It’s no surprise that lack of time is one of the primary perceived barriers to exercise. Everyone is busy, so if we wait until we have excess free time, we’ll likely never start. So how do we carve out time in our already hectic lives?
REFRAME YOUR LANGUAGE
Let’s get one thing straight: you do have time. We’re all given 24 hours in a day. You’re currently choosing to do other things those hours. A lot of those “things”—work, paying bills—don’t feel like choices. But they are. You’ve just decided that the consequences of not fulfilling certain obligations outweigh the benefits of fulfilling others. The first step is to acknowledge that time is precious, but that we all make time for what we deem essential. Make your own health a priority, and you’ll find the time.
KEEP A TIME JOURNAL
One of the best ways to find time is by keeping a detailed log of everything you do in a day. How many times do you press snooze? Change your mind about what to wear? Absentmindedly scroll through social media or TV channels? Log it. Track it. Then change it. Eliminate mindless or unenjoyable activities, streamline, and delegate. Children (and spouses!) can pack their own lunches; you can find laundry services and babysitters; co-workers can pull their own weight.
COMMIT TO IT
Once you find time, schedule it in your calendar just like any other appointment. It’s too easy to brush it aside if it’s not official. Telling someone about your goals, logging it in an app, or finding a workout partner can further help you stay accountable.
MAKE IT THE EASY CHOICE
Sleep in your workout clothes, lay them out the night before, or bring them to work with you. Join a gym that you pass frequently. Or invest in DVDs, online subscriptions, or home equipment so you don’t need to drive anywhere at all. Basically, have a plan. New habits are extraordinarily challenging to form, so set yourself up for success.
FOCUS ON QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
If all you have is five minutes, make them count! It’s better than zero minutes. “Micro” workouts are increasingly popular. As your fitness improves, you can even experiment with high-intensity interval training.
TO MULTITASK OR NOT TO MULTITASK
Generally, eliminating multitasking can save time. It takes us longer to complete tasks when we’re pulled away by phone notifications or side conversations. If you devote your full attention to one task, you might find yourself with more time in the day. On the flip side, though, it can be helpful to kill two birds with one stone given the right circumstances. Can you take a walk while you talk on the phone? Hop on a stationary bike during your favorite TV show? If you’re really struggling to devote your full time and attention to a workout, this could be a good place to start.
EMBRACE AN ACTIVE LIFE
You’re never going to choose to make time for something you hate, so explore different options until you find your passion. Running, yoga, fitness classes, weight training, workout DVDs, cycling, recreational sports, dancing: I genuinely believe that there’s something out there for everyone. If dedicated workouts are too much right now, incorporate physical activity into your daily life. Walk or bike around town. Instead of catching up with friends over dinner or drinks, explore the neighborhood or toss a Frisbee. Round up the family for a hiking or skiing trip.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
If you’re still struggling, ask yourself if time is truly the issue. We often use time as an excuse, when it’s really negative associations with physical activity, fear, embarrassment, or low self-esteem. This can be difficult to admit, but the more honest you are with yourself, the more progress you’ll make. Also acknowledge that sometimes you’ll miss a workout (or several). Remember, this is because you have chosen to do other things with your time. As long as the choice is mindful and intentional (without guilt), that’s perfectly fine! Sometimes it’s healthier to get that extra 20 minutes of sleep or sit down on the couch and unwind . No one else can tell you what’s right for you. Only you can choose, but it is, always, a choice.