Busy schedules, family time, and a long commute can wreak havoc on a consistent exercise schedule. Why not make the most of your time and turn your daily commute and errands into your exercise?
Sherry, a Tinley Park dweller who commutes downtown daily, walks to the train station in the morning from home and then to her office once she arrives downtown. She repeats the same routine at night, racking up around four miles round trip daily. She'll additionally take a walk during her lunch hour.
"I've got three children at home and my time is precious once I get home from work," she said. "I wanted to lose weight several years ago, but found it difficult to fit the gym into my daily routine. This saves me time and money."
Consistency and frequency are the keys to losing weight and staying fit. Combining exercise with your daily commute can be an ideal since it's a task you have to do every single day. It can save money and give you an energetic boost to begin your day.
Many commuters utilize their bicycles to get them to local train stations in the morning. The League of Illinois Bicyclists, volunteers and staff from the Active Transportation Alliance and other groups have been tracking bike parking at the local commuter train stations for Metra over the past 10 years. Bikes parked at the three Orland Park stations, for example, have quadrupled from two bikes in 1998 to eight bikes in 2008. Mokena and Tinley Park both experienced even more substantial increases, with Tinley Park's numbers soaring from 16 in 1998 to 42 in 2008; and from nine in 1998 to 21 in 2008 in Mokena.
Orland Park resident Gina Kenny, project assistant for the League of Illinois Bicyclists, practices what she preaches. She uses her bike to commute around town while doing daily errands, often with her young son Christopher, who either rides along on a tag-a-long bike or sits comfortably in an attached covered trailer.
"I take my son to preschool and other events by bike," she said. "It sets a good example for him to see that you don't always need to use the car for every little thing, and I get extra exercise in throughout the day."
Cardio exercise can be accumulated in small doses throughout the day for similar benefits as one long session. Our ancestors were always actively working to survive; they did not have to rely on gym workouts to stay trim. Get extra activity into your day by walking your kids to school, walking or biking to the grocery store, mowing your lawn, and climbing stairs at the office instead of taking the elevator.
Kenny began seriously commuting by bike when gasoline hit four dollars per gallon to save money. Her husband, Tom Kenny, occasionally commutes by bike to the train station in either Orland Park or Oak Forest as well.
With an average round trip commute of three to seven miles to the local train station, bikers can peddle for 30 minutes to an hour total daily, satisfying the basic cardiovascular exercise requirements set by the American Heart Association. The AHA recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week for basic cardiovascular fitness and weight maintenance. If you are trying to lose weight, increase your weekly cardio activity to 300 minutes, or 60 minutes five times a week.
Kenny said there are many great bike trails and streets for biking in the area. "The Tinley Creek Trail, which runs through several communities, including Orland Park and Palos Park, has a main ten mile loop with various offshoots.
"In Orland Park, both Ravinia and 94th avenues are excellent streets for biking, due to their low traffic and wide lanes," Kenny said.
Kenny recommends consulting the Orland Park Recommended Bikeways Map and the Bike to Metra Guide for Oak Forest when planning your route. The League of Illinois Bicyclists website also contains useful bike trail maps for the Chicago and Illinois area.
Inclement weather can pose a problem when commuting to work by bike or foot. Kenny recommends dressing in layers that you can remove once you warm up. If you want to invest in apparel, high tech fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin can also be helpful. There are products and apparel designed for winter bikers. Orland Park Cyclery is a great resource for getting outfitted for rain or shine.
It's also essential for safety to either use reflective tape or wear apparel with reflective components if you are riding or walking in the dark.
Now that your cardio exercise is taken care of, you'll still want to strength train two days per week for at least twenty minutes to maintain muscle mass, boost your metabolism, encourage bone strength, and condition your core. Many park districts and fitness centers offer quick and convenient 30 minute strength training classes during the lunchtime hour.
Those fortunate enough to have a private office can transform their workspace into their own gym during lunch by simply investing in a couple of pieces of equipment. A stability ball, assorted pieces of tubing, and even a few dumbbells can provide ample options for a sufficient strength training session. (Watch for a future article on a quick and easy office workout.)
I use a stability ball as a desk chair in my home office, and keep a set of weights by my side; I'll often perform bicep curls, chest presses, and even squats during a quick break or while talking on the phone. Pushups and planks are other great body weight exercises that can easily be done at the office.
You can even turn a chore like cooking dinner into a workout. While the meal is in progress, I may climb my staircase for ten minute sets, alternating with pushups while running into the kitchen to stir a pot.
Get creative with your exercise routine. You'll save time while losing inches.