If you’re like most people, exercise is one of those things you should do – but just never have time for. You might start going for a week or two, but exhaustion from work or conflicting commitments keeps you from going.
It isn’t easy to stay in shape, but I’d like to suggest some strategies to squeeze exercise into a tight schedule.
Continuing is Easier Than Restarting
The biggest problem with going to the gym isn’t usually time – it’s motivation. When work is already exhausting you, finding the motivation to do one more thing seems impossible. This is why forming an exercise habit is so critical. When regular exercise is as routine as eating or sleeping, you won’t need to force yourself to go.
If you want to form an exercise habit, here's my suggestions:
Once-a-Day for 30 Days. Going once per day for thirty days will give you a strong foundation to build a habit from. After you get through the first three weeks, it becomes far easier to stick with it. Thirty days is all it takes to build a habit.
Have a Plan. Plan out how, where and when you want to workout. Showing up at the gym and not being sure what to do will only waste time and cause frustration.
Get a Friend. Convince a friend to go with you to the gym. The added peer support and motivation can help you stick it out through the first thirty days.
Squeezing In Exercise
Even if you do have a habit for exercising, time constraints can make fitting it into your schedule difficult. Here are some of the strategies I’d recommend so you can stay healthy in even the busiest times:
Pick a Workout Hour. Make your exercise time when it isn’t likely to conflict with other plans. I know people who enjoy early morning or late evening exercise plans. The benefit is that these hours tend to be devoid of time-sensitive commitments.
Natural Exercise. Creating a more active lifestyle can help when getting to the gym is impossible. That means taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of using a vehicle. This is another habit that requires implementing, so engaging in natural exercise won’t usually turn on as soon as you can’t head to the gym.
Plan a Hit & Run. Plan out a twenty minute or half hour workout. If your time is limited you may have to optimize your approach so less time is wasted changing and moving between exercises.
Match Up Shower Times. If people don’t want to come within ten feet of you after you’ve been to the gym, you’ll probably want a shower. But adding morning showers and post-workout showers can lengthen the time commitment. I recommend either placing your workout before you shower and get ready in the morning or place your shower after the workout.
Coordinate Schedules. If you go with a friend, plan schedules ahead of time so there won’t be conflicts that keep one of you from going. When you’re used to going with another person it can be difficult to motivation yourself to go solo. Have a backup plan in case you don’t have a partner to go with.
Combine Exercise and Leisure. Take up fun activities that force you to exercise and have fun. This combination can help when you want to exercise but don’t feel like heading into the gym.
Watch Your Elasticity. The elasticity of your exercise habit depends on how much you enjoy exercising and how long you’ve been doing it for. I could probably go several weeks off without too much trouble adjusting back into the routine. But if you’ve just started the habit, don’t let yourself miss too many consecutive days or the habit will snap.
Quick Workouts. When time is unusually tight, planning a quick workout can help. Coming up with intense but short workouts isn’t that difficult and most fitness magazines are loaded with them. Jogging, push-ups or going up and down the stairs can work when you can’t spend the time heading to a gym.
Consider it an Investment. Exercise isn’t just about looking good or living an extra ten years. It’s also about investing in your energy. Regular exercise boosts your energy so you can sleep better and be more alert throughout the day. Unfortunately if you don’t exercise regularly, it can be hard to see the difference after just a few days of exertion. Consider exercise to be a refuel.