The Task Tamer

Pre-plan Your Exercise

Teri 10/05/2015 Comments

I love the gym we belong to because it is small and we have gotten to know the members who work out at the same time as we do.  This makes for a nice environment where we feel we are all in it together.  The downside is we can get caught up in chatting and socializing very easily.  I call this the jaw workout.  Unfortunately, the rest of my muscles don't get any benefit.  To ensure I use my time wisely while at the gym I try to make a plan as I am driving there.  Then, no matter how much talking I get caught up in I know what I intend to do and I don't leave until it is accomplished. 


I feel there are two ways of approaching this idea of pre-planning your workout.  The first is to set a specific goal, such as getting through a weight circuit two times or going a certain number of miles on a treadmill, bike or elliptical.  The second method is to have a set amount of time to be at the gym and make the most of that time and don't get distracted.  The key is to know which works best for you.  


I know I have to set a goal before I even step in the gym (or go out the door for a walk or run). Otherwise, I can get caught up in a conversation with a friend and then lose track of what I was doing or what rep I was on or even what exercise I was performing!  For example, this morning I told myself I would get four miles done, no matter how long it took.  I did quarter-mile intervals, changing up my pace and elevation and reached my goal after 49 minutes. There is evidence that this strategy is more effective than just setting aside an amount of time to exercise.  The reason is that people tend to overestimate how much time they actually spend working their muscles.  If I had decided to just spend 45 minutes walking or running I would not have reached that 4 mile mark (well, I could have run faster or longer intervals but I do try to listen to my knees and hips). 


So what happens if you have limited amount of time and don't have a specific goal and find yourself getting distracted easily?  One thing to try is work out with a trainer or partner. They will keep you focused and on track.  Another suggestion is to wear headphones and make yourself unavailable for extraneous conversation.  Also try small goals as you go along.  For example, tell yourself you will lift an extra five pounds or run at a faster rate for 1 minute or raise the incline of the machine you are using.  Lastly, have an idea what you need to accomplish and focus on that rather than the chatty friend at the next machine.  It is okay to say (nicely) that you need to keep moving so you can stay warmed up and motivated.


One last thought: turn off your cell phone. Studies have proven that talking or texting while you are working out will lessen the intensity of your exertion and short change your work out.  If you need your phone for music, turn it to airplane mode to avoid the distraction.  Trust me, your fellow exercisers will appreciate it as well. 


True story: I had my parents over for dinner once and made a vegetarian version of bolognese sauce.  My father turned to my mother and said if this was how good food could be without meat he could be vegetarian!


Tempeh Bolognese



2 tablespoons olive oil

Leafy tops from one bunch of celery, chopped (don't you always wonder what to do with those?)

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 8-oz package tempeh, crumbled (available at Wegmans or Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup dry vermouth*

1 tablespoon each: fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh thyme**, chopped

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (crushed or ground if you prefer)bolognese

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes

3 oz tomato paste

1 16-oz package whole wheat pasta, cooked as directed reserving 1 cup of cooking water (I prefer short noodles for this dish, but use your favorite),

1 oz burrata cheese per serving (optional)




  1. Heat oil in good size skillet over medium heat. Add celery, mushrooms and onions and cook until water has mostly evaporated and vegetables are soft, 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute while stirring. Add tempeh crumbles and cook until it starts to brown, 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add vermouth to the pan and stir to deglaze. Allow to cook until alcohol has burned off and most of liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add herbs, salt and pepper, fennel and paprika to pan. Stir and then add tomatoes and tomato paste. Allow to simmer 5-10 minutes, adding some pasta cooking water if it gets too dry and starts sticking to the pan. Taste test the sauce and add extra herbs, salt, pepper or spices as desired. (You may want to add little sugar if the tomatoes are too acidic).
  4. Serve over the pasta, topped with burrata cheese, if using.
  5. Enjoy! (The leftovers were delicious too!)


*Use a dry red wine if you prefer or balsamic vinegar if you prefer not to use alcohol. I would reduce the amount, though, as balsamic can be pretty potent. You can always add more when you taste test the sauce.

**Substitute dried herbs as necessary, just remember to reduce the amount by one third. In this case you would need 1 teaspoon of each of the herbs. You could also use 1 tablespoon of your favorite Italian spice blend.

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