How to Make Time for Exercise + Meal Planning

September 26, 2012 · 8 comments


“Are you a runner?” is something I get asked quite frequently in the summertime. And, not to toot my own horn (well, toot toot!) I know the question is sparked by admiration of my muscular legs—particularly my calves. Albeit short, my stems are by far my favorite body part!

Anyway, I woke up yesterday morning at 5:30am and hopped out of bed to write a “Lose Weight Without Dieting” post for my friend Sabrina’s blog, A New Mode. I felt charged and excited as I worked towards crossing something off my long To-Do list before the sun came up. After I finished, I made a smoothie for Luke and started changing into my workout clothes. But as soon as he left for work, my motivation dropped and suddenly I was back in bed under the covers—sports bra and all! I let myself sleep for 30 blissful minutes (that actually felt like three) and forced myself out of bed. I didn’t have time to run, but I did manage a 15-minute mat workout in my apartment that included lots of pushups, planks, plank pushups, stretching and glute work. (Single-leg squats…yeah, baby!)

I got my heart rate up and broke a teensy sweat, but more importantly, I did something. I am a HUGE advocate of small efforts yielding big results. A quick workout like that might not blast many calories, but the act of putting my workout clothes on, tying my hair back and just moving helps me keep up my normal routine—and it certainly helps keep me in my happy place! So, the next time you only have 20 minutes to exercise and you start talking yourself out of doing it because “What difference will it make?”—just remember: It will make THE difference. One healthy act makes it easier to make the next one. This much I know.

On my commute home from work, I started thinking about what I had in the fridge to make for dinner. Hmm…not much. And then it hit me: Yogurt-Stuffed Sweet Potato. Boom. I always say, if there’s a sweet potato in the house, you have yourself a meal. Same goes for eggs. I popped that sucker in the oven at 400F, but instead of tapping my fingers and looking at friends’ baby/dog/food/vacation photos on Facebook while I waited, I decided to lace up my sneakers.  Luke came through the door, I gave him a kiss and I was off!

I did a 5-minute warmup walk, then cranked out a steady two miles at a 9-minute pace along the East River and walked home, another five minutes. Was it the workout of my life? No. Did I feel good after it was over? Yes. I worked up a pretty good sweat!

I like my sweet potatoes really mushy and soft, so it still wasn’t ready when I came home. Again, I used my time wisely and started putting lunch together for work the next day. I was able to muster up a pretty decent meal considering the fridge was so scarce. I took a portion of the big batch of brown rice I made the other day and added Farmer’s Market cherry tomatoes, chopped spinach, carrots, a dab hummus, plenty of black pepper and a hard boiled egg on top. I think I’ll need a piece of fruit to go with that, too!

So there you have it, folks—a day-in-the-life of a Wannabe Health Nut. This is how I handle minor setbacks, plan ahead and use my time wisely. Tomorrow, who knows…I could be eating froyo for dinner. But I take it one day at a time and keep on keepin’ on!

Tell me: How do you squeeze in exercise and plan your meals? Any go-to workouts or recipes you have up your sleeve? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

haveyourcakeand September 26, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I love love love this post! This is exactly the kind of thinking everyone needs to  work toward. I totally agree that on days where I may get a “crappy workout”, a week later I don’t look back on it as that, I look back on it as a day I still got exercise!


Wannabe Health Nut September 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

 @haveyourcakeand Definitely! Something IS always better than nothing. Unless you are really worn down and need more sleep. Sometimes 30 extra minutes in bed will do a lot more for you than a 20-minute jog! You just have to know when it’s worth it and when it’s not.


LisaEirene September 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm

The meal planning is harder to find time for. What worked for us is having very simple meals. Our dinners are a protein + veggie + salad. It makes it easy. So we always have salmon, chicken, shrimp, pork chops on hand or in the freezer to make it easy!
As for exercise, it’s important to me so I make the time. No matter what! I schedule it like I schedule my plans and stick to it.


Wannabe Health Nut September 28, 2012 at 1:08 am

 @LisaEirene Totally agree, Lisa! That is exactly why I tell my clients to figure out what their favorite easy, go-to foods are. Mine are spinach + eggs + cherry tomatoes + brown rice + sweet potatoes + broccoli + bananas + oatmeal. If I have those things, I can come up with a satisfying meal! What’s your favorite way to workout??


LisaEirene September 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

 @Wannabe Health Nut  @LisaEirene Making it as simple as possible makes it EASY to eat healthy. For example, I always bring healthy snacks to work. Today I have an apple and some grapes. Makes me less likely to eat the candy in the office!


Ellen September 28, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Yes yes, you totally get it! It’s not about willpower, it’s about setting yourself up to succeed. :)


LindsF3 September 28, 2012 at 11:11 pm

I love this post. I definitely need to get better at being willing to do any kind of workout when I have the time. I just had a baby and I find myself giving up on my workout if I don’t end up having the time when I planned. I think for me I need to be more flexible about my schedule. You inspired me to be more willing to just fit in some form of movement whenever I have the chance. As far as meal planning, we plan our meals for the week on Sunday and recently I have been pre-making some ingredients for meal, such as millet, lentils, and grilled veggies on Sunday also so I can simply throw the ingredients together when needed.


Wannabe Health Nut September 30, 2012 at 9:58 am

 @LindsF3 Hey Linds—Congrats on the baby!! It sounds like you have the meal planning down—that’s awesome. My meal planning method is a bit more on the fly, which is why I try to at least have my staple foods in the house so I can whip up meals easily…just as you said. Fail-proof methods are key! And yes, just get that exercise in when you can. Is the baby on a sleep schedule yet? Maybe you could try to plan short workouts while the baby naps? (I’m sure it’s not always easy as that though and that you probably need a nap when the baby is sleeping!) What is your favorite way to exercise? Get those 15-20 min workouts in when you can…it’ll help with your energy levels, which is something that is more important than ever right now!


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