To look at me, you would never guess that I have been a member of a health club since 1989. That is because, with the exception of brief spurts of intense motivation, I almost never go. It is not so much that I dislike the activity but rather, getting there, changing my clothes, working out, showering, changing my clothes again and getting back into my routine take way too much time out of my day. I simply cannot fit going to the gym into my schedule.
I am not alone. The best estimates that I can find on-line from a number of sources indicate that upwards of 70% of health club members never or rarely use their membership. Most of us need to work. We would like to spend time with our spouses, family and friends. We may study. We may have a spiritual or community life. And then there is exercise. In the face of that sort of to-do list, what do we cut out? Despite our better intentions, may of us cut out the exercise. We know that lack of sufficient exercise results in obesity, reduced cardiovascular health, increased stress and even depression. We buy gym memberships we don't use. Many of us own home exercise equipment that gathers dust. We swallow expensive supplements and subscribe to controlled food-delivery services.
In the end, we make ourselves sick with guilt when none of it works and we are too ashamed of ourselves to take advantage of all those money-back guarantees. In my quest for a balanced life I have come to accept the fact that exercising for the sake of it is not a priority to me. I have done many of the subtle things commonly suggested to increase my activity. I park several extra blocks from my office. I choose parking spaces far from the store entrance. I take the stairs rather then the elevator.
I sometimes spend my break time walking around the block. It is not enough! Enter the humble toofer. A toofer is an activity that gives us double return on our investment of time and energy - the result of “two for" the investment of one. Toofers allow us to combine items on our to-do list and help us find some of that sought-for balance in life. Take, for example, the task of washing the car. If you drive to the car wash, reaching for your wallet is about all the exercise you are going to get. But, if you wash the car by hand, you get a clean car as well as some exercise. That is a simple toofer. Add into the equation, the money you save and you have double toofer. Wash the car by hand with the kids and the return goes through the roof! You get a clean car. You get exercise. You have some fun. You spend time with the kids. And you save a little money.
Toofers that help increase exercise are everywhere. All we need is a little imagination and some planning. Rather than going to the movies, consider taking a walking tour of a local neighborhood or visit a museum, art exhibit or zoo. You will get some exercise and learn something as well. Around the house, you might plant a vegetable garden, do some serious spring-cleaning, mow the lawn or paint a room. Volunteer for community clean-up day or build a house with Habitat for Humanity. If you do any of these activities with family or friends, you exponentially increase the benefits.
I truly admire the folks at the gym with their chiseled athletic bodies. I wish I could go to the beach and not feel that I had somehow failed as a physical specimen. But I also know, beyond any doubt, that those people did not get those bodies from three twenty-minute workouts a week-no matter what the commercials say! It takes real work and a lot of time to get a body like the ones we see in commercials. I just do not have that kind of time. I would have to sacrifice another important facet of my life in order to spend that sort of time at the gym. So, I have forgotten all about the gym and the guilt for not going. As far as home exercise equipment goes, free weights make interesting stepping stones in the garden. I will stick with the toofer. A little exercise is better than none. While I may not be an Adonis, my life is in better balance. I get exercise, have fun and get a few chores done in the bargain.
You are invited to visit http://www.integrityhpi.com and subscribe to weekly Tips for a Balanced Life. Joseph Onesta, M. A. is a speaker, trainer and coach working in the field of Human Performance Improvement, consulting with organizations and individuals to improve their performance through focused strategies, enriched work/life balance and enhanced communication.