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Making Fitness Fit Despite a Busy Work Schedule

Many of us embrace fitness for many reasons – to look better, to feel better, to rock some awesome clothes. For me, there was always the desire to be that regular gym-goer, but I always seem to fail in the execution. I jokingly referred to myself as an ADHD exerciser; I’d be ready to go the gym, noticed my shoe lace was untied, and then completely forgot I was on my way to workout.

But in the last three years I transitioned from someone who thought about going to the gym to someone who works out multiple times a week. In turn, not only do I look different, but those who are close to me say I’ve never been happier. What was my secret? I’m not sure there is one. And you’ve probably heard all these suggestions before. But this is what worked for me:

Quit the gym.

Step one was quitting the gym. I paid for a membership at a good chain, offering the range of machines, weights, classes, and even a pool. But I rarely went. My workout clothes spent most of their time riding around in my gym bag in my car.

Figure out what you like.

After much trial and error – and mostly failing, I realized what I like and don’t like. My gym had some great machines. I hated all of them. No favorite playlist, show on the TVs, or audio book made the treadmill, stationary bike, or stair climber remotely interesting or compelling. I do, however, like the stationary rowing machine (or what rowers call an erg). But in order for me to use the erg at the gym, I had to get there. And I was very, very bad at getting there.

I also learned that I need group classes. In the beginning I viewed it as a way to be disciplined about working out. If I was in a group class, I couldn’t bail after 10 minutes. I needed to be trapped to get my 45, 55, or 60-minute workout in.

You can’t quit after one attempt.

I implemented a “three class” rule for myself. When I tried a new type of fitness class, I would not allow myself to pass judgement (or quit) until I tried a class three times. Here’s my rationale: I was clueless in the first class. The second class was still a lot of fumbling around. If I hated an exercise after a third class, then I gave myself permission to decide that type of class was not for me and to try something new.

Those strategies worked but still didn’t lead me to success.

Three years ago I discovered – or rediscovered – my passion. In some strange twist of fate, rowing has always called to me. I remember loving the Rob Lowe movie Oxford Blues. I don’t remember much about the plot or the movie itself, except there was rowing. As a freshman at Boston University, I briefly considered looking into rowing. I dismissed the idea when I learned they practice at 5:30am. Nope – I was sticking with the marching band.

Sometime in the late 90s, after completing two of three 200-mile fundraising bike-a-thons with the Irish Immigration Center (now the Irish International Immigrant Center), I decided I needed a new challenge. Every time I saw a boat rowing out on the Charles I thought it looked like it would be an amazing activity. Seeing someone row in a single (one person, two oars) appeared to be a peaceful, serene activity. Thinking it might be for me, I found Community Rowing, Inc., in Brighton. You might be familiar with their award-winning boathouse on the Brighton/Newton/Watertown line. But back then they were a small organization rowing out of the Daly Ice Rink. After a few weeks in an adult Learn to Row program, I discovered I loved rowing.

1With Jim Koch, Founder & Brewer, Boston Beer Company, at the 2014 Boston Beer Bloggers Conference

But life got in the way. When I first started rowing I was working in public relations, at Clarke & Company. Coincidentally, they were the agency of record for the Head of the Charles Regatta. Maybe at that point, I should have clued in a bit more to what the Universe was trying to tell me. Once the economy slowed in 2001, I ended up in the PR/marketing meat grinder of shorter term stints with companies, ended by layoffs. Rowing didn’t make the priority list while I was unemployed, under employed or looking for work.

I’m now a full-time, self-employed marketing executive. Over the years, my weight had crept up, and my doctor had the “talk” with me about weight, aging, and it was time to get my act in gear. Without putting too much thought into it, I reached out to Community Rowing and asked when the next session was. That was a Thursday. I was told the next session started on Monday and I should sign up. I did. That decision changed my life. I found my passion

2QRC Senior Masters Womens 8+, 2016 Head of the Charles Regatta

Since my return to rowing in 2015, I’ve become a rower. At 4’ 11” I don’t look like a traditional rower. But I had the opportunity to row in the Head of the Charles with the Quinsigamond Rowing Club, took up sculling (rowing with two oars instead of one), and started a BABES (Boston Area Beer Enthusiast Society) rowing team in the Charles River Rowing League.

How would I recommend you fit exercise into your life? I think it’s less about scheduling and organization, and much more about finding your passion. It’s amazingly easy to fit exercise into a busy work schedule when its fulfilling versus just another task on your to-do-list.

About Kelley:

Kelley is a self-employed marketing executive focused on content marketing programs for analytics companies. She rows three times a week in Community Rowing’s General Sweeps program, one night a week with the BABES team and will get back to sculling as soon as the weather gets warm.

Kelley at Community Rowing. Photo courtesy of