For many of us January is a month of goal setting, and I’m guessing at least some of you are aiming to get some or more exercise into your day. We all know why we should move our bodies; regular exercise reduces stress, boosts mood, increases cardiovascular health, prevents a myriad of diseases, and the list goes on. So what I’d like to talk about today isn’t why – we know that stuff – but how to fit exercise into your life.
Like I mentioned previously, one of my goals for 2015 is figuring out better work-life-blog-business balance. For the last several years my schedule has been fairly bonkers, what with completing my masters degree in nutrition all the while working full time, and now with starting a business, maintaining this blog, always working on my marriage, and trying to be good to my friends. It’s a lot!
Often exercise is the easiest thing to push to the side when things get a little crazy. I’m sure many of you live similarly jam-packed lives, so I thought I’d share some of the ways I build exercise into a hectic schedule.
Become a physically active commuter.
This is hands down the easiest way you can ensure exercise is a part of your day. Many years ago when I transitioned from a job at a fitness facility where I could always work out on my lunch break to a totally different life as a full time student with several part time jobs, I very quickly realized that those workouts weren’t going to happen as frequently as they had been.
So, I invested in really good rain gear (totally necessary when living in Vancouver) and started commuting on a bike instead of driving or taking the bus. All these years later having moved across the world and living a totally different life, I still rely on my commute to and from work for a good chunk of my daily exercise. It’s great to know that even if everything goes to hell I’ll have decent bike rides bookending my day.
For me, taking the subway or bus or riding my bike to work all take approximately the same amount of time, and even on a miserable rainy day when I bike past a steamy bus crammed full of people, I’m glad to be on my bike. I bike in comfortable bike clothes and whatever other gear the season demands, and change into my work clothes when I get to the office.
This week Stockholm is a sheet of ice so I’m walking instead of biking, which takes a bit more time, but it’s still exercise I’m glad to have, especially the walk home after sitting all day. And, it’s a great time for listening to podcasts!
I realize that physically active commuting isn’t realistic for everyone, but if it might work for you then get to it! If you live too far away to bike or walk the entire distance, consider going part way. Get off the train a few stops early, or park a good distance from where you work so you can get a bit of cardio in at the beginning and end of your day.
Evaluate your day.
A couple of years ago when I started working at my current job while still working on my MSc thesis, I found it was tough to make time for exercise. I was beating myself up trying to get a workout in before work and trying to work on my thesis in the evenings with a tired brain after having already spent most of my day on the computer.
I tried flipping my day around and working on my thesis early in the morning when my brain was fresh, and it worked much better! But doing a workout after leaving the office was still difficult for me, especially because my husband has a very early bedtime and I tend to work later than he does, so squeezing in exercise after I leave the office would mean I’d practically never see him. No good!
Luckily I discovered a swimming pool a short walk from my office, so for the past year or so I’ve been sneaking out for a swim on my lunch hour as often as I can. I love it because it really breaks up my day, gets me away from my desk for a while, and I feel like my brain works much better after I’ve had a chance to move my body. This works for me because I don’t mind coming back to the office with wet hair (although I have recently discovered the blow-dryers in the pool changing room) and I don’t mind eating lunch at my desk – though I can’t speak for how my colleagues in my open-plan office feel about the situation.
Many people I know wouldn’t be able to swing a lunch hour workout, or would prefer before or after work. We’ve all got different routines and different obligations, so you need to evaluate your day and figure out when it works best for you to fit in a workout, whatever that may be.
Every bit counts
In a perfect world we’d all be able to fit in a 30-60 minute workout several times a week. But sometimes life happens and exercise doesn’t. Don’t beat yourself up about it, and do what you can. Keep in mind that the 20-minute run you DID go for is a heck of a lot better than the 60-minute run you didn’t.
Exercise doesn’t have to be an all or nothing equation, so don’t let lack of time keep you from doing something. When you life changes your routines need to change with it. Whether you’ve just started a new job and the time you had for exercise is different than it was before, or you’re experiencing change in another way, figure out what you can do, and do that.
For example, I’ve haven’t been able to return to running since I broke my ankle in 2013, but I rediscovered my love for swimming and have really enjoyed being back in the water. One day I hope to be able to run again (but in order for that day to come I need to get my butt in gear and do my dang physio exercises) but for now I’m happy doing a combo of biking, swimming, and walking.
One of my goals for 2015 is to get back into a yoga practice and I need to figure out howwww to fit that into my life. Maybe to start just one class a week is ok. And maybe it’s ok to sacrifice one blog morning a week to move my body. Maybe I can shift weekend writing to another time of day and take advantage of the quiet mornings at home when my crazy husband is out on his long runs. I’ll figure it out, and so will you. Let’s do this. Let’s fit it in.