“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”

The words of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland sound painfully familiar – I have lost count of the number of times I have slept through my alarm after another night of ‘burning the candle at both ends’ as some people like to call it and then running late for work, again.  At least work is pretty flexible about when we show up for work each day (assuming you don’t miss any meetings or conference calls).  However, getting up on time for work after pulling a late night (or, more accurately, an early morning) is one challenge – fitting workouts into my days when I am working this hard is quite another.  I sometimes have to smile a bit when I read blog entries about how to fit in a workout into a busy working life when the authors assume readers have a 9-5 job and a short commute.  So, I figured it was time to share my tips for fitting in workouts for other people like me, i.e. anyone whose job sometimes takes over their lives for weeks on end (including weekends) but who still wants to stay active:

1.         Be realistic

On some of my projects there will be weeks where I will get less than 5 hours of sleep for days on end.  While a strong cup of coffee can power me through a decent workout after a rough night, sleeping this little several nights in a row does not provide the best starting position for a gym session.  Also, at some point when you are facing the choice between getting 8 hrs of sleep or 6 only and hitting the gym, the 8 hrs of sleep should win – a lost gym session is one thing, but a decent night’s sleep when you have been severely lacking on that front is quite another to restore your energy levels (and make you look less like a zombie).

2.         Be savvy

When I first started work, I put on 2-3kg within the first few months, 2-3kgs that really annoyed me and that were hard to shake.  I was mostly annoyed because I didn’t understand how I had put on 2-3kg in the first place, let alone why they wouldn’t shift – I still ate healthily, I still went to the gym, yet somehow, I had become a little ‘squishy around the edges’.   What I didn’t realize at first was how sedentary my lifestyle had become.  Sure, I noticed how much more I sat on my bum (which is why I would always walk to a colleague’s office rather than just pick up the phone) … but it took a while to register how many more calories I burned as a student simply because I. WALKED. EVERYWHERE.  35mins. to law school every morning and back home in the evening, sometimes twice if I went home for my lunch break.  If I went shopping to Oxford St, add another 45mins. or more of walking that day.  Even in the evenings, I mostly walked, to the cinema, bars, pubs etc.  It was cheaper than taking the bus and I actually quite enjoyed putting on some comfy shoes, grabbing a coffee and listening to music on my I-pod.  Now, I appreciate not everybody can walk to uni or work, but if you can, it’s a fantastic way to get in a bit of activity.  Once I realized this, I started walking to work again (a good 45min. walk each way) – not only does it save me the bus money but it also means I get some form of activity in even on days where I am too busy at work and I cannot make it to the gym.

3.         Be prepared

Always have a gym bag at work/in your car.  My job is pretty unpredictable, so I never quite know whether I will finish at 6pm or at midnight.  So I have made it a habit to always bring my gym gear to work, just in case I can hit the gym after work.  Also, I always pack my gym gear in my running backpack.  So even if I finish work too late to hit my gym (i.e. anytime after 8pm), I can at least run the ca. 3 miles back to my apartment where I can then do a bit more arm work or ab work.  The alternative of course is to just make sure you get your workout in before work – sure, it’s takes a bit of time to get used to getting up early, but it’s definitely worth it.  When I first started work I often gymmed before work (and usually was at my desk earlier than on non-gym days) and still remember how smug I felt arriving at work after a good workout when other people had clearly just stumbled out of bed a short while ago.

4.         Be creative

… and create a home gym in a few simple steps and with money from your piggy bank.  All you will need to get started:

  • A yoga mat;
  • Some stretch bands (ideally in 2 different strengths);
  • Some dumbbells (light and heavy); and
  • A Pilates ball.

This is really all you need to get started.  Next, bookmark the following links and you are good to go with your home gym, whether it’s creating your own workout routines ( http://www.womenshealthmag.com/workouts) , being tortured by Zuzana and Freddy from Bodyrock (www.bodyrock.tv), taking part in a group fitness class (www.pilatesonfifth.com; www.exercisetv.tv) or getting your stretch on with some yoga (www.yogadownload.com)… all from the comfort of your living room!

5.         Be your live-in personal chef

… and create your own granola bars.  Well, I just had to throw that one in because I love making my own granola bars.  I do go through phases with these – when I get busy at work, I have to admit I often find myself munching on chocolate instead … but, when work is ticking along nicely and I spend enough time at the gym to notice my appetite getting bigger (without the need to be chugging protein shakes like it’s no-one’s business), granola bars are really my go to snack.  Inevitably I end up buying some at Whole Foods or Planet Organic before, dissatisfied with both their taste and price, I return to making my own … today’s flavour combination: Apple Strudel! Oh yes, I did! Blame Whole Foods selling chopped dried apples that looked oh so appetizing! I started out by just making 6 bars to see whether I like this flavour (I do!).

Apple Strudel Bars

For 6 ca. 30g bars

80g Dates (pitted)
60g Cashew Nuts
40g Dried Apples, chopped
20g Porridge Oats
½ Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
A Pinch of Sea Salt
Cinnamon as much as you like 😉

1.  Start by processing the dates, 20g of the dried chopped apples, together with the cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla essence to a rough paste using a food processor.  Next, put the date paste aside in a bowl covered with clingfilm (to ensure that the date paste does not dry out while you continue with the recipe).

2.  Next, process the cashews, oats and remaining dried chopped apples until the cashews are chopped into fairly small pieces (but be careful to not grind them into a powder).

3.  Transfer the processed cashews and dried chopped apples into the same bowl as the date paste and knead to combine the two to form a homogenous paste.

4.  Roll out to a rectangle that is roughly 1/2 inch thick and cut into 6 bars.  Wrap well in clingfilm (to avoid the paste drying out).

5.  The bars will keep well for several weeks in the refrigerator.

The bars had a distinct apple strudel flavour and 1 bar provided the perfect fuel for an early evening workout (1/2 bar before my workout and 1/2 right after).

Note:  for a more authentic apple strudel flavour, I think I will replace the cashew nuts with hazelnuts next time.

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