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Exercise for Busy Entrepreneurs. How to Get Off Your Butt (and Move It, Move It) When You Have a Million Things to Do.

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Exercise has been shown to be effective in treating both depression and anxiety. It’s also been shown to help us think clearer and focus better. It’s not just good for the body. It’s good for our brains, too!

In fact, John J. Ratey, M.D., of “Spark! How Exercise will Improve the Performance of your Brain” went as bold as to say…

“I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters.”


– John J. Ratey, M.D., Author of “Spark! How Exercise will Improve the Performance of your Brain”.

The problem is time. Unlike someone like a pre-school teacher who is on her feet all day, us “computer folk” don’t have an active job to keep us moving. In fact, speaking for myself, if I’m not careful, I can get pretty stagnant. I have to make time to exercise.

Because as I said, it’s good for my mind. I can directly tell that it helps lessen my anxiety and depression and it helps me to be more focused during the day. Plus, I sleep sounder and that’s always good thing, too!

I’m about to share what my friends said about how they fit exercise into their busy days.

But first, since we all KNOW that exercise is important but so many of us still do not prioritize it, I dug up this old pep talk from my good friend, Scott Tousignant, to share.

What’s your ROI on Exercise?

by Scott Tousignant

Time is our most precious commodity, which is why it’s so important to prioritize the tasks that you perform throughout the day to ensure that you are doing the tasks that give you the greatest return on your investment (ROI). Unfortunately not many online entrepreneurs are aware of the ROI on t

heir daily tasks and they spend their day being busy rather than productive and wonder why they continue to struggle growing their business.

Every business is different and certain tasks may produce a greater ROI for certain businesses compared to others. There is however, one task that will provide an incredible ROI for every online entrepreneur. That task is physical fitness. Ironically, it’s the one task that many online entrepreneurs will brush off and say they don’t have time for.

Let’s take a look at the ROI on exercise:

  • Increased energy: Keep up with your kids and live life to the fullest
  • Increased focus: Your mind stays on target with the task at hand
  • Increased productivity: Get more done in less time so you have more time to do what you enjoy the most in life.
  • Increased Creativity: Your mind becomes more open to ideas and solutions
  • Increased confidence: The benefits of this are limitless in business and life.
  • Increased self esteem: Enhances your belief in your abilities
  • Increased networking opportunities: You become more approachable and you are more willing to “get out there” more.
  • Increased sense of well-being: Feel great about yourself and your actions
  • Improved sleep: When you exercise you enjoy greater quality sleep and wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day at hand.
  • Reduced Stress: It becomes easier to handle the challenges that life throws at you.

With all of these benefits how can you possibly avoid exercise?

Yes it’s hard work, but it’s hard work with a huge ROI.

I challenge you to find any other task in your day that provides more benefits than exercise.

I encourage you not to fall into the trap of, “As soon as I finish this project, I’ll start to exercise.” I’ve got news for you… there will always be new projects and with this mindset you will never make the time for your health and fitness.

Another trap is waiting until you achieve a certain level of business success before you make your fitness a priority. “As soon as my online business takes off and these PPC campaigns start turning a profit I will have the freedom to workout more often and the finances to get a gym membership.” With this mindset, money is more important than your health.

Now let’s say that your ROI on PPC becomes so great that you finally have the freedom that you and your family deserve, but then out of nowhere Google slaps ya! Your income stream stops and you scramble to find another method of traffic. Let’s say that within a few months you find that banner ads become your new #1 profit machine and life is all good and happy again.

But what if LIFE decides to slap you with diabetes or a heart attack, because you placed your health at the bottom of your priority list?

What if life slaps you and cuts your life short by a year or two?

That’s time that you can’t get back. That’s time that you could have spent creating more memories with your family. Sure you had some great trips and vacations in the early days because you focused on business and money, but there was a hidden cost that didn’t reveal itself until it was too late. Was it worth it?

Everything in life is a choice. Your current situation is a result of all the choices that you’ve made in life. Your choices are often influenced by your values. Right now, you have a choice to bump your health to the top of the list of your priorities, or continue putting it off and hope to have the time to make it a priority down the road. Do you value your health? Before you make that decision, remember… time does eventually run out.

Thanks, Scott!

So that lead me to ask my smart friends this:

As an entrepreneur, I end up sitting on my butt a little more than I should. I’m always coming up with ways to get more movement into my day. How do you fit movement into your daily schedule without guilt? What kinds of exercise do you do? Any tips for sneaking it in?

This post is a compilation of responses from my friends. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this post. If so, please share!

Brian T. Edmondson

I’m a huge believer that there is a correlation between diet, exercise, health, energy and business success.

As someone who has been working from home “living the laptop lifestyle” for over 10 years I’ve literally have had days where I haven’t left the house or seen the light of day – not good!

These days I make it a point to make sure I don’t spend hours and hours (or days) just sitting in front of the computer screen.

Here are two things that work really well for me:

1. Schedule my exercise into my calendar

Just about everything I do (business or personal) gets put into my calendar. If it’s on the calendar then it’s going to get done, period.

– Monday 11:00 am one-on-one coaching call – check
– Tuesday lunch meeting with a potential new private client – check
– Thursday blog post writing block from 2PM to 4PM – check
– Friday 7:00PM movie of the latest Marvel comics movie – check
– Saturday afternoon watching my Penn State Nittany Lions crush Michigan, Ohio, or Wisconsin – double check!

And of course, my one hour workout at the YMCA is scheduled into my calendar as a recurring event. It’s on the calendar and very rarely is there anything important enough to bump it off the calendar – mostly everything I do is scheduled around my exercise schedule.

Unlike in the past, I get out of the house at least once a day (hello sun!) to get my exercise in.

2. Apple Watch stand reminder

Of course when you’re sitting at a desk and computer all day it’s easy to get into the groove and go hours without standing, which isn’t good as well.

I generally work distraction free for 50 minutes, then will stop to take a break, stand up, walk around the house, and drink some water or have a snack. Sometimes I’ll even squeeze in some extra jumping jacks or pushups just to get the blood flowing.

One of my favorite gadgets is my Apple Watch (yes, I’m an Apple Fan Boy) and a nice feature is every 50 minutes it will remind you to stand up and take a break if you haven’t already done so. Of course you don’t need an Apple Watch to do this… I used to use a simple kitchen timer in the past.

By scheduling exercise into my calendar and making sure I take frequent stand breaks throughout the day (and hydrating properly) I find that I have a lot more energy, focus, and am much more productive.

Lain Ehmann

After a period of inactivity, I committed to getting back to a regular workout routine this year. For a long time, I told myself I was “too busy” to workout!

In January, I started going to Orangetheory, a group exercise class with 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weights. You wear a heart rate monitor to make sure you’re working out at the right intensity. Everything is tracked, from heart rate to calories burned. I geek out on those metrics!

I started out a few times a week. Now, nine months later, I hate missing class.

I feel better, I look better, and it’s now a regular part of my day. First thing in the morning, Mon-Fri, I drop my daughter off at school and then head over to the gym. I sometimes have to force myself to take a day off. And the more I push myself physically, the more confidence I have. That’s good for me AND my business. 🙂

Carol Little, Public Speaker, Trainer and Coach

Working out is essential for me, not only for my physical health but for my mental health too. I can think better when I feel good in my body. I find I’m more creative too. That may sound strange but it’s true. I often walk around a lake in my neighborhood not for the exercise but for my peace of mind. I come up with great ideas out on that trail! So, my tip is: if you have a problem you’re trying to solve, rather than sit at your desk and stew, walk your way to a solution. It’s more fun and you get some movement in when you would otherwise be sitting.

Personally, I love working out first thing in the morning. Nothing conflicts with an early morning workout. No phones, no emails, no clients…nothing. Plus, there is such a sense of satisfaction that comes from having my workout done by 9am. I keep things interesting by alternating my workouts. I do yoga, cardio (treadmill, elliptical or I ride the bike.) and weights. It doesn’t really matter what I do as long as I do something everyday. I consider it a bonus for my business too since, as a speaker, feeling comfortable in my body is crucial to feeling comfortable in front of the room.

Well, there you go, my thoughts on working out.

Karon Thackston

As a girly girl, I have never liked exercise. That meant I would have to get hot and sweat, and that’s just gross! The exercises I did for years were based on videos, the majority of which were 30-minutes or less. Frankly, following the same DVDs over and over felt robotic.

Then I discovered pickleball about a year ago! (Google it.) A friend kept asking me to try it and I kept putting it off because (1) we play outside… in the heat. And (2) we sweat… a lot! No. Thank. You.

Shockingly, that turned out to be my thing. I adore it! I play typically 2-3 hours at a time, 4 – 6 days a week. Therein lies the “trick” to getting more movement in my day. I had to find something I loved, and that I wanted to do.

When it rains, I feel cheated because I couldn’t play that day. I miss the game, the people who I get to interact with face-to-face, and the time in the real world away from any screens.

Angela Wills, Digital Business Coach

Once really easy and non-negotiable new movement in my daily schedule is walking my daughter to and from school every day. Our family has one vehicle and now that my husband works days we have no choice but to walk. It’s about 25 minutes twice a day for me so some nice consistent movement I hope will pay off!

If you don’t have a kid to walk to school, maybe you can borrow one? haha! Seriously though I bet there’s a mom out there who’d love it if you did walk her kid to school every now and then. Or maybe there’s another activity you have to do regularly that you can make yourself walk to instead of driving? I actually really enjoy the forced walks now, though!

Otherwise another thing I LOVE to do is Pomodoro Method of working. I learned this from the book “How to Live a Good Life” by Jonathan Fields. In it he suggests working for one stretch of time and then breaking for a short period of time and doing something “FUN” on that break, something that gets you moving. I like to work for 52 minutes (which I’m actually doing as I write this) and then break for 17 minutes. During the breaks (I do about 4 per day) I usually do things like flip on some dance music, throw a toy for my dog Shadow or try to learn a new move on my weighted hula hoop. The music is my go-to and then I do try to get creative.

As a bonus tip I can sometimes get a quick wash and dry of dishes in when doing Pomodoro and not feel like household stuff distracted me or threw me off track.

Dvorah Lansky, Bestselling Author and Course Creation Specialist

How do you fit movement into your daily schedule? What kinds of exercise do you do? Any tips for sneaking it in? Or for making it more efficient?

While I love to dance and move and walk and ride my bike… I find that I often get so busy with my work projects that exercise and movement take a back seat. Here are some tips that help me to make movement a priority.

From the following list – I do one or more of these each day. Just think how fit I’d be if I did them all!

1. The computer does not go on in the morning until I’ve “earned it” by dancing or exercising or going to a walk.
2. When I look outside in the morning and think “it’s so beautiful out” I use that as a prompt to get my shoes on and go for a stroll.
3. Some of my neighbors go for a walk around the neighborhood, every day, rain or shine or sleet or snow – they’re like the postal service. I see them in the summer with their shorts and water bottles and in the winter with their parkas and mittens. I walk with them from time to time – however I recently made the commitment to walk with them daily for at least 90 days! They go at the same time each day so I can easily schedule it as a priority in my calendar.
4. In the afternoon when I’m winding down from work, I play with my cat on the front steps. Once she’s ready to go inside, I head off to take a short walk to a specific spot in the neighborhood. I especially enjoy doing this around sunset.
5. There’s a cafe about a mile from my home. More and more I budget time to walk there instead of drive there in the morning. I’m trying to figure out a way to carry a light book or some work with me as I love hanging out there, but don’t want to carry a lot of weight – hmmm maybe I’ll try a light backpack.
6. I have two sets of weights in my living room. I put on motivating music and lift the weights. Lifting weights makes me feel so strong. And for some reason my cat (Princess the Wonder Cat) loves hanging out with me when I’m working with the weights.
7. We have community dances in a nearby town each Saturday night. I used to go religiously and I loved it. Haven’t been in a long time, however I promised myself that I’d begin going this month. Dancing makes me so happy.
8. Can’t wait to see what our others experts in this Expert Briefs series have to share.

A tip I’ll share is… look at your calendar and choose a dedicated time each day or many times each week where you can put on music and dance, or go for a walk or lift weights. Commit to daily exercise for 30, 60 or 90 days and you’ll likely be hooked for life!

Another tip – go through the suggestions shared by the contributors in this series and jot down all of the ideas that inspire or intrigue you. Then circle three of them that you’ll incorporate into your life. Keep the list somewhere handy so you can participate in more of these activities when you’re ready.

Kelly McCausey

One of my favorite ways to exercise is to swim laps but the local women’s only gym with a pool has passed hands three times in three years and appears to have closed for good this time. It’s frustrating because swimming didn’t feel like ‘working out’ and I am going to miss that opportunity to make exercise fun.

I just caught myself in an old story! Truth is, even ‘non-fun exercise’ is fun these days. Since having bariatric surgery a year ago, I’ve lost 90+ pounds and built up strength I haven’t enjoyed in many years.

I recently rejoined Anytime Fitness. I love their 24 hour access and there’s a location within easy reach for me. I am tackling a weight machine workout that really stretches my abilities and lets me get in and out fast.

At least once a week I take my granddaughter out for an adventure. She’s two and a half and has boundless energy. Whether we’re covering every square foot of the grocery store or lapping through the pet store – I’m enjoying her so much I hardly notice all the steps I’m getting in.

Candice Davis, Author Coach

I once gained twenty pounds over the course of a month because I was so focused on bringing a project in on time. Not good!

After that painful lesson, I made sure I found some ways to move my body every day.

I added an app to Google Chrome to remind me to get up from my desk at set intervals. (Stand Up! Timer is free.)

I also used inexpensive kitchen pantry shelving and some zip ties to create a desk on my treadmill. Now, I can walk at a very slow pace and work at the same time. Just stepping on the treadmill reminds me to pick up my free weights and do a short strength-training routine before I jump into work.

Lastly, I developed some small habits, like pacing while I’m on the phone, walking every aisle in the grocery store, and having active dates with my husband to make sure I sneak in some of the daily movement the human body was designed to enjoy.

Nicole Dean, Awesome Human, Author, Business Consultant, etc.
From here!
exercise in an airport
Me doing yoga in the Atlanta airport.

First of all, let me give kudos to my buds.

You’re all awesome! Whether you realize it or not, you’ve inspired me.

We live in a world where “busy” is worn like a badge of honor. And “I’m too busy” is frequently an excuse to not fit self-care into our days.

The quote I started with from John J. Ratey of Spark says so much:

“I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters.

It’s a handy metaphor to get the point across, but the deeper explanation is that exercise balances neurotransmitters — along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain.”

– John J. Ratey, M.D., Author of “Spark! How Exercise will Improve the Performance of your Brain”.

For those of us who are the CEOs of our own companies, our brains ARE our livelihoods.

When we’re depressed, anxious, or fuzzy-headed, we can’t tap into our genius, creativity or productivity as effortlessly.

Why sit in the struggle when a quick walk can literally reboot your brain?

So doesn’t it make sense that exercise can actually INCREASE the bottom line of your business? 

In fact, I would be hard-pressed to think of any people who I really look up to who don’t prioritize their own health.

So… argument one. Exercise leads to productivity which leads to increased profit.

On top of that, as entrepreneurs (bloggers, authors, speakers, consultants, service providers, and coaches), we spend our work time sitting in front of a screen.

In a world where sitting is the new smoking as far as danger to ourselves goes, we have to make it a priority to move frequently and consistently.

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death, The chair is out to kill us.”

– James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, in an interview in with the LA Times.

Now that may be a wee bit dramatic but something has got to get people moving! 😉

And, if for no other reason, as a yoga teacher, I do know that most back pain starts in the butt. So sitting is definitely not helping your back pain.

Let me share a few things that have helped me to make exercise actually happen over the years..

1. My best friend, the timer.

I use a timer when I work. Pretty much always. It is my lifesaver. So, for instance, I set the timer for 45 minutes of work, then I take 15 minutes to walk around, do laundry, exercise, head outside for a bit, whatever. It may not seem like much, but it really works on helping me stay focused!

When I get back to my desk, I am refreshed and usually have some solutions for the issues that I was feeling stuck on, plus, I come back to my desk with some great clarity.

When I need to lose some weight or I feel like kicking my own butt, I break up my day so that I do focused work for 40-50 minutes, then do physical activity (like squats or situps – or the One and Done One Minute Workout) for 10 minutes then a quick break to do something around the house (check the mail, get more water, let out the dogs, or move the laundry) and repeat. If I can do that 1-3 times in my day, that helps to keep my metabolism up all day long.

2. Wearing running shoes.

I find that it’s silly, but if I put on my running shoes first thing in the morning, I move more during the day than if I’m barefoot. Plus, I can’t climb on the couch or in bed for a nap as easily. (ducking and running)

3. Don’t work weekends.

I try not to work much on the computer (if at all) on the weekends, unless I’m launching a big project (or if something major happened during the week- fun or otherwise). This gives me permission to not sit as much and instead, be gardening, doing yardwork, organizing the house, doing batch cooking, going on a hike or paddleboarding, or any number of activities that do not involve me sitting.

4. Outsourcing.

I know, it’s not directly related to exercise, but it keeps my butt out of the chair, which helps.

5. Exercise 7 Days/Week.

I used to plan exercise days and plan my “recovery” days back when I was a gym rat. Now, I aim to exercise every day so that when life gets in the way and I miss one, I’m still way ahead.

But to me, exercise, just means choosing to do something to move my body. Go on a hike, go to a yoga class, swim in the pool during a break, hop on my bike, go paddleboarding.

6. “1 Minute Workouts”.

I have been doing a program called “One and Done: 1 Minute Workouts” that is basically 20 seconds of hard effort followed by another 2 minutes of active rest (not just recovery but actually doing a planned movement). You repeat that cycle 3 times which adds up to only 1 minute of all out effort. I was surprised how sore I was once I started doing it.

You can create your own workout, or this is the one I’m doing. One and Done Workout

7. Yoga is the Double-Up Workout for Me. 

I meditate daily because it’s good for me and it is helping me to be more in touch with a lot of crap that needs to bubble out. (Fun, right?) 😉

I do yoga because it’s exercise, stretching, strengthening, balance, and meditation. To me, it’s the whole shebang.

I try to go to class every day, but if I don’t make it, I’ll do another form of exercise, like the “One and Done” workout I mentioned above.

8. Finding wasted time and making it useful.

When my daughter was in chorus and dance classes in downtown Pensacola (a 15-20 minute drive from home), I found myself sitting around for an hour to an hour and a half several times per week while she was at practice. I was too far from home for it to make sense to run back, so I’d sit and play Words with Friends or watch Hulu. So, after a year of that, I realized what a colossal waste of time it was. #duh

So, the next year, I joined a gym right near where her rehearsals are. I found that, in the hour or so from when I drop her to pick her up, I could get really sweaty. I had just enough time to run to the gym, park, get inside, and get a good workout. It’s not ideal, but it worked for me. (Exercise without guilt is a good thing.)

So that’s the majority of what I do to sneak in exercise.

But how do you actually make yourself do it? 

For that, I would highly (highest recommendation) recommend you read or listen to Atomic Habits by James Clear.

He has studied how to make habits stick more thoroughly than anyone else I’ve ever read. It’s fascinating if you dig that stuff.

Quick Muscle-Building Workout. 

I also wanted to share this quick muscle building workout as I have done it a lot when I had a gym membership last year. I could get in and out of the gym in a half hour. No, it may not be the MOST effective workout in the world, but I do believe in “done is better than perfection”. And this was something I was able to commit to.

That’s it for me. Now it’s your turn. How do you find time to exercise in your busy day?


Nicole Dean

PS. I love reading this when I feel like I just can’t do something or I feel intimidated or overwhelmed.

“No more excuses! Do it or don’t do it but don’t make excuses. Stop using your incredible brain to think up elaborate rationalizations and justifications for not taking action.

Do something. Do anything. Get on with it! Repeat to yourself:

‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me!’

Losers make excuses; winners make progress.

Now, how can you tell if your favorite excuse is valid or not? It’s simple. Look around and ask, ‘Is there anyone else who has my same excuse who is successful anyway?’ When you ask this question, if you are honest, you will have to admit that there are thousands and even millions of people who have had it far worse than you have who have gone on to do wonderful things with their lives. And what thousands and millions of others have done, you can do as well—if you try.”

~ Brian Tracy from No Excuses!

And I oftentimes rewatch this when I feel like I’m backsliding or not making progress fast enough. #DUDE

I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Diana Walker

    Hi Nicole! What a wonderful, inspiring blog post. It is great to hear all the different ways each business owner uses to incorporate exercise and breaks into their day! I go to Aquafit class 4 times a week, Yoga once or twice a week, and walk every day 1/2 hour or more. I work around those pre-set commitments, so it works for me. Loved this post! Thanks! Diana

  • Jenn

    Awesome post and so needed! Exercise for me is a decision. And a commitment to myself and my mind.

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