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Exercise! Love it or hate it, let's motivate each other to just DO IT!

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Old 01-20-2013, 04:44 AM   #1
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Default Desperately require advice? How do you find the time to exercise?

I just feel like I never have the time. I have so much to do, and any exercise I manage to fit in just feels insignificant.

This is a very long read, as I'm sure you can see. If you can give any advice, it would be greatly appreciated.

I'm 16 and I'm an incredibly ambitious student. I'm hoping to perhaps get into Stanford or Yale, but it's unlikely. I come from a relatively poor background, and it is my dream to make something of myself, perhaps as a biomedical engineer or a primary care doctor.
I want to help people, and as I excel in areas of math and science, both careers seem like good choices for me to contribute to society and for me to be intellectually stimulated.

From here on, I'll list reasons exactly why I don't seem to have the time to exercise.

I'm currently taking 4 Advanced Placement classes, AP US History (I'll refer to this as APUSH subsequently), AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics and AP English Language and Composition (APLAC), and self-studying AP Psychology.

All of these are intended to be college-level classes. My high school is one of the upper-tier in the state, so quite often, these AP classes are above the work load in normal college classes.

APUSH is an enormous amount of work. Notes, which are a required part of my class, can take anywhere from 2-4 hours, along with other additional work such as essays, flash cards and document annotation.
It is an intense memorization course; all of this would likely be required regardless in order to be able to pass the difficult tests, if it wasn't already graded.
APLAC is time consuming in how we must devote a lot of time memorizing prepositions, rhetorical devices, and learning grammar rules and techniques such as appositives. There's a lot of intensive timed essay practice and literary analysis as well.
AP Econ is not as difficult as the other two, but there is a lot of concepts to learn and memorize as it is intended to be a two-year class, but in my high school, we take them as as semester classes.
AP Psych requires all of the studying which the other classes entail, except I also must constantly do practice tests and free-response questions in order to keep my knowledge sharp, since I don't have it as a class, which would otherwise motivate me.
This is not including my other classes, French 5-6 and Chemistry 1-2.

As for other obligations, I am a member of Key Club and National Honors Society, both of which are service group. NHS, however, is more merit-based. I spend around 40-50 hours a month volunteering at various places in my community. I'm on my school's Key Club officer board as Key Club Secretary as well, which can be very time consuming. On Fridays, I participate in my school's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) club. On Wednesdays, I spend my afternoons teaching 5th-8th grades how to play the violin.

I used to have swim practice in the morning and afternoon in the fall season, but it ended a few months ago. Although I'm overweight, I'm oddly a good swimmer as I qualified for districts this year for the 200 Free and 100 Back.

Speaking of playing the violin, I'm in my school chamber orchestra, which is a before-school program. Every day, I must wake up at 5:00 AM and come to school to play. This also entails spending some time practicing every now and then to keep my skills sharps. I also play the piano as a hobby, but I haven't had much time to do that, as I'm sure you can imagine.

I am also participating in an state Aerospace Scholars program and a Math Academy program. Both are summer residency programs which I am currently applying to. The application process is very competitive, and I must spend several hours a week writing essays and completing math problems in an effort to qualify.
In the summer, I would like spend time in Argentina or Bolivia volunteering to help African villages and to help with AIDS research. In August, I'll probably be spending time job shadowing or interning at UW Medical Center.

Lingering constantly in the back of my mind is a need to study for the ACT, SAT and SAT II Subject Tests, which is practically mandatory for anyone who wants to go to an upper-tier college. I also need to start applying for more summer programs, scholarships and financial aid.
I'm planning on spending more time studying French for the AP French and for the French National Exam next year. I also need to spend time studying for the American Mathematics Competition this year.

In time, I will probably be writing a research paper on Multiple Sclerosis and the signal transduction pathway associated with this condition and discuss the normal and abnormal pathway.
I will need to read a lot of medical and scientific journals and interpret the information, which will undoubtedly be difficult.

I would like to start my own non-profit organization for providing medical assistance to families in need, but I'm not entirely sure how I would go about doing that yet. It will, eventually, become a very big obligation, if I successfully establish it.

Next year, I will likely be more busy than ever. I will have college and scholarship applications to fill out, much more academic obligations, and I'll also be captain of the swim team, which will take more time. I'm not entirely sure about what else I plan on doing, but I know this isn't all of it by far.

There are some other things I have probably forgotten, but those are all I have on my mind right now.

I'm thinking about playing on the tennis team at my school in the spring, but I just feel so uncomfortable running around with other students as I'm not athletic at all outside of the pool.
I just don't seem to have the time to cook healthy meals for myself, either. Usually I'll just grab a bagel or something and go.

Last edited by TheGreatCatsby; 01-20-2013 at 06:09 AM.
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Old 01-20-2013, 05:05 AM   #2
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You sound like a smart teen for sure

I would say (at 30, looking back) that time management and prioritization is certainly a skill that is learned over time. I didn't really master it until I had children and had no choice to learn.

The other side of it is education - do you know that you can do an efficient workout in under 20 minutes? Methods such as Crossfit, Kettlebells, Tabatas, make you work your butt off in a short period of time.

You obviously spend a lot of time planning and mapping out your life - can you justify not spending 20 minutes a few times a week? Now, since you are only 16, I don't think you really need to do structured workouts. But keep that in mind when you are a bit older. At 16, you can go for a walk with friends, play an outdoor game of basketball by your school, or just enjoy a nice day power walking the mall with your friends. Tennis... great! Do it!

Perhaps taking up some calm yoga would help, you've put an enormous amount of pressure on yourself.

You will always find excuses in life as to why you can't give yourself one hour a week minimum to be active. Always. And the excuses get worse as you get older I'm afraid, so it's a good idea to break the habit of making excuses as to why you can't, and making reasons as to why you should.

You seem to care a lot about gifting the world with medical science and that is wonderful, but do not neglect your own health while on that path. Exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction really is the cure to most of the ailments that this modern world seems to suffer.

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Old 01-20-2013, 05:50 AM   #3
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Any chance you could have a chit-chat with my 15 year-old?!

I know a lot about what you're going through, as I was in nursing school, worked and had a young child... did I mention I'm a single mom?! Nursing school kicked my butt, and I probably gained a good 50 lbs during those years... but looking back, I wish I had taken my own health more seriously at the time. Had I just put the books down and taken my daughter out for a walk or to play basketball or tennis or ANYTHING, I may not be where I am now.

Our problem, many times, is that we're SO unsure of the future that we try to plan ahead for it (studying too much!) and we burn ourselves out and ruin what we've worked so hard for. You're still a kid. Enjoy life while you can and do things that are important to you.

While your academics and clubs look good on paper, many colleges want well-rounded kids who don't obviously spend their entire lives at school or school events. Take some time out for YOU... not your school, not your friends, not even college applications or SATS.... YOU!!! 20 minutes/day will not hurt you... certainly 20 minutes/2 or 3 days won't hurt either!!

Good luck sweetheart! I hope you can find some time in your insane schedule to have a little bit of fun!! If not... I'll gladly trade you places!!
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Old 01-20-2013, 05:50 AM   #4
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Glad you have joined us.

Interesting that you have listed the reasons why you canNOT exercise. All or most of us lead very busy lives; it is just a matter of making it a priority and working it in.

And I agree with Jen's post above.

Wishing you best of success.

Last edited by Misti in Seattle; 01-20-2013 at 05:51 AM.
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Old 01-20-2013, 06:13 AM   #5
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You sound like me when I was 16! Good luck with all of your scholarly pursuits!

I know how tough it is to find the time, but just as you've made your schooling career a priority, so too much you make exercise and eating healthy a priority. If they are a priority, you will find the time.

Saying "I don't have time," just really means "it is not a priority in my life."

Trust me, if you really want it, you'll find the time! Exercise sometimes meant I dragged myself out of the bed at 4:45 in the morning. I did it because lifting is an appointment for my body that CAN NOT be missed.
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Old 01-20-2013, 08:15 AM   #6
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Oh, I was just like you in high school!

I found time to exercise then because I went to my school and convinced them I didn't need PE (where we did absolutely nothing) and that the school could count my after-school horsebacking riding as my "PE" class. I had to bring in a sheet signed by the stable saying that I was going to class every day like I said I was.

What made horseback riding possible in my otherwise super-busy schedule, was that it happened right after school. My mother would pick me up, take me to the stable, and I would ride, then I would go home and work on my homework and college essays and all that.

What I would suggest is that you make it a part of your day, just like anything else. My horseback riding -- looking back -- probably took up too much of my time. But you don't have to horseback ride, obviously! But join an exercise class in the evening if you have a cheap accessible exercise classes or try a program like C25K that doesn't require a gym or classes but is structured (I think you need structure).

You can do it and the exercise might actually give you more energy.

If you don't do it because you genuinely can't keep it up because it's taking away from your grades and studying, then don't exercise. Wait until you get to college. You'll have a lot more free time then than you do now. Weight loss is 80 percent what you eat, rather than exercise. So, don't sweat it if you can't fit in.
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Old 01-20-2013, 08:55 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by TheGreatCatsby View Post
I just don't seem to have the time to cook healthy meals for myself, either. Usually I'll just grab a bagel or something and go.
You certainly are busy, but thats no reason that you can't get healthier and lose a few pounds, if that is your goal.

With so much else going on in your life it's not surprising that you don't have time to cook, but how is grabbing a bagel any easier than grabbing an apple and a piece of string cheese? How about a protein shake and some carrots? Even 3 minutes to make a sandwich with some whole wheat bread, lettuce, tomato, turkey and mustard is doable.

I think you are focusing on the wrong component of weight loss right now; Weight loss is ENTIRELY about calories consumed versus calories burned, and many people are incredibly successful at losing weight without doing a lick of exercise. You are so busy just doing your normal thing that you probably don't even realize how many calories all that running around burns! You don't have to do 'formal' exercise with a schedule like that; you're active enough!

I'm a HUGE proponent of exercise and I get up at 4 am every single day to do it because for me it is a PRIORITY. You shouldn't beat yourself up if, like Sontaikle said, it really isn't for you. If you can find time to roll out of bed and wake up with some pushups, situps, squats, lunges, jumpking jacks, burpees (OMG) and only spend 10-20 minutes doing that, it's a lot better than nothing. You don't HAVE to be 'perfect' at it, which I am just going to go out on a limb and assume is something you are used to striving for.

With health and fitness any little bit helps, you don't have to be perfect.

Anyway, I digress... My point is that it's no more difficult to grab a healthier snack than it is to grab an something like a bagel. Mix and match some of these quick options!
- Fruit (apple, orange, banana, pear, plum, peach, berries, etc.)
- Pre-cut veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, califlour)
- Light sandwich (whole wheat light bread, skip the mayo, light on cheese)
- Protein shake
- String cheese/babybell cheese
- whole wheat crackers
- Pouch of tuna fish
- protein bar/meal replacement bar
- sliced lunch meat
- Greek yogurt
- Diet soda
- small serving of almonds
- Homemade 'trail mix' (cereal, nuts, dried fruit - just watch sizes)
- Soup at Hand
- Individual cups/pouches of oatmeal (plain or low sugar flavor)
- Hard boiled eggs
- 1-2 TBS peanut, almond, cashew or hazelnut butter (to pair with those crackers, apple, etc.)
- Individual container of skim or 2% milk

I would recommend you REALLY watch portion sizes with any of those pseudo 'healthy' foods; trail mix, granola, granola bars, dried fruit, etc. They tend to just be piles of sugar.
Also watch your portion sizes of things like cheese, peanut butter and starchier foods. Everything is fine in moderation, but I think you'd be surprised how satisfying a real 'portion' of something can be.

It's clear you're a very intelligent young woman and you can figure out how to squeeze in a set of pushups here or there or grab a more nutritous snack... you just need to decide it's IMPORTANT to you to do so.

Good luck!
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Old 01-20-2013, 09:59 AM   #8
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When it is enough of a priority, you will find the time. Yes, you are very busy. But your post has "in time I would like to" ... "I used to" ... "One day" ... "next year" ... "I will probably be" ... these are all things you're planning. If you have the time to shower, brush your teeth, etc., you can set the same priority on exercising if you want add that to your life to be heart healthier.

We all have plans and upcoming major events/issues - that's part of life. But don't think you don't have time today to exercise if you want to, because of something that down the line will become a big obligation. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and it's how you USE them that matters. Not actually how you plan to use them - i've planned to exercise and never did it many days - but when I find that I just DO it, I sleep better, feel better, etc.

So close ... now so far!
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Old 01-20-2013, 10:02 AM   #9
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I would love to get a student like you. You seem very dedicated and work towards a goal. At 16 it is hard to know what you want and you seem to have a plan. Having said that I suggest you take a step back. If going to Stanford or Yale is your goal, decide which topic (or two) you want to focus on. If you do not know, figure it out first. Then find out what you need to get into such a program. You have wide interests and plans and you need to cut those down. One lesson to learn better early in life is that you cannot do it all all of the times. E.g. do you need APUSH for a medical or engineering career? You need to cut out at least a third of what you are doing. Course and activity wise. If one of these universities is your goal, then target them and do what you have to do to look attractive. This includes volunteering.

Once you have mapped your work life out, you need to also plan time for play. Ideally something that lets you relax. Believe me, you will need that later on. If you think you cannot handle your hectic life now, you will be surprised how at every level of academic (and also professional) life the pressure and expectations increase. By about a factor 5-10. If Stanford and Yale is your goal, expect to work and study 10-12 hrs a day seven days a week. In Medical school, you will increase this to 14 hrs to around the clock. It is good to be ambitious and you will not have a problem reaching your goal if you keep at it like you do. But it is also important to enjoy the journey. You will enjoy it more when you are healthy, have time to socialize with friends and have time to travel and see the world and widen your horizon. In fact, travel as much as you possibly can now.

Now a word about health. Good eating and exercise should be an essential part of your life and it will be absolutely needed for your professional success in the future. I would put it equal to your classes in importance, not as something you push aside because you are so busy. You will be able to push your body well into your early 30s without caring too much about exercise and nutrition. After that, it will come back to haunt you. Your 30s are when your real professional life will start. You want to be fresh and ready for this. In particular, exercise is one of the best methods to destress. As others have already told you, you can wipe yourself out in 20 min. If you clean up what you put into your mouth, you will automatically lose weight at your age. Attack exercise and healthy eating as an assignment and plan it into your life.
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Old 01-20-2013, 10:08 AM   #10
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I agree with many other posters who talk about priorities. When I was "in the zone' and losing weight I made exercise and healthy eating a priority. I'm no busier now, but it's VERY easy for me to make excuses not to work out.

But I was going to suggest that you don't have to lose "study" time with some of your working out. For example, bring flashcards to the elliptical and memorize terms while you workout...

And sometimes I find that when I work out I STOP thinking about the problems I'm having and ironically can SOLVE some of them because I'm not focused on them... I finish both physically and mentally refreshed and actually get more done in less time!

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Old 01-20-2013, 11:10 AM   #11
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While all of your pursuits/activities and goals are admirable, count me as another person who thinks you are doing too much!

As Lolo said, I think you need to take a step back and take a breath. While volunteering is great, do you really need that many hours? Why not pick just one or two favorites and cut it back to 15/20 hours/month?

Your summer plans, what would be wrong with picking the 2 you want the most and leave some time for summer vacation and hanging out with friends?

As far as exercise, like Heather said a lot of studying can be done on an exercise bike, treadmill, etc.

Personally, I think you are headed for a major burnout!

The thing I wondered about most reading your post, is when do have any time for any fun? Do you ever just go hang out with friends for a movie or pizza, or wander around the mall?

On another note, a young man from my community got into Harvard several years ago, granted for football, but he was also a brainiac and valedictorian of his graduating class, but other than sports, speech team and Honor Society, he didn't do any of the stuff you're doing, and he graduated from a little public high school out in western Nebraska. He sailed through Harvard school wise, not sure about his football career as I didn't really keep up.

The point is, most likely about 1/2 of your activities, while admirable are probably not even necessary. Be a kid, have some fun.

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Old 01-20-2013, 11:37 AM   #12
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I agree with the others... there is really something to be said about "paralysis by analysis". I do think this is something that you will learn with time and I don't mean that in a patronizing sense, it's just that you have the life's careers of like 5 different ambitious people listed, rather than what one person can realistically achieve without burning themselves out (without any mention of finding love or a family one day!). It's okay to be young and take some time for yourself.

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Old 01-20-2013, 03:44 PM   #13
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It's a lot harder to get into top-tier colleges these days. Most of this is pretty much necessary, especially since I am an over represented ethnicity in Ivy League level schools (I'm Asian) and my school is highly competitive, and is well known for sending many applicants to schools like Stanford or Harvard.

Since these schools only like to accept a certain number of applicants from each school, I must do what I can to be seen as more attractive from my fellow students, many of which, are just as dedicated as I am. I'm afraid much of this is really necessary.

I am actually nowhere near the most extreme in my school. There's a guy in his sophomore year who's self-studying 15 AP classes.

Does anyone have any healthy meals that I can make quickly before I go to school or quick exercises that I can do?
School lunches tend to be fairly unhealthy (600-800 calories each, lots of fat, sodium and sugar) so I'll probably need to make something to bring to school as well.
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Old 01-20-2013, 04:00 PM   #14
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I would suggest finding something hard core but shorter in duration such as 30 Day Shred (I haven't done it but hear great reviews from others), which is only 20-25 minutes per day. There was a time in my life when I didn't make time for exercise (now I actually schedule it) and I regret it now. When I was completing my Master's Degree (full time) while working full time with a small child I let the idea that I didn't have time win me over. Like someone else said in a post above, can you really justify not spending 30 minutes on your overall health? Being smart and successful are important, but if that dominates your life in favor of health and happiness (remember those endorphins and just the feeling of being healthier) you don't have a good balance.
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Old 01-20-2013, 04:06 PM   #15
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As for quick lunches I will often use the prepackaged grilled chicken, Oscar Mayer makes a good one, and make a quick wrap. I precut red bell pepper into strips for the week and keep small corn and flour tortillas on hand. I'll just throw some chicken, bell pepper, and salsa into the tortilla, sometimes with low fat cheese and sometimes without. It's quick and easy and tastes great too. If you like it warm and have access to a microwave you can heat it up for about 30 seconds to a minute on half power. I use these as post-workout snacks too.
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