How To Get A Workout In When You Have Absolutely No Time

Photo: Shauna Harrison

Shauna Harrison, Ph.D., was teaching movement as a side gig while she attended Stanford, UCLA, and Johns Hopkins. Twenty years, 3 graduate degrees, and multiple brand partnerships later, she is now a full-time movement advocate. Check out her new mindbodygreen class, The 20 Minute Workout Challenge: Tone Your Whole Body With Yoga, HIIT & More.  

I get it. Squeezing in a workout can be challenging for the overly scheduled lives many of us live. That's why I initially created #SWEATADAY.

The whole idea behind my Instagram challenge was the idea that dedicating a few minutes to doing something active is better than dedicating no minutes. Habits are formed over time, so that small increment of activity can become a larger increment and eventually positive, more sustainable behavioral change occurs.

So, how can you fit in small increments of activity? Of course there are things like taking the stairs, walking more, standing up from your desk, the list goes. I often find myself multitasking otherwise normal daily tasks with active poses.

But, wait, don't I work out for my job? Yes, most of my job revolves around being active. The reality of the behind the scenes, though, is there's also a lot of driving, sitting in meetings, planning classes, or answering emails that I have to account for.

Sitting (especially in cars) does not do wonders for your body regardless of your activity level, but it's especially tough on your body if you've just finished a run or workout. It can leave you very tight. I have to sneak in stretching, yoga, warm-ups, and cool-downs wherever I can.

Here's how I do it:

While brushing my teeth, flossing, putting on my makeup, or drinking my tea...

Right from the beginning of my day, I'm trying to get my body ready to move. I love to train in the morning, so prepping right away is key. It partially depends on which type of training I'll do, but I'm probably doing some hip openers while brushing my teeth, maybe some slow high knees or butt kicks, gentle quad or hamstring stretches.

I also have a baseball or trigger point ball in my bathroom to roll under my feet to help prevent and treat plantar fasciitis. I also do this while putting on makeup or drying my hair. Ankle mobility or rolls are also great here.

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Before getting into my car...

This is especially helpful if I've just finished running and need to drive back home. I use my car to stretch a lot. I stand next to the driver side with the door open and I prop my foot up on the driver's side floor to stretch my hamstrings. Sometimes I'll do a standing pigeon with my thigh on the driver's seat. I'll also place my hands on the driver's seat or the side of the car to do some calf stretches. The same can be done when you get out of the car after a long drive.

In the shower...

Warning: You have to be careful in the shower for obvious reasons. Don't slip. I use the time washing my hair to stretch out my upper body and back, the time shaving my legs to stretch my hamstrings and just the whole experience in general to breathe. My days are hectic, so I'll take any little moment to just breathe for a second.

Standing in line...

I am notorious for standing in tree pose. I find it way more comfortable than just standing. I forget that I'm doing it half the time until someone gives me a funny look and I realize I'm doing it again. Or until I realize I'm wearing heels and a dress and that it's probably not a good idea.

Tree pose great for the ankles, feet, and calves; it's a little balance challenge and also stretches the thighs and groin.

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At tables, counters, and desks...

If '’m not standing in tree pose, I'm doing a variation of standing pigeon pose. My hips get very tight from driving around (and, really, from all of my workouts), and half pigeon is just awesome to alleviate a lot of that. I often prop my knee up half-pigeon style on tables, counters, desks, or anything that is a height that happens to work for my flexibility at the time. I also take it further and fold over that front thigh. If the counter or table is sturdy, I will also do a lower back/hamstring stretch that's almost like a standing downward-facing dog. I put my hands on the edges of the table/counter and fold forward as I take my hips back behind me. Again, make sure it's sturdy; you don't want the table to move or give out.

While seated...

First, let's be clear. I cannot sit still for very long. I'm either doing a seated figure 4 stretch (crossing one ankle on top of the opposite thigh, keeping the foot flexed), or eagle legs (like eagle pose, cross-legged position with the top leg wrapped all the way around the bottom calf). If not that, then I have one knee bent with the foot flat on the chair, hugging my knee to my chest or sitting cross-legged/half lotus in the chair. I move around A LOT when I'm seated, unless I'm driving.

While binge-watching Netflix...

Foam. Roll. I keep a foam roller in my living room to remind myself to roll whenever I'm just sitting watching TV or Netflix. I also do this while talking on the phone.

The bottom line? There are MANY ways to sneak in some stretches, some movement, some recovery, and also actual exercises if you are creative. Squats, planks, calf raises, and push-ups can be thrown into your day in very similar ways. Multitasking isn't always a bad thing!

Shauna Harrison

Shauna Harrison, Ph.D., is a self-proclaimed nerd, hip-hop head, jock, and yogi. Teaching fitness was a side gig for Shauna while she attended Stanford, UCLA, and Johns Hopkins. Twenty years, three graduate degrees, and multiple brand partnerships later, she is now a full-time movement advocate. She is a TRX® ambassador; creator of Muscle & Flow, #SWEATADAY, and Hip Hop Cycle®; and is also the creative director and a lifestyle athlete for Zenrez.
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Shauna Harrison

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