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Minimum Standard Time - What Do You Do When Life Gets In the Way?

Stew smith

Stay Fit Under Extreme Pressure: Tips for Exercising When Life Is Chaotic

In life's inevitable changes, carving out moments for physical activity often becomes the secret weapon for maintaining your sanity. Remember if you do not care for yourself, how will you take care of others in your life who need it?

Life's stresses come whether we're ready to face them. Work deadlines, family drama, health scares, changing jobs, moving, or even losing a loved one—none of us get a free pass from these challenges. So, what do you do when life gets flipped upside-down, and you still need to work, care for others (and yourself), and keep up with the basic demands your life?

When life looks all dark and uphill for the foreseeable future,
time to focus the here and now. 

When it comes to your well-being, you can't afford to ignore stress relief, even if it means rethinking your exercise routine. Instead of going all out and risking burnout, use the physical exertion time you have throughout the day to stay sharp and take care of your responsibilities. After a recent hospitalization scare with my father, who lives with me, I realized my usual routine was out the window. In response, I found my "minimum standard time" to keep up with work and life while finding small ways to manage stress. Personally, I cut my intensity and time to train by 50%, but made up with easy activities spread throughout the day, even while at the hospital with my father. It helped so much with my own health, mental alertness, and added to my patience to be a more empathetic son. 

You don't need to set aside a solid block of 45 to 60 minutes for exercise. The beauty of flexible, spontaneous activity is that your total physical exertion can accumulate throughout the day. You can fit in 10- to 15-minute bursts of movement whenever you find a moment. For instance, try taking a walk after lunch. Walking or engaging in some form of activity for 10-15 minutes after any meal can significantly change how you feel and how your body processes food.

After this experience with a family health emergency, I discovered that maintaining a flexible, minimal standard of daily physical activity helped manage both work and personal stress levels. Here are a few proven techniques to fit exercise into your overwhelmed and stressful life:

1. After Meal Strolls – Integrate physical activity into your daily routine in small increments, such as 10-15 minutes of movement after meals, to accumulate the benefits without needing a dedicated workout session. For instance, turn your lunch break into a brief walking session around the block. Not only does this refresh your mind, but it also aids digestion.

2. Work Desk and Chair Exercises – Simple stretches or squat (standing up / sitting down) for a few minutes every hour can help alleviate the tension from long periods of sitting.

3. Stress-Reducing Choices - Engage in activities like easy cardio, yoga or tai chi, which require minimal space and equipment yet provide substantial mental and physical benefits. Avoid too much caffeine. If you must burn the midnight oil, do movement and eat for real fuel versus taking more caffeine in the evening and masking fatigue. A caffeine choice after dinner may keep you up at night and interfere with a good night’s sleep – which you need most. Drink more water.

4. Keep it Simple - Use calisthenics, resistance bands, dumbbells, or household items to maintain muscle tone and strength without a gym membership. Consider keeping up with yard work an effective method to burn calories, de-stress, and commit to finishing chores as needed.

5. Partner Workouts - Encourage family or friends to join in short exercise sessions. This not only enhances fitness but also strengthens relationships and social support. A short walking conversation can help everyone involved and help develop a team approach to creating a routine that mitigates stressful changes in your life.

6 - Breathe - Our number one tool for stress and anxiety is breathing (while awake). Deep inhales through the nose, and full exhales through the mouth in steady rhythms like 4 seconds inhale - 4 seconds hold - 4 seconds exhale - 4 seconds hold (aka box breathing) can help when intrusive thoughts and stresses are interfering with you staying in the present moment. Use this to help you sleep at night too. 

Life's unavoidable stresses often disrupt even the most carefully planned exercise routines, but finding ways to stay active is vital for managing those pressure-filled days. After a recent health scare, I had to opt for "minimum standard time" activities, like 10-15-minute bursts of movement, to stay fit and keep stress at bay and fitting a full-day's work into 3-4 hours of higher productivity than normal to keep up with my standard deadlines. Some things had to be put on the back[-burner too. 

We can choose resilience and we must. By creatively incorporating short, meaningful exercises into our daily routines, we maintain our health and fortify our ability to overcome challenges to better help others. Don't wait for the perfect moment—create it with every small step. Stay active, stay strong, and let these manageable changes empower your journey.

Life rarely slows down for us, but that doesn't mean our health should take a backseat. I’ve found easier than normal training days to be the secret ingredient in balancing my commitments with my well-being during high stress times. Check out more actionable advice on staying fit and dealing with stress at Articles Section. Discover how helpful short, impactful workouts and stress-relief techniques tailored for people like us can be.

There is More to Than You May Know

Dive deeper into the world of Tactical Athlete training and mental toughness by exploring Stew Smith Fitness Programming for the Tactical Athlete online store. Uncover the strategies and techniques used by elite forces to push past physical and mental barriers. Visit now and equip yourself with the tools for success for many special ops level selection programs in the military and police world. 

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When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to just about anything. We have a systems where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics.  When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run, less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

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