A busy schedule can definitely be a roadblock to getting and staying fit. But whether you have demanding work hours, a long list of errands or a family that’s hungry for both food and attention, you can find ways to squeeze in healthier habits.
Here are some strategies that you may find effective in helping to make time for your health and fitness. Keep in mind that what works perfectly for your best friend may not work at all for you, even if the two of you have similar difficulties with finding time to work out.
When you start, make small changes. If you find something that works, stick with it, but if you’re using a strategy that frustrates or exhausts you, try something else. You’re more likely to make time for fitness in the long term if you employ techniques that are convenient and that you enjoy using.
Wake Up Earlier
You don’t have to be a morning person to fit your workouts in before the crack of dawn. For most people, actually getting out of bed is the hardest and most unpleasant part, so if you can get through that, you may even start to like early-morning exercise. It’s nice to be done before the world is awake and to feel like the whole day is ahead of you, completely yours for the taking. It also means you won’t have to cram in a workout later in the day, after your to-do list may have grown frighteningly long.
Break It Up
According to researchers from Arizona State University, three 10-minute sessions of aerobic exercise per day are just as effective—and maybe even more so—than one 30-minute session. If that’s the case, why not take advantage of it? In the morning, set your alarm just 10 or 15 minutes earlier, and fit in a short walk or a brief session on the treadmill. Do the same thing at the beginning of your lunch break, and then once more when you get home from work or before going out with friends. A bonus with this technique is that each workout feels short, sweet and not nearly as torturous as one long session.
Plan and Pack
Planning is a bit of a paradox: It takes time, but it also frees up a lot of time. If you have a busy schedule, preplanning is an indispensable tool. On the night before a workout, throw your exercise clothes and a bottle of water into your gym bag – or just always keep a bag with those items in your car. Those short moments of prep mean you’re a lot more likely to follow through later with a trip to the gym.
You can use the same strategy with snacks. Whether you anticipate getting the munchies or not, pack several single-serving bags of nuts, lean jerky, dry whole grain cereal or fresh fruit and veggies. That way, there’s no need to hit the vending machine when hunger strikes.
The busier you are, the harder it can be to find time for fitness – but it’s there. First, figure out the biggest challenges for you, then make a plan to tackle them. Bad at self-motivation? Hire a personal trainer or recruit a workout buddy. Have excess money but not much time? Ask a babysitter to watch your kids while you go to the gym. Easily distracted? Keep a time journal for yourself so you become aware of just how much time you’re wasting playing Candy Crush or surfing Facebook. Then use those moments to work up a sweat instead.