How I Maintain an Active Lifestyle - Despite My Daily 2-Hour Commute

Balancing an unpredictable work schedule Monday thru Friday, my need to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep (I can’t function on anything less), a public transportation commute that never goes smoothly and wanting to spend time outside on bar rooftop patio with friends, I find it difficult to fit in a workout. New research from Mintel reveals that 43% of Americans say that living a modern lifestyle makes it very difficult to be healthy. However, this spring I made a few small changes that have dramatically improved my health. I’ll admit, it does require some sacrifices but I can truthfully say that I am more active than I ever have been - despite my 2 hour commute.

Exercise In The Morning

Full disclosure, I am training to run my first marathon this October. In order for me to get my weekday miles in, which range from 4 to 10 miles now, work and sleep, I run in the morning. When I started my training in June, I learned that I almost always skipped my runs if I waited to do them after work. Between work, the heat and my evening hunger, I didn’t have the motivation to exercise in the evenings. By switching my routine to only workout in the morning, I found there are three big benefits:

  1. You get it over with it! Honestly this is the best reward. My evenings are now free to do whatever I want without sacrificing exercise.
  2. I have noticed improvements in my focus and mental capabilities. In the beginning, it was hard to get up at 5:30am and still is especially now that sunrise is after 6am. I’d hit a brick wall around 2:30pm at work but now my body has adjusted and I have more energy and am more productive. My morning workout is my all-natural cup of coffee
  3. My metabolism is a little faster. When I consume food, my body can either use the calories to replenish my body, as a source of energy or can store it for later. Because my body is burning more calories after a workout (yes even while sitting at my desk), my food consumption is replenishing my body.

Take It To The Office

When I wasn’t training for a marathon, I couldn’t always get myself to the gym. One of my biggest motivations was potentially seeing my best friend because we belonged to the same gym. On average, I typically spend 2 hours ‘going to the gym’ (walking to and from, getting ready, actually working out etc). That’s a lot of time and I don’t always have it available during the workweek. My solution: be more active at the office, where I unfortunately spend most of my weekday hours.

We typically think of ‘active’ as aerobic activity like biking, swimming, walking or yoga. But ‘active’ doesn’t have to mean sweating. Simple hacks to be more healthy at the office can include walking breaks to the water fountain, taking the stairs instead of elevator or going the long way to the bathroom.

Since ‘sitting is the new smoking’ was coined, there are many active sitting solutions available. Standing desks, balance ball chairs and treadmill desks tend to be the most popular because they’ve been around the longest. However, there is a new active sitting category of desk ellipticals that are growing in popularity. Yes technically you are still sitting when using an under desk elliptical, but you are not sedentary. In a recent Mayo Clinic case study, researchers found that participants who used Cubii, a desk elliptical, increased their energy expenditure by 84.5% while a standing desk only increased their energy by 16%. I am no mathematician but those numbers definitely favor a desk elliptical.

Combine Exercise With Friends

I am lucky to live in the great city of Chicago where I have easy access to biking/running/walking paths, beaches, parks etc. Bonus, because I don’t have a car, I am forced to either walk or bike everywhere. So on the weekends, when I do have more free time, I usually want to spend it with friends exploring the city. For example, we’ll bike the lakefront or walk around a neighborhood festival. If we do a Netflix night, I make sure to walk instead of taking rideshare.

If you’re not in a metropolitan area or walking distance to activities, drive to a local park and bike, visit your local zoo (you’ll rack up those miles & steps in no time!) or play a pickup game of soccer with your kids in the front yard (their energy will keep you going). These are only a few suggestions but the main point I am trying to make is disguise exercise/fitness with hanging out with friends/family… it’ll make ‘working out’ WAY more fun and you won’t even know you’re doing it.

These are only 3 of my biggest changes I have made recently to incorporate more exercise into my daily life. Some may or may not work for you and that is ok. It’s all about finding what works for you and stick with it! While these changes are small, it’s usually the smallest things that add up quickly :)