Finding Time to Exercise

More and more people are asking me about my weight loss and telling me they envy my new body and my energy. Somewhere in many of those conversations I hear things like: “I can’t afford the time it takes.” “I wish I had the time.” “I don’t have time.” “I have too many things to do.” and similar statements. I cringe when I hear these things. First, because I used to say things like that. Second, because I now know these statements as excuses disguised as reality. We make these statements to others verbally and to ourselves mentally so many times that we begin to believe they are true. The real truth is that you can and must afford the time to exercise and eat right, if you want a more healthy, energized, and fulfilling life. Even 15 minutes of exercise can make a difference and who can’t find 15 minutes? If you have been using lack of time as your excuse for not exercising and want to break out of that way of thinking, read this article for a strategy to banish the no time excuse.

Step 1 – Realize

You must accept the idea that your health and well-being are worth your time. If you are caught up in depression, self-deprecation, or self-punishment and believe you are not deserving of happiness, your potential success is already thwarted. You must let go of the self-destructive idea that you are not worthy – that everything and everyone else is more important – and grasp the concept of your own value. This is not selfishness; this is necessity. Your health and well-being are important to you, but they are also important to the significant people in your life. If you are not well or, heaven forbid, you die or otherwise become incapacitated, you negatively impact them, as well as yourself. If you love and care for them, then you should love and care for yourself. If you are ready to move off your self-destructive path and onto a more rewarding one go to Step 2. You are worth it!

Step 2 – Gain Perspective

Often it is very helpful to write down all the things that we have to do in a day. Sometimes we don’t realize how much there really is or where our time is going, until we see it in black and white. Estimate the amount of time you spend doing the things on your list and include the travel time. Mistakenly, we may think a thing only takes a few minutes, but we forget the preparation, the going to, and the coming from. You may find that you have expended in excess of 24 hours or cut so far into your sleep time that your body is not able to heal. (Body repair occurs during sleep.) No wonder you are so tired and stressed.

Take a good hard look at the things on your list and determine if they are all really necessary-and be honest with yourself. Is it really something you HAVE to do or is it something you WANT to do or simply a matter of something you have ALWAYS done-a habit. Sometimes our ‘to do’ lists get filled up with things that we only think we need to do or other people convince us are necessary rather than things we really need to do. (Playing video or online games and watching television are not in the necessary category.)

Helping others is a noble cause, but self sacrifice can kill you. If you are stressing yourself out and using up all your spare time to meet other people’s needs, your physical and mental health will suffer. It is okay to say ‘no’ sometimes. Example: Your neighbor Paul uses the dry cleaners two blocks down from your office. He was in a hurry one day and asked if you would pick up his dry cleaning on the way home. You said yes, being the nice person you are, and somehow you are now picking up his dry cleaning on a regular basis. Tell him you can’t do it anymore. If that makes him mad, oh, well. He isn’t your friend, he is a user. Life is filled with people who intentionally or unintentionally use those of us who cannot say no-because we are so nice. It is time to be nice to you.

Cross out the things that are NOT necessary, closely examine what is left to see if there is any more ‘pruning’ that can be done, then go to Step 3.

Step 3 – Schedule

Now that you are done ‘weeding’ your life garden, it is time to clear a path. Get a page from an appointment book that is broken down into fifteen minute increments. There are certain things that have specific times they must occur, so plug those immovable objects (your set time events such as your job) into your day’s schedule. Be sure to include your lunch and/or break times. Annotate what time you get up and what time you go to bed. Hopefully, you are getting 8 hours of sleep. Add time for your self-care and housework: bathing, brushing your teeth, doing laundry, cleaning, preparing and eating meals. (Did you know you can brush your teeth while you are in the shower? Sometimes multi-tasking is helpful.)

If we sleep 8 hours and work 8 hours, that is 16 hours spent. If we add 1 hour of travel time and 3 hours for self-care and housework, we are down to 4 hours. Of those 4 remaining hours in our 24 hour day, we may need to give 1 or 2 hours to family and friends. But, oh, look, we have 2 or 3 hours left. How did that happen? Okay, now I hear you saying: “My life is way more complicated than that.” Maybe, but maybe you have just allowed it to become more complicated. Maybe you didn’t do enough ‘weeding.’ Go back to step 2 and reevaluate.

You have a part-time job in addition to your regular job? You are not alone, but even that is not a usable excuse if you really WANT to exercise. If you want it badly enough you WILL find a way. You may have to give up something to get something. Find time within the schedule now sitting before you and write in exercise. Exercise can be walking, biking, hiking, tread milling, Pilates, Yoga, bowling, boxing, ball, skating, surfing, swimming, sidewalk fusion, or any physical activity that you enjoy. You are now ready for Step 4.

Step 4 – Organize

The more organized the things in your life that you can control, the more time you can free up for other things–like exercise–and the less schedule adjusting you will have to do on a regular basis. Oh, but you don’t have time to organize things. Stop! The ‘no time’ excuse is no longer part of your consciousness. Let it go. If you want a thing badly enough you WILL find the time. I have found that as little as a five minute investment of time to get things organized can gain me up to an hour of time for other things. No wasted time trying to find things or make decisions. Here is a for instance: Before I go to bed at night, I lay out my running clothes. I know exactly where they are and what they are. I don’t have to tax my waking brain to think about what goes with what or rush around looking for a pair of matching socks at the last minute. I keep my hand weights, my weight gloves, my media player and my running glasses together on a shelf, so I can just grab them on the way out the door. This is a small thing but if you put this effort into a number of small things just imagine how much time you might gain.

The key here is to think ahead and be prepared. If you are going to the grocery store, make a list so the process goes faster and determine if there are other errands you can do at the same time. Plot it out in your head, perform tasks and travel to places in a linear path that gets things done faster. Group things together in a logical way. This can work in your personal and your business life.

· Prep food the night before, use the crock pot and leverage that saved cooking time. · Do small loads of laundry several times a week instead of letting it become a monster that eats up your Saturday. · Schedule all your errands on the same day. · Say ‘no’ when others try to eat up your time. · Not every day will have the same schedule, so make a new schedule for days that are outside the norm. · Post your schedule where you can easily see it and make an effort to stick with it. · Don’t be distracted by others pulling you away with enticements. · Stay focused and go to Step 5.

Step 5 – Commit

Remind yourself each and every day that you are committed to a healthier, more well you. Don’t make excuses, make adjustments. Shuffle the schedule, reorganize, and ask for help. Enlist the aid of those closest to you. Teach others to do some of the things you always do for them. You are doing them a favor. The kids can fold the clothes while they are watching television and everyone can put their own dishes in the dishwasher.

You should be able to find at least 15 consecutive minutes in your day–maybe 2 or 3 times a day–to do some sort of exercise. Do isometrics while you are standing in the kitchen fixing dinner or sitting in your car in traffic. Take a 15 minute walk as part of your lunch break. Take the stairs at work, park your car at the far end of the parking lot and walk, pack a healthy lunch and skip the fast food, surrender sedentary past times for active ones. Do five jumping jacks before you jump in the shower. Do stretches when you wake up and before you go to bed. Find a reason, demand the time, and just do it.

Still not convinced?

I am a real woman. I own a small contracting business where I am the only employee and all the jobs are mine. I am a freelance writer, an author, and a painter. I have three children ranging in age from 2 to 13 careening through my daily life shooting my schedule in the foot on a regular basis. And, no, I do not have a maid, a nanny, or a cook.

I woke up one day and realized that I had no life and I felt terrible. I decided I had to make a change. I did what I have told you to do in this article and there was change. I exercise every day now. Yes, I have to adjust and do the ‘bob and weave’ in order to get that exercise, but I have learned to insist on it-and get it in some unusual ways. When the kids start to infringe on my exercise, I find a way to incorporate them into it. I want to do my exercise video and they want to go in the pool. OK, I will do my exercises in the pool-water is great for resistance. If a last minute job opportunity comes along, I get up an hour earlier so I can run my 3 miles, eat breakfast, and get a shower before I dash off to my assignment. If I have to sit at the computer, I sit on my Pilate’s ball and keep shifting and rolling my hips. When I’m sitting in traffic, I’m engaged in isometrics or ‘seat wiggles.’

While I started exercising to control my stress, which was ‘eating me alive,’ it provided unexpected gifts. The biggest of those gifts for my investment in me was the weight loss, which has had a cascade of positive effects on my life both mentally and physically. My energy level is through the roof, I have less joint and back pain, and my ability to manage through stress is greatly improved. I sleep more soundly and I am more resilient. I lose my temper less and smile much more. I can even laugh when the bathroom looks like a tornado plowed through it after the six year old spilled the shampoo during his unauthorized experiment and tried to clean it up with everything from towels to toilet paper. I wake up and it’s raining-I just put on a hat and go. Not even Mother Nature can stop me now.

You must decide to commit and then follow through. The choice is always yours to make no matter what you ‘tell’ yourself. I won’t say it is easy, because that would be a lie. But life isn’t easy. It can be a downright struggle. Why make it worse by neglecting your health and becoming rundown and unhealthy? Health is a treasure more valuable than gold. Invest in your health and ‘life wealth’ will follow.

Tips: Print a few copies of the graphic from this article and tape them in places where you will see them often during the day. Glue some to cardstock, cut them out and put them in your appointment book or use them as bookmarks. Tape them to things that are not good for you, like that bag of potato chips or those chocolate chip cookies. Your mind is a powerful tool that can help you achieve your goals, but sometimes you need to remind it to ‘switch on.’ Consciously make an effort to smile more. It is weird, but your mouth muscles seem to convince your brain that you are happy and wonderful chemicals can fill you with that feeling.


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