5 Ways to Fit in Fitness When You Have No Time
People fall in and out of fitness all of the time.
I fell in love with fitness at a pretty young age. I have vivid memories of joining my mom as she’d do her at-home exercise videos or rollerblading alongside of her while she ran outdoors in a park close to home.
That frequency of exercise carried with me throughout high school and college as I prioritized time, almost every day, to lift weights or do some cardio.
When I became an adult, everything changed. I started my career as Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer at Life Time. And although I devoted almost all of my extra time to helping others, was still able to keep my daily workouts.
Flash forward to today and my day-to-day is very comparable to the average American. I work more than 40 hours a week in an entrepreneur-based career while working my hardest to be a good spouse and mother. I get mom guilt thinking about “not” being at home with my toddler and instead being at work. I live on coffee during the day when my kiddo doesn’t have a great night of sleep the night before. Often, I consider laying on the couch and relaxing instead of doing my workout. Have you been there?
Here’s the thing, though. I’ve never regretted a workout I’ve completed. I only regret when I haven’t. And although I constantly think I have no time for it, I feel my best (and am my best self) when I stick to a consistent routine. I’m a better mother because I have more patience. I’m a better spouse because I have a more positive mood. I’m a better professional because I have more energy. And all of these benefits are my reasons why I make myself prioritize fitness and sometimes have to talk myself into it when I’m feeling weak.
And if I’ve learned anything from my clients or my own self, sometimes you need creative new ideas to fit fitness into your schedule (whether it be even changing your mindset). Your routine doesn’t have to be perfect – and I always tell my clients you can dial it down as far as frequency and volume, but try never to completely avoid it. Anything is always better than nothing. And although I crave daily activity, on my best weeks, I can always get in around four sweat sessions. And with my hectic lifestyle, I think that is pretty darn good. Below are five of my creative ways of getting it in and sticking to a frequent routine.
When I’m with friends and family (or my clients), I don’t multitask and strictly focus on being present in that moment. But with exercise – I do think there is opportunity to do some multitasking.
Consider options during your workday – such as creating a makeshift standing desk. I catch my coworkers doing calf raises or squats throughout the workday while writing content or on the phone with clients. If you have a conference call, consider taking it from your cell phone and going on a walk. If you have a weekly meeting with a team at work, consider touching base over a brisk walk or encouraging everyone to stand during the meeting.
For cardio sessions, make it a rule that you can only catch up on your favorite and recorded television show while walking or jogging on the treadmill (or your favorite piece of cardio equipment). I love having this rule because I look forward to a show or two, which makes me look forward to my cardio workouts that I might otherwise try to skip out of.
Lastly, consider catching up with a friend over a workout. I try to incorporate monthly meet ups with some of my best friends so I can stay connected and have great conversation, but also get a healthy habit in with them versus just catching up over brunch or an adult beverage. Same holds true for kids – try to include them in activity with you for quality time with them while getting sweaty.
Just like a dentist or doctor appointment, schedule your workouts in the calendar and consider them non-negotiable and non-flexible. If you use an appointment or meetings calendar at work each day, schedule your workouts in there as well. The more permanent they feel, the better, as it helps you create a routine. It also helps others around you (spouse, coworkers or boss) know when you are working out and adjust around it.
Appointments with a personal trainer can provide even more accountability. Knowing you’re paying for a session will help prioritize it (and make you less likely to skip and waste money) along with the extra accountability of someone waiting for your arrival at the club.
Consider working out during the middle of the day if before and after work feel daunting. Having a “break” during the busy work day can not only be refreshing, but also may be an easier schedule to stick to if you feel like you are too busy in the morning or after work. With the warmer spring and summer weather coming, lunch will be an opportune time to pack some sneakers in your briefcase and walk and/or run outside with a coworker — or even do some body weight exercises (such as squats, pushups, etc.) outdoors.
Working out at lunch might not be doable every day, but consider doing it once or twice each week. I have a group Pilates class once week that I participate in during the lunch hour every Thursday, even though my other workouts during the week are in the evening. On those days, I eat my lunch at my desk or choose a convenient post-workout protein shake.
I’ve had clients who do really well with physical activity during the week because their weekdays are so structured, so it’s easier to stick to routines. But on the weekends, they fall short because they wake up later in the morning, their meal times are different, etc. And perhaps they want to feel “free” without too much structure.
Consider prioritizing workouts on the weekend, especially if you feel like your weeks are so jam-packed. You might do better with a routine that includes a Saturday and/or Sunday plus a day or two during the week, versus committing to Monday through Friday for your workouts.
I love working out on a Sunday — I feel like it sets up a positive routine for my week ahead. Sundays are usually my days for meal prep and food shopping. So I try to focus on getting that and my workout done before noon so I have the rest of the day to snuggle up and spend quality time with my family.
Choose Something Over Nothing
Get over the idea of perfection when it comes to working out. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had clients who think that if they can’t get an hour of exercise, it’s not worth it at all. That’s simply not true! Most often, my personal workouts are no more than thirty minutes. Not to mention, this type of mentality sets you up to fail.
The idea is to determine your minimal effective dose and to do it efficiently, while focusing on the right intensity. Maybe to start, that’s just 10 minutes each time you work out and you slowly work your way up. If you can’t do your planned workout for the day, could you at least get out and walk for 5-10 minutes? If you completely skip a planned session, don’t completely quit your entire week. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it’s better to show progress over perfection. The more you focus on that, the less likely you’ll quit completely.
My goal for all my clients is to not only find exercises that they really enjoy, but to eventually crave and prioritize it as sacred time for themselves so that it’s always in their routine (even if not as frequent as they’d like it to be) and never non-existent.