steel series. Hey, if it works, who cares what the copyright date reads? I have a sick pair of legwarmers if anyone wants to borrow them.
The best ways to integrate this healthy habit: Think about what makes your heart tick and choose a corresponding activity. Heck, Om Bro has a pal who just took up archery, in East Cambridge, by himself, at night. Sure, it’s a little eyebrow-raising, particularly for his city-dwelling neighbors as he takes aim at their garbage cans and telephone poles, but it gets my brother’s friend excited. It taps a place of discovery and creativity in him. His brain focuses on mastering a new skill, which is one of the healthiest functions for the body. Lying on the couch and watching TV is fun sometimes, but I hate to break it to you, you were not made to lie on the couch. The good news is that you weren’t exactly made to spend your life on a Stairmaster, either. The gym was invented to counterbalance our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. So, buck the trend! Walk around; lug some groceries; try an unfamiliar activity like yoga or Tai Chi in the familiar environment of your living room. The more you move, the easier achieving your weight loss goals will be.
Remember, the goal isn’t weight loss in and of itself—it’s living a healthy lifestyle to support your true goals and passions. Sure, exercise keeps us fit, but it also makes us feel amazing. Our brains work better; we’re happier, more confident, and more energetic; we have stronger immune systems, better sex, and sleep more soundly at night. We decrease our risk of heart disease and countless other illnesses. Oh yeah, and did I mention, we’re happier?
It’s a pretty compelling endorsement, isn’t it? Might even be enough to rethink that whole I-don’t-like-working-out thing. C’mon, what do you say?
Co-worker pal: Um, you can leave now.
Me: Okay. Sure. You bet. Wanna go for a walk during lunch tomorrow?