What is the No. 1 excuse for not exercising?
Survey says: “Lack of time.”
But is it truly that we’re too busy, or is it something deeper?
Each day, life seems to pull our attention in a hundred different directions—family, work, social media, chores, errands.
Amongst it all, exercise can easily get lost in the shuffle. And for millions of Americans, that’s exactly what happens. Their time to exercise just seems to disappear.
However, let’s break down a typical week and point out how it’s almost always possible to make time for exercise. Note that I say “make.” If you expect it just to happen, it probably won’t. But if you make an effort to truly find the time, you can.
Time is our most valuable commodity. No matter what, we’re all on a level playing field when it comes to how many hours we get each week.
There are 168 hours in a week. For the sake of simplicity, let’s divide our time into three equal parts or “slices of pie.” We have our work slice, our sleep slice, and our everything else slice.
Fifty-six hours allotted to the work week, 56 hours to sleep, and 56 hours for everything else.
If you work a 9-5, you get paid for a 40-hour work week. I understand that most jobs demand more time than those 40 hours, so I’ve allotted an extra 16 hours for your commute, answering emails, etc. No excuses there.
If you get to sleep eight hours each night, you’re looking at your second slice of 56 hours (My 9-month-old doesn’t believe in sleep, but this isn’t about me).
That leaves us with our last slice to get everything else done.
This time is reserved for high-priority tasks like spending time with our kids or enjoying time with our significant other along with our friends. We also have our ever-important “me” time, which can be spent doing things like reading, meditating or watching a movie. We also have to use this time to grocery shop, go to the post office or clean the house. Since skipping out on work to go exercise isn’t do-able for most people, and since sacrificing sleep to exercise isn’t the best idea, it’s out of this third 56-hour slice we must “find” time to exercise.
Clients tell me all the time that they are simply too busy to exercise. Again, I understand that life is chaotic. But you want to know what I hear when someone tells me, “I don’t have time to exercise”?
I hear, “Exercise isn’t a priority for me.”
With that in mind, let’s go into my top 9 tips for making time for exercise.
1. Make an Exercise Plan
No matter where, when, how or how long you’re going to be exercising, you need to go in with some sort of plan.
The worst thing you can do is squeeze in some time for a trip to the gym and then realize you have no idea what you’re going to do when you get there. You then proceed to spend the next half hour walking on the treadmill, knocking out a few half-hearted sets of Bicep Curls, then leave unsatisfied.
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
Not only should you plan when and where you’re going to exercise, but also how you’re going to be exercising. Taking regular exercise classes and/or following a concrete training program can be a helpful way to get your “how” without having to think too hard about it.
I always like to use Sundays to plan the week and Wednesdays to reassess my initial schedule and re-shape as needed.
If you never plan on exercising, it won’t just suddenly happen.
2. Write It Down
A mental plan is great. A written one is even better.
Block out time in your calendar strictly for exercise, the same way you would a meeting or conference call. Respect that time and make it sacred.
Take it one step further, and treat this time as though it’s like dealing with a broken water heater.
“What, Kevin? Have you lost it? We’re talking about exercise.”
Hear me out. If your water heater breaks and is flooding your house, even the world’s busiest person will find the time to get it fixed, no matter how packed of a schedule they might have. Treat your exercise sessions with the same urgency, and you’ll be surprised how consistently you work out.
3. Find 5 Minutes
Even the busiest person in the world can find five minutes for themselves. Find a point in your day to work in five minutes of “me” time. You’ll be surprised how far a few minutes of self-care will take you. Five minutes slowly turns to 10 which turns to…you get where I’m going with this one.
Sometimes, committing to a small task snowballs into greater long-term gains. Use this tactic to jumpstart your workout routine. Research has proven that, without a shadow of a doubt, a few minutes of walking or Push-Ups is far better than doing nothing!
4. Identify (and Eliminate) Time-Wasters
The people who tell me they’re “too busy” to work out likely spend a significant amount of time doing nothing each day.
It’s just a fact of life; most people do it.
They spend time mindlessly zoned out in front of a social media feed or a bad TV show.
I’m not saying you can’t ever watch TV or go on your phone, but it’s really those periods where you default to doing those things because you believe you’ve got nothing better to do that we’re looking to eliminate.
Because guess what? You do have better things to do—like exercise!
I also believe that incredibly long to-do lists can also make us feel overwhelmed and resigned to the idea we won’t get to exercise.
I’m not saying not to have a to-do list. But if the act of writing down what you need to do takes longer than actually doing it, you’re wasting your time. I like to incorporate what I call the “2 minute rule.” If a task will only take a couple of minutes to do, then try to address it while it is in front of you and fresh in your mind rather than jotting it down for later.
Too often, we get caught up in this “paralysis by analysis” state rather than just taking action.
5. Be Painfully Positive
This one has the power to change your entire life.
Negative self-talk will stop you before you even get the chance to start. Do you find yourself constantly thinking, “I don’t have time to work out?” With an attitude like that, of course there’s no time!
Instead, approach your day with a can-do attitude (even if it feels like you’re forcing it at first). By being open to the idea you can accomplish more rather than immediately shutting it down, you’ll slowly shift your mindset.
Too often we tell ourselves that we have to do something, rather than we get to do something. Exercise can and should be an enjoyable experience. Understand that change doesn’t always come from being comfortable. But pushing our body and mind to its limit can be an incredibly powerful thing. Flip that mental switch from “I can’t” to “I can and I will.” The only way to know if you can do something is to go out and try!
In time, you’ll begin to think about all that you can accomplish rather than what you can’t, and you’ll suddenly be more productive than ever.
6. Put Your Phone Down
I already hit on this a little bit, but it bears repeating.
Smartphones have certainly made our lives more convenient, but they’re also incredibly addictive time-sucks. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about all the terrible things screen time is doing to you and your brain (so much so that I could write an entire article on this topic).
Aimlessly scrolling is so darn easy to do, and before you know it, you’ve watched three hours worth of cat videos. There surely has to be a better way to spend time!
Set limits on when and how long you can look at your phone. Some phones even have these type of features built-in (Thanks, Steve Jobs).
Simply cutting down on the time we spend staring down at our phone each day can open up significant opportunities for other, more productive activities.
7. Do it Early
Willpower can often feel like a limited resource.
By the end of an exhausting day, it’s pretty easy to talk yourself out of hitting that gym session or going for a run.
This is why working out first thing in the morning can be a valuable tool for many people. There’s something special about knowing you’ve worked out before most people have even gotten out of bed.
While I don’t recommend you do so at the sacrifice of your sleep, if you can shift your sleep schedule around to accommodate a morning workout, you have a great opportunity to make exercise a consistent part of your life.
Make things even easier by laying out your workout clothes the night before.
Remember, nothing will work unless you do!
8. Get an Accountability Buddy
This one isn’t for everybody, but if it works for you, then awesome!
Be a social butterfly. Get your friends and family involved and tell them about your goals (or even join in). When you have a workout buddy who depends on you to meet them in the gym at 5:30 after work, you’ll be much more likely to show up. Use your social relationships to help keep you accountable.
This can also apply to exercise classes. Once you get into a groove and friendly faces come to expect you to show up to class, you’ll find getting there on a regular basis is a lot easier.
9. Be Realistic
In the end, we’re all just trying to be better versions of ourselves.
If you miss a workout, don’t beat yourself up too bad.
There are only two things in life that we can control: our attitude, and our effort (shout out to my dude Eric Byrnes).
Approach each day with a “can-do” attitude and give what you have. Some days you’ll be able to give more than others, but remember that consistency is key.
Change is constant, but progress is not. What can you do each day, no matter how small, to make progress?
Something is always better than nothing.
Always strive to do something, and you’ll be surprised at just how far that can take you.
If you want a free bodyweight workout you can do anytime and anywhere, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: TIMECRUNCHED. Thanks for reading!
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