My friend Valentina asked me the other day how I make time to exercise despite a challenging schedule of 8-hour shifts, which aren’t always at the same time. I told her that I find the time because I have made staying in shape a priority. If I’m not strong and healthy, how can I turn patients over, stay on my feet for long periods and do all the physical tasks required of me as a CNA?

What I did was join a gym that has a lot of classes at different times of day. I make sure to go to the gym on my days off and attend whatever classes are going on that day. It’s true that I don’t have an exercise routine, but, on the other hand, exercise never gets boring! I also chose a gym that has a lot of equipment in its weight room, so if I want to work out at a time when there’s no class, I can watch TV or listen to music while I use the machines.

I also signed up for a race that’s taking place in a few months. That gives me enough to time to train for it, by running a little bit more each time. I often run on the treadmill at the gym, but sometimes I even run part of the way home from work (and then take a good shower and nap when I get home). When I’m feeling unmotivated, I remind myself that I don’t want to get to that race unprepared.

One of my other friends, Juan, told me that he finds short exercise routines on Youtube and does them at home whenever he has the time. He likes 20-minute intense workouts that cover all the different muscles in one session. It’s not easy, but at least it’s over quickly!

Besides working out, I’m also careful about eating healthy. When I first started working at a nursing facility, I noticed that food was readily available but it was never good food. So I stopped eating what was quick and easy and started bringing my own meals from home. One of my tricks is to spend some time on a day off cooking something nutritious and freezing it in individual portions. And at the end of a family meal, I take some of the leftovers and immediately put them in a Tupperware container ready for the next day’s shift. I do feel the need to snack at work, but I try to keep to nuts, raisins and granola bars.

I believe that exercising and taking care of my body makes it easier for me to do my job well. And it’s a great way to de-stress and stay cheerful, even when work is challenging. That’s why I make time to exercise, even when I’d rather be lying on the couch watching my favorite soap opera.

What about you? Do you exercise? What kind of workout is best with your schedule?