Having written about how to make a ‘comeback’ to exercise after a fall or time away (or just a complete fresh start), this time I wanted to explore how you can keep exercise as a key part of your life, whilst also managing all of life’s other commitments. Because the reality is, the best way to get fit, is to get consistent.
However, living in a world where time is the currency in which we’re all poor, it is often to the biggest obstacle to training regularly. With many of us working longer hours than ever, along with personal/family commitments, and of course, those minor luxuries like sleeping and eating, it can be hard to see where exercise can fit in. The truth is, it can be difficult to keep at your exercise plan and there will always be conflicts that get in the way, but here are some things I have learnt that have made it easier to create a routine.
Be realistic about how much time you’ll need vs the time you have
So, let’s say you have found a class you like, which lasts an hour, and you can attend three times a week. A three hour weekly commitment sounds doable to you so should fit in perfectly with your schedule. Great! Except, once you start you realise in rush hour traffic it takes half an hour to get there, and the same back again. Plus you need to get showered and washing your hair takes forever… so within the first couple of weeks you give it up because it’s just too time-consuming. Familiar situation? All too often we underestimate the other time factors other than the workout itself, and this can throw us off-course from the start. Considering travel/shower/changing time upfront will help you see if in practice it will work for you long term. Obviously, I am not saying give up before you even start, as it could work just fine with some forward planning, but just be mindful of the adjustments you might need to make to your routine to make it work. Perhaps home workouts could be a better option for you, for example? (And of course, there’s always dry shampoo for those days when hair washing is out of the question...)
Make your workouts count
Following on from the point above, it’s also important not to overestimate the time you need to spend to get an effective workout in. Spending hours in the gym is not practical, productive or necessary. The key is to stay focussed on what you are there to do and how long you plan to be there. For example, if you want to do cardio, rather than walk for hours mindlessly on the treadmill while watching the tv screens, why not do interval workouts which can get your blood pumping and in half the time? If you are looking to lift weights, splitting workout to focus only on certain muscle groups and just doing those could work. Some of my most effective workouts have been the ones in which I knew I was short on time, so I picked the key areas I wanted to work on and really focussed on engaging those muscles and performing the exercises that I did have time to do, well. If you struggle with sticking within a timeframe or the gym is too busy to switch quickly to different equipment, classes are a great alternative and many places offer HIIT sessions or shorter ones aimed at targeting particular muscle groups.
Set yourself 'workout days’
Last year, when the exercise I did came solely from attending classes, I realised how much having non-negotiable days and times had assisted with establishing my routine. When I went back to gym-based workouts I tried to recreate the same feeling of ‘rigidity’ to my schedule by setting days and times that I couldn’t move unless I really had to. This prevents the temptation to say”I’m not really feeling it today, I’ll go tomorrow” and then tomorrow never happens because something else inevitably comes up. This works really well for me and makes it easier to plan other commitments or social activities around it. My friends know, for example, that weekday evenings are tricky for me because of the time-consuming combination of commuting and working out, and that Mondays especially I’ll always decline because my boxing class is then. By making it clear that exercise is an important part of my routine to not only myself but my colleagues and people close to me, this reduces the number of times there are clashes and need to switch around days.
Having said that, be prepared to negotiate once in a while, and even forgo a workout completely if needed. There’s a danger that you can go too far in trying to make exercise part of your life, that it then ends up dictating your entire life! I try to get to a pilates class on a Saturday morning, but if I have other plans like going to see friends (or sometimes just needing a lie-in!) then I won’t go. I notice that a lot with people going on holiday - they get so scared of being away from the gym for a week, when in fact there’s nothing wrong with taking a break sometimes. It’s so important not to get into a cycle of shaming yourself when you do take time away because of other commitments, or simply to rest, because that’s not a healthy mentality or lifestyle either. Building it up in your head that you have to go to the gym just makes it more of a negative in your life rather than a positive, and means that you don't actually make proper use of the rest if you don't go!
By implementing these strategies I have managed to make exercise a priority rather than a chore, and in turn I have been able to get back to working out regularly. In short, the more it becomes part of your life, the easier it gets.
Leave a comment if you try any of these strategies and let me know how you get on!