Layni Craver, age 46

"I tend to spend the weekend days trying to sleep and trying to convince myself to do the cleaning, grocery shopping, and other chores."

Craver, a nurse, lives in Davenport, Iowa, with her husband and 15-year-old son. During the week, she runs a busy ob-gyn office; on weekends she takes two overnight shifts at a local hospital to help make ends meet. "I tend to spend the weekend days trying to sleep and trying to convince myself to do the cleaning, grocery shopping, and other chores," she says. "If my husband didn't do the laundry, we'd all be wearing bedsheet togas." Craver used to keep in shape by biking the seven-mile commute to and from her day job, and she loved it. But when the office shut down its shower facility, she put away her bicycle. Since then, her weight has gone from 170 pounds up to 200, and she's unable even to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. "I'm a nurse," she says, "and I know better than to keep up this unhealthy lifestyle."

Julie's advice: There must be a way around the shower obstacle. After going over Craver's intense schedule, Julie helps her develop a plan in which she takes her bike to work in the car and cycles home at least two nights a week. On those evenings, her husband would then drive her back to retrieve her car from the office. It would also be great if Craver could find a way to fit in ten-minute bursts of exercise at work.

Karen's advice: Good plan, but after learning that Craver suffers occasional back spasms and stiff joints—the toll, perhaps, from all that bike riding—Karen advises a walking program with deep stretching. Craver worries that she won't do it, "because it bores me to tears." How about listening to a book on tape, Karen asks. "Books on tape usually last 36 minutes per side," she says. "They're broken into segments, so you're motivated to keep walking because you want to hear the end of the segment." Stretching, according to Karen, should be done after the walk.

Three months later...Ah, the real world. Life has taken a 180-degree turn and thwarted Craver's best intentions. After consulting with Julie and Karen, she quit her nursing job and landed in a completely new industry (software). She has a high-pressure position that requires her to live in another city during the week and travel constantly. "Julie had some excellent time management suggestions that would likely have worked had my life remained as it was," Craver says. "And the personal attention from Karen really inspired me, despite the end result." She has used the videos Karen sent for stretching, and she's been thinking a lot about Karen's insistence on the importance of valuing one's own needs so that others will value us. "Something tells me," Craver says, "that this idea is going to end up being the key to getting exercise back into my life."

Debra Peel, age 48

"My cell phone typically starts ringing at 7 in the morning, as clients and colleagues begin to check in."

Peel's job as a private investigator in Panama City, Florida, makes her schedule erratic, always unpredictable, and at times out of control. "My cell phone typically starts ringing at about 7 in the morning, as clients and colleagues begin to check in with me," she says. Long hours spent sitting during surveillance jobs mean that she's sedentary for much of her work time. Her husband, a sheriff, pulls a regular shift, but the couple take care of their young grandsons every weekend to give a break to their daughter, who is battling a serious illness. All these factors have contributed to Peel's gaining about 85 pounds to weigh in at 235. Exercise is critical not only to get her body under control, she says, but "as a stress reliever as well."

Julie's advice: It would be great for Peel to "put herself first" by starting each day with an exercise routine. During their conversation, Julie convinces the overextended sleuth that she needs to treat herself like a valued client and turn off the cell phone until a reasonable hour. Another idea: Peel is chained to an old hairstyle that takes too much time to maintain every morning; by getting an easier cut, she could free up some valuable minutes.

Karen's advice: Molding away in a spare bedroom is a treadmill that Peel used to enjoy using—perhaps she could dust it off and start walking again. Peel agrees this is a good idea...that is, until Karen prescribes 20 minutes at a stretch. "Okay, five minutes," Karen says. "Five minutes is just fine. Listen to upbeat music and you'll increase your pace." If Peel invests in a set of five-pound weights, Karen adds, she could start a 15-minute body sculpting program at home.

Three months later...Peel has reacquainted herself with the treadmill. Having decided not to take calls until 8 a.m. ("treating myself like my number one client, as Julie advised"), she walks for five to 20 minutes three times a week before eating breakfast, listening to music as she strides. Post-it notes all over the house urge "walk, walk, walk," but by now they're hardly necessary. Peel, and everyone else, can see the rewards: She has lost 25 pounds and dropped from a size 22 to a 16. "I feel so different," she says. "I have more energy, a bounce where I was dragging. I feel like I've been given a new lease on life."

Still can't get motivated to exercise? Here's what to do:


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