Last updated: Oct 01, 2007
Too tired. Too distracted. Too … whatever. We all have those days when we just cant seem to make working out a priority. And thats OK. But a fitness-free month or two—or three or more—could spell trouble for your health (not to mention your figure).


We found three women, each with different reasons for skimping on their workouts (which may sound distressingly familiar to you). Then, we asked Valerie Waters, personal trainer and motivational guru to stars like Jessica Biel and Jennifer Garner, for expert exercise tips to help each of these women stay motivated and get back on track. Did they really manage to start up their workouts again? Read on to find out.

1. Susan Houriet
Age: 43
New York City
Single, no kids

Her goal
“Id like to lose 13 pounds and tone up all over.”

Whats getting in her way
Houriet currently manages to run two to three miles once a week and occasionally rides her bike—not nearly enough to help her shed the pounds she wants to lose. “My boyfriend hates exercise, so its hard for me to get motivated when I can stay home and have fun with him,” she says. She tries to get up at 5:45 a.m. to squeeze in a run before work, but she isnt exactly an early bird. “I should go to the gym after work, but I often feel too tired.”

Exercise Rx
“Houriet needs to do whatever it takes to work out in the morning, including putting the coffee pot on a timer and setting out her clothes the night before,” Waters says. “Equally important, she needs to think of exercise as a must, not a should.” Waters gave Houriet a program including two early-morning 30- to 40-minute runs a week, plus two strength-training sessions at the gym to speed up her metabolism. The circuit-style strength workout has her moving through upper- and lower-body exercises with no rest in between to save time and burn maximum calories.

How its working
“Once I vowed to exercise no matter what, it didnt seem so insurmountable,” Houriet says. “Ive gone from working out maybe once a week to at least four times a week, and Im planning to stick with it.” After just four weeks on her new plan, Houriet says, “I look thinner and my clothes fit better.” Shes only lost about two pounds so far, but thats probably because shes building muscle, which weighs more than fat.


2. Sharon Johnson
Age: 41
New York City
Married, no kids

Her goal
“I want to tone my lower body and get back to working out at least four days a week.”

Whats getting in her way
“Im impatient,” Johnson says. So impatient, in fact, that she quit exercising altogether because she didnt see results when she wanted to, which was instantly. “It seems to take forever to lose weight, so going to the gym just isnt fun anymore,” Johnson says. “Besides, I dont feel I have enough time.”

Exercise Rx
“Johnson thinks she has to work out for an hour-and-a-half at a time. When she cant, she just doesnt exercise,” Waters says. “She needs to settle for shorter workouts.” Waters put Johnson on a program of three 45-minute circuit-style strength-training sessions and two cardio sessions a week to help satisfy Johnsons desire to get fit quick. The strength routine hits her lower body with moves like step-ups and squats, her upper body with chest presses and biceps curls, and her abs with bicycles and reverse crunches. “She should start to see weight loss quickly,” Waters says.

How its working
At first, Johnson balked at the plan she got from Waters: “I had it in my head that you need to spend more time than that in the gym, so I was skeptical.” She waited nearly a week before beginning the program. But after only three weeks of following it faithfully, she dropped seven pounds and whittled three inches from her waist. “I can fit into some size 6s, and my legs are looking better,” Johnson says. “Im actually enjoying working out again!”
3. Jennifer Cashdollar
Age: 32
Hamilton, Ohio
Married, three kids

Her goal
“I have a few baby pounds left, and Id like to strengthen my stomach muscles. But I really want more energy so I can do all sorts of activities with my kids.”

Whats getting in her way
Cashdollar has no time and feels constantly fatigued, which is just about every working moms challenge. “I have three children, the youngest of whom is just six months old,” she says. “I work Monday through Thursday. And Im breastfeeding, which makes me extra hungry and tired.” Her husbands willing to help, but he works some evenings and most weekends, so he isnt always available.

Exercise Rx
“Cashdollars schedule is packed, so I tailored a workout for her that she could do at home, even while watching the kids,” Waters says. The program involves three 20- to 30-minute mini-workouts a week—with lots of crunches, lunges, and planks to target the core and butt—using basic home equipment like resistance bands and dumbbells. “This program will build lean muscle, so shell burn more calories throughout the day,” Waters says. For cardio, Waters advised Cashdollar to continue walking or climbing the stairs at lunchtime (a habit Cashdollar had recently started) for 30 minutes three times per week.

How its working
“I could feel my energy returning by the second week. The exercises were so simple that I could do them in the living room while the kids ate breakfast, watched cartoons, or played,” Cashdollar says. “I have a ways to go before Ill feel like the pre-pregnant me. But, I knew that once I got back into the habit of exercising, my motivation would return. And it has.”