The Fifteen Minute Rule, No Excuses

My husband calls them ankle-biters. Those dastardly little things that gobble up all your spare time and linger on your to-do list. Those nagging commitments that require more time than you have to give. So often they end up procrastinated into eternity.

Am I singing your song? If that isn’t your jingle all year round, it certainly is the anthem of the holidays. Too much to do, too many people, too little sleep, too many presents, too many plans, too many finals, too many cookies, too much food, too little exercise, too much, too much, too much. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it.

Enter the 15 minute rule. I first read about this in my writer’s magazine. When an article or story seems too daunting and writer’s block has built a mansion and taken up residence right in front of you, it’s time to implement the 15 minute rule. This is simply setting a timer for 15 minutes and telling yourself that you are only promising to work on this project for 15 minutes. After that, all bets are off. After that, you just might get up and go take a bubble bath. After that, finished or not, you have the option to quit and walk away. Anyone can do anything for 15 minutes. Right?

This little trick worked so well! Somehow, removing the pressure of “I will sit here until I finish this,” gave my creativity wings. Instead of waiting for that beep to end my misery, I barely heard my timer ring. And 15 minutes everyday, quickly resulted in a finished product!

I just spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my wonderful 3 sisters, their husbands, daughter and my parents. Around the dinner table one night, my brilliant doctor sister gave credit to a mentor for helping her pass a critical exam. “She told me to set the timer for 20 minutes. After that, no matter how much I had done, I could quit. It worked!”

Don’t spend too much time trying to figure it out. It’s the human psyche that responds to the pressure of limited time and the relief of an end in sight. So how does this apply to you, to your fitness and to the holidays?

Less is more!

Instead of wondering how you’re going to manage getting in hour long workouts while you’re visiting family, simply promise to do  15 minutes of intense exercise everyday.

I recently practiced this principle in my own workouts. While in Missouri with my family, I told myself that I would only get up early enough to workout 20-30 minutes everyday. Getting up 30 minutes early wasn’t hard. The workouts were over before I knew it and it was enough to boost my energy, my mood and inspire me to eat healthily on vacation.

Why not try it? You can do anything for 15 minutes. 

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Portable Fitness

So, you spent the spring moaning about how you needed to get your rear in gear so that you could wear your new swimsuit. As May slipped away and June snuck in, you pedaled faster, ran farther, jumped higher and did your yoga like a good girl. If you live in  Northern Virginia, hopefully you’ve been attending our Moms Who TRI bootcamps, too. Well, good for you, but now you’ve got a problem.

Why is it, that just as we reach the pinnacle of our fitness goals, once on vacation, we lose our self-control at the buffet and complain that it’s so hard to exercise when we’re out of our routine.

I’m not around a gym, and I like the classes. I don’t have my DVDs with me. I don’t have time to workout when I’m celebrating summer with my family. It’s vacation! – shouldn’t I take the time off?


As I write this, I’m on my 13th day away from home, out of routine, away from my workout paraphernalia. I’m excited to announce that I have conquered this problem and after years of making similar excuses, I’ve found several fun, effective ways to get in a good workout while on vacation. Let me share:

1. Get a sandbag

 I just dumped all the sand ($5/bag for play sand at any hardware store)

 I packed my flattened sandbag right along with my clothes, bought fresh sand at my destination and ta-da! A perfectly portable workout.

2. Need workout ideas for just your bodyweight?

It’s really just a simple Google! After finding a few ideas and practicing a few workouts, you’ll be easily creating your own. Here’s one workout template to get you going. 

And this one’s a favorite of mine:

3. You’ve heard of TRX training, right? I found one pretty cheap through Craigslist and now I easily toss them into my suitcase for portable pull ups, atomic pushups and more.

 4. No space? I got a pretty good workout in my sister’s guest bedroom the other day. In less than 8 square feet, I did multiple sets of pushup variations to failure, then squat jumps to failure and situps to failure several times through.

5. No time? Well, sorry, there’s not much to say here, except there’s no time like the present. And seriously, if you push hard, 15-20 minutes will have you huffing and puffing. For me, certain times of day lend themselves to certain activities. Take advantage of a cool morning and go for a run, if it’s getting late, go through a series of deep stretches, if you don’t feel like doing anything high-impact – grab your sandbag.

So, there are a few ideas. I’m speaking from experience, I’ve utilized each one of these suggestions on my vacation. So far, I haven’t missed a workout, haven’t missed a thing while I was exercising and I feel stronger and more confident with each lift, stride and stretch. Don’t stop!

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