Do Not Disturb! How to stop interruptions from family when you exercise at home.

‘Sorry to interrupt you, but do you know where my keys/ golf clubs/ red socks are?’.

We’ve all been there. You finally get around to doing some exercises at home. You are a few minutes into your video, concentrating and starting to feel good. Then someone shouts up the stairs, or the door opens and someone pops their head round with a question for you.  

You pause your video, and lose your focus and momentum. It’s hard to get back into it (Should you rewind and start again? Where exactly did you stop? Was your leg meant to be bent or straight?). After another interruption, you get frustrated and give up for the day.

It's hard enough getting started with the exercises you want to do (even when you know how important they are). So, when you do, you deserve to be able to get on with them in peace. 

In this article, I will share:

  • Six ideas for preventing interruptions from family members
  • Word-for-word scripts that you can use to explain what you need from them and why it matters so much
  • Three extra suggestions if you are a carer or looking after grandchildren

Now, it’s unlikely that your family is actively trying to thwart your attempts to exercise. If they are, that’s a bit more complicated, and I might not be able to help you.

But, assuming your interruption-prone family members are not actively trying to sabotage your exercise programme, here are some suggestions for making sure you can get on with your exercises:

1. Do your exercises when they are out 

The best way to avoid interruptions is to plan to exercise when you are alone at home.

If they go out at the same time every day (to buy the newspaper, walk the dog or go to work), then you can plan to do your exercise immediately after they leave.

If their schedule changes from day to day, you may need to check in advance:

‘What time are you going to play golf today? I want to plan what time to do my exercises.’ 

Then you have a time to work towards and can get on with other things in the meantime (and make sure you have everything you need ready for when the coast is clear).

Bonus points if you can get them out on an errand without realising why! Just don’t let them see the glee in your face as they put their coat on to go and weed the garden or to take your list to the shops.

2. Tell them your plans and be clear

Tell them when you are doing the exercises, how long for and what that means for them.

Here are a few ways you could say this:

‘Today, I am going to do my balance exercise video at 10 am. It will take 20 mins, and I would prefer not to be distracted during that time. If you need anything from me, please let me know now, so I am ready to start at 10 am. ’

‘I am going to do my exercise video now. It will take 15 minutes, so I will be busy until 9.30. If the phone rings, please answer it and tell them I will return their call after that time.’

You could add a little joke in too. This can help if you feel like you are being too demanding (you aren’t, but I know you might feel that way!). When I tell my children I need to focus on something (or just have a break!), I say something silly like,

'Please don’t interrupt me unless the house is on fire or you see a bear in the kitchen.’

They laugh and it feels less bossy, but they also understand more clearly.

3. Explain why your exercises matter so much

Your spouse or family members may not understand why your exercises are so important. They might also not appreciate that you don’t find it easy blocking the time out and that their support could help you.

Here are a few examples of what you could say:

‘I am doing this video to improve my balance. I feel unsteady on my feet when we are out walking. I have to concentrate on where I am putting my feet and feel worried that I might fall. I want to start enjoying our walks again, and I hope these balance exercises will help me to do so’.

‘You know how I am always telling you how tired I feel? These exercises will help me to feel stronger and give me more energy every day. It’s hard work, but I know it’s going to make a difference. I need your support so I can keep it up and feel better.’

‘At my last check-up, my doctor said that these exercises are essential for my bone health. The stronger my bones are, the less likely I am to break something if I trip or fall. So, I must do these regularly.’

Of course, you will need to make this specific to you. Once someone understands how these exercises are going to help you, and why they matter so much, they should make a much bigger effort to support you to do them.

4. Tell them exactly what you need from them

Your spouse or family members may not realise how distracting it is when they interrupt you. It sounds obvious, but they can’t read your mind, so spelling it out is important.

Here are a few ways you could ask them not to interrupt you:

‘I know a quick question doesn’t seem like much, but I find it hard dealing with interruptions when I am exercising. If you have a question, please can you save it until I finish?’

‘When you play the piano/ start drilling into the wall/ do the hoovering, I can’t hear the instructions on my video. I must do the exercises correctly. Otherwise, I won’t get the full benefit.’

‘I have to keep going once I start. If you come into the room to do something (even if you don’t talk to me), I get distracted. Then I lose the flow and my motivation.’

‘Quite often, when I stop partway through, I give up and don’t start again.’

Being clear about what you need is important. Also, it can help to tell how to know when you are finished (give a time or say you will tell them when you have finished). You could also say something like this:

‘So, I would appreciate it if you save your questions for after. I will let you know when I have finished.’

'I will be finished by 11am. Perhaps you could play your trumpet after that?'

5. Put up physical barriers

Wearing headphones can help you hear the video instructions more clearly. They can also remind others that you are concentrating on something and make them think twice before interrupting you. See this article for information on the different types of headphones and speakers you can use for home exercise videos.

Shutting the door will tell people that you are busy, and will also block out some noise so you can concentrate better. Locking the door might be a bit extreme, but if that’s what you need to do, go for it!

You could also put up a sign to remind them what you are doing. This could be a piece of paper or card on the door that says ‘Busy exercising. I will tell you when I have finished. Thanks for not interrupting me!’ could do the trick.

6. Get them to join in

This won’t work for everyone (you might be thinking you can’t imagine anything worse!). But, if you think they would benefit and would join in without too much fuss, this would keep them occupied.

Some people like having company when they exercise. They also find that it’s harder to skip if you have agreed a time with someone.

What if you are a carer or looking after grandchildren?

If the interruptions are from someone you are caring for (an older spouse or relative, or young grandchildren), some of these suggestions won’t work. You can’t just shut the door and tell them you’ll be back in 15 minutes.

If this is your situation, it’s even more important that you find time to do some exercises. You need to look after yourself so that you can look after others.

Here are a few suggestions which might help:

Make the most of nap time

If they nap during the day, start your exercises as soon as they go to sleep. Use a monitor or keep doors open so you can hear if they wake up (fingers crossed you get to the end of your exercises, and get time to have a rest yourself too!).

Find distractions that will entertain them

Can you save their favourite TV/ radio show or video game for when you want to do the exercises? You may need to keep the door open to see them in the corner of your eye (headphones may help here for one of you, so you aren’t distracted by the noise of their radio, cartoons or films.)

Ask for help

Ask a friend, neighbour or family member to spend some time with them. Sometimes it’s easier to ask for help if it’s for a specific reason. It feels a bit vague to ask someone to ‘help out a bit’. It can be much easier to ask for help for a specific reason:

‘It would be really helpful if you could come for half an hour while I do my exercises. I can't concentrate on them whilst I am worrying about my mother/ husband/ granddaughter.'

You can also explain why the exercises are so important for you: 

‘I need to keep myself strong and maintain my balance if I am going to carry on looking after my husband/ parents/ grandchildren. So, I must do these exercises regularly.’

You could prepare a snack or set up an activity (crafts, cards or a board game) for them to do together. You are still in the house so if there’s an emergency you can help. However, this should allow you to close the door and concentrate totally on your exercises (and give you a much-needed break from your caring responsibilities).

The bonus here is that, if someone has come to help so that you can do your exercises, you will do them!

Good luck! Let us know what works best for you

I know how hard it can be when you have finally motivated yourself to do your exercises, and you keep getting interrupted. Most people don’t mean to distract you or prevent you from doing what’s important to you. Hopefully, these tips will help you to avoid these interruptions in the future.

Who interrupts you when you are exercising? Which of these ideas will you try?

Join the conversation in the comments below!

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All material in this article and video is provided for information and educational purposes only. It is not advice and should not be relied on as such. Always consult an exercise or health professional if you have any health issues and need personalised advice. With this in mind, we hope you enjoy reading our articles and watching our videos.

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