I guess on the face of it it is fair question. I am no spring chicken, I work full time and I have two young children. This combination seems to be more than enough to stop most people in their tracks with respect to exercise and other self-care routines.
The answer I always have in my head though when people ask me that question is "How do you not MAKE the time to work out?"
Partly my near-horror in imagining a life without regular exercise is visualizing myself feeling flabby, fidgety and super grumpy (aka me pretty much anytime I miss my work out). I am simply unbearable to be around if I have not done something to MOVE my body in any given day and it is hard for me to appreciate that not everybody feels like they are going to burst out of their skin if they don't get their run in.
OK, so while it's hard for me to exactly relate to non-fanatical exercisers, I have in my less judgemental moments thought about the ways that I consistently find the time to dedicate to my personal health and fitness:
1. Make it a Priority. The best article I have read on making fitness a priority this year is quoted here. Bottom line is that we all make choices, big and small, about what we want to prioritize in our lives. I firmly believe that taking care of yourself is one of the least selfish things you can do as it will make you a happier, healthier, more productive contributor to your family, your work and society. As such, I recommend looking hard at each day and each week and seeing where some self-care in the form of fitness can fit in. Maybe it will mean skipping a favorite TV show, eating lunch at your desk, or missing a little more sleep, but on the balance I believe you will be happier for it.
2. Set a Schedule. I have the benefit of having a spouse who is similarly dedicated to maintaining his fitness. We have managed to balance our very full work and life loads by developing and sticking to a consistent schedule. M/W evenings are his solo nights with the kids (i.e., pick up, dinner, bath, bed), T/Th are mine. On our off nights we work late, work out and otherwise have full control of our schedules. Friday morning is my time, Saturday afternoon is his. We put the kids in day care at our gym on Sunday mornings so that we can both work out. Outside of these times we fit in what we can. The beauty of the schedule is that everyone knows the drill and it works pretty seamlessly. You don't always feel like working out on your night, but knowing it is your only chance that week can be a pretty powerful motivator and the second mile is always easier than the first.
3. Get Creative/Be Opportunistic. Don't get boxed in by thinking that a workout has to be a specific activity for a specific length of time. If you have 30 minutes in the morning, after the kids go to bed, or between meetings, use 25 of them to go for a walk or do yoga (minimal clothing change required); Do pushups during your run to incorporate upper body strength without having to make it to a gym to lift weights; Try a new class or activity to keep you motivated; or read or watch TV while you are on a stationary bike or elliptical.
4. Be Accountable. In addition to a set schedule, I have one other major motivator that gets me to the gym at 8PM every M/W - my climbing partner. Having someone or something hold you accountable for all the inconvenient times we have allocated to working out (i.e., in the wee morning hours, at lunch, or late at night) is crucial. There are so many reasons that you can bail on your work out unless you know that someone is expecting you to show up and get it done. If you know that working out will be hard for you - consider recruiting someone to share your pain. They will be grateful.
5. Involve Your Family. There is no better way to have a guilt-free workout than to engage your family in the adventure. I have written several posts about family fitness opportunities including running 5Ks, biking/running, summer adventures, hiking, classes, rock climbing, and yoga. My daughter has fully now internalized the vocabulary of a dedicated exerciser. One of my proudest moments was when she was three years old and we were driving home from work/preschool on what had a been a very rainy day "mom" she chirped from the back seat "can we stop at the track and go for a quick run? I haven't gotten my work out in yet today." That's my girl!
6. Get the Right Equipment. Whether it is the right clothes, shoes, jogging stroller or bike, having the correct equipment can make all the difference in whether you stay committed to something.
7. Make it Convenient. Is your gym out of the way, open for limited hours and lack child care? If the answer is yes, then change gyms. In my experience if your gym is not between work and home the chances of you making it there on a regular basis are slim to none. Due to child care constraints we went one step further and built a gym in our garage and you would still be amazed at how far it can seem to get downstairs at the end of a long day. Also, keep it simple. A run out the front door can be as good as it gets.
8. Do it as Part of Your Commute. There is no better way to kill two birds with one stone than to incorporate your workout into your commute. You will be surprised how little time it actually adds, and those minutes spent running, walking and biking instead of sitting can be a game changer - See my friend's great account of her Runmute to work. Worst case, you can switch to a standing desk or a treadmill desk at work to tick off some miles while you pound away at the keyboard.
9. Set a Goal. Nothing gets me out the door for a run like having a race on the calendar. A friend recently posted a great list of races and events you can sign up for. Check it out, commit and then get it done!
10. Get it Done. It doesn't have to be pretty or perfect or fast or worth telling. It just has to get done.
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