I Did 20 Minutes of Extra Cardio a Day For 1 Week, and This Is Why I'll Never Do It Again

I do CrossFit four to five times a week, at 5:45 a.m. The awesomely grueling workouts involve everything from lifting heavy weights to rowing to box jumps to jumping rope to pull-ups. I definitely feel like I get in a great workout, and my body feels ready to start the day. But then I sit (sometimes stand) at a desk for eight hours straight and by the time I'm done with work, my body and mind feel achy and uncomfortable.

POPSUGAR Photography | Diggy Lloyd

I felt like I needed to move a little more, not just at 5:45 a.m. So I committed to doing 20 minutes of cardio every day for a week. This was in addition to my CrossFit workout, so if we biked for 30 minutes in class, I'd still find 20 minutes later that day to do cardio.

I have a full-time job, two kids, two dogs, two guinea pigs, dinner to make, dishes and laundry to do, and I already wake up at 5 a.m. to go to CrossFit, so I knew finding 20 extra minutes was going to be impossible challenging. But for one week I wanted to see how doing more cardio would affect my sleep, my mood, and my strength.

What I Did

I really needed to map it out to know that it would happen and not get pushed aside. Here's what I planned:

Sunday: 8 a.m. cardio video, burpees
Monday: 5:30 p.m. jump rope (practicing double-unders!)
Tuesday: 8 a.m. trail run (there's a 20-minute loop near my house)
Wednesday: 3:30 p.m. swim with the kids
Thursday: 8 a.m. trail run
Friday: 4:30 p.m. trail run
Sat: 11 a.m. family ski

How'd I Feel?

Like with all new habits, the first few days were a little rough. Twenty minutes may not seem like a lot, but committing to it meant that I had to take time away from one of my other responsibilities. Sorry, dishes and laundry! While I'd much rather go skiing or swimming with my kids than inside out my kids' millionth dirty sock, not doing my house responsibilities meant the family would have cereal for dinner and no clean underwear.

Oh well! Sometimes you have to say "eff it" and do something for you. Taking an extra 20 minutes to get my heart pumping and move my body felt really amazing — better than I expected! A few times during the week, fitting it in stressed me out a little, because I knew there were others things that needed to get done. But I'll say that at the end of the 20 minutes, I always felt better. I felt happier, more energetic, and more open, and I slept really well. I also felt stronger during more morning CrossFit classes.

Now What?

On paper, this seems like a great idea. But in reality, fitting in an extra 20 minutes of exercise seven days a week felt way too hard with my packed schedule — there's no way I could keep this up. The benefits were awesome though, so I'm really going to try to commit to three to four times a week. It has to be something I love, though (sorry, not burpees!), so it doesn't feel like a chore, but actually something I look forward to.

The trail runs in the woods with my two dogs were my favorite 20-minute workouts. I loved the feel of the fresh snow crunching under my feet, breathing in the cool, crisp air, and peacefulness and solitude, hearing nothing but the wind and the birds chirping. I always felt a sense of calm within the first few minutes of being surrounded by the tall trees, enjoying nature, like meditation, and that feeling stayed with me.

In order to not feel stressed that I'm skipping out on one of my other responsibilities, I need to plan ahead even more and work smarter, not harder. I can make one huge dinner on Sunday night, like soup or vegan lasagna, so I can have it again on Wednesday and be able to swim with my kids, knowing dinner is set. On Tuesday and Thursday, I can get in a trail run after the kids go off to school, before work. I used to do laundry at that time, so now I can do it while watching TV in the evening instead of just chilling on the couch.

The takeaway here is two things. One, every little bit of extra exercise helps. And two, time doesn't just magically appear — you have to make the time. Making me a priority actually helped me take care of my family better, and me feel more productive at work.

If you feel like you need to move more, make a commitment like I did. If 20 minutes seems like too much, even five minutes of exercise will offer benefits. Do what you can. Feeling good will inspire you to stick with it and help you create this new habit.