Disclaimer: If you find time to workout regularly, this blog is not for you. Keep on doing what you’re doing. This one’s for those of us who sometimes can’t find time for it.

During a recent midday visit, a client shared with me that she was failing (her word, not mine) at meeting her exercise goals. “The plan was to workout this morning, but I ended up at the doctor’s office,” she explained. “After meeting you, I pick up the kids. So there goes today. Another day I didn’t get a workout in.”

In her mind, her opportunity for exercise had passed. This amazing woman was feeling like a failure because the picture she held in her mind of a “workout” was not always fitting into her life.

Failure? Absolutely not! All she needed was a little nudge to think about exercise differently.

Another client’s wellness plan includes starting a running program. She told me recently that she needs to give up that goal because her schedule only allows running once a week. Her thought was that since progress would be slow, there was no point in starting.

Does slow progress cancel out the benefits of exercise? Absolutely not! When it comes to exercise (and most things wellness-related) something is better than nothing. And, when we’re coming from a place of no exercise or none of a particular exercise, adopting a more gradual approach allows our bodies (and our minds and schedules) more time to adjust to the new activity.

We’re all busy. Finding an hour block of time three or more times a week isn’t always easy or even possible (especially when we aren’t accustomed to doing so). Why set yourself up to fail? Instead, shift your thinking from “workout” to physical activity and try to incorporate some into every day. Most of us–even on our busiest of days–can squeeze an extra 20 minutes out of our day. Twenty minutes a day seven days a week will get you 140 minutes of exercise/activity per week. An hour three times a week will only get you 120.

While building endurance is certainly a goal, a “workout” doesn’t have to happen within one block of time–it can be broken down into smaller more manageable time spans. It also doesn’t have to involve a gym, running or exercise equipment. Perhaps a 15-minute walk in the morning and another at the end of the day. Or walking the stairs for 10 minutes over your lunch hour and taking a short walk with your spouse in the evening. Maybe some sit-ups in the morning and shooting hoops or playing Wii with the kids in the afternoon. Walk with a friend or coworker rather than meeting for coffee or drinks.

Once you start examining your day with an eye for activity, you’ll likely find lots of opportunities. One client has mastered this. She recently decided to park farther away from an event than she normally would have. Not only did she get a 15-minute walk in before and after the event, she saved money on parking too!

In the case of the client who was feeling like a workout failure, we determined some physical activities she could do with her children on days she isn’t able to exercise while they are at school–walking to the park, walking while the kids bike, and playing physical games with them. While these activities may not meet the exercise time and intensity goals she originally set for herself, they will undoubtedly help her become a healthy, active person. And, perhaps more importantly, will keep her from feeling like she’s failed at exercise.

Progress, rather than perfection, is the goal. Success is not dependent on how quickly you reach your health and wellness goals, but on whether you stick with them regardless of how long it takes. How will you incorporate activity into your day?

Be well!