Ryan Harris coaching a football team

Can’t Find Time to Exercise? 6 Tips to Get You Back on Track

Notre Dame was playing Navy recently, and I don’t know if it was because I was around all these military guys, but I decided to go out on a run. Out there, I bumped into my fellow play-caller and booth partner, Paul Burmeister. We were both panting, trying to say hi to each other without gasping for air. (Pretty funny.)

One of the things that easily gets away from us when life gets busy is taking time to exercise. Yet this one activity does incredible things to keep the body young and the mind on an even keel.

The power of exercise can have such an impact that it’s important to get out there, no matter what. So when you’re feeling burnt out or when you’ve got family visiting and a million things to do, keep exercising.

Here are 6 ways I’ve found to keep myself moving, even with tons of travel and a young family. I hope one of these tips will help you, too.


A lawyer friend of mine and former teammate was recently extolling the virtues of a home gym. Regarding the benefits he said, “There are so many! I want everyone to rediscover the home workout.”

We think of those cheesy commercials in the ‘80s with a stair climber, NordicTrack or Bowflex. But forget those. One of the best things you can do to keep exercising is to find an exercise that you can do at home.

Working out at home eliminates drive time and gets you the exercise you need both physically and mentally. I did a 12-minute yoga class on YouTube the other night. Can you do the following at home without equipment: Burpees? Yoga? Dancing? Weights? Stairs? Box jumps? Eliminate the commute and get to it.


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Too often we think, “To work out, I’ve got to join the right gym (or the right exercise class).” But there are amazing opportunities in the palm of your hand now that weren’t there even two, three years ago. Apps can help you get that workout in at home (or a wherever-you-are) workout.

Enter the workout-generating app. I have an app that helps me do yoga at home, in a hotel room, in the airport, heck, even on the plane…if there’s enough space. In these apps, you can specify whether you have equipment available to you, what part of your body you want to focus on, and more. Try out one or two. YouTube is a great place to start, too. See what you like.

When I’m traveling, I can’t get my CrossFit workouts with a group. Instead, I can go to the hotel gym and do a bodyweight exercise in the app. Done and healthy for the day.

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For the longest time, I was the only 300-pounder, the only black person, and, often, the only man in my yoga classes. At first, I was incredibly embarrassed to be sweating my ass off, through my armpits, legs and other crevices. But I dedicated myself to a yoga practice that made me a better person. And a better football player.

Yoga kept me healthy through my NFL career. I’m so glad I risked embarrassing myself in front of strangers (who were probably not even looking at me).

Next, I want to try a Zumba class. Am I embarrassed that my dancing will be different from Zumba people’s? Sure. But I will take on that challenge; I will risk embarrassment.

Have you ever been driving in your car, seen somebody out running and thought, “Gosh, they look stupid?” No! You see somebody running and you think, “I need to be running.”

But when you’re the one running, you’re thinking everybody’s driving past thinking you look terrible. Not at all.

Risk the embarrassment. Keep exercising.


When I left the NFL, I tried to continue doing those workouts. The truth is: NFL workouts suck. They are HARD. In retirement, I do not like the constant heavy lifting, squatting, jumping, running and pushing through sleds.

My dislike for that kind of workout, and my assumption that I had to keep working out that way, took me away from exercising for the longest time.

Then I realized I had the opportunity to find the kind of movement I do love. Now I like to play racquetball and pickup basketball. I like to do yoga. I like spin classes. And I definitely like to do anything that takes pressure off my aching, broken-down joints.

What do you love to do? Blast some music and dance?

If you don’t like exercising, chances are you just don’t like that exercise — the one you think you should do.

Find something you love. It makes a big difference.

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I was so thrilled to be a part of the maintenance month with UC Health and to encourage other people to exercise. Their research shows that even walking your dog or walking around the block every day can significantly reduce stress. Who doesn’t need some of that?

One thing I have done since this project to is park further away from my office. Instead of wasting time finding the closest spot, I purposely find the furthest one. Not every day; I do seek comfort occasionally, but I get some walking in my day this way. That’s an easy fix.

You can try getting out for a walk at lunch, or heading for the mall and walking up and down like they do in my home state at the Mall of America! Maybe find a new park or enjoy a trail hike. Small changes can go a long way toward getting you some fresh air and relaxing.

Walking is good for thinking or focusing, too. Before one of the biggest speeches I’ve had to date in Dallas-Fort Worth, I walked around a while and it brought me a new story the audience loved. A couple of teammates I had in the past would walk the entire field before the game, and they are some of the best and highest performers I’ve ever played with.

Walk before you run. You might even make friends with another walker while you’re out.


I once suggested to a family member that they go to the gym and lift, but they said, “Ryan, I’ve never been taught how to lift.” Sometimes you don’t know how to do something you want to try (and maybe they didn’t want to be embarrassed either).

Get some help. Do not let “I don’t know” be a reason for not moving. One of the first things I did when I wanted to learn golf was to sign up for a lesson. It was amazing. Instead of hacking away and losing ball after ball (which I do anyway), I like to think I have lost fewer balls because of my lesson.

It’s good to ask. Try a personal training session, ask a friend to show you the ropes, ask a friend to bring you to their favorite Zumba class.

With these tips in hand, I hope you find ways to add new and enjoyable ways to exercise into your life. Your body and mind deserve it.