Physical exercise does not have to be a distraction from full-time Dharma practice. It is only a samsaric waste of time if one thinks it is. IME, with proper motivation and a little creativity, one can turn pretty much any physical exercise into a Dharmic activity.
First, one can think that one is exercising in order to maintain one's health and longevity so that one can work longer and more vigorously for the sake of sentient beings.
Secondly, depending on the physical activity one is doing, one can visualize/reframe that as a Dharmic activity. For instance, when walking, one can visualize his or her Guru, Yidam, or a stupa above and to the right of their right shoulder. Then every step can be imagined as circumambulation. By adding the repetition of mantra, one can make the time they are spending even more effective, engaging all three doors. When running, one can visualize his or her Guru, Buddha, Yidam above and in front of them. Then every step can be running towards Enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings. In that case, one can also imagine all sentient beings being pulled along in a huge wagon, crossing the fields of samsara and depositing them in nirvana. Similarly, when swimming, one can imagine pulling all sentient beings on a huge raft across the ocean of samsara to the shores of Liberation. Lifting weights, one can imagine lifting up all sentient beings out of their suffering and the lower realms, raising them to the upper realms and from the upper realms through the 10 Bodhisatva bhumis to Buddhahood. This whole process can be done with each repetition or progressively over a set of repetitions. Doing sit-ups, one can likewise imagine pulling up sentient beings out of their suffering and pain with each crunch forward. If you like to finish up a work-out session in a steam room, sauna, or hot tub, you can say Vajrasattvas, imagining the sweat pouring out as black liquid representing all one's sins and obscurations. Take a shower after exercising? One can similarly say Vajrasattvas, thinking that one is washing away all of one's own and all others' sins and obscurations. Putting back on your regular clothes? One can think that they are putting on the armor of the Victors and Their Sons (and Daughters) in order to work diligently and perseveringly for the sake of all beings. If you can also recognize that the doer, the doing, and the object of any and all this doing are all empty, one has earned both accumulations: the accumulation of merit and
the accumulation of wisdom. Finally, dedicate this merit for the sake of universal Enlightenment and you have a the dampa sum
, the three supremes or three perfect principles.
IOW, it's not the activity; it's the motivation and imagination that make something either a worldly or a Dharmic activity. Thus there's no reason to think one is wasting their precious dal-jor
by "merely" doing exercise. This is the genius of Vajrayana.