One of the most common justifications people have for being unable to stick to a fitness plan is that they “don’t have time”. And given the 24/7 demands of our modern society, it can certainly feel like this is valid – between work, school, juggling multiple sports with various practices and games, and trying to have something resembling a social life, it can be all too easy to skip that trip to the gym because you’re just too busy.
But here’s the thing: while there are certainly examples of people who, through various circumstances, have both the means and the open schedule to easily get their workouts in, there are also plenty of examples – likely one of the people sitting in that school concert with you – who have more going on than you do, and they are still getting in two-to-three workouts a week. Now, it is an oversimplification to say, “we all have the same 24hrs”, because frankly – no, we don’t. However, just because you don’t have as much room or flexibility as that guy at the end of the row who retired by the age of fifty, it doesn’t mean that your health and wellness needs are going to be adjusted just to fit your schedule.
A lot has been said about the importance of language, and how you choose to frame your situation through words. For example, saying “I don’t have time to do that” takes the onus of responsibility off your shoulders, and places it externally – suggesting you have no control over what’s happening. But author Laura Vanderkam proposes that instead of saying “I don’t __________ because I don’t have the time”, replace it by saying “I don’t __________ because it’s not a priority to me” – then see how that feels.
“Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”
This is a lesson well applied to fitness. In fact, pay attention to how quickly you shift your reasoning when alternatives are presented. Get up 45mins earlier to fit in your workout? “I’m not at my physical best first thing in the morning.” Okay, stop in at the gym on the way home. “I’m too tired by the end of the day to even think about training.”
There will always be reasons and excuses. If you’ve recently decided to make your health a priority though, then here are some things that might help you in your pursuit of consistency.
How Much is Enough?
What should our weekly goal be? What type of training should we be doing?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the aim should be:
· 150mins of moderate aerobic activity or 75mins of vigorous aerobic activity
· Strength training 2x per week in a way that targets every major muscle group
Now, this may seem like a lot, but if you have a well-designed strength program that includes some sort of “vigorous aerobic activity” for 10-15mins at the end, and you’re able to get out for a couple of 30min brisk walks or hikes, then you’ll be hitting this minimum requirement.
Put another way – out of an estimated 7140 waking minutes, and with another approximately 2400 of them being dedicated to work, that means the amount of time required to meet the recommended target is 150 out of the remaining 4740 – a grand total of 3%.
In other words – you can do this.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Next, come up with success strategies by anticipating the more common rationalizations for missing an exercise session, and figuring out how to work around them.
“Something always comes up”
Some of us have less control over our schedule than others – maybe you’re in a service job and must be ready to head out at a moment’s notice, or you’re a business owner/manager and your days are spent putting out fires as they come up. Best solution for this situation? Get up three days a week an hour earlier and get your workout in before the day gets away from you.
“I don’t like going/don’t have time to get to the gym”
Sometimes, when you factor in the time it takes to go to and from the gym, as well as changing into and out of your workout gear, a 45mins workout can wind up taking two hours. The good news is, a few key items like some kettlebells and a suspension trainer are enough to at least maintain some strong, high-quality movement, if not make appreciable improvements. So if physically getting into the gym is what’s standing in your way, grab yourself a few essentials and get it done at home!
“I don’t know what I should be doing”
While anything is better than nothing, sometimes this is only barely the case. Better yet, grab yourself a program – the best option is to have one designed for you (if the cost matches your budget); otherwise, ask a professional for their recommendations – it might be an app, or go old school with a book! Sometimes what helps keep the motivation up the best is simply having a guide to follow – so try to find the best roadmap you can!
“My knee/back/hip always hurt when I work out”
Well, this in itself should be motivation to get active – sometimes performing consistent, quality movement provides the relief you’ve been looking for. But if this is what often derails your intentions, get in and see a professional to find out why it hurts, and what you can do about it. And remember – you’re the sum of multiple parts, so in the short term you can still start exercising… as long as you avoid things that hurt until you’ve had a professional evaluate the issue.
“I just don’t have the time in the week”
Okay – do yourself a favor: grab your smartphone and check your weekly usage. Where are you at? How about Netflix – how many hours of your favorite series did you watch? Could you devote some of that time to your 150mins of activity? Did you go out for a couple of drinks on Friday? Remember – it’s only 3% of non-work, non-sleep time… although you may have to give up some of the binge-watching or social media browsing, just keep in mind that you’ve adjusted your priorities and placed your health at the top of the pyramid.
Shift Your Mindset
Ultimately, it comes down to how essential this is to you. The reality of life is that there will always be a reason or excuse to not exercise – if you want one. Or, put another way – you can make it happen if it’s essential – and if it’s not, are no hacks or strategies that can ensure it. The desire, the motivation, they must be intrinsically driven – so lock onto something that IS valuable – whether it’s that sport that feeds your soul, that race you’ve always wanted to do, or simply the idea of being able to roughhouse with your grandchildren.
You DO have time – if it’s important enough.
It is necessary, I believe, to say at the outset that if you are someone that needs to work 2-3 jobs just to keep a roof over your head, boots for winter and food on the table for the family, the message of this article is not directed at you. You are doing everything you can, likely sacrificing yourself for the needs of the family – and I hope that you are able, sooner rather than later, to be in a secure enough position that you can give your own health and wellness the attention it deserves.