In this day and age, the importance of exercise in our life is hardly a secret. Yet so many of us still find it hard to incorporate working out into our daily routine. The main excuse? Lack of time! Are we all doomed to be unhealthy, tired, and overwhelmed, or is there a way out?
Every now and then this happens to me: I meet new people, and when they find out that I enjoy working out and participating in running races, they tell me that I must be some kind of superhuman, and they could never do that because their lives are too busy to squeeze in time for exercise. I know that trying to convince someone in what I believe within just one conversation is usually a lost cause, but I can’t help but feel bad afterwards that people don’t realize how beneficial exercise is for their wellbeing. There should be a way to inspire people into believing that they are capable of so much more for the sake of their health!
After some brainstorming, I came up with this list of tips on how to brush off excuses that keep a lot of us away from establishing some kind of exercise routine. It’s no secret that life can interfere with our plans, and family/work/house chores, etc. consume a huge amount of time, but think of it this way: at any moment of life, someone your age with exactly the same load of responsibilities/commitments as you is training for their umpteenth 10k/marathon/Ironman triathlon etc. It’s time to learn from those guys, and not from your friend who knows all the plot twists of the latest TV shows!
How to Find Time to Exercise and Stick to Your Routine
1. Make exercise a priority. This is very much a mental trick that will separate you from any naysayers: ask yourself why exercise is important to you. Do you want to lose weight, improve your health, stay active for life, avoid some of the diseases that run in your family, see your grandkids’ college graduation? Whatever your reasons are, sticking with a reasonable exercise routine can help you get there. You’ll realize that this is going to be a lifetime commitment, but there’s no need to be scared! Even if you haven’t done any exercising before, and it seems hard at the beginning, stick with it, and you’ll soon learn to enjoy it! Try as many kinds of exercise as you can to find out what you enjoy most, and adopt the ones you like. Not a fan of running? Try cycling or swimming! Don’t like all those machines at the gym? Sign up for some group classes like aerobics! Bad back/knees/hips, etc.? Try low-impact activities like yoga. No gym close enough to where you live? Exercise at home with DVDs, Youtube videos, or get some ideas on Pinterest!… Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
2. Plan ahead. Since the lack of time is the most quoted reason to avoid working out, take 15 minutes every Sunday to check your schedule for the upcoming week to see how much free time you’re going to have every day. If you can set aside an hour every day, perfect! If not, all is not lost: 20 min during lunch break? Go for a brisk walk outside. 30 min before dinner? Enough to squeeze in a quick run! No time at all? Aim to do 3 sets of push-ups and crunches as the day goes by. Embrace a variety of exercise to cross-train and avoid injury – this way you can become the fittest, strongest version of yourself while saving some time!
3. Early to bed and early to rise… You know what happens! With some exceptions, there is hardly ever a need for us to stay up past 10-11 pm. Going to bed earlier will allow you to wake up earlier, thus giving you an opportunity to carve out that magical hour (almost) every day in the morning to devote to exercise! Some parents with full-time jobs manage to go for a morning run at 5 am just to be back in time to get their kids ready for school and then go to work. People like that are an inspiration to us all! If you manage your time right and avoid a good portion of daily distractions, there should be hardly anything worth staying up late for. Can’t get yourself to bed that early? Let me guess the biggest late-night reason for that… Is it the one described in Tip #4?
4. Stop watching all that TV! I could go on and on about how much of our free time watching TV eats up! Not only being propped on the couch in front of the TV for hours is bad for our health, it also takes us away from actually communicating with each other! Ask yourself: how many times did you want to tell something to your partner, but he/she was so engrossed in that TV show that this communication never happened? Well, this is what we’ve come to – but it doesn’t have to be that way! This is a dirty little secret you’ll never hear on television: if you stay away from watching TV for a couple weeks, you will find loads of free time for things like exercise and interacting with your family, and after those couple weeks you won’t even miss staring into that box!
‘But what about all my favorite shows?!’ – Once again, ask yourself: in the great span of life, how much value do all those shows add to your life? Probably not much. On my death bed, I’m certainly not going to wish that I watched more Kardashians!
Besides, you don’t have to quit TV altogether: you just need to figure out a way to make watching it more convenient to you. My husband and I gave up cable two years ago and subscribed to Netflix and Hulu, and we’ve never looked back! We get to watch exactly what we want at the most convenient time for us, and we can always pause whatever we’re watching to go on our evening walk! Plus, we have an access to a variety of much smarter shows and documentaries that will never be shown on regular TV because of their format.
‘But I’ll get so behind on my shows that I won’t have anything to talk about with my friends!’ – This is the cost of making your health a priority, not TV shows. Find other things to talk about with your friends! Or, if you want to be more radical, find new friends! On that note, we get to Tip #5…
5. Find like-minded people! It’s been proven many times: as social creatures, we humans tend to stick with any activity better if we enjoy interacting with other humans during that activity. If we find ourselves in a room full of people united by the same goal of getting healthier (like during an exercise class), we’ll enjoy that activity much more! And if we do so, we are more likely to come back for more exercise and interaction. One of the easy ways to find people who like to work out is to join a gym; however, people at the gym are not always interested in communicating with others – maybe they are pressed for time that day, or talking to you can break up their rhythm. Don’t get discouraged though: look for exercise classes or boot-camp workouts in your area (meetup.com can be helpful); ask people at your local running store about any group runs or running clubs – the same goes for bicycle shops and cycling groups. If all fails, ask your friend or a neighbor if he/she would like to go for a run with you a couple times a week: when you make plans, you’re less likely to back out since there’s someone waiting!
6. Run/bike to work! Okay, this tip is for the more advanced folk with a good base of physical strength and endurance. If you work within 10-15 miles from home, why not try this? Some of the very busy professional people who train for 50- or 100-mile running races often employ this tip: this way they don’t have to carve out additional 2-3 hours every day to train for their upcoming races. Of course, it helps if your workplace is equipped with a shower, and some additional planning needs to be done (like bringing a change of clothes to work the day before), but once again… where there’s a will, there is a way!
As you see, the most important tip here is to change your mindset towards making exercise a priority. Once you realize why it is important for you, everything else falls into place! And one more thing: nobody but YOU needs YOU to exercise. Not your husband/wife, not your kids, just YOU! If you do it for YOU, your spouse and kids will appreciate it much more, and will be so proud of you!
On this note, I’d like to recap the 7th week of my marathon training that ended last Sunday. I lowered my mileage to let my body recover from all the pounding on the ground, and it seemed to have helped me get rid of feeling tired (I’m sure it was caused by my 14-mile run the week before). This week’s long run was 11 miles. With every passing week, I feel stronger about my newly adopted vegan diet (4 months strong this month!), and I’m excited to be on this challenging but interesting vegan marathon journey!
I’d love to hear your thoughts about time management and exercise! Did you find the tips above helpful? Can you add any other time-saving tips, or tips on how to stick better to your chosen exercise routine? Share your thoughts below!