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How to Make Time for Exercise—and Stick with It

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“How do I create a fitness program that will last—when I’m time crunched, stressed, and overwhelmed?”


This is a question I’m asked all the time: “How can I fit it all in? I know I should exercise regularly but I just don’t have the time/motivation/resources/energy to do it.”


Consistent exercise is a big challenge for many women. Whether you are a busy professional, a solopreneur working from home, or you are home juggling the needs of small children, consistent exercise can be a difficult habit to start AND a challenge to maintain. Many of my clients report (when they start with me) that there just isn’t room (or energy) in their life to make it happen. And yet, regular physical activity is part of a successful recipe for thriving. Personally, I’ve learned that regular physical activity is one of my “non-negotiables.” Quite simply, it’s one of the things I need to be at my best. When it doesn’t happen, my energy, focus, creativity, and stress level are all impacted–not to mention my health. Here are the tips I’ve used to make exercise do-able and even enjoyable for me and many of my clients.


1. Have a fitness goal: Having an “end destination” will help keep you motivated and help you evaluate your progress. It’s important to know why you are asking yourself to do something. I’m a runner and even though it’s now something that I enjoy, I’ve learned that I stay more consistent with my workouts when I have specific running goals. Knowing I have a race I want to be ready for helps me stay on track with regular workouts and THAT motivates me to carve out the time for those workouts in my schedule.


2. Choose something that motivates you: Too many women pick something they hate for their fitness activity (like using the weird cardio gizmo they bought on TV, never enjoyed using, and that they feel guilty for buying in the first place) and then think of fitness as a “should” that they then dread. When you find something you love to do, it provides a double return on your energy and time investment, providing fun AND your exercise. Busy women need two-fers. Ask yourself, “What do you love to do with your body? What feels like play?” I’ve had clients give up the cardio machine for fencing, swing dancing, basketball, rollerblading, even conducting symphonies to the stereo in their living room—and they started having fun.


3. Have a fitness support system: For years, when my children were young, and my time was even more limited than it is now, I participated in online message boards and forums. The connections I made there kept me interested, motivated, and accountable–and I could access the support whenever it was convenient for me. I also didn’t need to reinvent the wheel—I could learn from other busy women who had similar goals. Now I have a running group that I run with. They challenge me, provide great information, and motivate me to show up for difficult workouts. I also have a weekly workout date with a good friend (who is also busy). The conversation and catch up time make those workouts a double win—and something I look forward to.


4. Be realistic about what you can accomplish: When my kids were young, I gave up my gym membership because it was just too stressful to try to get there. I realized that if I worked out at home, I saved on commute time. If I worked out in the morning, I saved on the time it took for an extra shower. I accumulated workouts on DVD that were ten and fifteen minutes long. I’d save time by doing core work as a warm up and skipping the official warm up part of the routine. I didn’t paralyze myself with unattainable expectations of what a “real” workout was. I did what I could.


5. Be realistic, but do SOMETHING: I’ve learned over the years, that no matter what kind of shape I am in, the hardest part of any workout is getting started. I can enjoy a run in all kinds of crazy weather, but there are a lot of mornings it’s hard to get up off the couch and head out the door. I have a commitment to myself, on my scheduled running days, that I will always commit to simply leaving the house—knowing that I can always turn around and cut my workout short. When I’m doing a DVD or another kind of workout it’s the same commitment. I’ll start and give it ten minutes. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’ll finish and on the rare days when that doesn’t happen, I call it good and give myself credit for getting out of the chute.

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