“Make sure you have a plan B in case the day’s madness throws plan A out the door.”
Moment of truth. It’s a little over a week into the New Year. Whether your resolution was fitness-related or not – how are you doing? Is your New Year off to the right start, or are you starting to slip on your exercise plan?
One of the biggest barriers to exercise is time. Nowadays, everyone’s busy all the time. And it’s not our fault. Society tells us that we need to be always going, going, going. Thank goodness self-care is now entering the spotlight.
Life is so overwhelming sometimes. Every day you need to go to work, look put-together, take care of your dependents (children, furry-children, possibly other family members, or all three), eat healthy and home-cooked meals, run errands, clean the house, pay the bills, exercise, and sleep – if you even can sleep with all of this on your mind.
It’s no wonder anxiety and depression are on the rise. It’s also no wonder why people turn to sugary snacks for comfort and swap exercise for rest.
Life is hard. I get it. I’m living it too. But you know one of the ways I cope?
Exercise does wonders for your energy, your self-esteem, your health, and your sleep. Often when I feel the worst is when a workout will benefit me most.
So you might be thinking, “Yeah that’s great Cedar, but how do I actually manage it?” When facing a long to-do list, there ARE ways you can squeeze in a bit of exercise. For your energy, your health, and your sanity – you should truly make it a priority. Alright, let’s get into how:
Identify the best time of day
First, take a good, long look at your schedule. When do you have the most free time? Most working individuals have 4 options:
- Work out before work
- Work out during work
- Work out right after work
- Work out late at night
We’re looking at your day-to-day schedule. I’m not in the business of making weekend warriors, not unless you want to get injured and really not derive much benefit at all from your exercise.
There will be challenges associated with each of these times. Regardless of which one you choose, prepare for those barriers.
If you opt to exercise before work, you may have to wake up earlier. If you’re not an early bird, this may not be a good option for you. For instance, every morning I face a full battle getting out of bed. And if the first thing I had to look forward to was exercise? I’d NEVER get up. Ever. So for me, the morning is really not a good option. Plus, I get up at 5:00am anyway for work and getting up at 4:00am sounds like the worst idea ever. But maybe that’s just me.
Anywho, if the morning actually does seem like a good time for you, make sure you allot yourself plenty of time. Prepare your clothes/gym bag/work things the night before so you’re not rushed and you don’t have to potentially cut your workout short from running late. For some people, this time of day is a great option. You get your workout out of the way and can tackle your to-dos without exercise-preoccupation.
During work / commute
Depending on your job, this may or may not be an option. But I’ve known people who this has worked for. Some options include walking during your lunch hour, using a work gym, or biking to and from work. If you walk during your lunch hour, you’ll need either a convenient place indoors, a work gym treadmill, or a nice place outside and decent weather. Depending on where you live, outdoors may not be possible. You also have to exercise somewhere cool or have access to showers, as being the sweaty, smelly guy at the office isn’t exactly a fun M.O. Being a lady who takes a considerable amount of time getting ready in the morning, this would not work for me.
I’ve already covered some tips for post-work exercise in my Creating an Exercise Habit: 7 tips for working out after work post. If this is the best option for you (as it is for me), check it out!
Late at night
Others may only have time for exercise at night. If you have afternoon commitments or need to pick-up/care for your children after work, this would be an excellent time. Going to a gym, going on a walk/run, and using home exercise equipment are all good options.
Identify what you will do
Next, you’ll need to determine what your workout will be. You may already have an exercise regimen, but if you don’t here are a few helpful tips. Whether you go somewhere (gym, workout class, etc.) or workout at home, make it something you’ll stick with. Meaning, make it something you enjoy. If your workout is a horrendous chore you face, you won’t stick with it. Period. So experiment, try a new class, follow along with a YouTube video, pick a realistic Pinterest workout and find your thing.
Side Note: Some people find it easier convincing themselves to “go somewhere” rather than exercise from home. Find what works for you!
Make your workouts more convenient
Life can be so freaking inconvenient sometimes, so why make it harder on yourself? Find a gym that’s on your commute home from work so you don’t have to go out of your way. Or better yet, use your gym at work or your home/apartment gym. Finding ways to save time on getting to or preparing for your workouts will increase the time for your workout itself.
Make your workouts more efficient
Exercise doesn’t have to be extremely long to be beneficial. While I mention in The Basics of a Healthy Exercise Routine that you should strive for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week (300 minutes if you’re trying to lose weight), there are ways to make each exercise session more efficient.
For example, you can combine your aerobic training with functional movements that promote muscle development as well, reducing time you would also spend weight training. Think of burpees, jumping lunges, and mountain climbers. When performed continuously, all of these get your heart pumping for aerobic benefit while also strengthening your muscles.
The Kayla Itsines BBG program is a great example of this. While the program does suggest more cardio outside of the 28 minute workouts you do 3 days per week, the workouts themselves are extremely effective yet completed in under 30 minutes.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another great way to improve the efficiency of your workouts. It incorporates short bouts of vigorous exercise followed by an active recovery and has been shown to increase fat burn. However, only perform HIIT once you have built a solid foundation of cardiovascular endurance.
Have a back-up plan
Make sure you have a plan B in case the day’s madness throws plan A out the door. Overslept? Perform a 15 minute HIIT session and 10 minute ab workout (I gotchu) that night after the kids are put to bed. Can’t run outside due to weather (snow, rain, heat)? Use the Nike Training Club app or a YouTube video instead to get your heart pumping. We have so many options when it comes to exercise, and just because you can’t get your usual workout in doesn’t mean an alternative is any less effective.
Workout while doing other things, even if unconventional
I once saw a video of a mom brushing her teeth while her baby was swaddled against her – and she was doing squats. She’s the real Superwoman. Gotta get that workout in somehow! When in doubt, get creative!
It’s also a great option to exercise with your friends and family. Go on a walk around the neighborhood with your family after dinner. Take the kids on a hike. Go on biking day trips. Do mother-baby yoga. There are so many ways to incorporate exercise into friend and family time; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Fitting workouts in around a busy work schedule
The #1 thing to remember when it comes to exercise: being on your feet/walking around at work does NOT count as exercise. Not unless you’re a sponsored marathon runner or something in which case, yeah sure, that counts.
It’s probably my biggest cardiac rehab pet peeve when someone comes in and says, “Yes I exercised yesterday. I went grocery shopping and walked around the store.” OR “I was on my feet all day at work.”
Guys, come on. Why has our definition of exercise become extremely misconstrued?
The bottom line: you can’t be lazy about exercise. It takes work – that’s why it’s called a “workout”. But it can be fun and it is possible to fit into your busy schedule, 9-5ers included.
So take a moment, make a plan, and go get it! Your body and mind will thank you for it!