"The dog ate my sneakers."
"The kids have taken over the treadmill to stage hamster races."
People find all sorts of reasons to avoid exercise, but the most common excuse is that we just don't have the time. With this in mind, O challenged any reader too busy for fitness to send in a typical day's schedule. Then we selected a few of the most harried and put each in touch with organization maven Julie Morgenstern and workout authority Karen Voight. Watch how our experts achieve mission impossible—divining time where none seems available and coming up with innovative ways for the frantic to stay fit.
Terie Theis, age 36
"I spend so much time on work, house, and husband that I have no idea who I am anymore, other than what I am to others."
As a trial attorney and marketing director for her law firm in San Diego, Theis has burned through several secretaries with her demanding workload. She and her attorney husband work long hours, often on weekends. "I take care of everything having to do with our home—the banking, bill paying, etc.—as part of my control-freak nature," Theis says. "I spend so much time on work, house, and husband that I have no idea who I am anymore, other than what I am to others." Her goal is to get back to the "hot body" she used to have before she hit 30 and the pounds started creeping up.
Julie's advice: Theis is a classic type A personality and she needs a structured program. Theis concedes that the best strategy for her would be to schedule her exercise the way she schedules her clients—say, three evenings a week, when she might otherwise try to squeeze in more work. She should also let her husband be more involved in running their home so they both have time on the weekends—perhaps to work out together.
Karen's advice: With Theis's high drive, she would benefit from a workout that exhausts her. After some discussion, Karen comes up with the idea of training to run in the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll half marathon for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society three months away. "It satisfies that feeling of 'I'm putting in a hundred percent,'" Theis says. "And on Saturdays, you have to get to the practice session at 6:30 a.m. If I were doing it just for me, I'd roll over and hit the alarm clock. But because charity is involved, there's another reason for me to get up." Karen agrees with Julie about the importance of scheduling exercise and also recommends that Theis commit to a personal trainer at least once a week—an idea the lawyer plans to follow up on.
Three months later..."I've been so turned on to fitness," Theis says, "I'm now a type A about exercise." Karen's marathon idea was a winner. Theis joined a running group and aced the half marathon in Phoenix (so what if she had no time to shower before jumping on the plane for her next appointment). She also started using Karen's stretching and yoga tapes, which come in handy when she gets home at 9 or 10 at night and still has energy to squeeze in a balancing workout. Taking Julie's advice, Theis started permitting herself to leave the office "at a decent hour" two days a week to meet a personal trainer at the gym she recently joined. As for the chores, they have not exactly been delegated ("My husband started his own firm in July, and our cats don't do dishes"). But Theis has learned to accept when things aren't done perfectly and has made small adjustments—for example, exercising instead of making dinner and asking her husband to bring home takeout. "Bottom line," says the fitness convert, "the bed doesn't know when it's not made and the dishes don't know when they aren't done, but my body does know when I have not exercised."
Next: Learning how to gain strength—without losing time