excersize help
June 1, 2022 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I am heavier than I've been in a long time. I need to fix this. I have plans but they never come to fruition. Can you help me navigate some issues I'm having in getting this to happen? Fiddly details inside.

Once upon a time, I lived in the NYC Metro area and commuted an hour twice a day to get to work on commuter rail. I somehow conditioned my body during that decade to wake up at 5am to catch a 6:30 train (where I'd then go back to sleep for an hour) despite being more of a night owl.

Now, I don't have that commute. I have no commute. I work from home and I live upstate. I love being able to roll out of bed at 7:45 and log on between 8 and 8:30 to work. More sleep yay!

That said, I have a lot of responsibility in this job and once I start working I find it hard to take breaks during the day except for lunch. I need to excersize. I have free weights at home, and excersize bike, and when the weather is nice, I can walk outside. I did Couch to 5K ten years ago and had a really regular running schedule after that for a long time but that got shot to shit when I started a pretty toxic job in 2015 (that I escaped). Then I injured my knee in a freak accident during a band gig. After that I swam 3x a week at my local gym until COVID closed the gym. Then we moved.

I'd love to wake up early again - not 5am early, but maybe 6:30 or 7 to give myself time to do some sort of excersize before work and then shower and dress (right now I tend to work in my pajamas all day and shower when I log off in the evening, at which point I feel gross and sweaty.) Sometimes I'm able to hop on the bike after work but most days I'm so drained I just want to shower and collapse. I love my job so I'm not resentful of the toll it takes on me (best pay and benefits of my career, I love the work, and my boss loves me) but I feel like the only way for me to make sure I get my blood pumping every day is to get the excersize out of the way in the morning. (Morning swimming was so helpful for my energy and my mood!). I'd also like to schedule some sessions with a personal trainer - this did wonders for me when I needed to build strength safely after my knee injury.

Here are the problems I an encountering:

I now live in the boonies. The closest gym with a pool and access to personal trainers is 45 mins away. It is in the same town as my company's home office, and we are encouraged to go in 1x a week, so I keep thinking I'll wake up early 1x a week, drive to the Y, swim, shower, and go to the office. This is not happening due to reasons below.

I am on a lot of medication for mental health reasons. Two of them are for insomnia and mania. It takes me FOREVER to wind down at night now even after taking my meds. I'll take them at 9 but won't feel drowsy till midnight. If I take them earlier I fall asleep in my dinner. This is a problem.

The other medication problem is that once I do fall asleep, I am OUT. I sleep hard. And I have trouble waking up. I don't understand this as I have been taking these meds for well over a decade and used to haul my ass out of bed at 5am to take the train. I can't get out of bed till like 7:45 now, which doesn't leave me time to excersize before work. Midday excersize just doesn't happen with my workload unless it's a slow day which is rare.

How can I solve this conundrum? My psychiatrist is very reluctant to change my medication cocktail as it's working perfectly otherwise to regulate my bipolar 2. He is stumped as to why the pills aren't knocking me out immediately. I think the answer is simple - I am a night owl who conditioned my body once upon a time to wake up early because my livelihood depended on it. Now that it isn't necessary I sleep in.

I'd like to do personal training as it's been useful to me in the past but I used to go 2-3x a week when I lived downstate and that isn't feasible now with a 45 minute drive to the gym. I'd be limited to weekends or disturbingly early sessions during the week. Which would be hard given my inability to wake up before 7:45.

How do I solve these scheduling issues? Are there any life hacks I don't know about to 1) get to sleep earlier 2) wake up earlier?

posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Between the bike and the weights, you can get a pretty decent workout in at home without driving ninety minutes round trip to a gym (which really does sound impractical). If I were you I would work out at home once work is done, this seems like the easiest way to work it into your schedule without messing with your sleep stuff. This is what I did when during the pandemic early days and I was barely leaving my apartment. It's a nice way to mark the end of the work day - get a workout in, take a shower, and then start your evening.

Quick edit to add: I get feeling too tired after a workday to exercise, but you're going to be tired waking up extra early to do it too. If you're not naturally a morning person, it might be better to do in the early evening. Your sleep is important!
posted by cakelite at 8:19 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

How much money do you have to throw at the problem? If you could you hire a personal trainer to come to your home at 7AM once a week, do you think that would that be enough to get you out of bed earlier? (Or a virtual session might be an option.)
posted by mskyle at 8:21 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

So - your psychiatrist thinks your meds are working perfectly, other than the adverse impact they're having on your life? The meds are there to help you live your life the way you want, and right now it sounds like they're not doing that. I know they've worked for you for a long time, but how we respond to meds can change over time and it sounds like these are not working for you the way they need to be. I would spend a month documenting in detail (if you haven't already) what the meds are doing, what you want to be doing and how they do not allow that, and then talk to your psychiatrist again.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:23 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

One of the upsides of having fallen off all your previous routines is that anything is better than nothing (and perfect is, as always, the enemy of good enough).

Do 30 minutes of movement immediately after work because a) that appears to be the most available time you have right now b) it will better facilitate your "switch gears for the night" functions and c) might even dramatically improve your sleep-ramp situation.

Just start with 30 minutes. Finish your work day, go pee and refill your bottle of water, and move your body. If you need/prefer external instruction, get on youtube and choose a free video - yoga, dance exercise, "walking" (it's like slow aerobics) workouts, calisthenics, physical therapy mobility/posture exercises, try them all as you may find some of them really spark your interest and give you enjoyable movement. I'm encouraging going slow because you will need to carve that spot into your routine, and you're going to have an immediate rush of reasons why you can't do it then, so just work on making the space in your life first. In six weeks, decide if you can actually make that spot into an hour and start including some bike and weight work.

If you're not already using a daylight lamp alarm and/or lightbox in the mornings, you might consider adding that to your routine. A lot of people with various dysthymias are inclined to slippery circadian schedules and you may require ongoing daylight propaganda to try to keep yours shifted earlier than they are prone to drift.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:33 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: bile and syntax - definitely see your point, and I bring up this issue with the doc at every appointment. We tried decreasing my sleeping aid and bumping up the medication for mania (hoping that would help my brain power down), but the increase in mania med literally gave me a hangover. Like a crazy drunken night hangover.

The reason why he doesn't want to change things now is because other than my sleep schedule getting borked, this cocktail keeps me from falling into deep depression (the can't get out of bed, or bathe, or eat, or talk to people kind) and also keeps me from doing dumb manic shit like buying ALL THE THINGS on Amazon or Etsy every night, or just staying up all night watching crime shows or knitting or playing the ukulele.

I do have a bad habit of reading in bed when I can't sleep on my phone. I have a blue light filter that I use but I don't think it's helping. We turn off the TV right at 9 and are in bed by 10. How can I keep myself occupied until I doze off? Kindle with no backlight? Some way to listen to a boring podcast without keeping my boyfriend awake?
posted by nayantara at 8:53 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can't help with most of this, but I have the "My hyper-vigilant brain needs background noise to sleep, but how can I listen to a boring podcast without keeping my [wife] awake?" problem. My solution is $20 bluetooth sleep headphones -- they have a pair of relatively thin headphones in a cloth headband, with the electronics sitting on your forehead. I play something on my laptop and turn the screen towards the wall, but you could use a phone too. I have long hair, and generally put the band under my ponytail in back, and they work and are comfortable enough. They almost always fall off in the middle of the night, but they're quiet enough that it doesn't matter, and I just plug them in to charge when I get up in the morning.
posted by Alterscape at 8:59 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm also a night owl whose job is really draining, and I am here to suggest that post-work workouts are going to be your friend. Truly. The mental drain of a day's work makes you feel like your body is exhausted but I'm going to guess that it isn't, it's just sluggish from a day in front of the screen. In the morning, put on workout clothes*, and after work, go straight from the computer to the bike. You're already showering at the end of the day currently, so why not? Frame it in your mind as physically shaking off the day.

I can't speak to the sleep/medication situation naturally, but I find that working out in the 5-7pm range means I'm good and sleepy by 11. (Do I actually GO to bed? No, but like...I could.)

I predict that if you commit to a post-work workout, really commit to it, for 3 weeks, by the end of those 3 weeks you will wonder how you ever got along without it.

*If you have to be on Zoom or what have you, maybe stock up on some neutral-color workout tops that you can throw a cardigan over. I have a lot of running tanks that aren't really distinguishable from a shell or camisole on camera, and I just add sweater or hoodie as needed.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:01 AM on June 1, 2022 [11 favorites]

Schedule some personal trainer sessions after work on your day in the office? Having an appointment with someone else makes it harder to skip because you’re tired after work.

See the PT for a few weeks to get started and begin to build a new habit, then reduce the PT sessions to eg. once a month, with a plan for you to follow in between. Your plan can have one day a week at the gym, same time as your PT sessions were to continue the habit, then have another couple of sessions you do at home eg. one evening and one weekend day - body weight exercises/cardio etc.

If you’re not a morning person atm for good reasons, work with what you’ve got.
posted by penguin pie at 9:02 AM on June 1, 2022

If taking the meds at 9 puts you to sleep at midnight, what time does taking them at 8 put you to sleep? In other words, what if you took them right after dinner?

But also, I am decidedly not a night owl and have chronic insomnia and delayed sleep phase. I work out some time between about 6-8pm most days. I find that it actually helps my sleep. Any reason you couldn't get on the bike right after work, before dinner, rather than trying to rearrange your entire life to make yourself a morning exercise person?
posted by decathecting at 9:07 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

When I was just starting my "OMG I'm so out of shape and i need to exercise" push, I ended up with workouts at 5:30p and 7:30p because Reasons -- which I thought I'd hate because I'm an early bird. And you know what? I freaking loved them so much that I'm still doing it 2x per week right now (and I'd increase that in a second if I could). There's a whole vibe to working out and getting sweaty --> coming home and shoving food/water into my gullet --> taking a lovely shower --> easing right on into nighttime routine + bed. Maybe give it a try?
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:15 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also - building new habits is hard, and you’re asking yourself to build two major new habits at once (total change to your body clock/routine, AND start a new exercise regime).

So you if you’re really keen on one day doing morning exercise, you can maybe start with just exercise, by introducing fitness sessions at a time that’s reasonably easy for you (ie. evenings, or lunchtimes).

Once you’ve got that absolutely down and embedded in your life, you can think separately about the new challenge of altering your schedule. And maybe you do that gradually - you do your weekend session in the morning but not 6am, gradually move it earlier in the morning, until it’s early enough you could do it on a work day before work, do that pre-work session only one day a week to begin with before adding another morning workout etc.

Basically, break this huge project of change up into the tiniest steps you can and tackle them only one at a time; only add the next when the current one is absolutely assimilated into your life.
posted by penguin pie at 9:15 AM on June 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: >I'll take them at 9 but won't feel drowsy till midnight. If I take them earlier I fall asleep in my dinner.

Does this mean that if you take your meds at 8 pm, you fall asleep at 8 pm when you're having dinner? If so, can you have dinner earlier? Maybe doing some meal prepping would help to minimize cooking time and get dinner on the table more easily? Sorry if I'm misunderstanding.

Here's what we have to work with:
-can't wake up before 7:45 am
-log onto work between 8 and 8:30 am
-can only fall asleep at 12 am
-sometimes too drained to bike after work
-can't workout during the day

-want to wake up early, around 6:30 or 7 am
-want to exercise before work, shower and dress
-feel that the only way to exercise is to get it out of the way in the morning
-would like to do personal training; right now would be limited to weekends or way too early in the morning

-closest gym with pool and personal trainers is 45 min away; want to wake up early and go to gym 1x a week - swim, shower and go to office, but can't wake up early

Here are my suggestions, to be considered in any combination:
-go to the gym on both Sat and Sun. Even if you only workout 2x a week, that's better than nothing
-wake up at 7:45 am; out the door at 7:50 am, do a 20 min walk, come home, shower and get dressed. Log onto work at 8:30 am. Make 8:30 am your consistent start time; don't log on earlier than that. Lay out your walking clothes, running shoes, water bottle, whatever else you need the night before. Basically you wake up, go to the washroom, put on your shoes and clothes, and grab your stuff without having to think about it. You're just going. Walking is great exercise and you can change this to jogging at some point. Check the weather the night before. If it'll rain the next morning, lay out an umbrella and rain gear too :D
-do 3x10 min workouts during the day, or even just a few 5 min workouts. If you want to do say, 30 mins of exercise a day, there's no reason it has to be done all at once. If you're worried about getting sweaty and don't have time to shower, maybe don't exercise to the point where you're sweating.
-or, let's say your workday is 8:30 - 4:30. If you do 5 mins of exercise each hour starting at 9:30 am, that's 40 mins of exercise total. Though I acknowledge you may have long meetings and can't get up, or you're working on something for more than an hour. You can do simple stuff like jumping jacks, pushups, squats, bicep curls, etc. for 5 min. Or heck, do the 7 min NYT workout.
-is it possible to do work while on the bike? e.g. sitting in on a meeting (if you're not required to be on camera all the time), reading a document? Even 10 mins of this is something.
-do virtual personal training sessions after work. I find that even if I'm tired and I HAVE to do something and I'm paying someone to do that something, I can still do it (e.g. virtual violin lesson after work, virtual exercise class at lunchtime) but YMMV of course.
-if you turn off the TV at 9 pm, and are in bed by 10 pm, can you workout at 9 pm?

>Some way to listen to a boring podcast without keeping my boyfriend awake?
For this, I would use headphones for my phone (wired or bluetooth) and put my phone in a drawer next to the bed, or on a table/night stand with something on top to block out the light. Bluetooth would be better just in case you roll around so you don't yank on the wire.

Hope this at least gives you some ideas.
posted by foxjacket at 9:24 AM on June 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

There are plenty of personal trainers who do remote personal training now but you're still working with them real time over video. I know one who used to work at my gum years ago and is great, let me know if you want her info.

Are you the kind of person who is more likely to work out if you're paying for a gym or membership? Lots of gyms now offer virtual classes at a set time with a live instructor, so you have to actually do it at the specific time instead of hoping you'll find the energy for it later in the day. And of course there are paid apps with workouts and goal tracking, if that might help you stick to it compared to just "I know I should do it but...."

Is a stand up desk with a small treadmill an option or does your work require steady mouse control or fast typing without any boring zoom meetings? It won't solve all your problems but even walking slowly for an hour a day while on a call where you don't have to show your face is better than nothing. Disclaimer: I do this, but haven't lost weight. But it's way better than sitting on my butt all day.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 9:59 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Disclaimer: I do this, but haven't lost weight. But it's way better than sitting on my butt all day.

I have a walking desk as well and no, it definitely isn't possible for me to walk long/fast enough during a work day for it to impact my weight. However, it's been wonderful for my back and posture, and also for my energy--and as always, something > nothing.

Also, not knowing what all you're on, medication-wise...it can be super, super super super suuuuuuper hard to lose weight on some medications. Not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic; losing weight via exercise is likely to be a long game anyway. So, please be gentle with yourself if you find that the exercise isn't making that much of a change in your weight; it will absolutely still be making changes to your overall health.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:57 AM on June 1, 2022

I had a fitbit, it died, and I need another similar thing. It helps me to be accountable to myself. Also, especially working from home, put specific exercise plans in your calendar 3x a week, at least. If my calendar says Hike Trail at Local Preserve, I'm likely to do it. My calendar item might even say You'll Feel Better. Get Outside and Get Moving. Remind yourself that exercise contributes to healthier sleep. Have a bag ready with water and anything you might need.

Try really hard to take lunch and go outside for 15 minutes. It makes my workday so much better if I get even a tiny walk and some sun and fresh air.

Your employer may have an EAP (Employee Assistance Plan) of some sort, maybe an exercise subscription to online exercise classes. Lots of employers want to help you stay active and healthy. I'm still not ready to exercise at a gym, too much Covid locally, but it's trail season.
posted by theora55 at 11:45 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I am heavier than I've been in a long time. I need to fix this.

My psychiatrist is very reluctant to change my medication cocktail

A few things that maybe you're addressing in addition to what you're asking in your question, or perhaps you haven't thought about yet, but starting with the first part of your question which is about being too heavy and wanting to fix it:

1. Diet plays a big role in weight. You can't outrun your fork, etc. I'm not talking about going on "a diet" but rather changing habits that result in better food and beverage choices which help maintain your ideal weight. On average, this will pay much greater dividends with weight than exercise. Both together will have very good effect.

2. Exercise that builds muscle can make you gain weight (though at the same weight or heavier, you'll hopefully be fitter than before you had the muscles).

3. Medications can do strange things to the body's systems, and perhaps some of your medication cocktail is playing a role in your weight.
posted by msbrauer at 12:45 PM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

I understand you don't have good indoor pool access, but in the summer, does your local area have a public outdoor pool or lake swimming area? During the summer, one of our city pools has a morning "adult lap swim" hour before the pool opens to the public and also always has one lane blocked off for adult lap swim during regular public swim times. It wouldn't solve your problem year round, but it might help with exercising while heavier while it's hot. Even without access to a lap lane, going to the pool or lake after work and splashing around for a while would feel pretty great and help you get moving again.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:10 PM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have delayed sleep phase disorder (like being a night owl on steroids) and am able to manage it by using bright light glasses in the morning, and sometimes blue-light blocking glasses at night. As a bonus, the glasses also keep me from getting my annual seasonal affective depression.

If you buy some blue-blocking glasses to wear at night, too, and start using the blue-blockers at dusk and the Luminettes on waking, I think you'll find things start to shift in a few nights. It's not a magic bullet but the closest thing I've found to one in decades of trying. (Though talk to your psych person, I don't know if the bright light is thought to have destabilizing effects for bipolar stuff)

I use a personal trainer app called Future. It's expensive but they give you a live trainer who you FaceTime (occasionally) and text (almost every day). The trainer makes workouts for you and the app leads you through those workouts. For me the cost is worth it because it keeps me accountable -- I'm very responsive to "not wanting to disappoint someone" and I also appreciate having the mental work done for me.

You might also like Obe Fitness, they do online classes -- both live and pre-recorded --, the instructors are quite high energy and I find the interface fun to look at, and wanting to "be there so I can take the class live" can be a motivator. (I have free one-month passes for both Future and Obe if anyone wants to try them -- just PM me.)

Also for at-home workouts I really love the dance fitness of Kukuwa (African dance fitness on YouTube), 305 fitness (dance cardio on Youtube) and Fitness Marshall (pop hits on Youtube).
posted by hungrytiger at 4:48 PM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Go outside for a short walk (10 minutes? Less? A little more?) walk right before you start work. I bribe myself by allowing myself to play a little Animal Crossing once I've had my walk. Getting sunlight is crucial for my circadian rhythms.

Do you have meetings where you can just be passively listening and don't have to be on camera? Calf raises, planks, dead bug exercises are all exercises I've done during Zoom meetings when muted/without video. I don't even do them for very long (5 minutes?), but it just helps with the circulation and reminds my body that it exists.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:39 PM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you considered Future fitness app? It’s amazing for this kind of scenario.
posted by pando11 at 9:45 PM on June 1, 2022

I am also a night owl and trying to adjust my bedtime. A couple of things which seem to be helping me:
* No caffeine several hours before bed
* Magnesium supplement a couple of hours before I would like to sleep (check with your doctors before starting a supplement)

How do you feel about yoga? Yoga with Adriene on YouTube offers many options for some exercise. From really gentle to more challenging, different video lengths depending on how much time you have, targetting specific complaints if you have any. She has a video for winding down, which could be worth a shot in the evening
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:45 AM on June 2, 2022

« Older Credit Union won't cover fraudulent charges?   |   Playing "hybrid" poker with friends? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.