by Haley Cahill-Teubert, Sigma Gamma (Appalachian State U), Certified Personal Trainer
“I just don’t have time.”
That’s probably the most commonly cited reason for not exercising regularly.
I get it. We all have days that are just totally swamped… Days where we move from one meeting or class to the next… We barely have time to eat lunch, “LOL” at that 4 p.m. Orange Theory class… Totally not happening today.
But most of us don’t have those kinds of days every day. So let’s approach this with a typical day in mind and let’s acknowledge a little more truth: We find time for the things that matter.
Or we should, anyway…
We should make time for things that are priorities… At the end of the day all we truly have is our bodies… Shouldn’t we take care of them? Shouldn’t we make time for that?
The thing about health is that we either willingly make time for it now or we’re forced to make time for it later–when it’s too late–when there’s already an issue. It’s so much easier, cheaper and more fun to be proactive.
We all know we need to exercise. But I’ve found that most people don’t have a realistic idea of just how much. It’s recommended that we get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise.
150 minutes. That’s about 21 minutes, 7 days a week or 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.
That’s really not much… Especially when you think about how much time we kill watching Netflix or scrolling social media.
A few months ago, I set this alert on my phone to go off when I spend 20 minutes on Instagram. And I’m kind of ashamed to tell you, I usually get that alert ping before I’ve even gotten out of bed in the morning. And if we’re being honest, I get that notification every single day of the week.
My point is that I easily have 20 minutes each day that I could spend exercising. (And still plenty of time to scroll Instagram.)
Unfortunately, though, so many of us have put parameters around exercise and what it should look like. So I want to share a couple strategies that I believe will help you prioritize something as important as your health by getting in the exercise you need with the time you have.
Have a Realistic Attitude
First and foremost, I want us to come to the table with realistic expectations and goals. I want to remind you of those recommendations: 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 of moderate aerobic exercise.
I’m a firm believer that we should be moving our bodies daily or at least most days. The human body is not designed to be sedentary. To get to that 150 goal, that means we just need to do something active for about 20 minutes each day. Or if you want to make the goal of getting some exercise in 5 days a week, that would be 30 minutes of exercise on those days.
Sometimes exercise feels impossible to weave into our schedules because we think it has to be 60 minutes every single day of the week, so it’s important to remember those recommendations and not have unrealistic expectations.
Put Time on Your Side
Second, with these recommendations and with your own goals in mind, let’s put time on your side.
Let’s shift our mindsets from: I don’t have time for exercise today to: With the time I have today, this is how I can exercise.
There is no rule book anywhere, that I’m aware of anyway, that says you have to get all of your exercise in at one time.
So if I’m shooting for 30 minutes, 5 days a week for a total of 150 minutes per week, I like to treat that like a puzzle. Maybe that means I do a 15-minute run in the morning and go for a 15-minute walk after work. Or maybe I do a 10-minute HIIT workout in the morning and take my dog for a long walk on my lunch break.
And on the busiest of weeks when I can’t seem to get 30 minutes in, a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood or campus is better than nothing! Rather than say you don’t have time, take advantage of whatever time you do have.
Understand Your Energy
Third, I want you to be self-aware with respect to your energy levels. I have the most energy in the mornings, so I try to schedule my workouts then. Plus, I know that the longer I wait to workout, the lower my chances are of actually working out. Maybe you’re the opposite… And that’s ok. Or maybe you’re someone who likes to get movement in on your lunch break. Understand your energy levels and your schedule, and use that to your advantage as much as you can.
Put It On Your Calendar
You wouldn’t miss an important work meeting or a group project presentation, so you probably have those important events on your calendar. I consider my workouts equally important because that’s time for me to focus on myself and my health, so I block off time on my schedule for my workout each day. It’s designated time for me to knock out my workout at a time of day that works best for me. And by having it on my calendar, it means my co-workers see I’m busy and don’t schedule meetings or calls with me at that time. That is my time to prioritize myself and my health.
We’re all busy, but we make time for the things that matter. And our bodies–our health–matters. On even the busiest of days, we can find some time for fitness by being realistic with our goals and flexible with how we accomplish them, in addition to prioritizing it and scheduling it for the time that works best for us.