How to Combine Training with other Commitments

How to Combine Training with other Commitments 

After my child was born and I started my business it became a nightly ritual to vow that my new exercise regime would “start tomorrow”.  In reality every tomorrow saw me sitting in a frazzled mess wondering where the last 12 hours had disappeared to without even coming close to smelling the Lycra!

Lives across the country vary dramatically from professionals who are required to factor in a two hour commute to work, to parents who have to figure out how to survive on two hours sleep!  We are pulled between professional and personal commitments, daily errands, house keeping, garden sweeping, phones beeping, children weeping and social network peeping.  As we increasingly get caught up in the madness of modern life, time can become something that tricks us, eludes us and ultimately robs us of doing the things that we know are vitally important for our physical and mental wellbeing.

Very recently, my own management of time came under scrutiny after signing up to do a half marathon with Team ACAI.  After using every excuse ever written to find reasons why I couldn’t exercise (and inventing some new ones for good measure) I suddenly had no choice but to find reasons why I could.  I quickly discovered that there is nothing like putting a goal with a date on it to get you focused, organised and motivated to get the job done.  Ultimately it’s all about priorities and putting time to exercise on top of that list.

Once you have made the decision to set your own health and wellbeing as a priority, the first thing you need to do is plan ways in which you can maintain a regime that’s enjoyable, right for you and most importantly fits into your time crunched world.  Here are some top tips from my own experience and I hope you might benefit from them too. 

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1) Plan exercise as part of your daily routine

One mistake that I repeatedly used to make, was setting exercise goals that weren’t just unrealistic they were downright fantasy!  Now that I am juggling an 18 month old child and a business, I can no longer hit the gym for an hours spin class, half an hour weights and a relaxing steam and Jacuzzi to replenish my muscles.  Exercise needs to be done when and where I can fit it in.   

Be realistic with what you can achieve and then plan to make sure it happens.  At the beginning of each week sit down and plan your schedule, write down the things that you absolutely have to do and then fit your exercise around it.  Perhaps you can run or cycle to work a couple of days a week or research gyms nearby that offer an express-spin or abs class during your lunch hour.  If you are at home with your children, plan your exercise around their naps or their time at nursery.  There are increasingly more classes that allow you to exercise with your baby or if you prefer to stay at home, simply recruit them as resistance weights for squats, bench presses and lunges!

2) Maximise the hours in your day 

Taking into account the optimum 8 hours sleep required by most human beings, we each have around 16 hours in the day available to us – it’s how we use those hours that counts.  Try setting your alarm an hour earlier than everyone else in your household and gift yourself that time to walk, run, swim, cycle, or get your morning sweat on with some High Intensity Interval Training.  It may initially be a struggle but you will be thanking yourself when your endorphins are dancing around everyone else’s bleary eyes.  Morning exercise can also go a long way to improving your productivity throughout the day so it’s a win-win situation.

If the thought of setting your alarm early gives you night-sweats then you need to look at adjusting your time in the evenings.  Taking 30 minutes for evening yoga, pilates or tai chi not only improves your body’s strength and stamina but also helps to quiet your mind in preparation for a great night’s sleep.  

Figure out what works best for you and as above – plan it into your schedule.  If your mind unequivocally knows that you are getting up early or exercising at night it will focus and prepare you to get the most out of that time.

3) Enlist Support

Whether you are putting in the hard yards for a specific event or simply mustering the will power to get up for an early morning walk – maintaining the discipline can sometimes feel lonely.  A hugely effective way of counter acting this is to enlist the support of others.  Knowing that someone else is working towards the same goal can play a huge part in keeping each other motivated.  It may not always be possible to train together but there are so many other ways to create that team spirit.  Think about starting a What’s App group with friends who want to complete a 10K or other challenge – there’s nothing like being sent a picture of your sweaty friend having completed a run or workout at the gym to motivate you to do the same. 

I would also encourage you to explore the world of fitness apps and enroll in the various challenges these offer.  The great things about these challenges is that they are goal specific but allow you to complete the goal in your own time e.g. Run 10K in October/How Far can you Cycle in November?  They give you the freedom to choose something that you enjoy, challenge you to go further than you might do alone and come with the benefits of joining a group of like-minded people who are on the same journey.     

4) Do Something…….Anything!

Despite my emphasis on the importance of planning, I know from personal experience that sometimes even the best-laid plans go array.  When you have the kind of day where your boss throws an unexpected deadline on your desk, your car breaks down on the school run or your child is ill and surgically attached to you, it can be very easy to throw your exercise plans out of the window and yourself into the bottom of the biscuit barrel.  It’s at times like this that you need to take a deep breath and remember that doing something….anything, is better than doing nothing. 

You Tube or Fitness Apps provide an inexhaustible list of 10-minute workouts, meditations, stretches or simply escape your stresses by taking yourself off for a 15-20 minute walk in nature.  On days like this keep your mind and body flexible to other opportunities that fit around you; but if you have a day that is so unexpectedly disastrous you just have to designate it as a rest day - that’s perfectly okay too! 

5) Wasting Time on Social Media     

We all know it, we all do it, and in my opinion we all need to wake up to just how much time we are wasting on social media.  According to SocialMedia Today people spend up to 2 hours every day browsing social media platforms but because this is broken up throughout the day we very rarely consider how much collective time we spend mindlessly scrolling.  The next time you feel stressed out, starved of time and overwhelmed by all the things you need to do, take a while to figure out just how much time you are letting slip by staring at your phone, tablet or laptop. 

What worked well for me was assigning 30 minutes in the morning and evening to do the useful and necessary jobs on social media.  I discovered that this not only freed up time to exercise but also enabled me to engage more mindfully with my children, partner and the real world around me.  As we move closer to a world that converges physical and digital realities we must govern ourselves to take time away from our screens to nurture and preserve our physical and mental wellbeing.

Hopefully in the writing of this article I have conveyed some ways that demonstrate how if we want to badly enough, see the need seriously enough and love ourselves well enough - we can always find the time to exercise.  The practical side of ‘how’ is often easier than we think if we are determined to overcome our barriers, face our fears and see just what we can achieve when we start to incorporate healthy active lifestyles into our daily routine.

As Walt Disney once famously stated ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’.