How to fit a workout into your busy life

To celebrate the premiere of Work Out New York on Bravo this Sunday at 9/8c I wanted to talk about how we can fit exercise into our overwhelming, exhausting, but enviable New York lives

Categorically, living in New York is chaotic and hectic.  New Yorkers are famous for being over-scheduled and just plain busy.  (True Life: I am one of those New Yorkers, but I wasn’t always.)

When I moved to Manhattan from Washington DC three years ago, I underestimated just how big the change would be. 

In DC, I could easily hit the gym and meet a friend for dinner in the same night. DC is just easier/smaller that way.

race runner
running in DC past Barry’s casa

I like living in a fast-paced city. I’m a fast-paced person. (And to belatedly respond to the concerns expressed by family members during Thanksgiving, no I’m not on speed, and yes you should upgrade to Chrome.) But what makes New York really difficult from my vantage point is just how crowded and competitive everything is.  Sometimes it feels like we’re all trying to cram into the same place at the same time, and it can make you want to retreat. 

At the same time, it can feel like your friends are on a completely different schedule, in a far away borough. Am I selling you on living here yet? There is no room for you! Just kidding,  come sleep on our couch! (Matt, it’s cool.)

Last week I wanted to take a spin class after work. Full stop. This should be a good thing. Please send brownie points in the form of real brownies.

However, by the time I got around to signing up (mid-day), the class was totally full, and so were classes at three nearby studios. Bummed, I walked to the subway to head home. The train was so crowded I almost didn’t make it on. When Taylor Swift sang “Welcome to New York, it’s been waiting for you” she was not referring to the 1 train. That is not going to wait for anyone.

I know I’m better in all aspects of life if I fit in a workout.  So  over the years I’ve adapted. (It’s true.) I’ve developed a few tricks to squeeze a workout into these even craziest of New York days.   Take a look and please any you’ve got up your sleeve:

1. Get up early. The truth isn’t pretty, but it’s effective. Waking up early means your workout is done by the time life tries to get in the way.  I used to be terrible at waking up early. I am not naturally a morning person. I’m more like a “lunch/afternoon snack” kind of lady.  That’s probably my organic peak.  Here are tips on how to become a morning person that actually worked for me.

morning run central park
waking up the sun with a pre-work run

2. Be realistic. If you’re having a hard time motivating, set reasonable expectations. Don’t sign up for a 5am class 30 minutes from your apartment. Pick something that you stand a chance of showing up for. Stack the deck in your favor. Once you make exercise a habit you can push yourself out of your comfort zone further. 

For instance, this is probably not a great pre-work activity.
For instance, this is probably not a great pre-work activity.

3. A short workout is better than no workout. Even if you can’t get a full hour in, moving around for 20 minutes is still worth it. If you miss your early morning alarm and can’t make it to the gym, search Youtube for a 10 minute at-home workout because something > nothing. It’s just math. Also this make you resourceful. People love a MacGyver type.

planking at home, the best 1 minute workout
planking at home, the best 1 minute workout

4. Make it social. Instead of siphoning off your workout as a task you check off, make it a time you spend with friends. Run together, hike together, take a class or even take a long walk. Also if you don’t have friends (no shame, this is a safe space) fitness is a great way to MAKE friends. It’s really true. (Hi Catharine, my friend from running class! You did a great job last week!)

take a dance class with your best friend. it's like going to a club at 9am aka its awesome
take a dance class with your best friend. it’s like going to a club at 9am aka its awesome

5. Commit to a program. Whether its a training schedule for a goal race, November Project, the 30-day abs challenge or a 2-week program at Flywheel, pick something structured with clear guidelines. When you’re really struggling to make workouts happen, this takes away the question of “what to do” and offers you a strict plan. I also love plans and structure, so this really works for me, as a creature.

Racing with my mom
Racing with my mom

6. Don’t consider it optional. You don’t consider eating dinner optional (at least I don’t). If you internally re-categorize working out as a must-do item, it’s easier to rationalize squeezing it in. I’m not saying become obsessive, just don’t negotiate with the time you’ve dedicated to a good sweat.

In closing, I would say fitness is cheaper than therapy but I have really good insurance, and Physique57 is not cheap (but it is wonderful). 

What else ya got? How do you rationalize working out in this hectic, busy New York land? (Or wherever you live)


  1. Christine Delacroix (@blondecookscookies)
    December 9, 2015 / 6:38 pm

    I don’t really work out because I’m against this fat shaming culture. There is nothing wrong with being fat and proud of it. I hope you understand that not everyone is trying to achieve the skinny Asian girl look. I embrace my worldly curves.

    • Nicole
      December 10, 2015 / 11:32 am

      Thanks for your comment, Christine. Personally, I work out because it makes me feel good. But I do think there is a lot of pressure for women to look a certain way and I do hope that as a culture we move away from idolizing an ultra thin look, or really any particular look!

  2. January 14, 2016 / 5:02 pm

    It’s true, it’s really hard to squeeze in a workout sometimes, especially when I’m on ClassPass, want to keep attending my favorite classes and try new classes. Sometimes I use my lunch break 😛

    • Nicole
      January 14, 2016 / 5:22 pm

      that’s a great option!

Leave a comment