The MVP of exercise and moving 

About 6 years ago I suffered what seemed like a meteor strike landing in the middle of my life, health and exercise routines.

I lost sleep, had no time to go to the gym, didn’t have much disposable income and seemed to be either working or doing chores at home or attempting to sleep.

Looking back this was partly self inflicted, and I’m exaggerating, but… this is what happens when you have kids. They mean the world to you, but where did all your free time go?

While I love being a Dad, our little bundle of joy just wasn’t a great sleeper initially. Things have improved, but I remember staggering to work one day,  having 17 coffees, crying in the toilet for 15 mins, then finishing up by smashing the wing-mirror off my car on a concrete pillar as I blearily left the car park to drive home.

OK, maybe it was 5 coffees, the rest is fact. Ask my insurers.

This had to stop. I was tired, not great company and my No Claims bonus wasn’t so chuffed either.

In parallel to this chaos, at the time I was working on a coaching skills course and one of the questions that came up was around making time for yourself and ‘maintenance time’. Even if your not a parent, this is worth considering in our busy digital world. We’re all busy people these days and when going to the gym is +2 hours between work and a bad nights sleep and paying gym fees seems a long way down your priorities, what can you do? 

Sometimes coaching and technology related thinking overlap. Any journey starts with a small first step, a cliche, an acronym or a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) specification.     A MVP is the smallest unit of value and the simplest thing you can do. Think small. 

So, here’s the important question – what’s the smallest unit of exercise you can do?

For me, it was what can you do between feeds, between running the washing machine and making a calorie laden reward dinner to get you through another night.

It takes a little research and some creativity, but as it turns out, if you want to build a fragmented exercise routine based around a busy life, there is plenty out there. Don’t be overwhelmed by the internet, pick a few things you like doing and start there.

I started (at the time) by doing the Plank when I had a few minutes in the kitchen and the bottle steriliser was doing it’s thing or while the water was running for the bath. There’s also a mindset that goes with this I guess, but really when you look at it, there’s always a few minutes in your day where you could be improving your physical health. Over time, those minutes add up.

So here are some ideas to  put some exercise and movement back into your day:

(Keep it small/simple “MVP” then there’s no valid excuse not to start)

  1. The Squat.  (The MVP of suppleness for moving well). Building the flexibility to sit with your heels on the floor and your knees over your toes is sadly a lost skill (a devolution) for many humans. Don’t join them.  Squatting gives you ankle flexibility, a little back strength and builds leg strength as you descend. If you only do one thing, squat well for 1 minute today (heels on the floor please).  You can do this while you tie your shoes or speak to your little one as they crawl or at the bus stop (if your car is broken…)  Wherever.                                    You owe yourself this skill. It’s great for rapport with kids to be down on their level, maybe you can even pass it on to them. Join the splinter group from the human race that have this skill.
  2. The Duck.  Good exercises have progressions. Start to move your Squat. Keep your heels down and work round a small space. Again, the kitchen is good for this activity, although watch nothing falls on you from the hob and you don’t get tangled in a laptop cable. Quack if it helps.
  3. Be more bendy. Most flexibility stretches are a really nice physical/mental stress reliever. Try some while you run the bath. Side stretches with your hand overhead are great after a long car journey. Rolling/bending forward slowly towards your toes and letting your head hang down (a forward fold, in Yoga) is great for the back and the brain to ease out the stress of work. I also like using the work surface for a shoulder and back stretch or a micro-sleep 🙂
  4. Pick up the Plank.  Nobody likes doing wide elbow press-ups, so do something better. For stronger arms and shoulders (and hands) and for body awareness, the plank is a great static exercise. Also it’s a great foundation for handstands if you want to build towards something more exciting. Start with 30 seconds, and build it slowly (MVP…). Get medical advice before starting if you have any known back issues. If you have a pet, they may join in.
  5. Begin some balance. Any balance is great for your concentration and helps those smaller stabilising muscles stay engaged. Start small just with rolling your feet onto your heels or toes a few times next time you’re waiting for a train or in the coffee queue. If you have more space/privacy, Tree pose from Yoga is a winner. Find a place to focus your vision, this will help with concentration when you balance. Don’t forget to breath too!
  6. Be creative – do what you enjoy.  Add your own stuff, you don’t have to buy a space-age road bike, the only investment is your own creativity. Upgrade what you already do too – run to the shop instead of driving, use the stairs not the lift, do some forward rolls in the park, find a space or a time and have some fun moving. Make some swaps to existing activity.

So those are just a few quick moves you can work into your daily life. Exercise, stretching and moving brings small but vital health benefits and allows some of that digital stress to be released. Remember – MVP to start.

P.S. Teach one new person to squat well and you’ve also saved humanity from future physical peril and changed our evolutionary pattern. Maybe our insurance costs could even fall as a segment of the population.

And What else?

If you have a simple exercise to add to the ‘MVP movers’ list, please send me details and I will blog or Tweet you up and try it myself.

Further reading:

Parental survival guide – James Breakwell.

NHS guide to Yoga

Movement for everyone article