Most people, deep down, want to be healthy, active, strong, and fit. But until the clever scientists invent a pill to do all that: you know you gotta exercise. Motivation? You may have tons! But how are you supposed to find the time to get in shape?
What with demanding jobs,
But somehow President Barack Obama makes time to exercise. Um, is your job that much more important than his? A study of exercise and top executives found that CEO's and other higher ups who exercised regularly kicked unfit executive ass when it came to overall leadership effectiveness. And more specifically, they outperformed the sluggards when it came to "inspiring commitment, credibility, leading others, leading by example, energy, resilience and calmness."
Yet again though... how do they find time to do it? Clearly, people who work out consistently despite busy schedules must have some secrets.
I exercise religiously, but then I'm not a top executive, nor President of anything other than my own imagination. Nor am I a parent, a moonlighter working two jobs, a full time student, or an office worker with a 2 hour commute. And even I struggle sometimes to fit everything in. So I can only guess how the super-achievers do it. But it does seem as though there are some common themes among folks who, whatever life demands they face, are almost never too busy to exercise.
1. Plan It
Sounds obvious, but the biggest mistake many motivated but busy folks make is to substitute wishful thinking for planning. "Hmm, maybe I'll get up early tomorrow? Maybe after work I'll go for a run?" Maybe you'll get to the end of the week and realize you haven't done squat? Consistent exercisers have schedules and routines and back-up plans. They anticipate logistical problems, are prepared for last minute schedule changes, have worked out all kinds of alternatives depending on the circumstances, and are generally prepared with the right clothes and equipment.
2. Combine Exercise With Other Activities
Pets! Family! Friends! They're all important to spend time with... maybe a hilly hike or a game of frisbee or a bike ride instead of getting together over a big meal? Oh, wait, dogs are notoriously bad bicyclists. But perhaps you could romp around with your pooch and sneak in some intervals rather than standing there throwing balls for him or her to chase.
If there's a TV show you just gotta watch... could you stretch during it? Walk on a treadmill?
Got any chores you could do the "hard" way? Swap a hand mower for a power one, walk or bike to the library, etc.?
3. Substitute Exercise for Useless Addictive Time-Sucks
Depending on how much time you like to waste, this could be as powerful as creating extra hours of the day by cutting out aimless web surfing or crappy tv shows. Or it could be as minor as swapping out some of the little compulsive breaks you don't even realize you're taking during the day to check things that don't need such constant attention...whether it be email, social networking sites, sports scores, stock prices, or your feed reader. What if instead you took more of those mini-breaks by stretching, or doing a couple of squats, or getting up for a drink of water?
4. Increase Workout Efficiency
Often it's possible to do two things at once, or substitute exercise intensity for extra time. Examples are circuit training, which incorporates cardio by the use of rapid strength training; interval training, which can allow you to get a
5. Sneak Exercise Into Your Day
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've all heard these before. But are you doing them? Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further from the building, commute by bike or on foot, use a stand-up workstation or treadmill desk, use your lunch hour for a walk or run and eat a rushed sweaty meal later on at your desk. And as mentioned above, you could do stretches or relatively stationary exercises like calf raises, squats or isometrics to take a break while going about your day.
6. Ditch the Perfectionism
If you have a demanding life, and try to compare your exercise accomplishments to the stuff you read or see on tv, you're never going to feel like it's enough. Weirdly, this does not motivate better performance, often it does the opposite! Many well-meaning folks fail to take advantage of perfectly good opportunities because they seem too wimpy compared to perfect-world exercise heroics shown on tv.
If you're busy, every little bit counts! So sure, try to strategize as to how you could get more out of the time you have, but if there's no time for the gym, maybe you could slip in a playout at the playground with your kid, or walk for half an hour after dinner. Something is always better than nothing.
7. Find the Joy
What sort of exercise gets you excited? Hiking? Tennis? Dance? Skateboarding? Golf? Window shopping? Busy people sometimes unconsciously equate "fun" with "naughty." But scheduling time for exercise that you look forward to is not self-indulgent, it's crucial for your health and productivity. And activities you love to do, or at least don't hate, are much easier to stick to in the long haul.
8. Get A Wife
I suspect that's the real secret of so many CEO's who handle huge jobs but still fit in workouts. They've got someone else taking care of all the random crap that isn't work-related. However, going out and procuring a wife may prove difficult for the average heterosexual female.
So what to do about domestic duties if you also work outside the home? Left to their own devices, shopping, errands, bill-paying, cooking, cleaning, child-care, etc. will expand to fit every available hour of the day and consume every spare minute you've got.
This is a huge subject, and none of these are easy, but some areas to explore are: getting better organized; lowering unrealistically high parenting and housekeeping standards; renegotiating family responsibilities so they are shared more equally; financial juggling to prioritize hiring help if possible; exploring exercise-with-kids options (jogging strollers, gyms with daycare, etc), and multi-tasking discussed above in #2.
9. Get A New Life
Some people are fortunate--they wake up each morning pretty darn happy to see what the day will bring. (Or, in some cases, and we won't name names, they wake up in a semi-coma but after a lovely cup of coffee then they feel all excited to start their day). These lucky folks know that while it's a balancing act, and there will be inevitable obstacles, basically they'll have a decent chance of getting exercise, because it's something important to them. They also look forward to accomplishing stuff that means something to them, and even expect to have a fair amount of fun before the day is over.
But many folks wake up thinking... oh damn, it's Monday. They seem to settle into careers, geographical locations, lifestyles, attitudes, social lives, and even marriages--that don't reflect their true priorities anymore. Especially if it's not just exercise that ain't happening, but other sources of joy, accomplishment, and fulfillment. But rather than explore whether and how life could be better, most people find it a whole lot easier to pretend everything's just fine and let the years pile up without rocking the boat or challenging themselves.
And yeah, this last item is indeed an underhanded ploy to plant subliminal life coachy suggestions in the minds of vulnerable readers who aren't truly happy with the status quo. Apologies to those of you who are! But hey, you get that fun little buzz of recognition as your register that you're someone who's got it all pretty much figured out already.
10. Find Other Ideas on the Web
Our pal The Merry just put up a post on this very topic over at her awesome blog Sheesh.
A quick google search turns up lots of links for fitting more activity and exercise into your life. But I'm only going to list a few, and confess that I haven't taken time to have reviewed them. 'Cause guess what? Y'all know how to google too, and it's time for me to work out! And if any of you bloggers out there have written about this and want to share an URL in the comments, I'd love to include you in the list too.
Article on Fitting Fitness into a Busy Schedule
Web MD video on Too Busy to Exercise?
A presentation on Too Busy to Exercise. (Can you tell what google search term I used?). It's not bad-- but unfortunately it's in friggin' Power Point format.
Want to know what the movers and shakers are doing to keep fit? 'Drea, who also has a great blog, just alerted me to this WSJ series call "What's Your Workout?"
What sort of obstacles do you busy-but-fit folks contend with? Got some handy tips?