By Brian Hester
As I have gotten older, finding time or motivation to exercise has been an increasingly difficult task. During my college and younger adult years, there seemed to be plenty of time to fit in a 1-2 hour workout nearly every day. Nowadays, having a full-time job, completing a PhD and helping my wife raise our 4 year old all take priority over daily fitness.
However, I’ve learned that skipping exercise – even just few days – can have negative consequences that will set me back. This is especially true in the winter months, when I have even more excuses to skip daily exercising due to shorter daylight, cold, rain, sleet or snow. If I miss several days of weight-bearing activity during these colder months, I am much more apt to pull a muscle, especially in my back. When this happens, I am out of commission for at least a couple of days, if not longer. Finding a way to prevent this is a necessity to keep from missing work, falling behind in dissertation writing or missing out on the joys of helping my son with his daily adventures as he learns and grows.
So, what I have discovered – through wiser friends or the internet – is that when it comes to exercising in the winter, or any time throughout the year, less is more. If I know that if I’m only going to spend 10 minutes a day “working out,” I’m much more likely to allocate this time to fitness and stick to it. Therefore, my daily cardio and weight workouts have evolved to climbing the stairs at work or using just my own body instead of a gym for core weight-bearing workouts like pushups and crunches, and finding quick five to 15-minute exercise breaks that are most convenient and least likely to be interrupted from work, school or family commitments. I have broken these times up into roughly four five-minute breaks during the work day hours and 10-15 minutes at home right after work.
At work, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon (say at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.) I find five minutes to climb the stairs. I do 10 flights in three minutes – I’m out of breath at the top but not broken into a sweat. This covers my cardio for the day. I know you are supposed to get 20-30 minutes and break a sweat, but hey, this is better than nothing. For weight bearing activity, every day when I get home after work, I spend a grand total of 10 minutes that starts with simple stretches (check out YouTube for tons of good examples), then I do 100 pushups and 50 crunches. This may sound like a lot to some people (or laughably little to others), but, believe me, you can work up to this amount in a few weeks. Supplementing this, three-days-a-week I mix in bicep curls with dumbbells (whatever weight that allows you to just barely finish a set of 10 reps), shoulder shrugs, and wrist curls. I can get three sets of these exercises done in five minutes. During one week, this equals 15 minutes of exercise time at home on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and just 10 minutes on the other four days.
I will assuredly not win any body-building or feats-of-strength competitions with this routine, but I have found that my long-term health and mood greatly benefit from this small amount of daily physical activity. Yes, there are still those times when my back will go on a 24-hour strike, like after moving heavy objects or throwing Nicholas up in the air for the 20th time he’s requested it, but during the past five years that I’ve followed this routine, I have not had any back pain issues that have lingered more than a day. Even more amazing, my annual physical exams have consistently resulted in my doctor being fooled into saying, “You must work out a lot!”
Brian Hester Contact
UT System Administration
Brian is the Assistant Director of Institutional Research for the UT System. He is husband to Alice – a physician’s assistant at East TN Children’s Hospital, and father to Nicholas – who just turned 4 in January 2016. Brian loves to read – anything on parenting and child development and fiction novels, when he can find the time. As a family, they enjoy outdoor activities including hiking and fishing, and lots of sports – Brian currently is coaching a 4-5 year old basketball team, on which son Nicholas plays.