Work takes priority in the majority of people’s lives. Not because we want it to or because we even enjoy it, but because in this recession people are especially grateful to hold onto a steady income. Long working hours, increased workloads and lack of energy have become the norm.
It is no wonder that our health, fitness and social lives suffer as a consequence to this mammoth presence in our lives. After all, there are only so many hours in the day. However, no matter how busy you are it is important to remember that you (and only you) are in control of your life and the way you manage your time so it is up to you to get the balance right. In these circumstances, exercise is usually the first important part of our lives to be sacrificed.
The reasons behind putting exercise on the back burner may vary, but there are tips and tricks that can help you make time for exercise in your life. You may not deem it as important right now, but exercise will help keep you active, healthy and energetic which in turn improves other areas of your life.
Identify Potential Obstacles
You need to be committed enough to sit down and make a plan which takes longer than 5 minutes. You need to consider the realistic obstacles which you will face which have the potential to derail your lifestyle change. If you are finding it difficult to list these, think of all the reasons which have prevented you from exercising so far and start from there. Try not to list things like ‘being too tired’ or ‘not enough time’, be specific. Why are you too tired? Or what is it in your day that is taking up so much time? The more prepared you are to face these challenges head on, the less likely you are to admit defeat and continue another year using the obstacles as excuses for not being as fit/healthy/successful as you could be. The first few weeks will be the hardest so once you are past this point you will find yourself going from strength to strength both mentally and physically in your new well balanced lifestyle.
If you are a very busy person, you probably already keep a diary. Having a look back through your diary to see what you have prioritised over the past few weeks is a good place to start. Buy yourself a new diary in which you can jot down business meetings during the day and fun activities for the evening. Ensuring a good balance of activities is important. If you want to dedicate yourself to the gym 5 nights per week that is fine, but it certainly isn’t the lifestyle for everyone. Combining activities with seeing friends and family is the best of both worlds and can help strike that all important balance between work, exercise, family and having a social life.
Cut out the things which sap your precious time and energy which you don’t enjoy. For example, watching TV when there is nothing you want to watch, spending too much time on social media sites when you have been sitting in front of a computer all day or gossiping with colleagues that you wouldn’t socialise with outside of work. All of these things can easily take an hour or more out of your day which you could be spending more wisely.
Learn To Say No
Some people are just too nice. It is important to be selfish once in a while to keep your own sanity! You can’t be pleasing others 24/7 without neglecting things that you would like for yourself, it will leave you stressed and exhausted. You should make time for yourself at least once a week, whether you choose to hit the gym, go for a run, relax with a yoga class or go for a massage is up to you, but ‘me’ time is important to health and happiness.
If after all the above you are still strapped for time, you can get creative in your current routine. Squats while brushing your teeth, abdominal crunches while waiting for the kettle to boil or doing mini circuits during the ad breaks on TV are all great options. Think of times in your routine where you are waiting around and fill them with something useful. I often do calf raises and the like while waiting for the train. Obviously if you go for the public option, subtle exercises are far more appropriate. Making these exercises a part of your routine will become habit and take up no extra time. For example, every time you brush your teeth perform 20 squats. An additional 40 squats every day is a step in the right direction.
Be 100% Committed
Check your diary. If it says work meeting, attend the meeting and be completely focused on what is going on in that room. Remaining active and alert at work will save you from struggling to remember what went on later, having to play catch up and stressing yourself out over something which could have been avoided. Similarly, if you are spending time with your family or exercising, don’t be checking your emails or making business calls. It is likely that the majority of your week is already spent at work; don’t let it cross over into your free time too.
Making yourself a healthy packed lunch is great for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps you to avoid junk food. Busy lifestyles and junk food are often interlinked, but it will not give you the sustained energy you need to make the most of your day. Secondly, if your lunch is already prepared all you need to do is take it out of your bag and eat it, wasting no time travelling to buy food or queuing up for it on your lunch break.
It is becoming increasingly common among the general population to experience regular sleep loss due to long work hours, hectic schedules and constant on-the-go lifestyles. In just the last 100 years, the average time spent sleeping in each 24 hour period has decreased by 1.5 hours!
Sleep and health have a vital relationship. The more you take care of your health, the more likely you are to have a restful night’s sleep. Similarly, the better your sleep duration and quality of sleep, the healthier you are likely to be.
Sleep and exercise may seem mediated by completely different physiological mechanisms but there is growing evidence of a vital relationship between the two. If you do not get enough sleep on a regular basis you risk losing your motivation, energy levels and ability to recover from exercise.
In short, no matter how busy you are do not sacrifice sleep. It will make you less productive and less energetic meaning that in the long run, you won’t save yourself any time.
Now you have made the necessary amendments in your lifestyle, there are many choices you can make to include exercise in your life. You have enough chores to deal with at home and at work, exercise should be a fun and energising part of your day not one of your chores.
If you have a serious TV addiction and/or don’t fancy leaving your sofa tonight after a hard day at work...you can still train without ever leaving the comfort of your living room! Whether you want to train during every ad break or watch your favourite show while exercising it is entirely up to you.
The sofa workout is a series of 13 exercises which you can do from the comfort of your sofa. Aim to do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps per exercise with progressions as your muscular endurance and strength improve. You will be surprised how much difference even a short workout will make to your physique, health and energy levels and you don’t have to miss out on the other things you enjoy!
Other great exercise alternatives to try at home are exercise DVDs and online videos. You can even get your family of friends involved and make it a fun part of the evening. Active games on the Wii fit and XBox are also perfect to get involved with. The programmes are fun and you can work up a sweat within minutes!
It is not the place for everyone and some people find the idea of hitting the gym very daunting, but once you get there it is an exercise playground full of different equipment designed to help you look and feel your best. If you need a little extra motivation you can always use a personal trainer to help you achieve your fitness goals and get rid of any stress you have accumulated that day.
As well as the obvious safety aspect, there are many reasons why having a training partner is one of the best things you can do to stay motivated. When you have a constant training partner you can share your journey with them. As you learn more about the other person’s training style, you will adapt to help motivate them. For example, some people thrive off of positive encouragement and some prefer a more negative, challenging vibe when pushing themselves to the limit during training.
A training partner will also hold you accountable to turn up to training sessions when you feel less motivated or to stick with your healthy diet when the junk food temptation is too much to bear.
It can also be beneficial to have a little healthy competition by your side. Having someone on par or better than you in training/progress/sport will encourage you to take chances, learn more and physically push yourself harder to increase your performance/health. Physically witnessing someone else achieve something you are striving towards makes it more possible in your mind which helps you progress towards your goal at a heightened pace. Without a competitive streak, some of the most amazing achievements in history would never have happened.
Buddying up adds to your social life while you exercise whether you are forming a new friendship or spending much needed time with an old friend.
There are many fun weekend activities suitable for families which do not involve consuming fast food, making small talk or spending hours on end in the car with restless children. Going for a bike ride, taking the children swimming or simply taking the dog for a walk can help bring the family closer together and keep everyone active in the process. If you are feeling more adventurous there are of course more extreme options for the thrill seeking couples! For example, sky diving, learning to water ski or heading for the many fun and exhilarating assault courses which have been built in forests and fields across the country.
It is possible to get a workout in at the office so that you have enough time to prioritise other aspects of your life in the evenings. Calf raises, glute clenches and ab strengthening exercises can all be performed at your desk discretely so that you do not become known as the office weirdo. You could also opt for getting rid of your desk chair and replacing it with a gym ball which is great for posture and core strength. You may get a few strange looks for that though!
Failing that, exercising before work or on your lunch break are time effective ways to get a workout into your busy routine.
As stated previously, it is all about finding a form of exercise which you enjoy. Perhaps you were into a particular sport as a child and you want to get back into it or maybe you want to try something new. There are more classes and a wider range of activities available to us nowadays which we can take advantage of. From adult gymnastics to rock climbing, there is something for everyone. Try to set aside one hour each week to attend a class that you love.
HITT (High Intensity Interval Training)
You probably don’t have enough time to be pounding the treadmill for 30 minutes but you might have enough time to squeeze in 3 x 10 minute workouts instead. The good news is that you may even reap better health and fitness benefits by exercising this way if you know which exercises are the most effective.
HIIT is a specialised adaptation of regular interval training which involves short intervals of maximum intensity exercise followed by longer intervals of low-moderate intensity exercise. Due to the varying nature of the intervals it is possible to condition both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. To reap the most from these workouts, you must be willing to push yourself to the limit for the duration of the high intensity intervals and resist the temptation to take a break between low and high intervals.
The difference between HIIT and other interval training regimes is that the high intensity intervals involve maximum effort not just raising your heart rate to 80% of its maximum. Once you begin HIIT training, you can adapt the length of intervals, number of intervals and number of training sessions per week according to your progress and lifestyle.
Driving to the gym in order to do cardio seems like a ridiculous waste of time if you are already short of it. If the gym is within running/cycling distance it is definitely an option to be explored. If you currently do no cardio and focus on weights, then adding this to your workout will not reduce the time you have for resistance training but it will help you to avoid injury, burn a few extra calories and improve cardiovascular health. If your work is within walking/biking distance from your house or it is possible to use other transport to within a walk-able distance it is a great way to fit some aerobic activity into your day. There are many other ways in which you can expend a few extra calories each day and stay a little more active. Avoiding lifts and taking the stairs is just one of the simple and effective ways to do this.