The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If You Want to Exercise Regularly . . .

. . . you have to figure out a way to incorporate it into the natural flow of your day--if you expect to have any success at all, that is.

To-Do List

You wake up, get out of bed, and drag a comb across your head--and hurry through traffic to your job. You work 8 hours plus lunch, then scramble through traffic again on the return trip home. You pick up kids from school and the daycare, run to the bank before it closes and the grocery store for milk which you just remembered is nearly empty in the fridge. There is perhaps a quick trip to the doctors office or auto body shop somewhere in the middle of all this, or a return trip to pick up something your kid left behind somewhere that he urgently needs for class tomorrow. You go home and grab dinner. By that time, it is 7:00, you are at the end of your energy, and it's time to pack everyone back up again and go to the gym. Whew!

Headache, sickness, unexpected errands or the slighted provocation and you'll be ditching your excursion to the gym. In such an environment, exercise is superimposed on a lifestyle and it is completely extraneous. It will be the first thing to go when the scales are tipped and your to-do list increases by even the slightest bit. You'll be lucky to hit the gym once a week under these conditions. And let's not even factor in time for rest and relaxation.

Some people are able to find time for the gym despite all distractions, but for many of us, it just ain't gonna happen this way. It takes a colossal effort to force it into your lifestyle when your lifestyle is set up this way. You may end up disappointed in yourself when really the deck was seriously stacked against you and you only had a small margin for success to begin with.


I spent a semester in Spain in college. Me and a buddy lived with a family about a mile out of town. We quickly learned that taking the bus was going to be too costly and saved it for only the rarest of occasions. We had to walk to class and return to town anytime we wanted to shop or go out socially. We walked a few miles every day, and that doesn't count the many more miles walked on weekend excursions around the country.

And we walked. Rain? We walked. Tired? We walked. Blisters on our feet? Walked. Sick? You guessed it. Didn't feel like walking? We. Still. Walked. And walked and walked. We had to!

Walking is often thought of an old person's exercise. However, walking became a nearly religious experience for my friend and me, and we were 22-year old men. We absolutely loved it. Once we got into shape, we looked forward to it. On the rare occasions when we took the bus, we noticed how irritable we were and how unsatisfying the day was without our morning and afternoon walks.

In Addition

Yet, the moment walking was not absolutely essential, we dropped it. We had every intention of maintaining the habit once we got back to America. After a few attempts, we both let it slip away and quick. Despite our conditioning and intense love for walking, it got put off when it no longer fit into the normal flow of the day back in America.

So do what you can to make sure that exercise is integrated into your day in a natural way. You won't need to force yourself, because sheer necessity will do that for you. Set yourself up and make the planning easy on yourself. Live within walking distance to your favorite stores or within a safe bike ride to work. Don't allow yourself too many modern conveniences when you could be getting valuable motion and exercise. Put your Exercycle in front of the TV, not in some out-of-the-way corner of the basement. Any other ideas?

Design your day with exercise in mind. Make exercise an essential part of your normal activities--then you won't have to tack on additional time for it. You also will have great success doing it--you'll have to!


  1. Other ideas are, park your car 10 blocks away from work, or get off the bus a few stops early. Walk to the grocery store, and carry home that carton of milk. Go on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, enjoy the weather cooling off, talk to your neighbors, and the kids get some fresh air too.

  2. Absolutely! I'm not so good at integrating exercise, but I am very proud of my husband and daughters who have recently incorporated a half hour bike ride into their schedule each day. Once Simon gets home from work, whatever he feels like, it's out with the bikes whilst I sort out tea and off they go. All three of them are feeling and looking so much better for it.

    Whilst I do exercise, it's on a more haphazard basis, a bit of swimming here, a run there, but I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said.

  3. Sarah and Pauline,

    I have to admit that I don't have any stellar ideas for achieving this.

    I like your ideas of a walk after dinner every night and a bike ride immediately after work/school every day. Those are good habits to get into and they seem reasonable. I love gardening after work.

    A key factor here is keeping these goals in mind when I decide where to live--are there good places to hike or stores nearby I can walk to? I will still have to coax myself into walking when I could take the car, but at least it will be a reasonable option that won't be so difficult to impose on my lifestyle.

    My Spain example was ideal, because we were forced to walk regularly. Most of us are going to have the option of opting out. The best we can do is make exercise a sensible option that fits into the flow of our day so that we are not forcing ourselves against the grain to do it--but it will still require a decision on our part.

    In days gone by, exercise was just part of life--most people worked hard in their jobs or at least had a good walk to get there. Many of us now have sedentary jobs with minimal motion, so that leaves a huge gap. The best thing we can do is try to fill that gap doing something we have to do anyway, such as a commute or running errands, or an excursion during our lunch break.

    I appreciate the input!

  4. For me, the easy exercise goes back to the no car thing. For example, today I needed to go to the post office, it's a 20 minute walk each way, so 40 minutes roundtrip (pushing a stroller) equals my exercise for the day! Ever since unloading my car, I have not struggled with my weight, I think there's a connection there!

  5. I've taken to walking to the grocery store (up the hill and down the hill and back up another hill...) almost every trip. It's good exercise and I'm discouraged from buying a bunch of extra bulky snack food packages and stuff I don't need.