I have the summer off and want to make the best of it. Help me hack my schedule for maximum physical and mental fitness!
July 12, 2012 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I unexpectedly have the rest of the summer off. I want to lose weight, read great books, become smarter and in general be fabulous. Help me maximize my time, effort and schedule!

So, this is a fun question :) I am a teacher, and my usual summer job fell through. I am having trouble finding another one (not much doing at temp agencies, and the interviews I have been on for other things take one look at my resume and assume, correctly, that I will bail come September) so finally, I have given up.

Money is not a problem---I can cover my expenses, albeit in a somewhat minimalistic way, and I have a job lined up for September 1. But how to spend my time IS a problem---my partner feels, and I agree, that it is not healthy to spend the whole summer holed up by myself in the apartment all day.

So, here are my goals. How can I balance the most efficient plan for meeting them with the social goal of getting out of the house more? And how can I do this without spending tons of money?

1) Lose 30 pounds. I realize this will take more than a summer to do, but I want to give it as best of a jumptstart as I can. My normal fitness routine is 20-30 minutes of exercise videos (Leslie Sansone, Denise Austin, Biggest Loser series etc.) in the morning. Obviously, I can do longer ones now (and I have access to a wide variety such as P90X, the Firm, Jillian Michaels and so on). I also have access to a community centre with a track and fitness classes, which on the plus will get me out of the house a little---but will it give me the same results I could get doing something like P90X at home and really focusing on it? I am looking for a plan that gives me the biggest jumpstart possible without hurting myself given that I basically have unlimited time here.

2) Education. I am taking an on-line course, and I also have many books and magazines I want to read. I could go to the park and read, I could go to a public library (where I will have wifi and can work on my course) and there is even a lounge at the community centre. The past week though, I have found I have been sitting for too long doing this sort of thing, and my feet and legs get cramped. Perhaps I should be scheduling the sedentary activity at designated times? Perhaps I should be doing the workout in between these times? Or doing the workout at my usual workout time and just adding in a stretch somewhere?

3) Work. Anything to make money :) I may be doing some part-time work for a family member, and my partner and I will be running an ebay business. But again, this is a sedentary activity. So can anyone think of a more active thing I could add to my routine to balance it out? Or does anyone have any ideas for other things I can do part-time to make some extra money?

4) Entertainment. I have so many movies bookmarked in Netflix, it is not even funny :) This is my chance to catch up, but again, this is a sedentary, at home activity :( Maybe I could pick the shorter TV shows and get some yoga cards and use this as my stretching time? Yes, it is an at home activity but at least I won't be sedentary?

I guess I need to set myself a schedule and adhere to it as if it was my job, otherwise I will be sitting around all summer and I will waste this opportunity. I want to balance the sitting at home stuff with activities that get me out of the house, and I want to make sure that especially as regards the exercise time, I use it in the most effective way possible to get the best results given that I have much more time for it than I ever will again. I welcome any and all suggestions for how to hack my schedule to maximize this time off and become fit, fabulous, well-read and overall smarter than when I begun.
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
For 3), what about if you combine work & fitness and advertise on craigslist or fliers around your neighborhood that you're available for dog walking/pet sitting, gardening, lawn mowing, etc. over the summer while people are on vacation?
posted by jabes at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, for losing weight I suggest you sign up for loseit.com. It's free and the forum is really supportive. The "before, during, and after" pics are very inspiring and have people of every shape in size, although more on the pretty heavy side when starting. It's less intimidating than sites like bodybuilding.com where every after picture is of some ripped monster. I'm using it right now and memail if you want to friend me on the site. I'll give you my contact info.

Entertainment wise I suggest podcasts podcasts podcasts. There's around 50 hours of the WTF with Marc Maron always free and it's very entertaining interviews with comedians. Great for having something to listen to as you move around.
posted by bswinburn at 1:13 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Read" audiobooks while walking outdoors or indoors while cleaning, organizing, or even mall walking. You can probably access MP3 audiobooks for free through your library system.

Read at night. Get into bed a little earlier and when you aren't exhausted.

I would set small achievable goals. Do you like P90X? Is it enjoyable? Would you have more fun taking a dance class at the gym? I don't know about you but for me, I love being surrounded by people in a class like Zumba, Sh'Bam, BodyPump, etc. The music is great and there is a great energy in the room. It makes me happy and I get to chat a bit with fellow exercisers.
posted by Fairchild at 1:16 PM on July 12, 2012

Yeah, draw up a rough schedule for yourself. Do at least a Little exercise every day First Thing, alternating between classes (bonus: more motivation and social time!) and P90X (more strengthbuilding, yoga). Make sure you don't schedule more than 2 hours of sedentary time in a block.

So work on E-Bay stuff for a few hours, then walk to the library and get books, maybe read for another hour, and then walk home for lunch. In the afternoon, do the same thing - break up any sedentary stuff with an activity mid-afternoon, even if it's just walking to community center to socialize and do a little bit more sedentary activity.

You can do different things each day, just make sure your structure most days supports your goals.
posted by ldthomps at 1:22 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

How are you with plants? Someone recently suggested applying for part-time work at a garden centre to me. I didn't wind up investigating because temp work picked up (speaking of which, are you on the books with all the agencies in town?) but I think it's a great idea! You're outdoors or in a greenhouse, the work is probably a little bit physical but not overwhelmingly so, and their peak season ends in August/September so they would probably be fine with your timeline.

Activity-wise, if you can access some of your to-read list in audibook format via your library or via a paid service like Audible, listening to audiobooks on long walks could get you moving. If I limit audiobook listening to times when I am walking, and get involved in the book I'm listening to, suddenly I walk a whole lot more.
posted by snorkmaiden at 1:24 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

For random jobs that you can do or not do, try catering. It's not passive, you're running around like a fiend with trays and stuff.

Perhaps a summer gig at a restaurant, lunch rush perhaps. Hostess or waitressing. Nothing big, just a reason to get our and about. How about Hotel Maid? It doesn't pay great, but it's pretty physical work.

You can do some tutoring, or teach a SAT prep class for some extra $$$

Take exploratory walks in your city. Check out nature trails or interesting sites.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:28 PM on July 12, 2012

If you want to lose 30 pounds, then perhaps look at changing what you eat rather than adding in more exercise. Not that exercise doesn't help, but diet is more important for losing weight in the first place. Do you enjoy cooking? Maybe spend some time scoping out farmers markets, and experimenting with cooking healthy dishes for you and your partner?
posted by Joh at 1:29 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

3) Is TaskRabbit in your area? You could sign up to do various (non-sedentary) errands/tasks.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:31 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get out of the house and do active things! Take long walks, try rock climbing, go on a hike, go kayaking, etc. Join a kickball league or play tennis with a friend. Go swimming at a local pool or pond. You can be social, lose weight, and not be holed up in the apartment all at the same time.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:35 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a community garden? You said that you live in an apartment, so starting a garden is probably not in the cards, but if you could volunteer at a community garden you'd be outside, and getting your paws on fresh veggies!
posted by Grandysaur at 1:54 PM on July 12, 2012

I did Couch25k one summer, and it was a great program- not too long to get bored, feeling of accomplishment when you finish.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:00 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Schedule your time! Schedule exercise, watching your Netflix queue, everything. That's the best way to not lose hours/days while having time off from work.

Email your contacts and let them know you're available for pet and housesitting/watering plants while they're on vacation over the summer.

Finally, if you want to lose weight, a meal plan system or eating program is most effective. Exercise is important, but changing the way you eat is critical. I like the Weight Watchers online program. It's easy, inexpensive, and effective. Plus, no meetings.
posted by quince at 2:14 PM on July 12, 2012

I hear you! You have no shortage of activities or entertainment options - you simply need to organize your time. Try writing out a sample schedule, roughly, on paper - scribble in the things you most want to work in, the things you need to work in, leave time for meals of course. Think about what you do best/worst at what times of day and schedule those things first. Do you do well with early morning exercise, for example. Cross things out, move them around, try it and adjust as needed, but keep your goals in mind, improvement and variety.

Movies and reading. You could have sedentary time in your schedule and then impose an arbitrary category - alternate reading and watching every day? A solid week of one and then a week of the other? which you can feel free to violate if you get into one thing or another.

Study and exercise, both, every day if possible. Doing both on the early end of the day would give you a nice glow of accomplishment the rest of the time, imho, but there's also a lot of good in breaking up sedentary time with exercise, of course.

As for getting the most out of exercise, P90X will do what you want if you follow it faithfully, and as some have pointed out, you do need include diet also in that regime.
posted by tomboko at 2:22 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just in regards to #1, remember that weight loss is at least 70% diet. Cardio is great for your heart but not for weight loss, so you'll need to focus on food in order to see results. Seconding Joh, would you be interested learning how to cook better foods? I lost a lot of weight by stripping out sugars and starches, which forced me to learn how to cook meat (yeah, I was 28 before I knew how to properly cook chicken breast) and stop relying on pre-packaged foods.
posted by zoomorphic at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2012

Nthing the food advice. If you don't already cook well and healthily for yourself, you have a lot of time to learn how and experiment with it.

Do you have access to a treadmill at the community centre where you could walk and read? Doing stretches while watching TV sounds good.
posted by jacalata at 3:16 PM on July 12, 2012

Try adding a jog to your workout 3 times a week or more. If you're into it, try an extreme diet like mostly raw food vegetarian. I've tried this a few times (eating mostly fresh salads with chicken or fish) and actually felt surprisingly better all-around.

For work check into outdoor summer events, like outdoor concerts, sports events, golf tournaments, and see if you could work a concession stand or help cater or something. If you're a teacher, maybe you could find work tutoring?
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:21 PM on July 12, 2012

Speaking from experience: I’m a high school teaching enjoying his fifth summer off.

1. I think that resistance training is the way to go for physical fitness and subsequent weight loss. I go to the gym three times a week and follow a simple workout routine. I have lost (and regained in muscle) about thirty pounds since 1 May. I usually follow the resistance training with 15-45min of intense elliptical. During the school year I usually have to go in the early evening, but during the summer I have the freedom to go whenever I like, so figure out the best time to go to your local gym when there are the fewest people and therefore the highest likelihood of being able to use a power rack uninterrupted. I generally eat well, but the only foods I avoid are soda, HFC, and fastfood. I probably have steak frites and amish chicken with waffles more often than I should admit in the summer. Being healthy and maintaining a physically strong body is something you’ll want to be able to continue after 1 September, so maybe think about how to make this part of your life.

2. I work on my languages (German, French, Romanian, and Russian) in the summers using SuperMemo and various media outlets. Podcasts, iOS apps, and books all feed into this general plan. I generally spend two hours each morning reading, either at a park near my local Great Lake or at home. I also spend a lot of time with my friends who work on cars in the summer to learn/experience varying degrees of mechanic work.

3. I maintain a client base for tutoring (French, German) and meet with each one 1-2 hours per week, depending upon how much money I feel like making or have time for. I also found a PT job that lets me use and improve(!) my Russian skills in a small-business setting. So maybe try writing down a list of your marketable skills/knowledge and then think about companies/services in your area that might benefit from them and contact them.

4. I catch up on a few TV series each summer and generally watch two movies a week—I like Netflix, but Hulu+ has HUNDREDS of Criterion films available for streaming. Where I live we get a pretty rough winter, so I try to seek my summer entertainment around here outside as much as I can. If your area has something like metroparks or nature preserves, maybe try going for a weekly or twice-weekly 5-mile hike/walk with a book to read when you get to the halfway point.

Aside from sleeping the rest of that glorious summers-off “I haven’t been to work in over a month and I’m STILL getting a paycheck” teacher vacation is yours for the living.
posted by vkxmai at 4:59 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Volunteering at an animal shelter or some sort of Habitat for Humanity organization might be nice to add in. Physical labor to lose weight plus helping others can be a double win! Also, working with animals might be a nice change from having to be talking all the time.
posted by Vaike at 5:23 PM on July 12, 2012

Re diet: check into the Dukan diet—it's a high protein/low carb variation. I dropped about 20 in 8 weeks last spring (Dukan rules/no cheating) and another 10+ pounds since Memorial Day, as I ease back into my previously (i.e., before the weight gain) healthy eating habits.

The diet is boring (e.g., I lived on chicken breasts and salads), but I wasn't hungry and I broke my sweet-tea habit. The first week was tough, but after that the relatively quick and steady weight loss kept me motivated.

(Note: IMNAD, nor am I connected to Dukan in any way. High-protein/low-carb diets have their share of detractors. YMMV, etc., etc.)
posted by she's not there at 6:52 PM on July 12, 2012

1. I'm really excited to recommend Mark'sDailyApple.com and associated "Primal Blueprint" diet and exercise tips. I've lost 8 pounds in a little less than a month, while imperfectly following his advice, with less suffering than any other diet. You can and should read all the details on his site, but it focuses on whole foods, eliminating grains/sugars/alcohol/many vegetable oils, and varying your exercise routine (to include one sprint day a week, two "lift heavy things" days, and four either rest or loooong slow walking days)

3. Anything? Really truly? Ok, then try Leapforce at Home. It pays crap ($13-$15/hour) but you can do it from home and you're a shoe-in given your profession and internet literacy. It is BAWring, though. The type of thing where you have to concentrate and cannot let your mind wander but what you have to focus on is annoying and repetitive.

More active: be a dog walker. Again, pay is crap (crappier than the above) but demand is high (at least where I am). Don't bother with craigslist, et al. You'll spend more time just trying to get a (non-flaky) client in the first place, and then all that work will be for naught once school starts again. Find a dog-walking company in your area and see if they need more workers. They're used to high turnover.
posted by parrot_person at 2:50 AM on July 13, 2012

1) If you can stick with P90X, then go for it. However, P90X is a very difficult program that, for most people, can be more discouraging than helpful. When I decided to take my fitness seriously, I started with two things: The Couch to 5k running plan, and myfitnesspal.com. Now that I can run two miles at a 10 minute mile pace and am no longer trying to simply lose weight, I've taken up weight lifting... And have made more progress since I did so than I did in all the months I did my running startup. So if I were to make a single recommendation: Take up weight lifting. I don't mean machines; I mean free weights. Bench press, deadlift, and squats are your best friend. Also, fitocracy.com is a wonderful website/app that turns exercise into a game. The user-created quests are the best - I'm a part of Dumbledore's Army on there. ;)

2) Stand up while working. Most libraries have older standing desks you can work on, and you can modify your desk at home to serve this purpose pretty easily too. Your legs cramping up is just telling you that you're sitting too long - whether you work out beforehand or after won't matter much if you're still sitting down for three or four hours in between. Otherwise, make a point to stand up every 20 minutes or so and walk around. Not just stretch - get your heart rate up a little. Do some squats.

3) Dog walking is a surprisingly lucrative job in many places, and it gets you up and moving. Alternately, personal shopping (for groceries, clothes, dry cleaning pick-up, whatever). You'll probably be driving from place to place, but you'll be busy while you're at it and the pay can be pretty decent. If the money is less important, volunteer at an animal shelter, soup kitchen, disadvantaged kids outreach center (those places desperately need teachers), etc. I especially advocate for the volunteer option.

4) I can't really speak to TV, since I really don't watch television. What I do in front of the TV is play video games. For that, I generally pick up a game and play it for about 90 minutes or so (though I get wrapped up in a good storyline like anyone else) before I start looking for a good save point and going to do something else. Since television shows and movies are already set up in convenient time blocks, this should be even easier. Watch one show, then go study. Personally, I wouldn't bother scheduling television time, but then TV shows aren't important to me like they are to many other people, so my advice probably isn't very useful here.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:26 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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