It’s that challenge we all face – balancing work, life, fitness, and eating well within limited hours in the day. If you feel like that is an impossible goal, you are not alone. Between the hours we work, time commuting, errands, family time, and all the other parts of our lives, how do we manage a successful fitness regimen? If you move away from fixating on what cannot get done, and instead focus on how to balance realistic fitness goals in your available time, you will find that you can win the battle between work and fitness.
First, accept and understand your realities. Second, accept that you have time to work out. Third, accept that working out does not always mean being in a gym, pounding out weights or cardio sets.
Do not think of your workout as an “all or nothing.” Starting with that mentality will set you up for failure. Instead, strive for a realistic routine that accommodates your schedule. Moreover, planning is an important part of maintaining fitness against a busy lifestyle. Lastly, be creative in how you exercise and look beyond the gym.
So let’s take a look at how this can be applied…
Fitness Options Outside of the Gym
Maybe you have not realized it yet, but you can work out anywhere. Whether at home, stuck in the office, or traveling between hotel rooms, you have options. Here is a basic list to consider for training outside of the gym:
- Body weight exercises. These require only you, and sufficient floor space. Think back to your days at school and you know most of the exercises – push ups, jumping jacks, burpees, abdominal crunches, mountain climbers, running in place, and others. These all use nothing more than your body, and if you put together a circuit, you can get a good 20 minute workout into any schedule. It will make you feel better, keep you mentally focused, alleviate stress, and work towards your fitness goals.
- Cardio anywhere. Have a pair of work out shoes? Guess what, then you can do cardio anywhere. Take a brisk walk, run through a park, do stair intervals, and just be creative. Again, you might have your preferences, but if you throw on some gym clothes and your shoes, you can get in an easy 20 minutes of cardio into your day.
- Yoga. We’ve talked about the benefits of yoga before. But yoga is also an easy fitness element to incorporate into a busy day. It takes little space, and if you use the basic moves we suggested in our yoga article, you can get a solid 20 minute yoga workout done.
- HIIT. Perfect for a 20 minute workout, the idea is that you do short periods of all-out work followed by short periods of active rest to make the body work harder than it does during steady-state cardio. You can factor this into body weight exercises, cardio, or a combination of both.
- Portable fitness gear. You’ve seen these – straps, bands, door attachments, etc. They are low cost, easily fit into your car trunk, suitcase, office drawer, or any small spot. A small investment, but they offer more options and can be brought out and put away in little time.
- Stretch at the desk. Push your keyboard away, relax, and go through a stretching cycle at your desk. Work on your neck, shoulders, and back. Stand up and stretch out your arms to expand your torso. Breathe steady, and repeat. Do this for 10 minutes. You will feel fresh, mentally alert, and you will help maintain healthy blood circulation.
Now you’ve probably noticed we keep mentioning 20 minutes. That is not by chance. While not an optimal time for a workout duration, it is highly likely you have 20 minutes in any busy day you can put towards a fitness program. So think of it in that matter – get your mind around 20 minutes. Stop thinking about the 90 minute routine you cannot get done, and feeling defeated. Think small, and start there. We are willing to bet that after figuring out how to get 20 minutes into your day, it will grow to longer times very quickly as you find ways in your schedule to make fitness happen.
Speaking of schedule, you need to be be mindful of your schedule, and plan ahead if you want to win the fitness vs work battle. What do we mean? We mean the little things that can derail your efforts. No clothes on hand – then pack your bag the night before, so you do not forget when rushing to get ready for work – and put it in your car or by the door. Prep your meals and pack a lunch. Can you eat at your desk? Can you avoid the time it takes to go get food during the day that you could otherwise give to a fitness routine?
Oh, and is your favorite show on? Well push the coffee table to the side, and break out into a series of exercise mini-circuits. Make it fun – every commercial is butterfly kicks!
Just remember, you have the time.
Food and Nutrition
As busy as our days can become, we need to keep mindful of a healthy diet, particularly if we plan to incorporate a fitness program or exercise on any level. While easy at times, this can be more challenging when you have long work days. You need to keep your body fueled with proper, macronutrient balanced meals. If not, you will feel sluggish, possibly slowly develop health risks, and in those busy hours, likely have little energy or inclination to squeeze in a fitness routine.
If you plan your meals, you can avoid this. Wait, you say, I do not have time to meal prep! Relax, we said plan your meals, not prep the meals. Again, we know you are busy, but you can still think ahead. Keep healthy snacks in your bag or desk. Protein powder tubs have a nice way of finding spaces to hide. Stop ordering the greasy double cheeseburger for lunch – go for the healthy option. No not salad, but we’ll bet there is chicken or fish somewhere on the menu too!
Sleep is your body’s primary recovery mechanism. You need it on both a physical and mental level. All your hard fitness training is best achieved with adequate sleep. So whether you are hitting the gym, or doing shorter versions to accommodate your schedule, remember to always get adequate rest.
Remember, you can build muscle and keep the fat off even with a competing schedule. Your fitness efforts do not have to lose out. Make your workout something you will enjoy, and tell yourself you will get it done – schedule it, plan it, and make it happen. Every exercise, every rep, every session – whether in the gym, or at home at the end of a long day is a step towards achieving and maintaining your fitness goals.