How to fit exercise into your day

Students can find time for exercise in the morning, on the weekends, or after they finish their homework. Students are more likely to become committed to an exercise program if it is enjoyable and offers some variety. Three high-school students discuss their exercise routines.

Sam sets his alarm every morning for 5:30 a.m. so he can slip into the high school swimming pool by 6:30 to work on his endurance and the efficiency of his breast stroke. Have you noticed that swimmers are almost always morning people? If you’re not a morning person, you’re probably not a swimmer.

Football and basketball, wrestling, and track and field types usually work out after school to get in shape for their sport. But you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from regular exercise–we all need to fit workouts in every week.

basketballFitting in exercise, though, is a challenge in itself. Just where are those cracks and crevices in the day? If you have a daily schedule full of intellectual and social pursuits, and you participate in theater, music, or the newspaper after school, how do you fit a workout in? And, once you’ve figured out your schedule, what can you do to keep motivated and to avoid having your good intentions dry up and blow away in the wake of a heroic start?

These questions were posed to some real high school kids.

David Bikes It

David Vanderlaan is a sophomore theater buff who also is involved in his school’s choral music program. David ranks high in his class academically, has a very busy schedule, but nevertheless finds time for a daily bike ride, whether it’s the real thing or the stationary variety.

cycling“In the summer,” David says, “I get in 20 miles almost every day. It takes me the better part of an hour. During the school year, I still go outside when the weather allows, but if not, I hop on my dad’s stationary bike and work out for a similar period of time. I usually do it after my homework, or in between assignments in the evening. But it’s an important part of my day, and I do fit it in.”

Liana Takes Time for Tai Chi

Liana Vazquez Gits is a junior who is a soloist in her high school’s choral music program. She takes a full academic load and is an honor roll student as well. Liana practices Tai Chi Chuan, a flowing oriental dance, in the morning before school for about 40 minutes, several days a week.

taichi“I love doing Tai Chi,” she says. “For me it’s a physical form of meditation that develops self-control in my body and my mind. It helps me in my music, my academics, and in almost everything else I do during the day. But if I didn’t find the time in the early morning hours, it wouldn’t get done. That’s the only hole in my schedule right now.”

John Plans on Fun

“How do I get exercise in? I guess I just plan fun into my schedule,” says freshman John Dotto. He is an honor roll student, active in debate, chess club, and his school newspaper, who admits to having so many girlfriends that he has a hard time keeping track of their names. But even with his wild and crazy schedule, a regular workout is part of his week.

rollerhockey

“I play roller hockey on the weekends. I get in a game of volleyball or a set or two of tennis during the week. In the spring and summer, I make it to the golf course several times a week. I even jump up and down when I play chess,” John says. “It seems like the more fun I plan for the week, the more of a workout I get, and that’s the way I like it to be,” he adds with a smile.

Make it Fun

Regularity and longevity are the two real keys to a successful exercise program. Anything you do regularly over a significant period of time is a winner. Anything you start but quit after two or three weeks is a loser, and you may as well not start at all.

As a rule, it’s best to start small and build if and when you feel like building. The basic idea is that you can only start from where you are, not where you or someone else thinks you should be.

With a little imagination a fitness program can be exciting, even adventurous. It is for this reason that athletes choose sports-oriented workouts. But there are plenty of other ways to spice up a workout routine.

You might, for example, really enjoy a leisurely run on a forest path, communing with Nature. Or you may find joy in learning self-control with yoga or martial arts. Step aerobics might be a challenge that you enjoy on a regular basis. In any case, the main point is “make it fun.”

One of the ways to maximize the fun is to include variety in your workout. Doing the same old routine every day can get tedious, dull, and, well … routine. That’s why cross-training has become so popular.

When you plan, keep in mind that there are three basic parts to physical fitness: physical strength (achieved in activities such as calisthenics or weight lifting), endurance or cardiovascular conditioning (found in activities such as running or jumping rope), and flexibility (found in stretching). If you use these three categories as your basic menu and choose something from each, you will have planned a workout that is not only lively and fun but produces results as well.

Always include warming-up and cooling-down exercises. In order to avoid injury, experts advise taking 3 to 5 minutes to warm up and to stretch before getting into the main activity. On the back side, a cool-down also allows you to slowly come back to a resting state.

Make Exercise a Habit

Plan for three or four workouts each week. On your off days, you could spend 5 to 10 minutes keeping an exercise diary, charting your progress, or just relaxing.

The world is made up of many different kinds of people. And everyone requires some regular physical exercise in order to function at his or her highest level. So fit some exercise into your week, make it fun, plan some variety–but most of all, make exercise a habit. You’ll not only be healthier, but you’ll be happier too.