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Backpacker Magazine – April 2008

Skills Health: Make Time For Exercise

Full schedule? Here's how to work in working out.

by: Christine Cyr

Abby Nelson sport climbing in Thailand, Bryan Touhey
Abby Nelson sport climbing in Thailand, Bryan Touhey

Abby Nelson always watches the clock. When the personal trainer, 27, isn't climbing in New York's Shawangunks or competing in triathlons, she helps high-powered CEO's and stockbrokers squeeze workouts into their 80-hour workweeks during sessions at Manhattan's Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. Making busy alpha-executives commit to a regular training plan isn't easy, so Nelson has learned the following strategies to ensure consistency and results.

"The biggest impediment to working out is not having a goal," says Nelson. She recommends breaking down aims–such as preparing for an ambitious hike or adventure race–into tangible, bite-size pieces. "The best goals are those that you can achieve each time you work out," she says. Record these short-term goals, whether they're mileage totals or reps at the gym, and stick to them. Equally important is being accountable to someone else. "One of the great things about climbing is that you usually need two people to do it," she says. Nelson suggests joining a local backpacking club, running team, or gym with a friend. "A partner will keep you accountable."

Another trick Nelson uses with clients–and even herself–is to exercise in the morning. At the end of a day any number of excuses, from making dinner to sheer fatigue, can get in the way of a workout. And for seriously time-crunched individuals, Nelson advises exercising a few times per week at high intensity for a shorter amount of time. "You don't have to become a gym rat. You can get in shape in 45 minutes or less if you keep it moving," she says. For novice runners, she recommends investing in a heart-rate monitor, particularly one that will give a weekly readout to help gauge changes in your speed, mileage, and calories burned. The bottom line, of course, is to structure your life so that exercise is a priority. "People tend to linger at work more than they need to," Nelson says. In her fast-paced world, cutting and running isn't a bad idea.

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